So, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted by the holidays? Oh, that's right. Everything's awful.
After a half-season that's seen more stability and cheer than perhaps any other time in The Walking Dead — and, yes, that is not saying much at all — we were treated to a literal bloody mess of a midseason finale. It was bad. Not Red Wedding bad. But, bad.
Again, the Governor decapitated Hershel (with Michonne's sword), beat Rick within an inch of his life, and was eventually killed by both Michonne and his newish girlfriend. Also, Tyreese has run off with the three little tweens who should have been protecting Judith but were too busy being brave (that is, shooting Tara's girlfriend in the face), Glen is wounded and abandoned, Maggie is on a bus with a bunch of senior citizens, Daryl and Beth have retreated to the woods, Judith's missing, Carol's still exiled to suburbia, and Bob is probably really desperate for a drink. Rough stuff.
Now, while "Too Far Gone" cost us Hershel, the Governor, and the Prison, it was good gripping television. Moreover, it set up the latter half of this season for some good-ol', back-to-basics running and gunning. The group is splintered into fun little factions; each trying desperately to survive without shelter and find the others. So long as we don't delve too much into an ongoing series of missed connections (à la Game of Thrones), this should be a great opportunity for individual character development and the fight-or-flight scares that this series can be great at — two things we've been missing lately.
And, what do we get in this first episode of post-breakup solo projects? Well, Michonne is back to her old pre-Andrea tricks, walking the earth alone as a great slayer of zombies with two of the undead on leashes. She's more capable and vicious a fighter than ever. Many a zombie head rolls.
Oh, but what's this? After hanging with the group so long, she's become used to being around people (remember her laughing with Hershel only a couple episodes back?) Out on her own again, she's miserable and scared (yes, Michonne is scared for once) of turning into a figurative member of the walking dead — alive but without purpose. Also, guess what? She had a kid! And, a boyfriend! And, a very nice kitchen! At the end of the episode, she actually seems to thank God for pulling her through a dark time. Finally, the character that always seemed to want to DIY postapocalyptic survival is looking to something bigger than herself for help and realizing that there's more to life than just staying alive. See? Character development!
Carl, too, is growing as a character and a man — though through some embarrassing fits and starts. The kid who was so darn eager to grow up becomes a man in this episode and almost instantly learns how much adulthood can blow. Playing nursemaid to the still-wounded Rick, Carl becomes convinced he can go it alone. He can't. Sure, he manages to survive (barely) several run-ins with walkers and enjoy 112 ounces of chocolate pudding (so many calories). But, just like Michonne, he figures out that living alone in walker world is about as pointless as it is impractical and being human means so much more than self-sufficiency. We don't think we'll hear him grumbling about being treated like a child again. More character development!
Good stuff, but all we can think about now is the other factions — particularly the bleak, mismatched buddy-cop film that the Beth/Daryl grouping is sure to create. What happens when walker world's Batman teams up with its most sensitive and emotionally open singing teenager? Tune in next week to find out.
Finally, this episode answers the crucial question of whether we'll we miss the Governor, that "Big Bad" who's machinations kept us warm during the group's long prison stay. Nope. Splintering the group and throwing them to the wind reminds us that The Walking Dead doesn't need an arch-villain. In this series, the Big Bad is loneliness...oh, and millions of zombies.