Weekend’s Best Reviewed: The Walking Dead

It’s not a particular surprise that the midseason return of The Walking Dead, one of cable’s titans, would bring mostly raves. In an episode that had Talking Dead host (and America’s Nerd) Chris Hardwick even giddier than usual, “No Way Out” brought the premier zombie program back with a flashbang episode featuring gore, shocks, tragedies, triumphs, Darryl Dixon with a rocket launcher, and hints of the TV debut of comic book legend Negan and all the impending doom he entails.

Around the clicker, the anticipated arrival of Scorsese’s 1970s music industry drama Vinyl, starring Bobby Cannavale, opened with about as consistent reviews as possible (every review we recorded translated to an “8” in our secret system). ABC’s Friday night fantasy-heavy line-up earned positive press this week. Two revered shows counting down the days to their series finales — The Good Wife and Downton Abbey — had solid outings. On the other side of the ledger, Shameless tailed off from last week’s hyper-dramatic home-leaving episode, while SNL suffered a similar drop-off from curmudgeonly, but acceptable Larry David to always game Melissa McCarthy.

Weekend of February 13th’s Best: The Walking Dead (8.7/10)

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“No Way Out,” the suffocating return of AMC’s current centerpiece, The Walking Dead, certainly connected with its aura of constant terror anchored by the resonant theme of a loosely connected group coalescing around one defined goal — survival — as they herd the undead towards a cinematically spectacular lake of fire. Richard Rys of Vulture asserts that the creators of The Walking Dead knew they “had something to prove after Glenngate stalled the first half of this season.” And prove they did: “No Way Out” isn’t just a much-needed shot of adrenaline — it’s one of the most exciting episodes of the entire series.” IGN‘s Matt Fowler dubbed it “defiantly hostile. In a great way.” Sean McKenna at TV Fanatic proclaimed the episode a “major step up from [its] lackluster” predecessor. The closest thing to a pan comes from AV Club‘s Zach Handlen, who, while questioning his own expectations, faults the show’s “lack of narrative philosophy,” and hammers its consistency. “For every nicely handled character moment here (the rise of the Alexandrians, and Rick finally accepting that he can make these people into bad-ass murder machines was decent), there’s some weird plot flailing that’s so clumsy that it borders on camp.

The Rest of the Night:

Downton Abbey – 8.2

Vinyl – 8.0

Sleepy Hollow – 8.0

Grimm – 7.7

The Good Wife – 7.7

Billions – 7.0

Shameless – 6.8

Saturday Night Live – 6.5

The Vampire Diaries – 6.5

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