November 26, 2017
Disbelief can be suspended, but in this episode, it’s pulled so far it snaps like underpant elastic
Spoiler alert: this blog is published after The Walking Dead airs in the US on Sundays. Do not read unless you have watched season eight, episode five, which airs in the UK on Fox on Monday at 9pm

The Walking Dead: season eight, episode five recap – The King, the Widow and Rick

Well, there’s an hour of TV that won’t be winning many awards.
If you were being kind, you could suggest a more sedate, transitional episode was necessary. That it offered a breather, a shuffling of the deck between the initial attacks on the Saviors and whatever comes next as the midseason finale heaves into view.
“Moving on to the next step,” as Rick put it.
If you were less kind, you might also say The King, the Widow and Rick was slow, po-faced, stuffed with ripe monologues and faintly irritating more or less all of the time. It fights off competition from last week to claim the coveted Worst Episode So Far This Season Award. Even a man being blown up by bazooka couldn’t rescue it. And bazookas are brilliant.
The show was always backing a three-legged donkey when it chose to reintroduce the Trash Pandas Tribe, or whatever it is they’re called. Because at least Ezekiel’s Far, Far Away Land-speak is an act. We know Jesus isn’t actually called Jesus as well, nor is he the actual Jesus. And Negan’s rootin’-tootin’ mugging was addressed in part last week: it is also, he says, an act.
Yet we’re meant to believe that an entire group of humans – who probably once had jobs – have forgotten the English language in the eight short years since the first zombie said “aaarrg”.
Disbelief can be suspended. In a show about zombies, it can even be stretched. But Jadis (played by the generally excellent Pollyanna McIntosh) and her band of refuse-niks yank disbelief so far it snaps, twanging like underpant elastic in an over-ambitious logical wedgie. Scenes involving the trash-folk lose any narrative impetus, because you’re sitting there screaming “Oh, come on!” too loudly to concentrate on what’s actually going on.
Mercifully, they didn’t take up much screen time. This was because Rick’s Polaroid masterplan consisted of: 1) Take Polaroids. 2) Show Polaroids to Trash Pandas. 3) Offer deal to Pandas. 4) Be captured and thrown into a container by aforementioned Pandas. Hardly cribbed from the teachings of Sun Tzu, was it?
Presumably, and one hopes, getting captured was all part of Rick’s plan. He knew the raccoons would take him to Negan over, you know, doing the logical thing and simply shooting him in the beard. Because it’s Rick, and he can’t die, so captivity it’s bound to be. Smell that? It’s the familiar aroma of plot armour, and it stinks.
The most successful scenes of the episode played out at the hilltop, yet even these were rife with whopping WTF-bombs. Jesus’s determination to keep the prisoners alive through the frankly barbaric application of turnips held firm. This was fine, and in keeping with his character. Maggie wrestled with the moral implications of mass murder, which also made sense. And Gregory tried to squirm and squelch his way back to the top-table of command, which by now is practically called “doing a Gregory”.
Commonsense alarm bells didn’t begin to chime until Gregory laughably suggested the prisoners be hanged to save bullets. Now, I don’t know exactly how many bullets have been wasted over the previous five episodes, because I lost count at 8bn. But it’s fair to say ammunition hasn’t exactly been an issue up until now. Still, you see, we needed to believe they might conceivably be building gallows inside the Hilltop’s walls, in order to whip up some tension. So logic creaked and twisted and then it was so. Any ambiguity could also have been dealt with by the following exchange:
Jesus: “Hey, are you building gallows in there?”
Literally Any Hilltopper: “No, it’s just a holding pen.”
Jesus: “Oh. Phew-wee! I thought it might be gallows. Thanks, Literally Any Hilltopper!”
And … scene.
Nevertheless, Maggie’s first double bluff – tossing Gregory in the pen – was fun, if also deeply illogical. You’d think the worst person to throw in captivity with a load of baddies would be the man with the most intimate, inside-out knowledge both of the compound and the people living within it. But hey-ho. (And wouldn’t she just shoot the trouble-causing prisoner? Um. Yes. She would.)
Maggie’s second fake-out, in which she informed Jesus the prisoners were expendable bargaining chips, was handled much better and was the most interesting character development in the episode. She’s morally wrong but I appreciated her reasoning completely.
The same went for Carl’s sympathy for Siddiq. Carl isn’t ready to give up hope his for humanity, even in a time of war, and whether it turns out to be youthful naivety or wisdom beyond his years, his Samaritanism worked for me in terms of motivation. Though if he spouts off about his dad one more time I swear I’m going to run into those woods and personally stamp on his hat.
Because one thing we can perhaps all agree on is that The Walking Dead is at its weakest when it has characters wanging on in epic, hammy, expository stanzas. And this was an episode stuffed with them. We got one from Rick, Maggie and Michonne right at the beginning, in the form of – ugh – letter voiceovers. Michonne unleashed a mighty deluge of ham at Rosita in the car. And Carol and Ezekiel had a vast ham-off in the theatre, which was a shame. I was looking forward to seeing Ezekiel shorn of his kingly baubles, sulking as a normal man with the weight of so many deaths on his shoulders. Instead, their scene was two people yelling “THESE ARE ALL MY FEELINGS” at each other, as if it was a ham to the death.
Both Melissa McBride and Khary Payton did their best with the lumpen script, but they could only do so much with such dollops of weapons-grade melodrama. (I did chuckle at Carol forgetting doorhandles exist just before this conversation, though. Carol suits a massive pump-action shotgun in the same way most of us suit a nice pair of shoes.)
Oddest of all were the spurious reasons offered as to why Daryl, Tara, Michonne and Rosita decided to embark upon two entirely separate, completely coincidental road trips. Michonne wanted to look at the Sanctuary or something – she had her reasons, OK – and Daryl wanted to kill Dwight, even though he’s their most invaluable spy, because he hates Dwight. So does Tara, so she went too, I think. And Rosita went along because she’d, um, left something in the car or something – you’ll have to ask her.
That these excursions happened simultaneously was odd. That Daryl was there at just the right place and time to T-bone the fleeing Fair Lady boombox was flat-out stupid. They could have had Rosita blow it up with her bazooka. Imagine how much better that would have been! Instead, it was typical, unlikely, Walking Dead just-in-the-nick-of-time-ism. The actual scene in the warehouse was good: nice and tense and Michonne almost got her derrière handed to her. Whoever made the decision to end it on such a damp fart of disappointment should hang their head in the shame of ages.
And, as if to intentionally make a pretty dour episode worse, The King, the Widow and Rick saw fit to introduce an annoying and precocious kid. That about sums it up, for me. It’s as if the producers knew there was so little to like here, they thought: “Yolo,” and decided to go all in. At least, unlike last season, switches in perspective kept it from focusing on one boring and stupid series of events as opposed to the several we got here. So that’s something, isn’t it?
But in every other regard: just no. The King, the Widow and Rick, may you never darken our door again.
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