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It takes something special to make the audience laugh at violence, but that is precisely what the writers achieved with their most recent episode of “The Walking Dead.” Inured with struggle and bloodshed, Rick Grimes and the group are hardened fighters. Like the group portrayed in the show, the audience is accustomed to the necessary violence that the characters endure. This is why we are able to laugh when Rick, bathed in the blood of a man who tried to kill him, looks around at the benumbed villagers of The Hilltop – people decidedly not accustomed to violence – and says “what?” as though what he had just done was nothing more than cracking his knuckles, brushing his teeth, or tying his shoes.
It is also something of a disarming slight-of-hand that the writers have successfully pulled off. We know we shouldn’t be so amused by what we’ve just seen, but we are. A writer that has perfected this little trick is Quentin Tarantino – I’m reminded of the burning theater in “Inglourious Basterds.” We see the face of Hitler being gruesomely mutilated by machine-gun fire, and we celebrate. A look at a room of people condemned to burning alive, and it is difficult to not find it funny. They were all Nazis, after all.
The show is slowly evolving, breaking from the routine of “find sanctuary, lose sanctuary, hit the road, rinse, repeat.” We haven’t even met Negan yet. Believe me, things are about to get much, much more violent.