A Princess gets a splinter.
The episode begins with Eugene, Ezekiel, Yumiko, and Princess still surrounded by the masked soldiers. They separate the four, with Yumiko trying to rush to help Princess. She takes a hard blow to the head for that. For her troubles, Princess is tossed into a boxcar. Are the soldiers fucking with the wrong people, though?
As Princess stews in her cells, she has flashbacks to literally seconds ago and starts reciting state capitals. Whatever helps pass the time, I guess. She searches under some nearby tarps, but finds nothing. Princess then overhears some guard making conversation as they pass by, and we hear one of them mention the name “Mercer.” Who is Mercer? We’ll find out later.
Princess finds a small opening in one end of the boxcar. She tries to pry apart some of the wood, but only ends up getting a nasty…wait for it, splinter. Of course. Yumiko whispers to her from the next boxcar. She’s too injured to move to a spot where Princess can see her.
Princess wants to make it up to Yumiko, as she feels it’s her fault that Yumiko got injured. She plans to make noise to get the guards, but even Yumiko knows that’s an awful idea.
Why Princess feels so responsible for Yumiko’s safety, I have no idea, but Yumiko implores Princess to stay calm and not tick off the soldiers. Princess, noting how dark and small it is in the boxcar, decides to just keep talking to Yumiko. As it turns out, Yumiko is fine with that.
So story time it is! Yumiko recounts her youth, when she got a splinter in a similar situation to the one she’s in now. Well, ain’t that a bitch? The splinter turned into an infection, so Princess had to miss school. One cool girl at school taught Princess how to dye her hair, which changed Princess’ life. Must not have been an eventful life. Princess nagged her mom to send her back to school which, what kid would ever do that?
Princess’ hand hadn’t healed yet, so it got infected again and swelled up like a balloon. Mom didn’t notice, but stepdad wouldn’t let Princess eat at the dinner table. Things got heated, and stepdad smacked Princess across her jaw. Princess wanted Mom to do something, so she told her not to eat. Princess stops the story, noting that she’s lost the plot. It’s either her or the writers.
All goes silent. Maybe Yumiko got tired of this story. I know I have. Either way, Princess hear guard taking Yumiko out of her boxcar. When she’s left alone, Yumiko starts reciting state capitals again like Arya Stark reciting her list of people to kill.
The next day, Yumiko spots a board covering a hole. Seeing an opportunity to escape, she pulls apart the board and exits the boxcar. Right across from her is the boxcar holding Eugene, who implores her to go back inside. He’s not about to help Princess because, based on his conversations with Stephanie, he believes these people may be as helpful as she’s been. They’re making a poor first impression, if that’s the case.
He believes the soldiers are keeping them in good enough shape just to talk. They have to present themselves as worthy of allegiance. Also, yeah, there’s the possibility that Princess could fuck this up. Either way, she returns to her boxcar and seals it shut just as a guard enters and orders her to follow him.
She’s stripped down presumably for bites, but luckily, no cavity search. The guards, assuring Princess that Yumiko is fine, question the girl on her background. She explains that when the fall happened, she was in Pittsburgh. The lead guard then asks about Princess’ friends, where they’re from, and why they’ve come.
Princess, not providing answers, wants to see Yumiko, so she rages at the guard, who gives her a hard hit across the jaw for not cooperating.
Princess winds up back in her boxcar and approaches the crack where she can see Yumiko’s boxcar. Assuming she’s there to listen, Princess apologizes for messing up. She hears some commotion and peers into Eugene’s boxcar, only to find it empty. After hiding from some passing guards, Princess returns to her cell. She then receives another surprise visit.
This time from the king. Yes, Ezekiel drops in from above. Princess admits that she didn’t do the four of them any favors due to her behavior during the interview. She believes that running won’t help them right now, but Ezekiel isn’t ready to trust people he doesn’t know. Despite what Eugene believes, they’re still in unknown territory. To Princess, nothing is fine. She feels some pain in her jaw where the guard nailed her.
She assures Ezekiel that she’ll be fine, as her jaw has healed every other time before. Ezekiel promises that no one will hurt Princess again. He plots their eventual escape, and he knows that they can’t leave Yumiko and Eugene. They’re his friends, after all. For reasons I can’t understand, Princess takes mild offense to this, and Ezekiel apologizes. But…he’s right. Princess, you’re still new to this team!
Anyway, Ezekiel confesses that fear brings out the worst in all of them, as it just did with him. The two wonder if Eugene might have trusted the wrong people. But hey, people suck. They tell you one thing and mean another. To Princess, people are assholes, especially family. Most families, anyway. She just wants to do the right thing, so they need a better plan.
A guard enters with some food. Princess tries to be diplomatic. In a strange fit of rage, Ezekiel takes action, knocking out the guard and taking his weapon. The two grill the soldier for information, but Princess again tries a calmer approach. The soldier assures the two that Yumiko is with one of the medics. This community is organized and can help these strangers. All this is standard protocol.
It’s their job to keep the people safe, and they’re careful because they have a lot to lose. Surely Ezekiel and Princess can understand that. The soldier’s job was just to keep Princess fed until she’s ready. This guy is just a rookie. He’s so new that his gun isn’t even loaded. Whether that’s true, we’ll never know, but he uses this distraction to knock down Princess.
Not that the soldier can go anywhere, because Ezekiel quickly grabs and starts beating the hell out of him anyway.
Except not really, because it’s Princess who dished out the beating. Yeah, Ezekiel was never there. I’m expected to believe that Princess got the drop on this guard all by herself?
Whatever. She takes his rifle and flees, but stops short of crawling under the gate. She then sees Ezekiel palling around with two walkers. He explains that this is new to her, but time waits for no one. They start dying the day they’re born. Ezekiel wants Princess to join her, but she wants to rescue the friends that she only met a week ago. He reminds Princess to trust her instincts. She’s good on her own, and she knows that.
But if Princess leaves, then she’s just like Mom. She was a monster, but also scared. A scared monster. As Ezekiel tells her, they had to learn lessons the hard way. But not everyone was bad in Princess’ life. But as far as Ezekiel is concerned, there are stories you tell yourself, and then there’s the truth.
Let’s get these last few minutes done and over. Princess returns to her cell, where the lone soldier is still waiting. She tells him that she’s not crazy. Dark spaces do bad things to her head. I’m sure that’s common. She uncuffs the soldier at the same time her splinter comes out of her finger. Well, huzzah.
Since the soldier will be reprimanded for this, Princess offers to give an explanation. But the soldier knows that the others won’t care. He screwed up and must face the consequences, while Princess and her friends will be told to leave. However, the soldier’s higher-ups can work with Princess if she’s willing to answer their questions. Whether Princess will be able to see her friends, it’s not the soldier’s call.
Princess confesses that she just met the three, so she barely knows anything about them. She does at least know their names. Good enough. Princess finally surrenders the soldier’s rifle. He explains to her that the rules are simple and the questions routine. People just complicate them.
So when can Princess see the others? Right now. The soldier bangs on the boxcar door and announces that he has Princess. The door opens and Princess sees that Eugene, Ezekiel, and Yumiko are alive, but bound and with sacks on their heads. Princess then gets a sack of her own as the episode comes to a close.
It’s strange. Of all the extra episodes we’ve had so far, this one deals with the larger narrative. It picks up from the cliffhanger of Ezekiel, Eugene, Yumiko, and Princess being captured, while giving us a bit more about this new community and its people. Even with that in mind, this one feels the most filler-like to me, just because I didn’t find it interesting.
Maybe it’s because the episode focuses on Princess. Okay, she’s the new one to the group and we haven’t spent a ton of time with her. But the girl cannot sit still and just chill for a few seconds. She has to make a move at all times or find some way to pass the time. Okay, so she’s keeping herself active. That’s fine, but there’s nothing engaging here, in my opinion.
I can’t blame that on the acting. Paolo Lazaro is doing her damnedest, and I still appreciate that Princess isn’t your typical survivor. It’s the writing that I blame. There are better ways to get inside of a character’s head besides a splinter. The same goes for her backstory. To be honest, Princess is more interesting because she’s just this oddball that popped out of nowhere.
When she talks to Yumiko about her childhood, I kept wondering if this was padding. We already know that Princess doesn’t like being alone and has trouble relating to people. That’s all we need to be able to relate to her. This forced backstory about her rough upbringing feels like the writers trying to make us sympathize with her. But they accomplished that already.
Again, I appreciate that she’s not just sitting around and waiting for death. She finds a way out of the boxcar and takes action to ensure that Yumiko is safe. That’s good. You want your characters to be proactive when in danger. We didn’t need this sob story. It doesn’t make me any more invested in her character.
Also, why is Princess so focused on Yumiko in particular, and why was Yumiko suddenly so protective of the girl? Last I checked, Yumiko trusted Princess the least, between her, Ezekiel, and Eugene. Now she’s going out of her way to make sure that Princess isn’t hurt. Why the sudden shift? It’s not like the two developed a deep bond.
As the episode points out, Princess is the newbie of the four. She’s barely had time to forge a deep friendship. That, by the way, makes it stranger that she’d be bothered when Ezekiel referred to Yumiko and Eugene as “his” friends. He wasn’t wrong.
Speaking of Ezekiel, you could tell something was off when he just managed to drop in on Princess. Even before he got aggressive with the guard and started beating the hell out of him, because that’s not who he is. So why have him there? To trick the audience into thinking he could help? To make us believe that Princess could knock out and beat that guard all on her own?
That makes about as much sense as Rosita winning in fight with Dante.
I just feel there’s a lot you could trim from this episode. If it was just Princess attempting to escape, plus her interrogation, I’d be fine with that. But these visions she had and telling us her backstory didn’t do anything for me. I’d much rather just see her try to survive. The girl is a fighter. Let us see that, rather than have us endure her story about a splinter and a smack across the jaw.
So in essence, the four are separated. Princess gets pulled and questioned, but doesn’t give up the others. She’s concerned about Yumiko, which is fine. She somehow gets the drop on a rookie guard- not his day, I’m sure- and tries to negotiate, even though she’s still outnumbered and outgunned. In the end, the others are still captive and she winds up captured in the end, anyway.
We learn a bit about the community and one person in particular, but I imagine that’s just a tease for when we get a proper introduction to the Commonwealth. Though I appreciate that, whether it’s an act or otherwise, the guard with Princess is somewhat reasonable.
“Splinter” isn’t a bad episode, but just decent. I don’t think focusing just on Princess was the right angle, and the execution didn’t do the episode any favors. This gave me “Swear” vibes, and I never want any episode of The Walking Dead to feel similar to that. For our first glimpse at this new community, it stumbled by making Princess the focal point.
This episode is more engaging than “Swear,” just to clarify, but like that episode, this is one episode of The Walking Dead I doubt I’ll ever watch again.