The odds of this episode not reeking, given how strong the last one was, were about the same as A&M coming back from 12 down in the final minute of yesterday’s tournament game. One thing you learn from watching this show year in and year out is that there is, alas, only a finite amount of good writing that the TWD staff is capable of each season. When you get a double scoop like you did last Sunday, prepare for an empty cone next time.
Spoiler: Denise died. Except that that’s not really a spoiler because no one cares and you probably couldn’t have remembered her name before last night’s show even if I’d offered you money for a correct answer. The highlight of the hour was her taking that arrow through the eye, not because she was unlikable but because it shut down a particularly overwrought bit of melodrama where she was preaching about survival and being good people. I took that almost as an in-joke by the writers on a show that’s notorious for long stretches of “talkiness.” It’s one thing to sit through Rick emoting about the burdens of leadership, but a minor character soliloquizing? Nope. Boom — a dart through the ol’ noggin will shut that down real quick-like. It was the zombieworld equivalent of the clown coming onstage with a broom at the Apollo to sweep her off.
The lowlight of the hour was the ridiculous, Bond-villain-esque showdown that followed between Daryl and Dwight. Explain this to me: Dwight fires an arrow at Daryl that ends up killing Denise, then he disarms Daryl, and then he … doesn’t kill him immediately? If the point of taking Eugene hostage was to use him as ransom for access to Alexandria, they could have killed Daryl right there and killed Eugene and simply threatened Rosita with death until she led them back to the community. Instead Dwight stood there yakking at them, then fell for Eugene’s ruse, and somehow, despite being badly outgunned at point-blank range, the Grimes gang emerged with no casualties apart from a superficial bullet wound to Eugene’s gut. How the hell did that happen? It was exactly as suspenseful as Dr. Evil siccing the sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads on Austin Powers. All I could do was sit there like Scott Evil, wondering, “Why don’t you just shoot him, Dwight?” We all understand that this show operates essentially according to the rules of pro wrestling and would never let a top “face” like Daryl lose to a minor “heel” like Dwight, but one way to avoid making that obvious is to avoid pitting a top “face” and a minor “heel” against each other in the first place. It’s the same problem as the now infamous scene last season where Glenn looked like he was getting his guts torn out by zombies, only to be miraculously saved by Nicholas falling squarely on top of him. You don’t want to remind your viewers unnecessarily that the show is ridiculous even within the confines of its own ridiculous dramatic parameters.
In fact, was the big shootout scene actually a joke too? The catalytic act of heroism was, uh, Eugene biting a guy on the wiener. That’s a pretty decent goof on how theatrically cowardly they’ve written his character to be and how predictable the action that followed was. Of course Daryl wasn’t going to die there. Of course they were going to get out of it unscathed, with surprising ease. How can the writers communicate their contempt for a “suspenseful” shootout where there’s really no suspense and the audience understands they’re just filling time until we finally meet Negan next week (or the week after)? I know — how about introducing a little wang-chomping into the midst of it? Maybe that’s the best way to understand last night’s episode, as an arch bit of self-parody written during the downtime when they were sketching out the Negan scenes. Oh well. Per the first paragraph above, this all but guarantees that next week’s show will be a single-scooper at least.