“The Same Boat” is quite possibly Angela Kang’s magnum opus as a television writer. Kang has written some of my favorite episodes of the series, particularly the ones that have been hard to watch (“A” and “Coda“), which makes this proclamation even more resounding. “The Same Boat” works as a stand alone episode, much in the same way “Here’s Not Here” was for season 6A, and is especially comparable because of the big ideas, themes, and philosophies presented in the episode. Even if you are not caught up on The Walking Dead, this is the episode to watch. The use of genre, the commentary on being a woman (much less in the post-apocalypse), and the thought behind the purpose of living were all spectacularly done.
As a note, this review may look different from our others. I like to see this one as more of an analysis rather than a review. However, I will critique aspects of the episode as necessary.
Foils: First and foremost, the use of the foils Paula and Chelle for our Carol and Maggie was goddamn brilliant. Carol has been wrestling with where her morals are while Maggie has been throwing more of her morals out the window in the negotiations with Jesus’ crew. Presenting them, and therefore the audience, with what they could be, or could have been, was a wake up call to both women. Paula and Chelle aren’t necessarily “the bad guys,” but it is scary to think that they could also be the “good guys.”
Feminism and the Apocalypse: This was a theme I saw starting to emerge last week between Carol and Maggie, and “The Same Boat” really expanded upon it. The feminist aspect of this episode is really what drives it home.
One of the most striking factors about the situation is that not only did a group of women kidnap another group of women, the man who was part of the ordeal was not only injured, but wound up being such a non-factor. On top of that, he was head-butted by a woman who happened to be tied up, and knocked out by another woman who only saw him as “someone to keep her bed warm.” The way he was viewed by every woman in the room is so often how women are portrayed in film and television, particularly in the horror genre.
I don’t think of myself as a man hater, but in this case, it was really refreshing to see a bunch of bad ass women to be the center of attention. It is also notable that these bad ass women were not sexual objects or “hot” per se, but rather they were allowed have rational thoughts and intellectual conversations without men in the picture.
One significant theme within feminism was motherhood. Carol reveals that Maggie pregnant. All five women (including Molls) deal with their own definitions of motherhood and what that means.
Molls acts as the mother to the Saviors and to Maggie and Carol, granted in a kind of fucked up way. Her line to Carol, “Honey, you need to take some yoga breathes and calm your ass down” proved her place in the group.
Paula briefly mentions her role as a mother to four girls, something she clearly loved more than anything else in the world. It is evident that Paula regrets not being with her children more, and could be a catalyst for her extreme behavior now.
Carol talks about the loss of Sophia and her faith through that time in her life. Carol’s regret is not protecting Sophia from the world around her whether it was from Ed and his domestic violence or from the walkers who wound up taking Sophia’s life.
Chelle tells Maggie about the loss of her child. She has a tough exterior, but she is very affected by that loss, more so than she seems to be by the loss of the child’s father or her own father, whom she planned to name her child after.
Maggie is the only woman in the scenario who still has her child, yet she never really talks about it. No one asks her who the father is, nor does she divulge the information (partially to keep Alexandria safe). There is an amazing moment when her choice to have a child at this time is questioned. She is quick to tell the women that it is historically not a bright idea to get pregnant, but women have done it forever.
The fact that woman’s choice was discussed at all is proof positive about why this episode was the epitome of feminist writing for television and and why I loved it so much.
Besides motherhood, there was a lot of talk about the “the point.” What is the point of living? What was the point of living before? What is the point of living now? Babies came up as being the reason we all keep going, but are babies really it? I think that was what the real exploration of being a woman entailed here. In a world where there isn’t a foreseeable future, are children and motherhood why do we women keep going? Our purpose certainly doesn’t feel right to simply make a man feel good about himself, as Paula wonderfully pointed out about her old life, not missing a beat when she says she killed her boss, the man who paid her to pad his self-worth. What is our self-worth? What is weakness? What is strength? What are our principles? What is good, and what is evil? Does any of that really even matter?
Other observations I gleaned:
- Carol uses her words to get she and Maggie through the situation. Women can be amazing diplomats.
- Domestic Violence was touched on, but only to show Carol’s progression, not to focus on how weak she could be perceived.
- The blatant use of the word “bitch” by the women and the man was jarring, but necessary to show ownership of the word.
- Women often have to give up things they don’t want to in order to survive in both worlds.
The other many themes that made me “squee”: Yeah, I squeed. Kang’s themes, all centering around this band of women, were enlightening. It is rare to have this much intellect and literary allure going on in a TV show, much less The Walking Dead. This episode hit all the marks with:
- What is fear? What are we afraid of?
- Is it death? Why are we are afraid of death?
- Or is it life? Why is life so scary?
- Ah! We are afraid of ourselves. Carol and Maggie were looking in the mirror the whole time, and boy, was that terrifying.
- What is intelligence? Do we overestimate ourselves? Do we underestimate others?
- The beauty of the unsaid. Silence can be deafening.
- Who is Carol? Who does Carol think she is? Who is Maggie? Who does Maggie think she is?
- Who is good? Who is evil? What does good or evil even mean? Is it all a matter of perspective?
- Is faith important? Is who we put faith in important and/or worthy? Is God worthy? Is Negan? Is God dead?
- What does safety look like? What was safety in the old world, and what is safety now?
- What drives us to brutality? Is it ok for women to be brutal? Is it ok for men to be brutal?
- Is survival more important than sanity? What makes us sane? How do we stop ourselves from crossing that line?
Now do you get all the squees I made?
Carol’s progression: Carol is the coffee bean (“Wooaaahhhh” – Keanu Reeves). We have seen her be the carrot. We have seen her be the egg. Now she can be the coffee bean. What does that mean? I don’t think Carol knows yet. “The Same Boat” didn’t give us as many answers as it did questions, but that is okay. It is perfectly acceptable to not have it all figured out, whether it is what principles are most important, what purpose is, or who you really are. It is progress to admit that you don’t know any of it. Carol and Maggie know how to survive, and the rest is still a work in progress. That is progression.
Maggie’s Strength: Maggie has always been strong. When we first met her, she was horseback with a baseball bat and taking out walkers. She never lost the scruples her father gave her. She has grown steadily to be incredibly tenacious. She did not plan on dying, and her self-assurance got her through the torment in the slaughterhouse. She was close to losing it, but admitting that she needs a break could be a very good thing for her. It takes a lot of strength to be a mother, and she needs all the strength she can get.
Horror is scary: The uncanny similarities to Saw set up the rest of the episode for a terrifying and riveting psychological gore fest. Using the same set as Saw was a brilliant use of the genre. Saw maybe quite bloody and elaborate, but what always struck me about it was how psychological it was. I mean, it is really fucked up. Getting in someone’s head is more terrifying than guts everywhere. “The Same Boat” was incredibly psychological. The silences, the occasional walker kill, the blood, the brutality, and the final scene on the Kill Floor were quintessential horror. There was never a time that Carol or Maggie felt safe until they were back with their group. It was pretty much perfection in terms of suspense and severity.
The Walking Dead Easter Eggs & Other Tidbits:
Hershel: When Maggie and Chelle discuss Chelle’s “Frankie” tattoo, she mentions that Frankie was her father’s name and it would have been what she named her child. In the comics, Maggie names her son after her father, Hershel. Perhaps she will do so in the show, too.
We are all Negan: It’s an extremely culty idea, which works for a group of Saviors who basically worship Negan. The show has taken a really cool approach to it, with members claiming that they are Negan; this results in confusion for our group as nobody really knows who Negan is. In the comic books, it’s a little more subtle, but we still get the impression that The Saviors are acting as an extension of Negan as opposed to just working for him. Buncha nutcases, really.
Hush Comics gives “The Same Boat” an A+ for an hour of suspense, horror, feminism, philosophy, and just good damn writing. APPLAUSE!
Oh, and for good measure…
All images belong to AMC and are credited to Gene Page. The comic book images belong to Image Comics and are credited to Charlie Adlard and Robert Kirkman.