Sunday, March 18, 2012

thoughts re: the walking dead

caveat: here there be spoilers

now it is no surprise that i'm a fan of this show. even if it totally sucked, thematically, fx wise, acting wise, and with horrible direction, i'd still be a fan of the show. because it has zombies and real good looking walkers too designed by fx guru greg nicotero [who has directed a couple of episodes as well].

the first half of season two did kind of suck for reasons that are outside my interest, such as amc slashing the budgets of the production. rick and his group had been stuck on hershel greene's farm looking for a missing little girl, sophia, who disappeared in the woods in the opening of season 2. the theme of the show was stasis and boredom which reflected horribly in the production of the programming. and yet, there was still enough tension to keep me tuning in even if there were no zombies in sight.

no matter since zombie attack after zombie attack gets boring too. rather it was in the relationships as they developed by the actors and writers that kept me tuning in. what makes the show fascinating is not the action set pieces illustrated by zombie hordes attacking our little band of survivors but how those survivors cope with an accelerated entropy. this is a dying world. the pressures on the remaining survivors are intense. that is where the action is situated for me during this season.

by the middle of the season things picked up considerably. there are bad people among the survivors. rick, hershel and glenn found two in the bar in the episode nebraska. it is an intense showdown that i've watched several times. because of the showdown rick is a changed man. more cold, calculating and ruthless in his desire to keep his group safe.

the season picked up steam and blasted outward to the stratosphere. i'm not going to recap the shows but only to say that i'm very impressed that the show's creators remembered what is most dangerous to people is other people. what i'm afraid of is that the show's creators sometimes forget that fact and leave certain ties created in earlier episodes, such as the character randall [who he was, where did he come from, who comprises his group] unknotted. the introduction of randall is the creation of doubt, hope and fear that would live in all of us should we find ourselves in a zombie apocalypse. his, i think, premature death is not an indication of another loose end left open by the producers of this otherwise very fine television show.

another thing. the producers and writers have been very bold in allowing for the deaths of some very key characters. a very thrilling, to this viewer, gambit as it makes no character safe from harm. there was a moment in tonight's season finale, beside the dying fire, where i thought maggie and glenn [who escaped the farm after it was overrun by walkers and who were separated from their group] would be taken prisoner by randall's camp. the scene was shot for it because if you've watched enough genre films you learn to recognize certain tropes and techniques. for example if there is a stranger who will suddenly enter the frame to take prisoner a key character the character will be shot with enough space open in the frame to allow for the entrance of the stranger. thus when maggie and glenn stop the car to decide what to do the scene is shot with close-ups of glenn and maggie with enough space beyond their heads so we can see outside of the car. that space created a hell of a lot of tension for me as i thought they were about to be taken prisoner by randall's group.

well, maybe it was bad direction as that didn't happen. or maybe not. at any rate the season finale was a very fine ending to a killer second half of season two. we learned that rick can be a cold killer and that everyone, even the living, is infected with the zombie virus. there's been speculation galore that what dr jenner whispered in rick's ear at the end of the first season finale was just that very thing. speculation over. now what.

there was the introduction of a new character who kills with a sword and keeps two chained zombies whose arms were chopped off on a chain leash. she saves andrea who was running for her life in the woods. and there was the introduction of the prison when the camera panned up and over rick's desperate group in the closing shot. both the character, named michonne, and the prison are both highly anticipated events in season three. there is a lot to look forward to.

if you're a nerd for zombies like me then the fall can't come soon enough. the show so far has only touched upon such great operatic heights but there are intimations that the best is yet to come. even when the show flat lines it is, at least for this viewer, a good watch. the characters are finally off that farm and headed toward new territories where the dangers are not only the walkers but other survivors as well. the other survivors is where the real drama and horror lies. i hope the shows writers and producers remember that and give us a season three that was as thrilling and emotionally exhausting as the second half of season two.

i do wonder about how much stress a human being can withstand before breaking. so far most of the characters have kept enough of their cool to survive. but if every minute of every day is an adrenaline soaked punch of horror wouldn't at least one character behave stupidly and/or collapse into the fetal position and begin babbling? even rick wouldn't be able to be cool all the time. there would be more than a few moments of utter panicked incoherence. because that is how humans behave too. i haven't read the comics so i don't know if any of that happens there but i hope the writers remember that sometimes people do stupid things out of fear and exhaustion. or don't do anything out of fear and exhaustion. panic is a powerful emotion. just the thought of attack is enough to get the adrenal glands pumping that would kick in the fight or flight reflex.

we'll see. i read that there will be outtakes and deleted scenes from season two on the dvds. maybe there's some revelations that were left on the cutting room floor. what matter anyway for this is a very good show of high drama. it is the only show that i'll set my watch to.


regarding the show's inconsistency. not that i'm an expert re: inconsistency; i have spent most of my life enthralled by b-- and z--movies so i think i have a pretty good bullshit detector. there have been inconsistencies either logical and/or narrative in this show. no show is without them. but i'd just read a review that criticized the intro to tonight's season finale where a herd of zombies migrate from atlanta to hershel's farm. the herd follows the sound of a helicopter in atlanta -- perhaps it is the same helicopter rick sees in the first episode of season one and not a mirage imagined by rick. the intro to season two established zombies do travel in herds and are attracted by noise. no big stretch to allow for them to walk several dozens of miles from atlanta to the rural areas. also, tonight's episode cleanly picks up where the previous episode, better angels, the one where rick kills his best friend shane, left off. what i think is important is that the writers hadn't forgotten the helicopter of season one and that will play out in season three. in other words, without sounding like an apologist for the producers of this show, i think there are key elements that are at work here and that should not be lightly dismissed. the helicopter is one of those elements.


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