"Walking Dead" grumble thread: Take the zombies bowling

“‘The Bridge’ Is The Best Episode In Years,” says a reviewer at Forbes. Was there a different episode called “The Bridge” that aired last night, possibly in a different time zone than mine?

Did that one also have a fey, one-eyed Father Gabriel getting it on with the weirdo from the junkyard? Or did I hallucinate that to cope with the boredom?

Last week’s season premiere was titled “A New Beginning.” It felt new! New credits, new-ish setting, new showrunner, new post-Negan world. Last night’s episode felt old. Lotta Meaningful Conversations that weren’t very meaningful. And terrible dialogue too, even by the usual standards. The scene between Rick and Aaron after the latter lost his arm drew an honest-to-goodness audible “good lord” out of me as it played out. Only on this show, where all characters orbit the hero-star, could a guy use the occasion of his arm being hacked off without anesthesia to thank Rick for making him part of the team. I would gladly surrender all of my limbs for your approval, my liege. And here I thought they had turned a corner on this sort of dreck last week, when they had Maggie forced to cope with the understandable anger of two parents whose son had died on her watch. The Rick/Aaron scene was an opportunity to spark some similarly relatable conflict inside Team Grimes by having Aaron question Rick’s leadership under trying circumstances. Nope: Better to spoon on the treacle instead.

I don’t know what to do what the action sequence. Most zombie attacks on TWD are low intensity insofar as the core cast’s fate is never in doubt. This one felt so low that it was almost played for laughs. Wouldn’t be the first time, if so: The scene of the logs rolling over the walkers was as goofy as the scene last year of them tumbling down a hill en route to attack the living. Nate Silver’s site should plot the absurdity of different zombie swarms that have been depicted on the show against the boredom of individual episodes. I bet there’s a correlation. If they’re going to torture you with light romantic banter between Carol and Ezekiel, they’re going to make it up to you with something extra gross or inventive in thinning the zombie herd.

The bright spot was Maggie taking pity on Earl and freeing him from prison after his murder attempt. I say “bright” because it’s a reversal from her darker turn last week; normally when these writers take a character in a certain direction, he or she continues one-dimensionally in that direction. (There are exceptions, like Eugene, another one of the show’s more interesting characters, not coincidentally.) A person with complicated feelings is a person of depth, which is what Maggie increasingly is. And her depth has an added dimension insofar as she didn’t free Earl purely out of sympathy. She did it for the same reason she hanged Gregory last week and drove a hard bargain with Rick on the Sanctuary providing labor on the bridge in exchange for food: She really is trying to do what’s best for her people. If that means an iron fist with Gregory to instill order, that’s what it means. If it means mercy for Earl in the name of productivity, that’s what it means. She’s moving beyond the simplistic Good Guy/Bad Guy archetypes of the core characters, which makes her unpredictable. Very unusual for this show. By the end of the season she might be undisputed queen of a peaceful, prosperous, growing survivor community or someone who had the Saviors serially massacred because when push comes to shove they simply can’t be trusted. Maybe both.

Lotta bad vibes from that Negan cameo at the end, though. If his escape from jail wasn’t already inevitable, the writers telegraphed it last night. The only people who dread Negan’s return more than the Grimes gang are “Walking Dead” viewers. We’re not headed back to the interminable Good Guys vs. Bad Guys dead end of the last few seasons, are we? Some new beginning.