You Can’t Be Something You’re Not [Walking Dead Dissection]

Posted by Justin on February 28th, 2012
walking dead 18 miles out.jpg

There is a flaw with AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s an unfortunate one.

Consistency.

With a lot of shows, this isn’t all that important. Comedy, episodic drama or stories that take regular time jumps of weeks or months between installments (a la Mad Men) can sometimes stretch things.

Characters don’t have to carry every little wound with them.

The problem with The Walking Dead is that it’s central theme is about a new, suffocating reality that all of our characters have to adjust to. The sum total of their changes matters. Consistence in the action and decisions of each character create human decisions we either agree or disagree with.

This is how we decide to root for or agains the characters.

What’s disappointing is that even in an episode that is supposed to bring back into play decisions certain characters have made in the past, it rings hollow. They’ve changed their minds so many times, why should we think that this time it holds any weight?

Full review AFTER THE JUMP…I hate the middle of the story at the beginning thing

This isn’t specific to TWD, but I just really don’t like the strategy of randomly jamming an action sequence into the beginning of the story and then skipping back to tell us how we go there. I hate it so much I don’t know what its called.

If the scene is super cool, it would have been super cool when we got to it. It demonstrates a lack of confidence in your first act. Which is troubling since our first scene gives us a Rick and Shane discussion that we’ve theoretically been building to since… I don’t know… the PILOT!

It’s particularly stupid in this episode since the action scene we see isn’t all that crazy. Whoa! Rick and Shane got caught up in a situation where they were being attacked by zombies? Weird! I wonder how that happens? It’s not like they’d hijacked World War I biplanes and were trying to dogfight with a zombie Red Baron.

If that was the first scene, I’d be like “Yes! I want to see how they get into this situation. Awesome goggles Shane!”

Instead you spoil what would otherwise have been a suspenseful moment when Shane caber tosses his massive novelty wrench through the school window and Zs start pouring out.

Suicide girls

I really just didn’t feel connected to the ladies subplot. This is what I was getting at in the beginning. Lori has spent a sizable amount of season two talking about killing herself and Carl. Debating with Rick about how livable this world is. Now she’s running the teen suicide prevention hotline with Maggie?

Sure, she could have changed her mind, but let’s see that evolution. What if she was really honest with Beth (whose random awakening we will deal with in a second) about her fears the frightened young girl took it as a sign that no one could offer stability. So she pulls the light wrist slash move in the middle of the episode.

Then we can have Andrea, Maggie and Lori attempt to clean her up and dissect what was happening in her head. Meanwhile, we have a running plot on if the three non-doctors helped clean her up right or if they have to go get Herschel.

Eventually, Andrea has the same conversation she had with her in the episode and Beth tries to kill herself again. Herschel is finally called out of necessity.

Or, I don’t know, something.

Why should we care about anything interesting?

Two episodes ago, Beth fainting was the reason for Rick and Glenn rescue Herschel who was reenacting the Heartbroken Doc Brown bar scene from Back to the Future III. In this episode, she’s awake! No reasoning! I guess she just caught a case of the plot devices.

Same with the hostage. The group has found someone else, someone who comes from a group of people that tried to kill them. Shouldn’t you ask him a few questions before dumping him off? Wouldn’t that be interesting? I guess next episode they are going to deal with this, but still.

Why should we care about anything if the next episode we just aren’t going to deal with it?

Rick should have made Shane put on the glasses

You got two choices. Promise not to kill that boy or start eating that trash can.

So, what now?

We are going to interrogate the kid.

Shane and Andrea are going to plot.

Dale will make a million Dale Faces.

Nothing interesting is going to happen.

Amen.

  • http://twitter.com/dude984 Nick

    strangely enough, I actually liked this episode a lot, and loathed last week’s. I felt there was actually more character development here than the last hour we got. Hmm, interesting to see the perspectives though. 

  • Josh Bray

    All very valid points, but I have to agree with Nick here.  This episode engaged me more than most any this season.  

    I guess it is not saying much for the future of this show though.  As engaging as they made it, it still feels like there are two separate teams of writers this season.  Who ever finishes their script first gets it aired… screw character consistency.  

    One thing in this episode that is in it’s favor, was the good mix of action to drama.  This season has been very bad on having 80-90% drama until a small bit of action at the end.  

    And whoever thought baby daddy issues in zombieland was a compelling plot device… go die in a fire.  You have not demonstrated the maturity thus far to be able to handle this aspect of the story.  It is actually big ideas they are tangling with.  It feels like low ranking sub plot at best, and filler at worst.

    At this point, they have me rooting for NOBODY and I am pretty much waiting to see who dies.  Hoping they just kill everybody off and just make a new cast.

  • http://twitter.com/Jektal Jektal

    I’ve always thought one of the appealing aspects of a catastrophic disaster (e.g. ZOMBIES) is that in the aftermath of society’s destruction people would either be rearranged into a more sensible role or would perish. It’s the underdog’s final promise of redemption: your life sucks, but what if you were suddenly on equal footing with the richest man in the world?

    So why are all of the women relegated to playing house and wondering which man will protect them? Even Andrea got dragged into it this episode, although I guess I can’t blame her. With most of the cast on vacation this week her only other option was sitting alone on top of the RV.

    And how does this zombie-ism spread exactly? We have a scene where Rick and Shane examine some bodies and discuss the lack of bite wounds (I really hope there was something very clever hidden in those corpses and the school bus which will blossom in a later episode), and they established that a scratch could be lethal… And then they engage in Smack Down with the undead hordes. By the end of the episode, Shane and Rick are bathed in Zombie blood and just don’t give a damn. Are actual teeth required to transfer the disease? 

  • Optimus_past_my_Prime

    In regards to your comment about the lack of bites wounds on those two cops I also thought that it would’ve been revealed as something important due to the amount of focus that was placed on it.  Hopefully it will come up, as you said, later on in some Rick-esque revelation.

  • http://twitter.com/Achirality Achirality

    Chekhov’s Gun is when an element that was seemingly irrelevant at first becomes important in the story.

    The “Middle at the beginning to make things more exciting” looks like this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/InMediasRes

  • mxyzptlk

     Kevin Smith had the same angst on The Talking Dead.

  • mxyzptlk

     Kevin Smith had the same angst on The Talking Dead.

  • mxyzptlk

     Yep — Chekhov’s Gun is basically the claim that if a gun is shown on the stage, at some point it has to be used.

    The trope “in media res” is just hard to do in television, because you need a more extended narrative. That’s why it works in The Iliad, but not so well in 44 minutes.

    I can’t remember which Sam Beckett play it is right now, I think it’s Endgame, but in the stage directions and in the playbill, there’s a statement that there’s a gun in a desk drawer. The drawer is never even touched.

    Take that, Chekhov.

  • mxyzptlk

     Yep — Chekhov’s Gun is basically the claim that if a gun is shown on the stage, at some point it has to be used.

    The trope “in media res” is just hard to do in television, because you need a more extended narrative. That’s why it works in The Iliad, but not so well in 44 minutes.

    I can’t remember which Sam Beckett play it is right now, I think it’s Endgame, but in the stage directions and in the playbill, there’s a statement that there’s a gun in a desk drawer. The drawer is never even touched.

    Take that, Chekhov.

  • mxyzptlk

    I’m back to non-committal, because I enjoyed this episode more than the last few, but I can understand the frustrations people are having with it.

    As for consistency, Lori’s change of heart may be due to her being knocked up. I understand that can do funny things to a woman and her moods.

    And good on ya for posting They Live; I came here prepared to link out to South Park’s cripple fight. No need now.

    But count me as an Earnest Roscoe Dickerson fan, the director of this episode. One of the things that irritated me about the last episode is I watched Eastbound and Down afterwards, and that had more interesting shots, pacing, and camera angles. Dickerson cleansed the visual palette.

    The use of dutch angles were almost like we were getting the perspective of a zombie. The shot-to-shot sequences were also more similar to the frame-to-frame sequence you’d get in a comic. And peppering the soap opera back at the farm with the action more irregularly gave the episode a more angular and uncertain feel — which seemed more appropriate for a zombie apocalypse.

    I’m not sold on the farm storyline, and think they probably made a mistake not letting Beth just finish the job. I mean, they can show a skull getting crushed, but suicide is taking it too far? It would have been more realistic.

    I’m also not sold on the Randall storyline, if only because it smells so much like Ben Linus. I’d rather not see The Walking Dead becoming another casualty in the like-Lost obituaries. We saw this just a few years ago, and audiences haven’t forgotten to expect the completely unexpected with this kind of hostage situation.

    I completely understand JuRY’s dyspepsia with the lack of character development. But if we can’t have that, at least it can be visually interesting.

  • http://ebonnebula.deviantart.com/ EbonNebula

    I actually loved this episode. This episode had everything I coulda hoped for. It starts by skipping ahead a week to the good stuff. We get some action, some character development, and some drama. Not to mention some great cinematography and directing.

    I will admit, there were one or two plot holes. The teaser intro didn’t do anything for me. And the sui-sidestory was a bit boring to me

    Also, I just gotta say this. Giving yourself an open hand wound before engaging in hand to hand combat with highly contagious, disease spewing zombies… WORST FUCKING IDEA EEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRR