Thursday, August 16, 2012

Retro Walking Dead

Summer allows me to catch up on television shows I may have missed along the way.  First I knocked out Justified and then thought I'd give The Walking Dead a try.  Talk about a deeply flawed show.  I'll just jump right into it without a lot of fancy introductory words.

1.  For the most part, it's boring.  You wouldn't think that was possible when dealing with a post-apocalyptic zombie show, but The Walking Dead manages to do it just fine.  And as far as I can tell, this can be chalked up to a lack of interesting characters.  There's nothing that sets anyone apart, there's nothing that makes them stand out, or makes me care where they came from.  Worse yet, there's nothing that makes me want them to survive.  Even though I was upset by Dale's death, because he's the one who did seem to have a different voice.

And you could argue that they made the characters real and they don't have super powers and there's nothing unrealistic about them.  But that's just the problem.  We're dealing with a show about zombies, there are things that can be unrealistic.  Make people mysterious, make them have secrets, make them have motivations that go beyond sitting around a farm all day.

2.  Which brings me to my next point.  They were on that farm for way too long!  The second season could have and probably should have been condensed into 8 episodes, there could have been less pointless conversations, and the pacing would have been better.  As it stood, though, everything moved too slow, and too many tangents had to be introduced.  And the tangents that were introduced never went anywhere.

3.  Because we deal with a world where we wonder about the fate of a small group of survivors, comparisons to Battlestar Galactica are inevitable.  Both shows deal with humanity nearly being wiped out.  Both series focus on an ongoing threat from their attackers.  Both shows have to depict a group of people trying to rebuild society.

The problem is that The Walking Dead tried to discuss the questions of what make us human, and how we need to hold onto them, but they did it poorly.  There were no good arguments, no examples that people might take other sides, no attempts to keep up morale.  Galactica mixed this in beautifully with the Cylons and Baltar; Admiral Adama and President Roslyn were able to bring military vs. government struggles to the front.  All The Walking Dead had was Rick vs. Shane, and Shane was clearly losing it.

Where's the discussion of society?  Of religion?  Of politics?  Why isn't anyone trying to rebuild their life?  Instead they stay holed up on a farm rather than seeing if the zombie mania was going on in another state.  What if it's just Georgia?  Then go to Florida.  I understand the highway was blocked, but there has to be back roads around this.

4.  No one has fun on the show.  What people often forget is that Lost weaved this in almost flawlessly.  Although the main theme of the show was still destiny vs. free will and faith vs. reason, Hurley acted as the foil to both these things, carrying some sort of lightness that made the audience like him as well as the castaways.

There's nothing like that on The Walking Dead.  No one is funny, no one makes jokes, no one tries to lighten the mood.  Consequently, no one is really that likeable.  Go out and have a drink.  Have an interesting conversation.  Go play Augusta National.  Do something.

5.  And even with all this said, there is a lot of potential here in the one thing the show doesn't want to seem to deal with, at least in the first two seasons: mythology.  How did the zombies come about?  Where is the helicopter?  How did someone get a helicopter?  Where is it safe?  Where did Altair come from and what's his story?

There's a lot to be explored if the show would take some time to focus on this.  In a shorter season with more focus.  Maybe you can blame the change in showrunners, maybe it's not the writers' plan to do any of this.  But they're not doing the character thing very well, or the philosophy thing, so why not broaden the horizon?

Just don't let anyone shoot someone else in an outrigger.


  1. Ditto: very happy with Justified, couldn't get into Walking Dead.

  2. Re Walking there was the feeling that the premise exceeded the writers' worldview. That reminds me of a couple of sorta-SF books I've read in the last few years: terrific premise, but then the author didn't seem to know how to make a compelling story out of it.

  3. Couldn't agree more. And I know they came from graphic novels, but the show just didn't stick. I was bored during so many episodes, and during so many parts of episodes. I would put it on, but then surf the internet or play with the baby until something interesting happened. I could go episodes at a time before that would happen.