The Walking Dead recap: Princess is buggin' out
Maybe it's all the talk around Zack Snyder's Justice League this week that has put this on the mind, but just because you can make a four-hour cut of something doesn't mean you should — or in the case of The Walking Dead season 10, a 22-hour cut. There's something to be said for tight, concise storytelling and the long-running AMC drama has oscillated between success and failure in that regard as the years have gone by. "Well, what's so bad about spending even more time with some of your favorite characters?" Counterpoint, does that extra time serve the story, or is the story stronger without it?
The case study is this week's episode of The Walking Dead, part of the bloated season 10 order, that focuses entirely on Princess. We already knew she was in great need of psychotherapy and anxiety meds, but did we need an entire hour focusing on her unraveling mental state? Probably not.
"Splinter," the fourth of the six episodes added to season 10, cuts to the cliffhanger with Princess, Eugene, Ezekiel, and Yumiko when they were accosted by soldiers from the Commonwealth. "Oh! So, we're going to learn a little bit more about how this society fits into the world of the show?" Not exactly. We get some crumbs of the Commonwealth meal that we're assuming is going to be a big part of the final season, but not enough to really satisfy anyone. Again, we spend the entire time with Princess, and, like, there are just so many characters on this show already, can we not?
The Commonwealth soldiers accost the group and split them up into individual holding cells around the abandoned train carts. Princess is worried for Yumiko, whom she saw get her head bashed in with a rifle, and fears she might have a concussion. She's put into a dark and cramped train cart that brings back memories of her childhood. In the comics, she was physically abused by her stepfather and stepbrother, and locked in a closet for hours at a time. In the show, she recalls some of her traumatic memories to Yumiko to help keep her from passing out in the train cart next to hers. Princess counts to herself and names off state capitals to help calm her PTSD. She explains she had a splinter in her hand that developed into an infection. It was so gross her stepfather made her eat dinner in the garage by herself, and her mom didn't stand up for her. Yumiko soon passes out and is carted away by the guards, which only accelerates Princess's panic.
In the light of day, she can see there's a loose wooden panel at the end of the cart, which she pries open and is able to sneak out. Eugene is in the cart just outside. He urges Princess to remain where she is. If Stephanie is a good person, he imagines this is all just protocol from her community to make sure they are good people, too. He believes they still need the soldiers to help defeat the Whisperers back home. So, Princess crawls back into her cart, and just in time. A soldier has arrived to bring her in for interrogation. She's stripped and searched, and presented before an officer, whose face is hidden by shadow. He asks her questions about who she and her friends are, most she refuses to answer. The officer hits her in the face, in the same spot she once had a fracture from her stepdad's abuse, and she's brought back to her cell.
She sneaks back out to check on Eugene and he's not there. But she finds Ezekiel. He found an opening in the ceiling and jumped down into Princess's cart. He says they should sneak out and getaway, but Princess is fighting that urge to flee. A soldier comes in with a tray of food and while Princess is talking to him, Ezekiel sneaks up and knocks him over. But wait, how did the soldier not see him in the first place? And why did it look like Ezekiel just appeared out of nowhere from outside? That's because he's not really there, nor were Eugene and Yumiko. It's all in Princess's head.
She was the one who attacked the soldier, cuffed him, and grabbed his gun. She thinks she and Ezekiel are interrogating the guy for information, but moments later, she's horrified to realize that she's the one with bloody hands from beating on the man. She goes to leave but has another hallucinatory conversation with Ezekiel and two walkers. She doesn't want to be alone anymore. She mentions Ms. Travis and Sammy, presumed to be previous people she encountered on the road, and now she wants to help these friends who came back for her when she was in need.
Princess returns to the cart where she apologizes to the soldier and tries to find a solution to both their problems. He claims to be so low in the ranks that he doesn't have the information she's looking for, and he'll probably be in trouble for allowing a prisoner to get the best of him, but he mentions these are all just protocols in place for his community to protect those who live there. Princess decides to go along with it and tells him a little about herself and the names of her friends. She returns his weapon in the hope that he will fulfill his promise of allowing her to see the others. He then opens the door and she sees Eugene, Yumiko, and Ezekiel cuffed side by side, blinded with black bags. The same is done to her and the screen cuts to black.
Did we need that episode? No, absolutely not. Did we need all that time inside the mind of Princess? Newp. Are we any closer to learning about the Commonwealth? Haha. That's cute. Is the rest of season 10 gonna be just like this? Probably.
AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.