In Slate’s The Walking Dead TV Club, Chris Kirk will IM each week with a different fan of The Walking Dead. This week, he discusses “Home” with Forbes video game and television writer Erik Kain.
Chris Kirk: “Home” opens with Rick Grimes, who needs some serious supervision, wandering outside the prison to chase visions of Lori. Whatever you feel about this plotline, at least the show is sticking to it; for him to suddenly get better after a few phone calls would have been a little too neat.
Erik Kain: Right, they need to resolve it properly at this point. I think I would find Rick’s character more tolerable this season if there were other characters that filled the void. The real problem the show has been having lately is too much screen time for the worst characters and too little for the best. Andrea as a primary character this season still baffles me, and I’m increasingly confused with each passing episode.
Chris: Speaking of Andrea, back in Woodbury a seemingly remorseful Governor is commending Andrea for last week’s pep talk and seems to abdicate to her. He explains that he really believed that if he kept his undead daughter alive long enough, Milton would find a way to bring her back.
Erik: He knows just as well as we do that Andrea is a sucker. Besides, anyone who would say that speech was “good” we know is a liar. At this point, the hardest thing about watching Andrea is that she’s left the realm of plausibility almost entirely. People have flaws, and one of those flaws is being a poor judge of character, but at this point it’s just too much.
Chris: There’s another apparent change of leadership at the prison. Since Daryl has left the group and while Rick “wanders crazy town,” Glenn has become head honcho for some reason. His sudden realization that nobody’s on watch (not to mention nobody is watching Rick) is just one indication that he’s not very good at it. Why is he leader and not the wiser Hershel? Or even the more level-headed Carol?
Erik: Glenn’s assertion of a leadership role is mostly due to his need for revenge, not a desire to actually lead. Hershel, I think, is more interested in playing the role of the wise old adviser, which makes sense, but the problem right now is that nobody ever listens to him.
Chris: I’m having trouble following Glenn’s dispute with Maggie. I understand that she feels guilty for revealing the group’s location, but what precisely is she mad at Glenn about?
Erik: I get the impression that she feels like he blames her. It’s really poorly communicated in the show and makes almost no sense. I know that victims of sexual assault can have a hard time in their relationships, but since they both underwent a traumatizing event together and, well, they’re living in a zombie apocalypse, it seems like they’d seek out one another even more rather than push one another away.
Chris: Merle and Daryl are dealing with interpersonal issues of their own. While roaming through the forest, an argument between the two reveals that they were planning to rob the Atlanta survivors back in Season 1. In anger, Merle rips Daryl’s shirt and reveals scars on his back. Daryl accuses him of abandoning him to their abusive father and announces he’s going back to the prison. Merle looks teary-eyed for a brief moment, then reluctantly follows. In the whole history of this show, we’ve never really seen Daryl and Merle alone together, except in Daryl’s hallucinations.
Erik: The conflict between the Dixon brothers was terrific and one of the better moments in the season so far. The revelations about their abusive father and their planned robbery are nice additional backstory. Merle’s so unlikable, and he’s done such awful things, one wonders if he’s beyond redemption or will even have the chance.
Chris: But there’s more room for Merle in the group now! Axel is flirting with Carol when BAM! Shot down by the Governor.
Erik: I thought killing off Axel was lame. It’s Lost syndrome—add new characters just to have them killed. It’s lazy writing, and it doesn’t carry really any emotional impact for viewers. Sure, they’ve killed off regulars also, but why bother introducing new cast if they’re just going to kill them off?
Chris: Still, it was a shocking way to start off a whirlwind of a final act. Everybody is pinned down by gunfire. Somebody drives a van through the gates, and zombies come pouring out of it. Glenn returns just in time to save Hershel, and Merle and Daryl arrive just in time to save Rick. The episode ends with zombies pouring into the prison.
Erik: I loved the final act as a whole. I thought Glenn’s re-entrance and the Dixon boys’ arrival worked nicely (even if it was a little too nicely—hey, it’s television) and the shoot-out was tense and well-played.
Chris: It’s certainly the most nail-biting moment since “Sick” and perhaps even exceeds that. There are just so many different balls in the air—the Governor’s men, the zombies on the inside, the zombies on the outside. I didn’t see the Governor’s attack coming so soon, and for a second I believed Rick, who seems useless enough to die, would actually be bit. If this show doesn’t always know how to do characterization, this season in particular has been very good at action.
Erik: If they could translate that suspense into their character interactions, they’d have a magnificent show. That’s what Breaking Bad does so well.
Chris: Perhaps the season will close with Rick on the telephone with Ghost Lori again: “I won.” :click:
Erik: Rick would need a haircut, though.
Correction, Feb. 19, 2013: An earlier version of this article stated that Glenn and Merle saved Rick. Daryl and Merle saved Rick.