Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and was ready for an extended episode of The Walking Dead! Unfortunately, this episode was not one of the things you could be thankful for this holiday season, as you will feel every minute of this latest installment in the worst way possible. Now understandably, offering super-sized episodes would normally be good thing, but the pacing issues plaguing The Walking Dead are beginning to spiral out of control at this point. There were numerous instances during “Swear” where I had to stop and look at how far along the episode was, and sigh at just how little time had actually passed as events such as Tara walking slowly through a forest or Natanya debating what to do in their current predicament were fairly excruciating. Needless to say, there are a few positives to be found in this episode, but they’re tough to find.
Our episode begins with two young women on a beach, poking zombie heads and coming across the body of Tara, who has just washed ashore. Now as a refresher, Tara and Heath had left last season from Alexandria in order to find additional supplies for the town, as food was running low, even before Negan sank his claws into Rick’s crew. Having been gone for weeks at this point, Tara does not realize that her girlfriend was murdered via arrow through the eye, and the pair of Alexandrians don’t know how overrun their place of residence is now with Negan and the monsters that are the Saviors. This makes for a nice reveal at the end of the episode, with Tara discovering the former via a tearful Eugene, but it’s just ultimately too little, too late. In “Swear,” we find Tara and Heath down on their luck, having recovered little to no new supplies and debating whether to drive back to Alexandria empty handed.
Discovering a bridge, Heath and Tara believe they may have found a godsend in the possibility of stumbling across some much needed provisions, but instead discover zombies who have been caked in dried cement and dust. Again, if there’s one thing that you can never fault The Walking Dead for, it’s their zombie makeup and designs. Props need to be given to the makeup artists and production team who manage to, week after week, create some new terrifying effects and zombies to threaten the “Walking Living.” Unfortunately, again, things take a turn for the worst as Tara is separated from Heath and knocked into the river, where she eventually washes ashore to the aforementioned beach. The way these series of events are shown is the typical past and present cutaways, taking viewers back and forth. While this can usually be considered a good story tool to reveal story beats we didn’t originally know, here, we know why Tara fell into the water as she tells us as much, so we don’t receive any new information by zipping to the past, making it somewhat useless. Linear storytelling here would have been for the best.
In any case, Tara finds herself in the present discovering a new camp that is made up of only women, after the men had been killed by Negan and his crew. While Alexandria has Rick and characters we’ve grown to know over the years, Negan’s evil cavalcade makes for an interesting one in their balance of an iron fist with a nihilistic humor thrown in for good measure. The absurdity of the Kingdom and the shockingly even tempered Ezekiel is also compelling, but the new camp run by Natanya and her band doesn’t have these interesting hooks. It all feels so lifeless and dull with seemingly no interesting facets of their camp given time to be examined. This new camp feels like a road we’ve been down multiple times before with the show, and I could not have been more bored going through the motions once again. While Tara attempts to liven up the scenery with some misplaced humor, most of it falls extremely flat, making it all the more cringe worthy (barring her flipping off the little girl who attempted to kill her with multiple attempts).
Tara manages to escape from the band of surviving women after being offered a place there to keep their existence a secret, but flees in order to make sure Heath is safe. Once she gets back to the bridge, she is unable to find him, but marches back to Alexandria where she meets Eugene, as I previously mentioned, and is told about her girlfriend’s demise, albeit in silence. It’s, again, the strongest moment of the night in a horrible episode that stalls at nearly every opportunity. Gone in “Swear” are characters like the foul-tongued Negan, verbose Ezekiel, grizzled Rick, and so on, and what we’re left with are characters that we aren’t given the opportunity to know or really care about. Tara and Heath were always something of background characters in the series, and while I appreciate the idea of giving supporting characters more screen time, this didn’t stop the episode from boring me to tears.
I’m always rooting for The Walking Dead to succeed, but I think that this season has been a mixed bag so far. It has enough interesting characters, along with a riveting setting, to really create some great stories along the way. “Swear” was not an example of what The Walking Dead can do and in all honesty, is probably the worst episode of the series that I’ve seen to date. Hopefully, the AMC series can stop spinning its wheels and get back on track to bring back some of that goodwill created with the addition of Negan and company.
Rating: ★ Poor
Blood and Guts
– The dialogue felt so stilted and unnatural throughout the episode, it was almost like watching a high school play at times. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.
– Tara – “It only hurts because you know what you just said is total bullshit.”
– Rachel: “Doesn’t matter. We’re supposed to.”
– Natanya: “We could only find so many bells.”
– Tara: “I didn’t? What was the question?”
– Tara: “Yeah, that’s a pickle all right.”
– Tara: “Does soy sauce package count as food?”
– Tara: “I’ll run. I love to run. It’s my favorite thing.”