“”¦Do you think Andrea’s on her period? I’m only asking ’cause it’s like all the woman are acting really weird. And I read somewhere that when women spend a lot of time together their cycles line up and they all get super crazy hormonal at the same time.”
They might as have just subtitled this episode “The One about Gender.” Because no matter what else might have been going on this episode, there was a whole hella lot to be said about post-apocalyptic gender roles.
There was a point in the first season that I thought the show might be interested in exploring the way social roles fall apart under extreme stress. Rick is cast as the archetypical American cowboy figure, the old west sheriff who has a solid moral compass and the strength to lead his group through the new frontier. The third episode, “Tell it to the Frogs,” actually comments on the way that the old roles are still enforced in the camp. Given that there were only three more episodes in that season, I could forgive the writers for not getting back to the topic, but now we’re five into the season, and it’s more of the same old, same old.
I might be losing my faith in the direction of the show when I say I don’t believe, based on the evidence presented thus far, that the writers have anything interesting to say about gender and social roles in a post-society society. We should have seen something, anything, in any one of the female characters that should have already suggested that they’re interesting in breaking down these kinds of dynamics. Instead we get women slotted into incredibly trite and stereotyped roles ““ they get to be the mothers, they get to cry, they get to be shrill harpies, and they get to do the fucking laundry. Again. There’s yet another scene where the action surrounds the women doing the fucking laundry while talking about cooking dinner. It would be nice if the show suggested that the women’s time is being wasted doing the fucking laundry instead of learning how to defend themselves or assisting in the hunt for Sophia, but no, not only is this a vital and important part of the group’s survival, no one else can lift a finger to help do it.
The only female character who is shown rebelling against these restraints has been painted as so unlikable I feel fairly confident in saying most of us wouldn’t have cared if she had stayed behind at the CDC. Andrea, who has been agitating to be allowed to carry her own weapon for the past five episodes, is found hanging out on top of the RV with a rifle and a cowboy hat:
I don’t wanna wash clothes anymore, Dale. I want to help keep the camp safe. Is that OK with you?
Text can’t get across just how bitchy she says that ““ a bitchiness that would be understandable if, you know, the show hadn’t emphasized how completely out of her depth she is. So once Andrea takes over the male role of camp protector/lookout, she misidentified Daryl as a walker and offers to shoot him before he gets too close, but is ordered not to by Rick. Shane, his manly shirt unbuttoned so we can see his manly sculpted man physique, goes with the other men to take care of the walker hands on, as men do. This irritates Andrea so much that she decides, despite what everyone else has said and her miniscule amount of gun training, to shoot into the crowd of her own men, because nothing bad ever comes of shooting guns at your own nominal allies. And then she shoots our boyfriend Daryl! Everyone loves Daryl! He’s the most popular character on the show ““ if the writers wanted everyone to really hate uppity Andrea, this was a really fantastic way to go about it.
Speaking of our boyfriend Daryl, who everyone loves, even my husband who was so angry during the Andrea-shooting scene that he said he wouldn’t watch the show ever again if Andrea killed him, he had a very adventurous day on Hershel’s farm. Lone wolf that he is, Daryl takes one of the farm’s horses out to a high ridge to look for Sophia. He falls firmly into the Rick-camp of believing it’s worth it to look for the little girl (the opposing camp is Shane’s “her only worth to the group is to what extent she doesn’t slow us down” psychopath line of thinking), for his own bad family reasons, and because, though he doesn’t state it outright, it’s the right thing to do.
While out in the woods being a BAMF, Daryl’s horse throws him and during his fall down an embankment, he manages to stab or shoot himself in side with his last bolt. I called it last week, you guys, having one bolt left is a sign of bad things to come. His situation keeps getting worse; while trying to climb back up the embankment, he falls back down, giving himself a concussion. Merle, his racist, one-handed, clap ridden brother makes an imaginary pit stop to articulate all of Daryl’s deeply held fears.
And then Daryl comes too while his boot is being gnawed on by a walker. Already wounded and hallucinating, Daryl beats the walker’s head in with a branch and then pulls the bolt through his body the wrong way to get the crossbow set back up and shoot a second walker through the skull.
My friends, Daryl is a BAMF. We should all be so lucky to have him join our post-apocalypse survival groups.
While Merle continues to mock and berate him, Daryl eats a meal of raw squirrel, rips his shirt to make a bandage, finds proof that Sophia is still alive, climbs up the embankment, and then walks miles back to the farm to get shot in the head by Andrea and still live to tell about it. I know I’m abusing italics in this post, but this episode made me have all the feelings. All of them. In abundance.
His thanks? Carol kisses him on the forehead and tells him that Daryl is worth just as much as Rick or Shane. He’s just as good as they are. Better, in truth, but no one knows about Otis yet. It’s a touching, quiet exchange, but watching the way that Daryl pulls the sheets up around his chin like a child during the scene is a subtle but telling gesture. When the show is on, it’s really, really on.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that my complaints about gender portrayals on the show carry into Daryl’s scenes with his brother. Daryl refers to himself as a pussy when he’s having difficulty getting up the embankment. His brother calls him “Darlena,” tells him to kick off his high heels and climb, and says Daryl is Rick’s bitch now. Most tellingly, Merle also says, “All those years I spent trying to make a man of you, and this is what I get?” A brother who acts like a woman, caring about little girls and falling down and hurting themselves. A soft brother. Every word out of Merle’s mouth is completely authentic. That is exactly the kind of guy Merle comes off as ““ someone who hates Democrats and black people and women, and thinks beating on someone makes them stronger. It provides incredible depth to Daryl’s character but when those exchanges are contrasted with what’s going on back at camp, I am left to either believe that the writers are totally tone-deaf to the comparisons they’re setting up, or they really believe the women are useless.
Some non-Daryl stuff goes on too. Hershel wants everyone off his property, Shane is two steps closer to a full cuckoo, and, oh yeah, Hershel is keeping a huge herd of walkers locked up in his barn.
See you next week!