Review: Conflicts come to a head as ‘The Walking Dead’ ends its mid-season slow but steady

By Perry Johnson

The mid-season finale of ‘The Walking Dead’ aired this week, and with the show once again going on its three month hiatus, the tenth season finds itself displaying a solid, yet somewhat underwhelming mid-point climax.

The episode, titled ‘The World Before’, focuses largely on key characters throughout its hour or so runtime, as conflicts come to a head.

It was satisfying to see this episode brutally force Rosita (Christian Serratos) into once again displaying that she is an unflinching and capable survivor; especially when considering that, after last season’s six-year time jump, the character has been too busy dealing with injuries, relationship issues or motherhood to get her hands dirty.

In a tense first scene after the title screen rolls, Rosita – with infant daughter in hand, catches the treacherous Dante (Juan Javier Cardenas) red-handed, mere moments after mercilessly killing her child’s father after he discovered that he was a mole sent by the enemy faction.

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Rosita (Christian Serratos) returns to being a hardened survivor in her grief – and gets the stand-out walker kill of the episode in the process (Photo: AMC)

In the conflict that inevitably ensues, Rosita is able to not only overpower and viciously beat the cold-blooded killer, but simultaneously take down a re-animated Siddiq (Avi Nash) as he lunges, teeth gnashing, towards her daughter. It’s an extremely sudden, fast-paced bit of action that is guaranteed to get viewers’ heads spinning and hearts pounding right from the offset.

This scene, however, is the only time in the episode that a walker feels like any kind of threat; despite them being such a focal point for the show. While this may leave some scenes feeling more underwhelming than clearly anticipated, it does work to provide a backdrop of realism. After more than ten years of surviving in this world, it makes sense for individual walker attacks to be greeted with annoyance rather than fear.

One thing is certain though, the special effects, make-up and prosthetics involved in creating these shambling corpses has in no way met the same fate. With walkers increasingly wasting away and decaying over the show’s timeline, almost every episode features a stand-out, gore-filled and blood-soaked zombie kill – and this one was no exception. Showing layers of bloody skin being stripped off a walker’s scalp as its helmet is removed is enough to put anybody off eating for at least a fortnight.

While walkers may no longer elicit the same sense of terror they once did, The Walking Dead has found intrigue in exploring a new kind of threat. The fact that the current enemy faction wear suits of human skin to blend in with the dead has elicited a strong theme of paranoia since their inception. With the revelation that Dante has been working as an informant for the enemy, and sabotaging communities to stoke fear and confusion in their members, it has shown just how dangerous paranoia can be.

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Carol (Melissa McBride) puts the group in danger as she obsesses over avenging her son     (Photo: AMC)

This is epitomised in Carol (Melissa McBride), who also receives a decent spotlight this episode. This season has seen her become increasingly hell-bent on avenging her adopted son, who was brutally decapitated by Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) last year.

Earlier this season Carol came face to face with Alpha, and does so again in this episode; however, the fact that she has been taking caffeine pills and seeing ghostly apparitions of all her dead children throw doubt on her reliability for both characters and viewers.

It’s refreshing to see some conflict rise between her and fellow show stalwart Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) as a result of this, considering the pair have the closest and longest bond of any characters on the show.

However, this uncertainty has the adverse effect of leaving the show feeling confused and without a clear direction at times. While this is often frustrating, it perfectly mirrors what the characters are facing and allows viewers to experience that first-hand.

Carol’s increasing obsession with vengeance closes the mid-season finale out with an interesting, if anticlimactic, cliff-hanger. Giving chase to Alpha, Carol leads her allies into an undead-filled trap. It will be interesting to see when the show returns in February if they can all make it out alive. If they don’t, there’s only one person to blame.

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