Episode Title: Grotesque
Original Airdate: 8-21-16
After a zombie-free summer, it’s time to get back into the undead with the mid-season premiere of FTWD. And apparently they want to ease us in as slowly as humanly (and zombiely) possible.
After splitting up the group in the last episode, we return with Nick wandering through the Mexican desert…for an entire episode. After seeing the Abigail compound on fire and inquiring about Celia’s whereabouts to his mother, Nick decided to not escape with Madison at the end of the last episode. This episode picks up with Nick parting ways with one the compound’s servants, with only a small backpack of supplies and no real destination in mind, plus zero survival skills. He quickly loses said backpack, is soon shot at by a crazed gang, then attacked by hungry wild dogs in his sleep, all before becoming dangerously dehydrated and saved at the last minute by the mysterious Luciana and brought to a survival camp. All of this spliced with a few flashback sequences of Nick’s time in rehab somehow took an entire hour to show.
Splitting up a big group has its pros and cons. I think it forces the characters into even more dire circumstances and can lead to some amazing character and/or relationship developments. Unfortunately it can also feel like a real drag.
It was done on The Walking Dead during the back half of my favorite season (thus far), and aside from one episode (that grows on me with each rewatch) was brilliantly done. But that was four seasons in to a show I already adored with characters I loved. I waited with bated breath each week as I hoped and prayed for the Group to reunite, even if only a few at a time, until nearly all were locked in that train car together by the season finale. Unfortunately, FTWD may have jumped on this plot device a little too early. Or maybe I just don’t care enough for the characters to see them struggle on their own.
Even worse is focusing an entire episode on one character’s journey, when said journey really isn’t that interesting, and the character hasn’t proven himself worthy of his own episode yet. When it boils down to it, Nick is just insanely lucky. That’s the most intriguing thing about him. He should be long dead. In that respect, we could compare him to Glenn Rhee, but the latter has many more lovable attributes, so he still gets a pass. Nick: not even close.
From the next episode’s previews, it seems things will soon pick up and the action will be more spread out, but after three months off, this was not the most enticing way to bring back a show that has failed to entice so far.