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.