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The Walking Dead - Splinter - Review

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  The Walking Dead “Splinter” was written by the team of Julia Ruchman and Vivian Tse and was directed by Laura Belsey. Once again the show finds a creative way to deal with Covid-19 restrictions and keep the cast to an absolute minimum. Unfortunately, this episode really solidified in my mind that these 6 “extra” episodes that we’ve been given are really just filler. It was nice to get some of Princess’s (Paola Lazaro) background filled in, but with only 6 episodes, I really wanted some information on the characters we already know. That said, Lazaro delivers a wonderful performance and so does Khary Payton (Ezekiel). Something felt off about Ezekiel, but I knew for sure that Princess was hallucinating when he started beating the Trooper (Cameron Roberts) – so kudos for a very nuance performance that just wasn’t quite the Ezekiel we know and love!

Given that this wasn’t my favorite episode ever, I’m not going to do my usual detailed recappy review, and just hit some of the highlights. Princess sees Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) hurt trying to go to Princess’s aid as they are taken by the Stormtroopers. They are each placed in their own box cars – so shades of Terminus anyone? There’s a great shot of Princess making herself as small as possible in one corner of the car. There’s plenty of visual uncertainty – odd angles, blurring – to give us hints that we may not be seeing reality right from the beginning. 

Princess starts trying to get out and manages to give herself a splinter – but that’s not really the splinter of the title. The splinter of the title is really the splintering of Princess’s mind. Yumiko may or may not have been in the car beside her. We never actually see – good Covid protocol! Princess wants to try to get her help, but Yumiko tells her no. She tells Yumiko about a similar spot she was in when she was 14. She was scratching at the inside doorjam – locked in her room? A closet? 

She got a splinter and an infection in her hand which meant she had to stay home from school. She didn’t want to stay home because it wasn’t good there. She convinced her Mom to let her go back to school too early and the hand got re-infected and swelled up. Her mother didn’t really notice but her step father wouldn’t let her eat at the table. She told him he couldn’t push her away because it was her house first and he smacked her hard across her jaw – we learn later that he fractured it. When she appealed to her mother not to make her eat in the garage, she told her not to eat then… Yumiko stops answering then – and it seems like the guards might be taking her away.

The next morning, Princess appears to find a hole not very well secured by a board, and she climbs out. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) is in the next car and tells her to get back in hers before the guards come back on patrol. We barely see McDermitt, and it does seem difficult for him to really maintain his usual drawl in a hoarse whisper. Princess wants to go after Yumiko, but Eugene insists that escaping is not a good idea. Eugene is adamant that weeks of speaking with Stephanie have given him a good idea of her character and the treatment that they’ve already received makes it logical that Yumiko is ok. 

Guards go past and Eugene again tells her to get back into the car. He tells her that everyone back home is expecting him to be a cross between Santa Claus and a guardian angel – they’re expected help – whether for battle or for the aftermath, and Eugene is convinced that they can get it there. He convinces her to get back into the car – just in time for the guards to take her.

There’s a nice segue of Princess with her hands up in the car to her hands up naked in the shower. It’s a nice way to show how truly vulnerable she is – she’s a lot tinier without that giant coat. The let her get dressed and then one of the soldiers (Jessejames Locorriere) interrogates her. She tells him she’s 28 or 29 but she’s lost track. All Princess wants is to see Yumiko. He wants to know about her friends. She stops talking when he asks about her friends. When she starts shouting that she wants to see Yumiko, he strikes her across the face, knocking her across the room. 

She wakes up back in the car – she’s cleaner – so apparently at least the shower happened? She checks for Yumiko – still gone. Then goes to check for Eugene. His car is empty now too – just a cut zip tie left. She goes back into the car, unsure what to do – and suddenly Ezekiel drops in from the roof. She hugs him and she notices something about his arms – through the armor he’s still wearing. She says they got you too, and he admits it wasn’t the most fun interview he’s ever had. Ezekiel is ready to leave, but Princess won’t leave Yumiko. She also tells him that SHE hit someone (maybe) in her interview. Ezekiel doesn’t blame her. 

Ezekiel insists that they don’t know these people and can’t be sure of what they are doing. They can’t trust what they don’t know. And really, that’s Princess doubting that she can trust these new friends who maybe she doesn’t really know. Princess admits that she was hit over an old fracture – and it’s healed ever other time… Ezekiel promises that no one will hurt her again. When Princess insists that they can’t leave Eugene and Yumiko, Ezekiel says he knows – they’re HIS friends. Princess says he doesn’t have to rub it in… 

The two sit closely together. Ezekiel wonders if Eugene trusted the wrong people this time – and we know it wouldn’t be the first time. Princess insists that people are assholes, especially family. Ezekiel says not all families – and she concedes most. She tells him she just wants to do the right thing. He says that they need a better plan. 

The Trooper comes in with food, and Princess apologizes for her previous behavior – and then Ezekiel knocks him out. Princess is shocked and insists it isn’t a better plan. How will they explain it – and Ezekiel says who cares – and did anyone have any doubt that this was all an hallucination? The Trooper tells her that Yumiko is getting help with the medics. The Trooper recites to her “for the benefit of all and for all who seek solace at our gates.” It seems like they have fallen in with the good guys. The Trooper asks her to remain calm and let them help her. The Trooper never looks at Ezekiel. He tells Princess that this is all standard protocol. They’re careful because they have a lot to use. He can’t bargain. He’s just a grunt.

The Trooper hits Princess and it seems as if Ezekiel is beating the crap out of him with Princess telling him to stop – and then it’s suddenly Princess – and Ezekiel isn’t even there… There are no holes in the car at all – either to Eugene’s car or Yumiko’s or the roof…

And then Princess is running beside the train cars with the Trooper’s gun. She goes to slide under the fence but the gun on her back catches. In the end, she can’t leave the others. When “Ezekiel” calls to her from the other side of the fence she tells herself to get a grip. I loved that Ezekiel is standing with a walker conductor and engineer! He tells her to get going – she only met those people a week ago. She tells him that’s a lifetime in Apocalypse time. He tells her she’s good on her own. She tells him she’s a God-damn superhero on her own.

She compares herself to her mom – she did what she had to to survive. Ezekiel tells her her mother was a monster. Princess remembers other people who were good. Ezekiel tells her that there are stories that you tell yourself and then there’s the truth. Princess says maybe – but they came back for her – so she goes back. 

The Trooper isn’t that happy to see her and asks who she’s talking to now. She tells him she’s not crazy – she just has ADHD, crushing anxiety, PTSD, and an active imagination that helps her cope… but maybe that’s the only sane response to an insane world. She tells him that small, dark spaces do bad things to her head. She takes the handcuffs off him and her splinter comes out as she does so.

Princess tries to help him come up with a cover story, but he insists he has to tell the truth, and her friends will have to go back to where they came from with no help. She tries to make it right by telling him that she just met the others so doesn’t know their ages or where they’re from. She’s from Pittsburgh. They’d been on the road for a week and had bikes for a while. She tells him their names. He tells her that was good, and thank you. She hands the rifle back. The rules are simple, the questions routine. They just needed to know she’d play ball. She asks when she gets to see her friends and he says right now, sliding open the door, revealing the others with bags over their heads, right before a bag goes over hers. 

I doubt this is as bad as it looks. If they really are protecting what they have, they aren’t going to let anyone see where they are going. This was a very exposition heavy episode – just to let us know that Princess’s particular brand of unstableness is attributable to physical abuse and a terrible mother. However, we also see that she does have a good heart in doing the right things for our crew in the end. I might have been less disappointed by this episode if it was sandwiched in with some really good episodes that seemed to move the series along, but this really felt like filler in a 6 episode season. However, a really great performance from Lazaro – and I am looking forward to more Princess. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

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