A Couple Of Thoughts On “The Walking Dead”
I was going to write a long post about my issues with The Walking Dead (more precisely my issues with season 2 of the show to date) but Jonah Goldberg beat me to most of what I was going to write. This is good because it saves me effort and he’s a better writer than I. Still, I have a few thoughts to add or expand on.
Let me say I come to this as someone who is hooked on the show but mostly out of habit and hope at this point. I criticize because I care. Also, I presume you watch or at least know about the show and are up to date (if not…spoilers).
The overarching problem with the show this season is they are simply ignoring they are living in a post-zombie apocalypse world. I know the idea is to see the toll this takes on the survivors who are the real walking dead (see what Robert Kirkman did there?) but so much of what they are exploring could be dealt with a pre-zombie apocalypse setting.
The first four episodes have spent a lot of time dealing with the problems between Rick and Lori. There’s the added element of Shane and his previous relationship with Lori. As a sidebar, we’re treated to the tension between Dale and Andrea. Oh and Glenn is pretty excited to get laid.
None of this has much to do with dealing with the survival needs in a a zombie infested world. All of this could have been explored more or less if this were the real world and they all worked in a law firm. Rick and Shane are old college buddies who went to law school together and now work at the same firm. They each have a history with Lori, the popular cheerleader from college. Dale the goofy but well meaning senior partner is working out his issues with his estranged daughter Andrea who took up the law not because she wanted to but because as Dale’s daughter (he always wanted a son!) she was expected to and he took away her choice! Glenn is fresh out of law school and his really taken with the wise and confident para-legal (sorry, that last one is USA’s Suits).
In a sit-com, the “sit” stands for situation and is really just a vehicle for the characters to interact. In a post-zombie apocalypse world, the situation really, really maters. It’s a big thing, it should in a sense be a character itself, a menace that’s always there. Too often this season on The Walking Dead the big set zombie pieces feel contrived and thrown in to placate people who think a zombie drama should have some zombies (think the “swimmer” in the well or the hanging zombie).
So far this season the big zombie (and presumably character) moment was Shane shooting Otis. Ok, this is good. That was a choice he wouldn’t have had to make were there not zombies. Shane has crossed a moral bright line and it’s going to pay off by….having him cut his hair and whine to Andrea? I’m sure (more hope at this point) they’ll be a bigger payoff later but my patience is running thin.
Where are the concerns and torment Jonah talks about? Where’s the sadness for the lives they’ve lost, loved ones dead and gone? And why the hell aren’t they more curious about the civil defense announcement they heard on the highway? When they got to the Greene’s farm, how come there was no exchange of questions about what happened, how did you survive, what do you know? None of that.
Speaking of the Greene’s farm…the reason they are there (aside from tending to Carl) is they are supposedly looking for Sophia. Does anyone watching the show really care if they find her? She’s just a cipher, a plot device used to plop the gang down here and give them some business to do.
This is the other big problem with the show…which character would you be sad to see killed? Personally, any of them could be eaten (action? yay!) and I wouldn’t care. I don’t know any of these people and I am simply not invested in any of their survival.
When one episode started with a flashback of Lori talking to a friend before the zombies showed up, I thought the show was in trouble if they were resorting to that kind of thing. Now after having watched the webisodes chronicling how the “bicycle zombie” got that way, I think the show NEEDS flashbacks. Right now I have no sense of who these characters are, what they’ve lost, how they survived. Worst of all the writers have given me no reason to care.
What this show is missing is a character that stands in for the viewer. Someone who is clearly a fish out of water and as they learn to navigate this strange new world so does the viewer. I guess the writers don’t think they need this kind of character because the world itself isn’t that important to them.
Last season the show did have that sort of character in Rick. Like us viewers he was thrust into this world with out any preparation or slow build up. When he met Morgan and his son, we learned together the basic outlines of what happened and what people had gone through. When Rick met Glenn in Atlanta we learned more about the new realities people were facing and some of the tricks it would take to survive.
But all too suddenly Rick became the earnest square jawed hero here to save the day. His only faults…he just cares too darn much and feels too much responsibility to lead.
Um, who asked Rick to lead? I’m pretty sure this not so merry little band survived the ugliest times without his help and were managing ok before he showed up. Why does he feel he’s the only one who can get them through when Shane and Daryl are just as competent and heroic? Me thinks Rick thinks just a bit too much of himself and his importance.
Speaking of Daryl, what’s the deal with this guy? Last season he was a menacing presence over the group. Remember how worried Dale was about how he’d react to news of his brother being left behind in the city? Now he’s Mr. Hero, comic relief and oh yeah, he brings a flower to cheer Sophia’s mom up (I don’t know her name, so you can see how much I feel for her)?
One key element of good drama is character arc. If no one is changed, then who cares what they’ve been through? Daryl hasn’t been changed organically from a scary loose cannon to everyone’s buddy, he’s simply been rewritten. I like the guy but I’d like the show better if I didn’t. Give me someone to distrust, someone who gives me reasons to doubt their motives.
Maybe that will develop over the course of the season but we’re 4 episodes into 13, time’s a wasting.
With all the changes in the writing staff, it was probably inevitable that there would be a loss of focus. The show has already been renewed for a third season. Hopefully the writers will realize they are creating a world where they have a lot freedom and stop acting like they are writing a regular prime-time soap.