Thursday, September 04, 2014

Walk On

Most of my favorite horror movies of the past decade are zombie moves.  Zombies are a great threat--relentless, swarming enemies who can't be reasoned with, and the slightest slip-up means the end. You can kill hundreds but you're never out of the woods.  By comparison, vampires are moody narcissists who can get pretty tiresome.

But I didn't think a TV series about zombies would work.  There'd be no resolution. In a movie, you win or lose, and it's over (even if a sequel is made later).  But a TV show were every week the same band has to deal with the same threat would get tiresome, even monotonous.

Which is why I didn't watch The Walking Dead originally.  I was very much into AMC's other big-name show Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but didn't have room for this new title.  And then it went on to become the channel's biggest hit, and with each season the viewership rose (a new trend in a world where viewers can catch up) until it's become TV's biggest phenomenon.

I figured I should find out what's the big deal, so I recently watched the first three of (so far) four season. (This means I'll be giving out spoilers, but I must request readers not to spoil the fourth season for me.) And I give the show a qualified (and unbitten) thumb up.

The first season is the most delirious--because it's only six episodes (AMC had no confidence in it?) but has a whole season's worth of plot. It's constantly on the move, starting in the regular world, moving to a hospital, to the protagonist's home, to downtown Atlanta, to a camp, to the Center For Disease Control.  And new characters are introduced (and killed) at a regular pace.

The second season (my least favorite) calms down a bit (and the zombie rules change a bit).  The survivors are going somewhere and get stuck on an abandoned highway.  I was hoping they'd get to where they were going, but instead they're soon on a nearby farm with some others, and they stay there the whole 13-episode season.  And storylines are now taking too long. Early on, one little girl goes missing and having this be unresolved for more than one episode doesn't make it any more exciting--the longer we wait for a resolution, the more it becomes like a dull toothache that won't go away--yet this arc lasts over half the season.

The third season picks up a bit with the good guys clearing the zombies out of a prison and moving in, while Woodbury, a nearby "town," run by a character known as the Governor, threatens them.  Still, not a lot of forward motion in its episodes--it should have been cut to ten.  In one episode, for example, a lead character escapes from the Governor but is caught before she makes it to the prison, and is returned.  In the scheme of things, this is a single plot point that could have taken about two minutes.

Still, the action, well-directed and plentiful, is good. Every episode features lots of gore and brutality, as much as you could hope for on basic cable.  And the constant threat, while a bit wearying (and it does get ridiculous how hordes of the dead suddenly appear in the middle of nowhere whenever needed), does lead to a lot of tension.

In some ways the show is comparable to Lost--a disparate band of survivors who are trying to adapt to a hostile world. And both shows see plenty of people die along the way.  But the comparison isn't favorable, otherwise, for TWD.  The characters tend to be fairly one-dimensional, and their dialogue is mostly functional.  Their relationships don't get that deep (and some, like the romance between the farm girl and the Asian guy, are a complete waste of screen time) and, outside the threat of death, there's not much drama to care about.

But TWD is its own creature, and works on its own level.  It's not half the show that Breaking Bad was, but it's certainly worth a weekly watch.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Welcome aboard! I had to catch up on Walking Dead, but really enjoyed as a switch from Dexter (I've stopped at the end of season 4 - haven't been ble to get myself to push through, since I've heard season 5 is pretty bad).

I won't spoil season 4 of WD, but brace yourself. It starts out more introspective than you might think possible in a zombie world, and then turns more brutal than you would have thought possible.

I have serious concerns for season 5 - I don't know where it's going, based on the cliffhanger at the end of season 4.

By the way - I find I enjoy being able to go through whole series at my own pace. Just think, I have all the seasons of Lost and Breaking Bad ahead of me still!

7:15 AM, September 04, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I picked up Walking Dead at the end of Season 2 and never bothered to go back and watch the beginning.

Has much more the look and feel or old cheap slasher/horror movies and the characters seem more from NASCAR country (Not that the special effects look cheap but the physical setting feels more real and ordinary rather than a CGI-created set)

I think every one of the characters is dumb, annoying and underdeveloped- somewhat like the people you interact with everyday and I like the fact that characters may get offed suddenly and unexpectedly. Feels like a reality show (except that its good)featuring the undead.

What's really scary are the people on the talk show that follows on Sunday nights ("Talking Dead")- kind of makes you root for the biters

12:54 PM, September 04, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I agree the characters, almost every one, can be pretty big jerks. The plots are often based on someone making a dick move. Heck, the entire third season could have lasted two episodes if the prison people and the Woodbury people made common cause, which was the sensible thing to do.

2:11 PM, September 04, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It made no sense for the Governor to wipe out the army unit. I thought for sure that was going to be explained by them having Zombie rot on the brain

2:26 PM, September 04, 2014  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Dick Move.

Sounds like a reality show, LAGuy.

Or maybe the next Tom Cruise renegade do-gooder movie.

5:46 PM, September 04, 2014  

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