On Mediocre Footing Heading into the Penultimate Episode
Tales of the Walking Dead heads into its penultimate episode on firmly mediocre footing. The anthology series set in The Walking Dead universe hasn’t been great or terrible. The six-episode first season explores mostly new characters at different times in the zombie apocalypse. The high point so far explains how a known character, the monstrous Alpha (Samantha Morton), and her daughter, Lydia (Scarlett Blum), became a part of the skin mask-wearing Whisperers. The show avoids most of the foolish pitfalls that plague the other franchise properties. That said, Tales of the Walking Dead hasn’t delivered anything extraordinary enough to make fandom clamor for its renewal.
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Episode three, “Dee”, gives Samantha Morton another opportunity to be creepy and menacing. This is the first installment that doesn’t have two central characters interacting. We see the nascent Alpha, now Dee, and Lydia taking refuge on a riverboat sanctuary. Her voice-over informs that it’s about a year since civilization fell. She also admits to killing her father as a child and then Lydia’s. A tall and athletic woman of means, Brooke (Lauren Glazier), has collected a bunch of survivors. They live in relative luxury on the safety of a riverboat. Brooke hosts dinner parties and fitness classes. Lydia takes a liking to the chirpy Brooke much to Alpha’s chagrin.
Dee believes that Brooke is a fool that doesn’t understand the world has changed. She works as the boat’s janitor to do her part. Dee worries that Brooke is corrupting Lydia. Her suspicions prove to be correct when a bartender organizes a coup with outside help. Dee escapes with Lydia on a dinghy into the swamp. She covers herself and terrified daughter with blood to avoid walkers. Dee sees that Brooke has survived the carnage. She spares her life but slices Brooke’s face as a reminder. Dee is about to kill the sobbing Lydia to save her from a worse death when fate intervenes. They’re found by Hera (Anne Beyer), the original leader of the Whisperers. Dee transforms into Alpha, kills Hera, and uses her face as a skin mask.
Episode two, “Blair/Gina”, serves as the most perplexing. Blair (Parker Posey) runs a small insurance office on the outskirts of Atlanta. Selfish and chatty, she mocks Gina (Jillian Bell), the quiet receptionist. Blair tells her employees that news reports of rabid people are nonsense. She then attempts to leave town with her “Ken doll” boyfriend. Blair sees Gina try to steal a gas tanker. The resulting fracas results in an explosion that kills them both.
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Déjà Vu in the Zombie Apocalypse
Blair and Gina are stunned when they reappear at the office before the tanker explodes. A Groundhog Day scenario plays out where they relive the incident over and over. Gina finally vents her frustration at Blair. They settle differences and work together to change the outcome. The episode ends with them heading into chaotic Atlanta to rescue Gina’s family. I can’t fathom why this type of déjà vu story takes place in the zombie apocalypse. Hopefully, it has greater meaning and isn’t just a goofy one-off; which would be stupidly ironic given the episode’s premise.
The premiere, “Evie/Joe”, has a new-age spiritualist (Olivia Munn) and doomsday prepper (Terry Crews) on a road trip to Michigan. They save each other’s lives and become survival partners. Episode four, “Amy / Dr. Everett”, takes place in a pristine wilderness where nature has reclaimed the land. Dr. Everett (Anthony Edwards), a scientist obsessed with studying Homo Mortuus, his nomenclature for walkers, gets interrupted by Amy (Poppy Liu), a fleeing woman with a missing hand. She realizes that he abhors humanity and has no interest in helping her community. Everett warns her that staying in the area with a massive walker herd means certain death. Amy ignores his wisdom and gets bitten. She becomes another of his test subjects.
Amy dies and so does Alpha much later in The Walking Dead timeline. The other characters all survive. I can only assume, if there’s a second season, that we’ll see them again in new situations. Maybe they will eventually meet in crossover episodes. The question remains why Blair and Gina repeated their encounter. They could be instrumental figures with the ability to correct deadly mistakes. That brings in another existential/sci-fi aspect which could be intriguing or absolutely ridiculous.
Each episode had minimal production values, gore, action scenes, and pretty much stayed in the same setting. The budget is clearly nowhere near that of the flagship series. The Walking Dead has eight episodes remaining in its run. No other spin-offs have been announced. Tales of the Walking Dead needs to beef up to remain relevant. The characters introduced seem like they’re geared for further storylines. They were decently written and acted. Although, we only saw them for forty minutes each and not over sixteen episodes. It remains to be seen if any of them have parts in the final two episodes. It would be odd for a second season to discount them completely and start anew. An interesting twist could be the same actors playing different characters like American Horror Story. Have Blair and Gina continuously come back as dog groomers.
Tales of the Walking Dead is produced by AMC studios. New episodes premiere Sunday nights on AMC. The following week’s episode is available immediately after on AMC+.