Pleased To Meet You [The Walking Dissection]

Posted by Justin on October 25th, 2012

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The overarching story of The Walking Dead in any form or function in the loss of humanity amongst the living while the dead roam the Earth. In the same way that Battlestar Galactica could be set on a submarine and still be awesome, TWD could be about a global political uprising or a world where all the electricity stopped running. Okay, maybe not the second one.

At it’s best, we watch the characters evolve and measure ourselves against their actions. If they succeed, we find redemption in even their darkest moments. At the very least, we understand why they would do something even if we never would.

This episode was one where we continue to understand how this experience has taken a toll on our survivors. After a long Winter, the seeds sown have born strange fruit.

Read more AFTER THE JUMP…

Mo Momentum Beyond any of the developments in the story, I was most happy with the speed in which we moved through it. Specifically in two areas. First, Herschel’s injury did not turn into a five episode arc (a al Carl’s coma) and instead was resolved after the television-requisite bedside confession.

Second, the stand off with the prison cafeteria contingent headed by Razor Ramon ended by way of a blade Razor’s head. Again, beyond thrilled to see this not take seven episodes. There is no doubt in my mind that in season two this would have taken 14 episodes and countless brow furrowings between Rick, Lori and the ghost of Dale who would appear like Obi Wan only to make the Dale face.

Here is my point more specifically: we know Herschel isn’t going to die and once Rick confesses to Lori that killing the Cafeteria Gang is an option we wouldn’t be surprised if that happens either. Therefore, why put an unsurprising ending between the beginning of our story and myriad pointless conversations that tediously inch our way to the inevitable?

These stories were as interesting as the time they were given, which is to say: one episode. But that’s not bad. They held my interest for the hour and in a season with some BIG issues to deal with, that’s fine.

Whoa, Mute Ricky I was trying to put my finger on why Andrew Lincoln’s portrayal of Rick has not bothered me this season, as it did last year. After talking with the incomparable Scott Johnson, it hit me.

He’s not talking as much.

With the character increasingly withdrawn, his dialogue has followed suit. No overwrought, walkie talkie monologues. No DRAMATIC conversations with Dale or Shane highlighting his inconsistent American accent.

Less is more for Lincoln’s Grimes. His quiet nature lead to a more dramatic explosion when violence become the only option.

To Come… Listen, I liked this episode, but to be honest I liked it best as a place setter for what’s to come. Not only did we get a ham-fisted hint that there are sentient beings in the woods. But the word is out that next week we see the return of Merle Dixon and with him, hopefully the Governor follows quickly behind.

My excitement for this just may eclipse my burning hatred for last season.

Maybe…

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.muir.5 Gregory Muir

    This is a show that should be right up my alley. Couldn’t make it more than three episodes in the first season. Gave up on the comic just before the Governor arc started.

    What’s my problem? For starters, the writer has no idea where he’s going with the comic. He was originally trying to play it straight and realistic (for the given premise of zombie apocalypse.) The Governor is not a character, he is a cartoon. Sexy black woman with a katana? Are you kidding me? More comic book crap.

    So, maybe the TV show could go a different direction? No. I find every single character unsympathetic. The formula for survival stories is pretty simple: you either have to root for the characters because they are genuinely sympathetic or they are the kind of ruthless badasses that you have a begrudging respect for. What absolutely cannot work is whining, unsympathetic characters who are stupid and should be dead from their stupidity. You cannot but the idea that they are survivors in such a desperate situation.

    Modern television is lousy with shows that look great but have zero planning. They are just elaborate lessons in thinking out loud and do not hold up to any kind of scrutiny.

    I know Breaking Bad has a lot of love on the podcast. It had two good seasons. It became half crap by season 3 and all crap by season 4. There are understandable departures from reality used for telling a story. If you’ve got twelve soldiers fighting their way out from behind enemy lines and only one makes it out, it’s understandable that the main character is going to be the survivor, not the ones who died. Why not focus on the other ones? Because they’re not the ones who lived.

    It becomes less believable when the only think keeping a character alive is narrative invulnerability. Someone has a good reason to kill your main character? Why doesn’t he? He has to have an even better reason to keep the character alive or it’s just a writer’s saving throw. Just for the Breaking Bad example, there’s a dozen great reasons to kill Walt and no sensible reason for keeping him alive. What, he’s the only one who can cook blue meth? How is that even possible? The cartels have the money and means to hire the top bent chemists around. How is it that an amateur who just started cooking is able to outperform people who have more money, more experience, and better equipment? And even if we grant that Walt’s secret formula is better, why couldn’t it be reverse-engineered in short order?

    I’m not even going to get started on the bad writing with Battlestar Galactica. Pretty much the only recent drama I’ve seen that holds together from start to finish is the Shield. I’m going to be starting on the Wire soon, heard good things. The rest of these shows, all they’re starting with is a premise and they have no idea where they’re going. It’s a giant waste of time.

  • mxyzptlk

    Um… why do you watch television?

    Seriously, you’ve got some half-decent complaints, and some half-baked ones. Just take the Walt complaint; Breaking Bad laid out clearly and early on that he was a sorcerer of a chemist whose sorcery helped build a company, and then he got screwed out of his share in the company, with little to fall back on except teaching his one craft. He’s not just some amateur.

    As for sympathetic/stupid characters in TWD, I think you’re getting into matters of taste here, because plenty of people have found some of these characters, at one point or another, sympathetic (Daryl and Glenn, for two).

    But as for the larger complaint about starting a show and not knowing where it’s going, you’ll have a hard time getting away from that with American television. If you want a thoroughly plotted and planned narrative arc for the duration of the season, look to Britain.

    Here’s why: In the U.S., the way it works is first the pilot has to air, and then based on ratings the show gets greenlighted for at least that one season. But when it gets greenlighted, the producers only have a couple weeks or so to organize the writers and knock out the first few scripts before filming begins. What happens is the writers are constantly trying to play catch-up with the production schedule. That doesn’t lead to the most careful planning. (Note: I’m not sure if this is the case with HBO and Showtime, but it tends to be the case with the networks and cable.)

    In Britain, the way it generally works is a series is shorter, and is completely written before filming ever starts. All those Doctor Who episodes? All written before the camera is ever turned on some wibbly wobbly timey wimey things. That means the production schedule is working of a ready blueprint that had months and months to cook, and not getting a second draft with notes knocked out two days prior. The downside, such as it is, is that a series (season over here) tends to be shorter — 8-12 episodes on average — and it takes longer between episodes (only 6 episodes of Sherlock in two and a half years). But those shows tend to be tighter, more narratively-driven and complete.

    So since your larger complaint seems to stem from an issue with the writing process in American television, I hope you’re catching some British shows. If not, give them a try.

    My big complaint? I can’t get over how they take so much care making the world look grimy and rotted and sweaty and bacteria-ridden, yet Rick’s 10-month-old facial growth is still groomed along the cheekbones and under the jawline, as if he had a razor. It’s the smallest thing, but I see it every time there’s a close-up; after five days I’m started to look like the wolf man, so I just don’t get how he’s able to keep his beard trimmed during the zombie apocalypse.

    That kind of detail really got to me when we met the prisoners. Where’d the hipster druggee get the wax for his mustache? How did the two black prisoners keep their fro’s short and avoid the nap locked in a cafeteria for 10 months?

    I’m enjoying this season better than last, but those little things always get me, especially when they take so much obsessive care in the other details. The writing may not always be tight, but at least keep the mise-en-scene visually consistent with the world you’ve created…

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.muir.5 Gregory Muir

    I’m aware of how American television production works. It’s essentially operating like a serial novel, comic books, etc where you experience the story as the writer tells it. It’s not like a novel or movie where the finished draft can be evaluated, revised, polished and strengthened. The first draft is all there is.

    As for Walt, his pride leads him to make terrible decisions. That part makes sense. Refusing money from his rich friend, cooking meth so he could earn his way, lying to his family, these are bad decisions supported by his character as we’ve come to know him.

    The problem is that he’s not only making bad moral decisions, he’s making bad business decisions. There is no way Gus would put up with his crap, not when we’ve been shown Gus is a cautious businessman who hides in plain sight. White and Pinkman are loose cannons and unpredictable. They are bad for business. The only reason they’re alive is the writers have given them plot immunity.

    As for Brit shows, they are not immune either. Loved the first two seasons of nuWho but the writing has been really, really bad of late. I do concur that there seems to be less filler in their shorter runs but they can still make dumb decisions and harm the strength of the show because of it.

    Well-spotted with the grooming details. I wondered where they were getting all the cigarettes and hooch on Galactica. What I liked in the Rings movies is how the characters who were traveling outdoors had the kind of grunge like they were traveling outdoors. Except the elves. They all look like they stepped out of shampoo commercials.