By Harry Markov
[spoilers are in here, of course]
“Save the Last One”, the third episode in the second season of The Walking Dead, should have been better, given the individual vignettes with big-cast and small-cast characters. The writers shone a light on lesser-developed characters and, on an individual level, every vignette worked to a degree. However, the episode failed to convince me and flatlined.
In a short, not-necessarily-chronological sequence, here is what happened in “Save the Last One” before I start my review. Lori, Rick and Hershel remain by Carl’s bedside, facing the dilemma of whether they should wait for the equipment to come. Shane and Otis run into a zombie horde, both injured and slowed down by the aforementioned equipment. Andrea and Daryl continue to search for Sophia in the forest. T-Dog and Glenn make it to the Greenes’, where T-Dog is treated for his wound, while Glenn shares a conversation with Hershel’s daughter, Maggie. Then there are Dale and Carol, atop the RV, in a conversation of their own.
“Save the Last One” divides its attention into five episodic arcs, which was bound to happen at any moment, as The Walking Dead is a big-cast drama, with an emphasis on character development as its key strength. It’s what drove the comics to such popularity, along with zombies’ highly marketable profile. I don’t mind. This approach has been successfully adopted by Game of Thrones, but in the latter show, every scene had a purpose and brought something to the show as a whole, not just in the episode. I didn’t sense this in “Save the Last One”.
For one, I believe that Dale and Carol serve no purpose in the episode. They neither further a plot point, nor do they develop their characters. It’s just a moment that would have worked in the comics, but stands out as a sore spot in an episode, where things have to happen. Nothing ever did. These scenes were dead spots that deflated the episode’s atmosphere of urgency, not that “Save the Last One” succeeded in keeping me on edge. Considering that Sophia was still in a merciless MIA status, I doubted that Carl would die (Even if I hadn’t read the comics, I had a suspicion that the show would not risk losing the key child character) and the miraculous bit at the end, where Shane arrived with the necessary supplies, confirmed it. I guess I’m jaded in thinking that this strategy to question Carl’s survival is a gimmick as old as the existence of dramas.
While I’m focusing on this plot point, I’d like to mention that I’m torn in my opinion about Lori and her belief that Carl should die. Although her plea makes complete sense in the setting, it demonises her in the eyes of the viewer. She won’t be the mother that, through great pain, has come to the conclusion that her child has suffered enough, but the mother that openly wished her son’s death. Yes, I agree that Carl’s death might ultimately be the best to happen to him, as he will never have a normal life, but I don’t think that it should have been directly said. Why not hint it? Leave it unsaid, but understood by both Rick and Lori?
Rick continues on his road to deification. First, directly, since he’s shown as the good parent in his blind hope that Carl will get better. Second, indirectly, through Shane’s choice to kill Otis and ensure that Carl receives the medical supplies. Let me explain. I don’t oppose Shane and his “Everything is allowed in survival” attitude, and I do consciously rationalise his choice to leave Otis to the zombie horde. What I found distasteful, however, was the lack of effective foreshadowing to communicate the inevitability of his decision. Shane had seemed to have rehabilitated himself to a degree that portrayed him as less of a douchebag, even compared to Daryl, whose rough exterior and grudge against T-Dog pegged him as the obvious antagonist for the group. But I didn’t see the necessity in Otis’ sacrifice, given how the zombies matched their pace and remained comfortably behind. Even during the struggle between Otis and Shane, which should have effectively closed the distance between them and the zombies, the horde still seemed to be at a safe distance behind. Yes, I’m nit-picking, but these are the details snap me out of what’s happening on screen and bug me.
Regarding the last subplots, I don’t have much to say. I’m happy that Glenn finally got some screentime, because he’s an excellent character with lots of charisma, making him one of my favourites. His scenes with Maggie are effortless, and a sheer pleasure to watch, as they convey a sense of tenderness that the show needs. I will go on to say that all of this talk about God wears me out significantly, but that is me being jaded, again. All apocalypse-themed works of art, no matter the format and medium, share a tinge of the religious.
Back to the tenderness: Daryl and Andrea are steadily growing closer, which poses interesting, to-be-seen plot developments, and Daryl has easily become THE bad boy to fawn over. Apart from his confidence in dispatching zombies (To be honest, everyone else looks scared when in the middle of a fray, even Rick) and rock-steady nerves, he demonstrates a very caring heart, pardon the mushiness, and a good sense of humour. The scenes with Andrea work, even though I had to yell, “Are you nuts, going out in the forest at night? There are zombies out there!”
In the end, I can rationalise why events played out the way they did, but as a viewer ,I didn’t feel satisfied with the overall effect from “Save the Last One.” Let’s see how “Cherokee Rose” fares.