SPOILER ALERT: This article is about the first episode of The Walking Dead’s new season. Read at your own risk.
I wasn’t anticipating its return, but like bin day, it happened regardless. There have been many reasons to quit watching The Walking Dead during the first 3 seasons: Frank Darabont’s leaving, the blatant misogyny, the stupidity of ALL the characters, the bad accents, the death of all my favourite characters so that now it’s like the leftovers in the Quality Street tin after Christmas, all strawberry creams and coffee flavoured fondant. I clearly don’t know what’s good for me, or enjoy a strong dose of masochism weekly, but my husband quitting mid-season 3 was, frankly, a waste: if you survived the farm (zombie apocalypse, Waltons’ style), you’ll survive anything.
All the characters have benefited from a time-jump. Having welcomed the residents of Woodbury into the prison at the end of Season 3, we open on a working farm, Rick planting shrubs and sending get well wishes to pet pigs (who they later plan to eat, so don’t name them, Carl! goddamnit Carl, can you do anything right?) Carol is cooking (because that’s what women do in this show), and Hershel is giving sage advice as always, telling Rick to carry his gun (not a euphemism, unfortunately). Seeing the characters happy and organised (they’ve got a sweet gate set-up to keep zombies out, and work shifts at the fence, staking brains), is a fun start: the archetypal beginning of a horror film, preempting the inevitable devastation to follow.
But there’s one difference. Love. There’s something in the water (zombie faeces?) obviously because everyone’s hooked up, or they’re about to. Hideous predictions to follow.
Carol and Daryl have taken their relationship to the next level. No snogging, yet, but she calls him “Pookie” (*swoon*) so he elbows her and walks off. The writers are making us gag for this one, but that’s okay. They may well be the only two characters left that I actually like so I’ll take being teased by them.
Now where Carol and Daryl’s romance was a relative given, several other hook-ups were not.
Maggie and Glenn are in bed, but Glenn looks pensive. Maggie tells him everything’s going to work out okay because, you know, that’s what you say when the world’s ending and all your friends are dead. Glenn wants Maggie to stay behind. He’s worried about her. Why? Because she’s fucking pregnant guys, or they think she is. Have they learnt nothing from the last pregnancy on this show: babymakers get mutilated and shot in the head. If that’s not a warning against procreation, and being a woman in general, I don’t know what is. All those trips to chemists and supermarkets, could they not stock up on some Trojans? For the love of god and/or Tom Cruise, please get some good contraception if you must fuck when the dead want to maul your brains and bodies.
Now Glenn and Maggie were a given (they’re getting married, guys, remember? Nothing like a bit of wedding planning when your best friends are getting their faces eaten off), and Daryl and Carol were a possibility. But 2 couples is not enough. Apparently, what this episode needs is a good ol’ healthy dose of heterosexual couples kissing or on the verge of kissing. I don’t know about you, but in between fighting zombies, I too would want a piece of ass. No judgement. People have needs. But this is just ridiculous.
There were some real hotties lurking in Woodbury, somehow avoiding the cameras for most of last season, but the wait is over, and their kissable lips are getting worked over time. Either that, or the prison has turned into some high-end whorehouse, and they’re trading love for food and guns. I mean, that makes sense (and is the original ending to World War Z, right?) I’d buy that over cupid hitting every single fucking person on the show. Plus, the guy kissing Beth (who the latest showrunner has dubbed the show’s answer to Taylor Swift, ugh) is famous, right? RIGHT? Yeah, he isn’t going to last long. Shame, but at least he saw some action in his short, pathetic life (she won’t even cry when you’re dead, dude – don’t waste your time!)
And if those FOUR super HETEROSEXUAL couples weren’t enough for you, fear not, for here are two more!
Okay, so these are a bit weird, because they’re children, but Carl starts bickering with this new girl, squinting at her through his One Direction haircut, telling her not to name the zombies. She takes a more human approach, says that they’re people too, but if Carl isn’t allowed to name his pet pig Violet, then she sure as hell can’t name no zombies. Nice work dude, tension brewing. Then this other girl with plaits in her hair asks dude with glasses I’ve never seen before if he’s coming to story time. Does that sound like a date or does that sound like a date?
When Michonne returns, they don’t hug, kiss, whatever, but there’s a definite spark between her a Rick. I don’t think I’m imagining it, but I’ll admit it could just be wicked viral zombie fever setting in. Let me know if my eyes start BLEEDING.
Luckily it’s not just super-straight heterosexual couples filling the episode like expandable foam in a butt-crack. There’s some healthy man-and-his-addiction love in the form of a rookie character who RUINS everything for a bottle of wine. And woman in the woods who keeps her zombie husband in a sack or a box (either that or she’s in love with a wooden crate, I dig it). At least there’s a little room for other, less conventional forms of love. I was starting to worry the show was expressing its conservative views a little too strongly…
I wish that was it, that I could end the article with a musing on human-object relationships. Instead, the strong agenda of the writers of this episode eschew all alternative love stories but those which drive them most. That’s right guys, HETEROSEXUAL ONES. Though fear not, we’ll divert our journey back via “Pregnancy in the apocalypse: an idiot’s guide”.
Glenn’s relieved when Maggie reveals she is in fact NOT PREGNANT. This should be the cause for a prison-wide celebration of epic proportions (even Hershel’s getting lucky tonight!) Instead, Maggie tells Glenn that they would’ve made it work, that she won’t live in fear of her life, and she wants to have a proper life, with him, in prison. This apparently includes babies in fantasy land. I’m sorry, what? I mean, I can think of a million reasons not to have a baby right now, and the world isn’t ending around me. Why anyone would willingly walk into this and not pop their daily pill to schedule, is totally beyond me. Have they/the writers/we really forgotten what happened the last time someone got pregnant in this place? It was the most shocking act of misogyny the series has ever endured, and love or hate Lori Grimes, her death was one of the most disgusting, violent female deaths I’ve ever seen on TV, mainly because death wasn’t enough for her, but full body mutilation, guts out, and a bullet in the head from her own son. If that doesn’t smack of an anti-woman agenda, I don’t know what does. So please Maggie, learn the bloody lesson. Plus, do you really want your father delivering your baby? Enough said.
Baby talk over. The final, most disturbing, heterosexual union comes in the form of Beth and Daryl. He breaks the news to her that her boyfriend is dead, to which she replies, “I don’t cry anymore.” Fair play when your life is this shit. But her next move is to sidle up to Daryl, so he can’t refuse her hug, then she looks at him all doe-eyed, clinging like a slug to a kitchen counter right before it gets salted. We get it, Daryl’s the full package (he just needs a little wash), but please god no don’t let anything happen between these two. I’m concerned that the showrunner comparing this character to Taylor Swift means two things:
1. She’s going to start writing songs about all her ex-boyfriends, which she’s only just started to work through.
2. SHE WILL SING AGAIN (Fate worse than apocalypse).
And oh yeah, there seems to be some new zombie, eye-bleed, pig-slaying, viral strain. Luckily it’s only killed irritating unknowns so far. Let’s keep it that way, yeah? And maybe throw some same-sex love into the equation? It’s about god damn time people, we’re waiting.
Selling this show as horror no longer works. Spreading gore like hot jam all over this episode can’t detract from the fact this is rom-com central. And if I wanted to watch an Ashton Kutcher film, I would watch one. It’d have the same amount of general threat and kissing as this episode did. If Katherine Heigl turns up next week, I won’t be surprised, but I might be sick and start talking to inanimate objects like I love them.