Television shows often utilize a sort of parallel structure in order to emphasize a thematic point. Shows like Mad Men and The Sopranos always ran two or three stories alongside one another, trying to find the common ground between storylines, showing how certain characters experience the same struggles. It’s a great way to highlight components of the human experience. But doing that means juxtaposing the correct characters, and it also means grouping the correct characters within their storylines. Put the wrong characters together or struggle to bring out their correct qualities and storylines suffer as a result.
“Twice as Far” wasn’t a particularly strong episode, partially because the wrong characters were placed together within the storylines and partially because some of the characterization choices didn’t make sense. But let’s start with what did work. The choice to juxtapose Denise and Eugene was a smart way to show how sometimes surviving is just a matter of luck. Both Denise and Eugene are unprepared to fight through a post-apocalyptic world. Both of them are scared, physically weak, and not particularly great at adapting. Both of them do adapt, to a certain degree. But Eugene survives while Denise does not. And it really boils down to Eugene being captured while Denise was shot by surprise. You have to take changes in order to move forward and adapt. But taking chances is risky, and it’s easy to make mistakes, like yelling in an open space, or just being overpowered by a zombie.
That’s a particularly poignant message to communicate, especially as The Walking Dead moves into its seventh season. Many of the characters are starting to move towards finding a balance between hardened and vulnerable, taking risks in order to find that balance. Of course, it’s possible (and probably likely) that taking risks will lead some of them to their deaths, but risk-taking has been this huge theme in Season 6. From the plan at the quarry to the bloody zombie walk to waging war with The Saviors, this entire season has been one calculated risk after another. And so far, all of those risks have been met with deadly results. Except waging war with The Saviors. There haven’t been any serious, serious failures because of this risky maneuver (except for Carol and Maggie’s capture, as well as Denise’s death), not to the extent that the risks in the first half of the season doomed many, many characters. So there are two possible outcomes here: Either Rick’s risk-taking is paying off and they will stomp out The Saviors, or something is going to go very, very bad.
As for what goes bad in the episode, I’ve never really been a fan of Eugene and Abraham’s character tics. Their language choice makes some sense, but it’s far more disjointed and distracting than anything else, and it makes it difficult to take either of them seriously. Put them together and those language tics really overpower anything else in the scene. It makes sense that Eugene is trying to be tougher, and it makes sense that Abraham is trying to act exceedingly tough in order to distract himself from his own vulnerability, but when funneled through the lens of that language, it seems more “comic book-y” than anything else. Sometimes The Walking Dead has trouble balancing its comic book roots with its grim, televisual storytelling, and it shows with the strange translation of some of the comic books elements to the screen. Characters like Michonne, Morgan, Eugene, and Abraham are certainly three-dimensional, but sometimes seem weird when we actually see them on the screen.
Some of the characterization was also a little frustrating. The Saviors have been characterized a little differently in various episodes, with “The Same Boat” giving them a more vulnerable characterization while “Twice as Far” characterized them as brutal, yet incompetent. Making supporting characters incompetent has always been an issue that The Walking Dead has suffered from, and “Twice as Far” takes The Saviors, a group here that vastly outguns Daryl, Rosita, and Abraham, and has them fall back because Eugene bites Dwight in the groin (an absolutely ridiculous facet of the scene). The episode also has a hard time selling Carol’s transformation, as she switches from unflinchingly brutal to vulnerable and scared in a very, very short period of time. The reasoning is there, but The Walking Dead always spreads itself so thin among its characters that some of these character threads are more cursory than intricately detailed. And even though the end of Carol’s character thread might show some improvement, it’s fairly weak right now.
“Twice as Far” isn’t a particularly great episode, even though its parallel structure works well enough to give it a strong foundation. Some of the characterization is suffering as a result of the show spreading itself too thin, and some of the comic-book influence is doing more hard than good. However, the show is fairly strong as it moves towards the season’s conclusion. This half of the season has been focused towards finding the balance between brutality and vulnerability, and how risk-taking factors into finding that balance. And as of right now, Rick and his group are beginning to feel the effects of that risk-taking. But only time will tell how deep those effects cut, and who will be lost as they make their mark.
What did you think of “Twice as Far”? How do you think the season is going to end? Let me know in the comments!