The Walking Dead Replicates a Huge Moment from the Comics--And Botches It
Spoilers for The Walking Dead season 6 follow!
Greg Nicotero promised us the "action movie version" of The Walking Dead in the midseason premiere. We started off with a rocket launcher explosion and ended with a machine gun free-for-all, with lots of zombie carnage in between. This episode also gave us two iconic moments from the comics, and while one was done fairly well, the other was ultimately a missed opportunity.
In the comics, the group is walking through the horde of walkers covered in zombie guts when Ron wets himself and is eaten by walkers. Jessie can't let go of his hand, and she is taken as well. She begs Rick not to leave them and won't let go of Carl, so he amputates her hand to save his son. The midseason finale left off on a cliffhanger that clearly hinted at this moment, with the group walking through the herd and Sam (who is younger than Ron and doesn't have a counterpart in the comics) starting to freak out and draw attention to them by calling out to his mother.
It was frustrating enough to leave off on that note in the finale, but it would have been a pretty satisfying payoff (narratively speaking) if the entire family had died right when we returned. Instead, that call for his mother was a fake-out, and we had to wait another twenty minutes or so for these inevitable events to play out.
But even that would have been surmountable, if the scene had been shot in a way that maximized the emotional impact (considering how little we cared about these characters, anyway). But the staging and direction was strangely inert and dreamlike, shot in this weird, almost slow motion that made it seem like the characters were just standing there watching disaster unfold without doing anything about it. While in the comics, everything seemed to happen so quickly that nothing could possibly have been done (which is how it should feel when a zombie horde attacks and can kill you with one bite), it felt as though there were several minutes before Sam's death in which someone could have covered his mouth, or even knocked him upside the head and quietly carried him out. Jessie couldn't have been expected to think this quickly, since she doesn't have as much experience with the walkers, but Rick and/or Carl certainly could.
And then the same goes for Jessie's death. As a result of the weird direction, it looked like Rick was just sort of watching idly as she screamed her head off and drew the entire horde to them, rather than doing something to quiet her. If Rick had just knocked Sam out, or Jessie after Sam was taken, they all could have gotten out alive.
The long-awaited comics moment involving poor Coral, on the other hand, was much more successful. I'm glad we won't have to deal with Ron's vendetta against Rick any longer, because that got annoying really quickly, and seeing Carl with his empty eye socket was suitably unsettling, even for someone who doesn't really like the character. The quick pacing, confusion, and suddenness of that act of violence was perfect, and should have been emulated in the deaths of the Anderson family. Hopefully the show won't botch the next huge comics moment that's coming in the sixth season finale.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC.