We begin with a round of applause for Simon, who pulled off the greatest military maneuver since Pickett’s Charge last night. What do you do when the enemy suddenly turns off the lights at its position after you’ve just engaged in a lengthy firefight with them at close range with automatic weapons? Obviously, you advance. Slowly. In a group. Whistling all the way, thereby revealing your position in the dark.
I can’t help feeling that he may lack the strategic and tactical chops to pull off a successful coup against Negan.
Even so, last night’s episode was above average, mainly because of a zombie attack that evoked real dread for the first time in forever. There was silliness to that too: You would think that stationing a minder in the infirmary overnight to make sure the sick don’t die and turn would be standard practice at this point, but apparently not. One key difference between TWD and classics of the genre is that the former obsesses over the combat bravado of its leads, which undermines what makes the genre frightening in the first place. Zombies can get you when you sleep; they can get when you’re awake if you turn the wrong corner and find yourself outnumbered. You’re vulnerable, at every waking and non-waking moment. On this show, though, there are at least five characters with indomitable, practically superhuman fighting abilities — Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Carol, and Morgan. They’re never vulnerable in any meaningful sense and collectively they probably soak up 75 percent of screen time. The Hilltop rank-and-file getting ambushed in their sleep because of an unlucky fatality overnight inside the wire was unusually scary for TWD, precisely because it felt plausible. This is exactly the sort of risk you’d be at, even when you were “safe.”
The sudden deaths in the infirmary also gave us information about how direct blood-to-blood infection works, which is fun if you’re interested in the mechanics of the zombie plague. It seems to work like this: If you get bit or scratched (has anyone ever died from a scratch?), the infection takes time to spread. There are obvious symptoms of deterioration, as we saw most recently with Carl. Death is a process. With blood-to-blood infection, i.e. via arrows or bullets dipped in zombie blood, death comes much more quickly and stealthily. Tobin seemed okay in the infirmary despite his wounds; a few hours later he was undead and snacking on his bedmates. That raises an interesting wrinkle going forward: If *every* battle wound, even the seemingly non-life-threatening ones, creates a risk that the victim will “turn” very suddenly and start going hog-wild behind the front lines, what do you do with the wounded? At a minimum, they have to be watched closely, 24/7. But for how long? And what about non-essential personnel? Do you just kill them outright because of the risk their wound presents? For a second last night I thought they were going to off Tara as a precaution, but (a) the show’s writers don’t consider Tara “non-essential” even though she clearly is and (b) it’s not clear that the arrow Dwight used to shoot her was dipped in blood. She seems to think he’s still covertly on Team Rick, which is probably true. Why would he wage biological war on them, if so?
Now, confession: I had completely forgotten who Tobin was before Carol’s sickbed reminiscence with him. Not just his name. I mean I had no memory of the fact that the two shared a little romance in season six before that memory was jogged. Has he done anything meaningful in the past two seasons to register in the viewer’s consciousness? The show cycles these very minor characters in and out, sometimes with long stretches in between their cameos, then asks us to care when they meet their fate. The confrontation between Carol and an undead Tobin should have been heartbreaking. Instead it was like watching Captain Kirk discipline one of the red-shirts who’d been given one line in that week’s episode to distinguish him as slightly more substantial than the rest.
Anyway. For one brief dreadful moment, I thought little Henry with the AR-15 was going to ruthlessly gun down all of the Savior prisoners and we were going to spend today reading hot takes about the “timeliness” of the episode in the wake of the Parkland massacre. Thank God the little yutz was disarmed.