Before “The Same Boat” aired, I posted that I was taking bets on whether *anything* would happen in this episode…and while I wouldn’t say that absolutely nothing happened, it certainly seemed to cement my theory that they’re going to spend this and the next episode or two simply building up to the season finale.
The red-tinged promo didn’t help, either. I was already prepared to be frustrated if they didn’t come to some sort of major conclusion before the end of “The Same Boat”. I knew, after seeing that promo (which aired tonight while they were re-running last week’s “Not Tomorrow Yet”) that if nothing truly crucial happened I would be even more annoyed.
“The Same Boat” opened with a sort of reprise of the very end of “Not Tomorrow Yet“, but this time from Carol and Maggie’s point of view. In fact, we only saw other members of The Group from a distance and only heard them over a radio (until the very end of the episode, of course). I suppose it was good to find out how Carol and Maggie got captured, but I’m also not sure that it was necessary for those scenes to last quite as long as they did. Yes, we learned a bit about the group that captured them – namely that they were already arguing amongst themselves, that the leader’s name was Paula, and the fact that it seemed as if they were catching a zombie (they were) before they covered up Carol and Maggie’s heads and moved them to a different location via walk/car.
While Carol and Maggie were being transported to this supposed “safe house” (that at least one of the women didn’t believe was truly safe), we heard the captors call for help via radio (the line was something along the lines of “Omega Omega Saviors down go to code fire” – I may be wrong about the last couple words). But then nothing much happened.
No, seriously, I feel like the entirety of this episode took place in the stupid basement from The Blair Witch Project. As in, it was supposed to be creepy but then you realize it’s not real (or in this case, you simply understand all too soon that it’s just a filler episode), so you’re like, “Wow, nothing is happening, nothing is happening, they’re in a bunker or something, nothing is happening, this is pretty stupid.”
Here’s the thing – “The Same Boat” was another heavy-handed episode of The Walking Dead. They tried to work in some questions about Carol’s current state of mind, but writing-wise it was clumsy. The only reason it wasn’t completely horrible was because Melissa McBride was absolutely amazing. She took some material that I would classify as pretty darn weak and made it something more with her line delivery and facial expressions. She was basically perfection, end of story.
A big part of why some of “The Same Boat” actually worked involved Paula, played by Alicia Witt (Friday Night Lights, Justified, etc.), who also did a good job with a weak episode. Basically the only legitimate question in this episode (at least in my opinion) was whether or not Carol was playing games or seriously questioning her actions for the first time in a long time. In the beginning I absolutely believed that Carol was acting and that her captors were stupid for falling for it, but by the end it was clear that we were supposed to think that at some point Carol wasn’t sure any more.
In fact, Melissa McBride appeared on The Talking Dead after “The Same Boat” and made a comment that they were trying to blur the lines between what was a ruse and what was actually part of Carol’s character (paraphrased). Again I have to say that I don’t believe as if that whole situation – as in, every scene that focused on Carol and this thing that is more breaking down a character than building one – was handled well. It was all over the place and the only thing that even somewhat saved it was that it was acted as best as it could be.
I’ve already mentioned several gripes that I had with this episode, but my biggest gripe was probably Carol playing the baby card (as in, almost immediately telling their captors that Maggie was pregnant). This was one of those times when I couldn’t tell if she was playing games or, well, being weak…and it didn’t help that the women immediately responded in a way that seemed almost protective of Maggie. Their attitude about it did seem to change as “The Same Boat” plodded forward, but that kind of just made things worse. It’s like the writers grabbed hold of a stereotype but then realized sticking to it may not be the best decision? I mean, it was one thing for ‘Chelle to ask Maggie where she wanted to be shot, but it was something entirely different for her to immediately slice at Maggie’s stomach when they encountered each other during the escape.
Of course the escape itself didn’t happen until after viewers were treated to over half an episode’s worth of build up (though in Walking Dead’s case, it was probably more them dragging things out). I almost feel silly now, having spent most of that time with a smug smile on my face, thinking that Paula was so severely underestimating Carol when in the end it appeared that Carol was questioning her past actions, clearly because of what Morgan has said to her. And let’s be honest (slight spoilers for next week here!) – the promos for episode 14 make it pretty obvious that she’s not in the same head space from the past, say, two and a half seasons (ish).
Meanwhile Maggie was also very back-and-forth in “The Same Boat”. The way she reacted when outright threatened was more than understandable (baby or no baby!), but from one scene to the next it was uncertain how she would act/react. Yes, I understand that they’re trying to show a dichotomy between her and Carol here, but you’ll be hard pressed to convince me that it was well-handled.
All that said, there were some incredibly well-written lines in “The Same Boat”. When one of the of the women found out that Maggie was pregnant, she told her, “The point is to stay standing.” Maggie’s reply was hard-hitting – “No. Walkers do that. I’m choosing something.” Later, Paula called Carol weak and asked if she was scared to stick to her principles, and it was evident that she didn’t understand when Carol said, “You don’t want me to stick to my principles.”
But as I’ve already mentioned, Carol didn’t really stick to those principles. She did what needed to be done (like shooting ‘Chelle in the head after she slashed Maggie’s stomach), but then she hesitated over killing Paula. Listen, I get it. I get that Carol saw herself in Paula. I get that Carol is in fact the coffee bean water in Paula’s story. But that doesn’t mean that this female-centric episode was well-written, because it wasn’t.
Two things that I don’t believe should be buried are the comment that “they’re all Negan” and the fact that Primo also claimed to be Negan in the end…though thankfully nobody fell for that, and Rick just went ahead and shot Primo. Let’s be honest, these are just more red herrings. We know they’ve cast Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. No, The Group doesn’t know who or what they’re dealing with, but it isn’t some big secret that there is a new Big Bad and that we’ll see him eventually. (Surely before the end of the season, because if not, that’s just obnoxious.)
Seriously, consistently teasing viewers about who will die is bad enough (including that moment when it appeared as if it was Carol who had maybe been impaled on the stake in the bunker-place (which was actually supposed to be an old slaughterhouse). Please, Walking Dead, *please* don’t tack on this whole “well Negan may not actually exist, he’s more an idea than anything else” nonsense.
Oh crap. They already have. Well.
I really hope that I’m wrong about the next two episodes also being filler ones that merely lead up to the season finale. If I am, I guess that it will be one of those rare times when The Walking Dead actually shocks me. “The Same Boat” did nothing of the sort, and while it had some good moments (including Carol and Maggie actually going out of their way to burn the other Saviors who showed up alive), it was a weak episode that I fear is just leading into more of the same.
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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