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'The Walking Dead,' Episode 3 Review: What About the Women?

Television
by Terry Curtis Fox
February 26, 2012 11:59 PM
1 Comment
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"The Walking Dead"

“The Walking Dead” made an attitude adjustment this week.  The episode, written by Scott M. Gimple & Glenn Mazzara and directed quite beautifully by Ernest R. Dickerson, was all about Shane and Rick together.

The "good Rick/bad Shane" dichotomy of last week's show dissolved into the far better tension between Shane's less intelligent but ruthlessly pragmatic response to the world versus Rick's continuing attempt to retain some moral bearings in an implacably amoral world.

The real struggle in this show is not between the two men -- rather it is between Rick's nature and knowledge. From the episode's beginning, when he declares that he would "do anything" to protect his family, to the end, when he chooses not to murder the young man whom he saved but who is clearly a threat to the group, we can see him trying to reconcile his moral and his intellectual understanding. (Obviously, much credit goes to Andrew Lincoln who is beginning to demand comparison to William Holden and Robert Ryan.)

Unusually, nothing actually happens in the A story of this episode: it literally ends where it begins. Gimple & Mazzara allowed themselves the luxury that serialized television provides of taking the hour to explore character.

More problematic was the B story that centered on Beth’s struggle with whether to commit suicide.

Beth (Emily Kinney) has not been nearly as prominent nor developed a character as her sister Maggie (much less Lori or Andrea). As a result, the threat of her loss did not resonate as well as it might have. Her possible death was not nearly as gut-wrenching as Maggie’s might be.

That suicide might be an utterly appropriate response to the world of this series was never really under consideration. (Now that would be truly subversive.) It’s as if removing oneself from the horror of this world was the one moral choice that remains unacceptable.

Note this difference: The men contemplate murder; the women self-destruction.

This show really is stuck in its retrograde treatment of the women. There's a feint in a sub-subplot involving Lori and Andrea and their widening gap where Andrea suggests that guarding against walkers is at least valid as cooking for the men.

But at heart (as others have pointed out), this is a profoundly conservative show when it comes to women. It’s reasonable to argue that half of the women characters (those who are part of Hershel’s extended family) are themselves conservative by nature.

Fair enough. But Andrea doesn’t provide the balance. She never really is a woman who is one of the guys. Like Lori, she is defined by her relationship to the men of the group (as, for that matter, is Maggie).

When Rick describes his family, he reiterates the word "my" -- "my wife, my son, my child." It's oppressively patriarchal and possessive.

As rich as "Walking Dead" is, it would be even richer if the women also made moral decisions that affected the outcome of the stories as deeply as Rick and Shane's do.

Television
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1 Comment

  • ohmygodjohntravolta | February 28, 2012 3:49 AMReply

    Episode 11: "Judge, Jury, Executioner"

    Episode starts with Daryl beating the shit out of Randall in a shed. Randall reveals that their group has about 30 people, including women and children, and that he doesn't know where they're staying since they're always on the move. He also says that they're heavily armed and tells a story about how they once found a guy with two young daughters while out scavenging and proceeded to rape the girls, letting their father live so he could watch. Daryl beats him even harder. Cue theme music.

    Daryl leaves the shed and reveals to the others what he found out. Based on that knowledge, Rick decides that they must kill Randall. Only Dale argues against it and asks Rick for one day to talk to everybody and convince them to let Randall live. He gets no support from Daryl, Hershel, Shane or even Glenn. Then there's this big discussion about whether to go through with it. Dale vehemently objects, telling everyone that this is murder and means forever giving up hope for a civilized society. In the end, only Andrea sides with Dale. Majority rules, so Randall is to be executed.

    There's also a moment between Hershel and Glenn at one point where the old man gives Glenn his father's watch along with his blessing to Glenn's relationship with his daughter.

    Meanwhile, Carl sneaks into the shed to look at Randall who begs Carl to help him escape. Shane finds Carl there and drags him out, telling him to stop trying to get himself killed. Carl then immediately goes and calls Carol an idiot for believing that Sophia is in heaven. Rick asks him to apologize and start thinking before opening his mouth. Carl then steals Daryl's gun, finds a walker stuck in a swamp and tries to shoot it. Before he can do that, the walker breaks free and attempts to grab Carl, who freaks out and runs away.

    At nightfall, Rick takes Randall to the barn and prepares to shoot him, but Carl comes in to watch. Rick can't kill Randall in front of his son, so he decides to hold Randall in custody for now. Near the woods, Dale finds a mutilated cow and is attacked by the same walker from before, who freed itself from the swamp to follow Carl. Dale doesn't get bit, but the walker tears open his guts before it's killed by Daryl. Dale's wounds are too grave and Daryl performs a mercy killing by shooting him in the head. End episode.

    Next episode: Shane snaps. He gets stabbed by Rick then comes back to life, only to be shot by Carl.

    Suffice it to say that they leave the farm behind for good halfway through the season finale. There will be some more casualties, rest assured.

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