"Walking Dead" grumble thread: Doin' it

When was the last time this show sprang a major surprise that didn’t involve someone being torn apart and eaten? In fact, when was the last time this show had a sex scene, period? I remember Shane and Andrea hooking up way back when but the nookie since then has been few and far between. Did Rick and Jessie ever get down to business or was that just a kiss or two? Even Glenn and Maggie, the show’s longest-running couple, haven’t had a major sex scene that I can remember, and that’s despite the fact they’ve lost each other and then been ecstatically reunited like 15 different times. One persistent hard knock on the show, I think, is that it’s caught somewhere between a comic-book treatment of the zombie apocalypse (which of course is how it originated) and something truer to real life. In real life, much of the downtime between fighting zombies would be spent with hard drugs and drink and various types of coupling, both traditional and untoward. On the show, everyone’s pretty much substance-free and too worried about survival to think about biology. Not last night, though!

I don’t read the comics so I don’t know how they handled the big scene with Rick and Michonne, or if there even is a scene with Rick and Michonne, but they did a surprisingly tender job of it. You don’t watch this show for quality drama or emotional substance but you got both last night from the writing. At first it seemed odd to me that they’d push Rick and Michonne into that when there’s been no sexual tension between them throughout the series. Standard protocol for dramatic fiction in the western world is boy meets girl, boy and girl see sparks, boy and girl do the deed, and then domesticity. With Rick and Michonne, it was boy meets girl and then, after many, many months of fighting the undead, domesticity — and then the sparks happen. It’s almost an arranged marriage. And the scene early on in the episode, showing Michonne in her bathrobe while Rick and Carl joke around, set that up efficiently even though it seemed like a throwaway at the time. It’s as if domesticity itself, especially after a stretch of harrowing tumult, was so attractive that it drew them naturally into mom and dad household roles — and then they started behaving naturally as moms and dads do after hours too. There’s something profound in that. The question is whether they’re more attracted to each other than to their domestic idyll. Don’t spoil it, comics readers!

The rest of the episode was mostly “interstitial,” one of those TWD snoozers that’s designed to set up another one rather than give you much of a show itself. The scenes with Rick and Daryl “at work” — another nod at domesticity — were tolerable, though, thanks to the uncharacteristically lighter mood to their encounters with Paul, a.k.a. “Jesus.” It felt like a “Dukes of Hazzard” episode, with Bo and Luke trying to steal back the General Lee after one of those no-good boys from the next town over swiped it. Maybe we’ve reached the point with Rick and Daryl, the show’s two most beloved alpha males, where it’s better to play their raids outside the walls for laughs than for scares since the audience knows that neither of them’s going to die on a random scavenging hunt. Daryl’s not going out getting popped in the head with his own gun by a guy named “Jesus.” so why not have them run around, literally in circles, chasing each other like the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote? What a fun story that’ll make for Rick when he gets home and he and Michonne Netflix and chill.

The one false note last night was the mercy-killing of zombie Deanna. The first few glimpses of her in the woods, with her face consistently out of frame, were obviously designed to signal that this was no ordinary zombie and you, the viewer, should commence wondering who it might be. And even though there were only a very few characters who it might realistically be — Deanna, Jessie, and that’s pretty much it — it still took me a minute to figure it out. That’s because Deanna wasn’t a substantial enough character to generate any emotion in the audience. The show has done well with big zombie reveals in the past because they’ve limited them to characters you’ve invested in. Zombie Shane was a gut punch; zombie Merle was oddly affecting too because of his relationship with Daryl, despite the fact that Merle was a vicious scumbag. Zombie Sophia worked despie the thinness of that character in earlier episodes because you could sympathize with Carol. Zombie Deanna doesn’t work, though, because Deanna didn’t do much of anything. She was a plot device, the naive sheltered leader who needed a hard dose of reality and Rick’s ruthless guidance in order to see the error of her ways. She’s a tragic character on paper since she learns how to save the town but too late to save herself, but I’m hard-pressed to recall a single memorable scene with her in it. Maybe … that’s the point, per the theme of domesticity. It’s not that she was a “major” character, it’s that she was *a* character, someone the group knew. And for that reason, she deserved the dignity of not wandering the Earth forever. Civilized people bury their friends, so that’s what Carl and Spencer did. That’s what last night was — a little last taste of the perks of civilization before Neganmania hits full force.