November 21, 2011

The Walking Dead: a rant against the haters.

*yes this is long, and we realize that blocks of text aren't very appealing. It's a rant though, so really, our love for pictures has to wait for now. We will resume our love for visual stimulation right after this... We don't post about The Walking Dead much. There are 20 other horror sites out there that post about it daily, and most of them tend to post the same news snippets/reviews. No one needs us to do the same. (We make comments on our GetGlue account as we watch though, because that's fun.) You're horror fans. You know it's on, and you watch it if you can. You either like it or you don't. There's not much we need to say on the matter. Usually. We're finally posting on cable TV's most watched (at one point) show though, because we're hearing a lot of internet talk that says the same thing; The Walking Dead is boring. As a horror fan, the fact that a weekly drama about zombies is on TV is an amazing thing. It's on a cable network which may limit visibility a bit, but it also allows for more freedom and mature content, which a zombie show definitely needs. And let's face it, most things that are worth a shit on TV these days are on basic or pay cable; the Networks have no clue what good programming is anymore. AMC is one of the only networks out there churning out good shows on the reg. Mad Men, Breaking Bad alone are proof of that. They're TV at its finest. Add in Rubicon, The Killing, and Hell on Wheels (so far, let's see how it goes), and you have a pretty good track record for strong narrative, and well made hour-longs. Granted, not everyone likes these shows, but that does not take away the fact that they are well made and full of quality. Quality and preference are not the same thing, but that's a rant for another day. The Walking Dead may be the best of the lot. It's not as good as Mad Men or Breaking Bad; let's be honest, those shows are on a level of their own, and don't have much company. TWD though does something that no other TV show has ever done, and that's bringing gory horror into millions of living rooms every week, and making people, average, non horror-geek people, give a shit. It's an amazing thing if you think about it. AMC showed considerable balls ever daring to even think about making an hour-long drama about Zombie Apocalypse, let alone putting it on Sunday Night for families to gather around the TV and enjoy. This is Rated-R stuff here. Sure, there's not much nudity involved but tone, language, and definitely the gore are all adult fare. As the weeks go on, I see a lot of fellow geeks on other geek sites whining about how slow and boring TWD is, and I don't get it. I mean I get it, but I don't see how it's inspiring so much venom. It can't be zombies all of the time. It's a show about people surviving in the aftermath of Zombie Apocalypse. It has to be about more, and it has to show more than kill zombies, move on, kill zombies, move on. I'd like you to go back in time to the late 70's/early 80's when zombie mania was pretty much at it's peak. Most people consider Dawn of the Dead to be the seminal zombie experience. It's hard to argue that, though we're more partial to Day than Dawn around these parts. Anywho, think back on the Romero flicks for a minute... Night was a gritty B&W shocker, that was really the first time American audiences were exposed to what we today know as true horror film making. Dawn upped the ante, nearly doubled in length, and delivered some classic moments. Day took the gore even further, and closed the "trilogy" out in grand fashion. All three of them had plenty of dialogue, slow moments, and stretches of no zombie action. Especially Day. Hell, there were parts of Dawn that were downright goofy and comical. Romero wasn't making action flicks. He was all about the social commentary, and though he never skimped on the zombie killing goodness, his focus was always on the characters and their behavior. He was preaching to us about racism, classism, and the human element itself. His movies were hour and a half to two and a half hour commentaries, and he used character scenes as much as he did the gore to deliver his message. The 3 movies in the original Dead trilogy were 6 hours long combined (give or take, depending on version), and a lot of that running time was bloodless, actionless. The Walking Dead has given us 12 episodes so far (2 at 66 minutes, the rest at 45), for somewhere around 600 minutes, which is roughly around 10 hours. A TV show like this is in it for the long play. Movies have a short window in which to dazzle. It stands to reason that TV shows are going to have more exposition and character building, because they have more time. Granted, TWD has some annoying elements. Some characters whine to much, some do some stupid shit. But really, that's par for the horror course, isn't it? How many horror movies or shows do we watch and say "Why are they doing that?!? They need to..." That's usually how it goes. And maybe that's where the tension comes from, annoying or not. As TV goes, aside from Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy this season, what TV shows move their plots ahead at breakneck speeds? The 2 shows I just mentioned are in their later seasons, have already established what they need to, and are closing in on their endings (to different extents), so yeah, they are giving us crazy plot development with each episode. The Walking Dead is basically in its first season. It's true first season was more of a "Let's make it and see what happens" type of thing. AMC green lit 6 ep's, let Darabont go, and the show was a runaway hit. Now, in its second season, it's been given room to breathe. I don't think AMC expected it to be quite what it's become. Now that it has, they want to give it the treatment they think it deserves. Most movies, and TV season, follow the same pattern; First reel, set up; second reel, building tension; and the third and final reel gives us the climax and resolution. Usually. Most good shit always happens in the third reel. Yes there are exceptions, but really, that's the formula most projects stick to. TWD is following the comics that it's based on, and doing a pretty true job of it. It's a character piece with a zombie back drop. Yes, some of it is annoying, and there are some plot elements I wish they'd hurry along, but what would they be hurrying to? The point of it all is survival. The story, is in how they survive, and where they try to do it. It's about what happens to them in the wake of such cataclysm, and how they react to it. The world is turned on its ass, and our group of survivors are trying to find normalcy. You and I know that's a fools errand, but it is what it is. Next week's episode is the last before the hiatus. TWD will be back in February for its third act. In February, the shit will hit the fan. Maybe the people whining about nothing happening in the show will get what they want and shut up, but most likely not. For now, we've got Darryl and Glenn developing into characters we love, and changing pretty rapidly. Darryl is no longer the racist hick that were supposed to hate; he's kind of the bad ass anti-hero of the group, and the one all of us fans seem to love. Glenn isn't just the Asian whipping boy any more, he's becoming the ass-saver and the one people trust. They are examples of some great character development. Shane is definitely someone we hate, and yet his Kubrick-esque turn last night (ep. Secrets) promises that we have some good shit yet to come from him. He's the conflict. He's going to keep people on their toes. Rick... well, we like Rick, but he's a bit of a disillusioned whiner sometimes. He's the go-to, but he needs to start laying the smack down on the assholes of the group, starting with his wife. Lori, Andrea and Dale are the bitches. Secrets, drama, pouting, agitation... they're doing more harm than good, and I guess any story needs characters like them, but good lord I wish they'd die. Then again, someone else annoying would just replace them. Everything else is just kinda window dressing; they're there to motivate and compliment the main characters. They play their parts well. It can't all be zombie panic, because in real life it wouldn't be. We need to see the group dynamic in the quiet hours, because it lets us in on what we have in store for us during the times of action. We need to be able to feel the characters, love or hate, and become invested in them. We need to be tense when someone we like it in danger, and we need to be impatient to see the ones we hate get taken down by zombies, or their fellow group members. This isn't a Michael Bay vehicle, which exists to give tons of action to the simple minded of the world, at expense of everything else including story, plot and character development. You want bang, bang, boom!, go watch Transformers. This show (and comic) wasn't meant for you. If you want a good (yet flawed) horror TV show about zombies, you've already got one. Sit back and enjoy it, and don't nitpick it to death, because no TV show can stand up to that kind of merciless scrutiny. and especially not one bout zombies. The comic was about people. The TV show is the same thing. For all of its flaws, were getting some pretty good stuff here, and like anything else, it's going to have it's peaks and valleys. Then again any journey has peaks and valleys along the way. Not all of them have zombies though. For that, the peaks and valleys must be endured.

12 comments :

  1. There are a lot of logical (and logistical) problems with TWD, the most poignant being that it is outdated in a market flooded with zombie movies and zombie games. Every 6 year old knows what a zombie is and how to kill it in a myriad ways, yet they are slowly walking around and surprising lively people and biting them like they're hotdogs in TWD.

    But let's assume we ignore all these issues. After all, this is a national cable network, as you said, and people need to be educated in the ways of the zombie before we can combine 28 Days Later with Resident Evil and Rammbock. But that is also the problem. Instead of something resembling Night of the Living Dead, which I still believe to be the best zombie movie ever and as much of a social commentary as I can stomach in a film, we get Desperate Zombiewives. There is no true inspiration in TWD, only people that have been defined as characters and are going through the motions. Whenever the series gets too boring, a new crisis is thrown in the face of the characters, like sleep deprivation torture, but had nothing to do with a higher arc or with a resolution.

    Basically, you get random normal people running away from zombies and waiting as always for something to save them. The problem is not defined, a solution is not sought, while random situations are created in order to keep the tension, while the time is filled with personal dramas that have no point.

    So, yeah, a zombie series on mainstream TV is great. And it is based on a material, so they can't move away from it too much. But they should a little.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm with you man. I'm sick of 'so-called' zombie film fans. I'm sick of people who like ZOMBIES rather than liking zombie FILMS. A good zombie film is never about the zombies.

    It's supposed to be about character.

    It's supposed to be about the human condition.

    People that think Resident Evil is a good zombie film, should, as Quentin Tarantino once said "Go stick their dick in a Nintendo."

    Yes, gore is important, and yes, so are the zombies... but they are only supposed to be there to propel the story forward. A good zombie film should have more in common with a disaster film than an action film, or even other horror films.

    Obviously there are exceptions to what I have just said, but even the exceptions tend to have proper character development.

    Anyone can write a story about people killing zombies, it takes a good team of people to put together a story that you want to see through.

    And I definitely want to see what's going to happen next on The Walking Dead.

    Loved your post. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone with my mentality...

    I could go on for hours about this, but I should get back to work :)

    http://zombiehall.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  3. We're big fans of The Horror Club over at Film Deviant and couldn't resist chiming in on your "rant".

    Couldn't agree with you more about The Walking Dead. Especially concerning the "peaks and valleys" of the show. I've been a fan of horror all of my life and have been basically waiting for this moment for a very long time. The genre has never seen any justice on television until this very moment. There are seriously so many different kinds of horror on TV these days...you can literally pick and choose what appeals to your taste at will. I even felt compelled to write an editorial about it...(Shameless Plug: http://www.filmdeviant.com/2011/11/words-from-deviant.html).

    But getting back to TWD...it stands as one of my favorite shows on television. Not just for the absolutely amazing Nicotero zombies on display every week. But, for the entire package. The character development, the depth of the story and most of all...for the focus on all of the elements of humanity scattered throughout the show. It is a great television show...AND...it has fuckin' zombies in it!

    So, I'm with you in not completely understanding why there are so many haters of this show within our own genre. For all of the years that I've been alive on this Earth...I finally have a great horror-themed show that I can sit down and watch with millions of viewers that caters to the many intellectual elements that my brain hungers for. It's not just a show about zombies...it's so much more.

    Thank you for this long article. It's a great read and I like knowing that you guys aren't among the many haters out there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So, I gotta ask (and I'm sure you'll just laugh at me but)are you ever going to review American Horror Story? I love your take on things, and I watch a lot of the movies you recommend. I'm pretty much excited to read what your take on AHS is, not gonna lie.

    ReplyDelete
  5. LOL Kitchen Bitch, what a dumb question! :)~

    Just kidding lol

    I was actually going to do a thing about AHS a few ep's ago, and then decided to hold off. We definitely will talk about the show soon though, as we've already broken our silence on The Walking Dead.

    Like TWD, we figured that AHS is so talked about by every site and horror fan out there, that there was no hurry to put in our 2 cents.

    We will be curious to hear what you guys think about it too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a love hate relationship with this show.

    I watched the 1st season not missing an episode, because like you I was just happy to have a good gory horror show to watch weekly.

    But with season 2, I still watch the show, but not regularly. Whenever I feel like catching up on it I just 'acquire' the episodes I've missed. I have to admit that I do find it a bit slow, but I don't hate on that. I'm just a shallow zombie lover that likes blood and gore, over story and substance :P

    At the end of the day I love that the show is out there, spreading the infected love over mainstream TV.

    ps. The only thing I can't afford to miss right now is Dexter.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love the site and for the most part agree with a large portion of your reviews. I do agree on TWD in that it is a solid for the most part show. The complaints some might have over pacing and character development are to a small degree warranted HOWEVER:

    I don't know if any of the other posters or yourself have actually read the comic. I have and have been a huge fan for years. Many of the complaints people have are a result of deviations from the comic. For instance...

    Rick is not a semi-whiney douche who needs to lay the smack down. Rick is a MORAL hero. He is ALWAYS morally superior even in the face of impossible decisions. This has always made him the core of the book and what makes you come back for more. The "hard decisions" Rick makes on a regular basis prove him to be more of a hero than any cardboard cliche Van Damme cutout. Rick is not unlike Sheridan from B5 or Picard from STTNG (the thinking TV show version not the maniacal gun crazy movie version)...one of those heroes that at first you don't fully get but then understand that you realize is in fact John Wayne. He kicks unbelievable ass. One reason to watch the show: Rick being the one to shoot the little girl was total comic book Rick. As the success of the show grows so I hope grows Kirklands ability to get rid of the lame desperate housewives shit and get down to real business. The elements of these characters are there he just has to be allowed to hone them.

    Anyone who has read the comic knows it is the best zombie thing done since Romeros trilogy BAR NONE. So the hope is that in time he will be allowed to get to the point.

    As for Andrea and Dale. They were two of the most endearing characters of the comic and YES they had a romance together and YES it kicked ass. Dale was Rick's conscience always telling him to ease up and Andrea was the shoot first cynic. I hope they can still be.

    Also not to SPOIT it for you but Shane should have died in episode 6! How's that for breakneck speed? The reason the comic book rocked is it dealt with and brought to fruition the story without dragging it on. Unlike SOA with the murder of Jax dad, this show should NOT be about Rick's wife being a whore.

    The comic was a success because they brought that to a conclusion in a stunning and unexpected way and then moved on to the next set of issues. I hope they can in time correct the pace and get back to the heart of the character development that made the comic so well done. I do think they deserve time to figure it out.

    One last thing on Shane. In Game of Thrones Mamoa's character wasn't kept alive just because he was good to "stir" things up and Shane's shouldn't be kept alive either. There are plenty of great antagonists like the Mayor and we don't need his story dragged out just because they are scared to kill him off.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Score. I'm pretty stoked about it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I started reading the comic, but sort of fell out of it after Tony Moore stop drawing it. I think I lasted until issue 20. (Tony stopped before issue 10 if i recall)

    Weird thing is, though I really love horror movies, horror comics just don't do it for me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Bullshit on Boogerman. I have read every single one of the 93 comics and I gotta tell you, there were excruciatingly long periods of BOREDOM. Not to mention romance the way only a guy who spends all his time in a comic book store can imagine. Fuck the comics and fuck you, haters. Long live TWD and AMC!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm seven episodes into season 2. WOW this is a massive improvement over season 1. Great TV

    ReplyDelete
  12. I enjoy this show - as you say not perfect, or in the league of 'Breaking Bad' but few shows are. Kids these days wouldn't know good tv if it bit them on the ass.

    ReplyDelete