Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 4 Review: ‘Some Guy’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead 
Season 8, Episode 4 

The first three episodes of season eight of The Walking Dead were unique in that they each split their focus between multiple settings and character groups, juggling screen time that most episodes of The Walking Dead reserve for a single storyline. And, while this week's "Some Guy" reverts back to the singular storyline style of episode that we're used to, I would like to step back, and praise the beginning of season eight for its attempt to break up its episodes into more varied and interesting chunks. These first three episodes felt a lot closer to what you might see in Game of Thrones, which has to jump back and forth between a library's worth of major and minor characters each week, and ultimately leads to a much more cohesive show, overall. 

Usually, The Walking Dearelies too heavily on episodes structured around a character or two, in one setting. These episodes are (mostly) entertaining enough on their own, but make the show feel slow when strung together one after another. Instead of the plot moving forward with each episode, it moves laterally, as each week is spent exploring a completely different storyline, rather than continuing the one we watched the previous week. This is how we get a stretch of episodes in season seven, where we end up waiting a month to finally see Maggie again, after Glenn's death in the season premiere. 
(Photo Credit: AMC)
However, despite this week's return to the one storyline episode, I actually really enjoyed "Some Guy," and think it's probably the best episode of the season, so far. (Which, I'll admit, isn't saying a whole lot). For me, it all starts and ends with King Ezekiel, who, in the aftermath of the vicious Savior attack at the end of last week's episode, is finally confronted with his first significant lossand his own limitations as leader of the Kingdom. Whether or not you think his character is too over the top, even for a show about the zombie apocalypse, King Ezekiel has made for some entertaining television, and at the very least, is a nice change of pace from the ho-hum moroseness that tends to plague the rest of The Walking Dead's main cast. 

In a show dominated by intense, albeit, capable leadership, Ezekiel sticks out like a sheep in wolf's clothing. The "King Ezekiel" act he puts on for his followers, might be effective in inspiring confidence amongst a large group of people desperate for a hero, but it does little to mask Ezekiel's naivety about just how lethal the post-apocalyptic world can be. For the longest time, Ezekiel was unwilling to see the painfully obvious danger that came from the Kingdom's one-sided working relationship with the SaviorsAnd, in last week's episode, his well-meaning, though, incredibly misguided "we will not lose one of our ranks" speech, made it clear just how limited his experience, with life or death situations, actually is. This week, Carol confirms as much when she outright asks Ezekiel if he's ever had to fight someone. His answer? Not really. 

But, I think that's what makes Ezekiel so compelling. He's not the same kind of apocalyptic-hardened leader aa Negan, Rick, or even a Maggie. Pet tiger notwithstanding, Ezekiel's a fairly regular guy, with a pretty good set of intentionsand a relatable lack of experience when it comes to murdering people. The crises of confidence he faces this episode, isn't really something that we've seen a whole lot of. He's not in anguish over the loss of a close companion, or in conflict with a new-found desire for impractical pacifism. Ezekiel is simply a man, who gets way in over his head, and ends up caught in the kind of false sense of security that comes from playing a couple steps ahead of your opponent. But, as he quickly learns, no advantage, especially over the Saviors, ever lasts long. 
(Photo Credit: AMC)
Despite his bravado, there's something legitimately genuine about King Ezekiel and the love and compassion he shows for his people. We get a small sense of this from the flashbacks in this episode, but the majority of his character building took place way back in the second episode of season seven- over a year ago from Sunday night's episode. Of course, Ezekiel's absence from the entire middle chunk of season seven is a direct consequence of the singular-character episode structure that dominated almost all of last season. Rather than bits and pieces of Ezekiel character development sprinkled throughout the entire season, he received one dedicated episode at the very beginning, before disappearing completely for the next several weeks. 

The unique dynamic between Ezekiel and his subjects should have been built up over the entire course of last year; specifically, the almost paradoxical amount of unwavering loyalty the Kingdom shows to a man whose leadership claim to fame is working in the tiger exhibit of a zoo. It would have made it that much more crushing to see the Kingdom's soldiers get wiped out, knowing that the irrational level of trust they placed in a leader with questionable qualifications, is what led to their untimely demise. Instead, we get all of this character development shoehorned into a two-minute flashback of Ezekiel giving a galvanizing speech to his people- a speech that admittedly sounds pretty badass, but ultimately does little to make us care about the men and women who are about to lay down their lives for their king. 
(Photo Credit: AMC)
And, what's really disappointing is that there’s so much potential for great character development and world building, within The Walking DeadGranted, a lot of this is missing from the show because it was never there to begin with in the comic books, but there's no reason an adaptation has to be a beat-for-beat recreation of a property, and every season, the writers seem to squander creative opportunity after creative opportunity in favor of the same two or three dramatic chords. If there's one thing that season eight has going for it so far, though, it's the action. Throughout the first four episodes, the different action sequences have been pretty entertaining, and all fairly unique compared to what we've usually come to expect from The Walking Dead. "Some Guy," in particular has a pretty well-done car chase scene, and some great Carol moments that remind us just how dangerous this Suzy Homemaker can be.

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