In the fantasy/SF/horror genres, you have two basic directions: embrace your premise’s absurdities, or try not to call too much attention to them. Walking Dead has tried to be realistic with gritty character drama developing from an obviously absurd premise that viewers accept as essential to the series.

This week, they called a little too much attention to the show’s inherent absurdities, as two of our survivor groups dealt with outsiders.

Title: “Claimed”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Seth Mann
Written by Seth Hoffman, Nicole Beattie

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes
Danai Gurira as Michonne
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes
Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee
Laura Cohan as Maggie Greene
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier
Michael Cudlitz as Sergeant Abraham Ford
Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa
Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter
Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler

Additional cast and crew information may be found here.

Premise

While Michonne and Carl go foraging, Rick must fend off a band of home invaders. Meanwhile, Glenn and Tara make an uneasy alliance with Ford, Porter, and Espinosa.

High Point

While Rick’s unwelcome guests suffered from their chaotic incompetence and his +5 luck bonus, he still shows intelligence and cunning in eliminating the threat.

Low Point

The episode felt too contrived, even for a show about surviving the zombie apocalypse. Rick, Michonne, and Carl find a pristine neighborhood a short distance from where both the prison and Woodbury colonies had been raiding. A short time later, they get invaded by a group so stupid, evil, and inept that we feel no more for their deaths than we do for the Walkers.

The Walkers, I suppose, have always shown up when it serves the story’s purpose, but it seemed a little obvious in the Glenn/Tara/Ford plot.

The Scores

Originality: 3/6 Half the cast fights zombies; the other half battles human villains. We do, however, see some new characters, and they’ve been cut from a different cloth than anyone else we’ve met.

Effects: 6/6 This week gave us some slightly different zombie shots.

Story: 4/6 See Low Points and High Points.

Acting: 5/6 The show’s actors continue to shine, and the new characters, despite their inherent comic-book ridiculousness, show potential. Michael Cudlitz is obviously having the time of his life as Sergeant Abraham Ford, and it’s about time someone was.

Emotional Response: 4/6 I have mixed feelings about our new characters—and I haven’t read the source material far enough to know what their story might be. They really look and feel like comic book characters: broadly drawn and stylized. I don’t know how much of this is bad, or, more fairly, divergent writing, and how much of this we’re supposed to notice. Ford could easily be throwing himself into the hero role as a means of coping with the madness around him. The others might be doing something similar. I find it hard to believe that Porter is really a brilliant scientist who knows how to end the zombies, but that might be entirely how we’re supposed to feel. It could be an act. Rosita I have trouble believing at all. Who dresses like a comic-book wish-fulfilment supergirl under these circumstances? And where does she shave?

I’m skeptical, but I am intrigued.

Production: 4/6 I try to ignore the fresh-mown lawns, but when house after house appears in pristine condition, without a speck of dust or thread of cobweb, it starts to soften the brain. The world looked more worn and ruined back in the first season. The settings don’t have to be perfect, but I shouldn’t be left with the opinion the apocalypse struck a world of neat-freaks last Tuesday around tea-time.

Overall: 4/6 The show made a strong return two week ago; I can only hope this represents a low point.
In total, “Claimed” receives 30/42