Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Destroying Things People Love: The Walking Dead

Since I feel like writing about and making fun of an Adam Sandler movie is just like shooting a whale in a barrel, I've decided to start a brand new column, something you've all been asking for for weeks and weeks and like the generous samaritan I am, I'm going to give it to you.  Welcome to my new, most likely never happen again column, Destroying Things People Love.  It's pretty self-explanatory.  Since my opinion is the only one that I care about, I'm gonna throw it around at things that I can't seem to stand but everyone else seems to bend down and lick the boots of.  If there's one thing I've learned from having a blog, it's that one person's blog can change the world.  So, best case scenario, the thing I write about that I hate will be gone by next Tuesday.

I'd head for the Adult Swim building.  You know there's nerd survivors in there.

I have to admit that I've never read the comic series that The Walking Dead is based off of and I probably won't, because I also have to admit that I have never been a fan of zombies.  Literally every other movie monster, except for maybe Pete the Dragon, is scarier and more dangerous than zombies.  Hell, even Robert Pattinson killed something in the Twilights, and he's coif-ily challenged.  Zombies are slow, brainless, and really only partly dangerous when there's at least thirty of them coming at you at once.  And no, I'm not talking about those really fast, scary zombies from England; that's just cheating.  Sadly, that's not the last time I'll refer to 28 Days Later.  One prepared human against one zombie is like an elephant with the hammer of Thor fighting a kitten.  Then Shaun of the Dead came along and did something so right it hurt: they made the idea of a zombie apocalypse a ridiculous joke while still convincing us that the characters were in real danger.  After Shaun of the Dead, I haven't been able to take anything zombie related seriously.

Which brings us to The Walking Dead, AMC's quote unquote EPIC zombie show.  I guess the word epic kind of fits since we're supposed to believe that the whole world has been overrun by zombies, even though they only show up at the worst, most inopportune times.  Other times, the characters literally have to go and hunt for them.  Look at that poster up there, there's not even any damn zombies on it and it's a zombie show.  Don't get me wrong, I honestly didn't go into this show thinking I was gonna hate every dirty, yellowish-brown second of it.  A serious horror show on the second best network on television, created by the guy who brought us the best Stephen King flicks?  How could it miss?  Oh yeah, the part where they decided to make it so serious it has a tighter butthole than Bill O'Reilly.

"I haven't crapped since Obama got into office.  I won't give him the satisfaction."

Shall we start at the beginning?  I guess if you're not caught up and really for some reason want to be, you shouldn't read some of this.  The hour and a half long pilot, directed by Shawshanker Frank Darabont himself, is a pretty solid piece of TV.  Sets up the world nicely: there's a cop with a serious See-You-En-Tee of a wife, adorable son who looks up to him, and a best pal best friend who would have his back whenever, living an idyllic existence.  Until he gets shot.  He wakes up some time later in a hospital and realizes the zombie apocalypse has already happened.  I swear I've seen this before.... somewhere.  Oh well, I'm sure I'll think of it later, in a few days... twenty-eight perhaps.  It's a nitpicky thing, I suppose, 'cause how do you cheaply and effectively show zombies taking over the entire country?  But really?  It had to be a guy waking up from a coma in a hospital?  Anyway, the cop makes his way home, gets schooled in the story so far, and treks down the road to Atlanta to find help.  He finds others, he finds his family and his friend, realizes there's little hope and they band together to survive.

The first real problem I have with this show, besides the super-duper, pissed off Grandpa seriousness of the tone, are the mind-numbingly awful characters.  When the show was just Officer Rick trudging through a desolate Georgia wasteland, much like our own Georgia of today, it was like a gritty, lonely western.  Once you start piling in the supporting cast of terrible cliches of humanity, like a Dexter episode vomited all over it, we start running into problems.  Let's point out a few winners.  We've got the overbearingly racist hillbilly hanging out with the oddly named token black guy.  The innocent and unspoiled Asian kid who's good at getting in and out of places.  The wise old man who takes the damaged young woman under his wing as his substitute daughter.  The abused, meek wife who has to take care of her lowborn daughter.  The only character with a hint of depth to him is Daryl.  He had a shaky start as the clone of his racist brother but he's really growing into a character that's both badass and for some reason really gives a shit about people.  Hopefully they have a good reason for his actions later.

Actually, that works for me.  Hire this man!
source: http://inappropriatedixon.tumblr.com/post/12469255418

And then there's the "leads" if you can call them that in an ensemble.  Lori, Rick's wife, has to be the supreme biggest bitch in the known universe.  To survive something so terrible as the end of the world and then continue to stick to the "I'm a strong woman who doesn't take no guff, even when I admit that I'm constantly dead wrong" mindset, especially while hiding the affair with Shane, the best friend of her not-so-zombie husband; that takes a special kind of beotch.  There can be likable evil characters, Tony Soprano is the only example I would ever need, but this woman is not likable in any sense of the word.  And she admitted it in the show!  She changes her mind back and forth constantly when it comes to her husband, calling him a saint one second and yelling at him the next.  And why not tell him about the affair?  It's the end of the world.  You thought he was dead like most of the population, it's not that far fetched to assume that.  Add a sensitive man like Shane, whose poker face is about as effective as a zombie's brain, and you're just asking for the secret bomb to drop at the worst time.  And Rick himself is a wooden man with a one track mind: find his family and survive.  Anything else happens, at least we're alive.  His decisions literally keep me firmly and lazily sunken into the meat of the couch.  If he has to make a choice, it'll be the safest, most boring decision you can think of, complicated only by the assholes that he has decided to surround himself with.

Which leads to the writing of the show itself; my biggest beef.  Every week, we are subjected to these people mostly doing one thing: surviving.  "Well, that's what they're trying to do, survive, duh!"  Yeah, I know, that's what we would do in real life, try to survive and stay as safe as possible.  But this isn't real life, this is a fictional zombie television show.  I know that everyone involved is trying really hard to make it a human drama but when I know that there's an apocalypse happening right over those trees, I don't want to hear you say, "This show isn't even about the zombies."  Guh, it's freakin' named after them!  You have an hour, entertain me.  Don't depress me constantly with people who are ready to just give up hope, can't find what they need, fail at the one task they had to do that day, or just plain mope for a good solid forty minutes.

This house is so nice, let's just sit here for all of season 2 and say we're doomed.

There's nothing wrong with teasing us with the idea that these people are doomed, we've already assumed they are, but to keep our viewership, you have to offer us a little redemption.  I didn't stick with LOST because I thought they'd never get off the island, I watched because I was sure they would.  I watched Dead for thirty minutes last week as they found the one zombie featured in that episode (the episode of a zombie TV show remember) stuck in a well they were going to drink from, and risked lives trying to haul him out whole so that he didn't contaminate the well more... only to rip him in half and ruin the well anyway.  Why am I watching if everything they try to do fails? I wouldn't drink from a well with a dead rotting corpse in it even a year after it was outta there; why did they think they could?  I understand that it's a continuing story and it's probably very grand in scope, but unless this is an educational how-to for surviving the big one, I don't need to see these idiots try to fix something that's unfixable.  I feel like you give a show an hour of television time, the desire to fill as many hours of it as they can gets inside the writer's head.

Hence, the hunt for Sophia.  How long do they plan to drag out this search for a little girl who's been missing how many days during the apocalypse?  A completely avoidable mishap, by the way, if the cop would have just killed the two lonely zombies trailing them.  He didn't need to run away without her in the first place, he didn't need to lead the zombies away to kill them, and he didn't even need a weapon more sophisticated than the rock he picked up and killed both with effortlessly.  He caught up to the girl before the zombies did, without acting as quickly as he could, because everyone just sat there and watched her run away.  This show is called The Walking Dead... cause the dead walk... slowly.  Amble is the word I like to use.  Rick could have left them in the dust with the little girl in tow.  Hell, she outran them, too; why hide now?  Do the zombies smell blood or don't they?  In one stupid episode, they covered themselves in guts to hide their scent, but the girl can hide five feet away from them in another?  In one episode, a scientist tells them the zombies' brains are just motor skills and taste for blood, but later, a zombie wanders onto an open RV with no provocation or enticement.  The show can't even keep it's own science straight.

This would take them four episodes to avoid, after sacrificing the rest of the season 2 guest stars.

In conclusion, finally, I guess the show isn't all bad.  The zombies look okay, although some of them look like rotting drywall and the fat one in the well looked like the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man's slightly handicapped little brother.  Some of the cliffhangers are pretty good, but if you constantly rely on those, you're gonna end up LOST.  See what I did there?  And like I said, the more they flesh out Daryl, the more interested I'll be.  I wish I would have seen all of these before I met Norman Reedus briefly at Comic Con on my way to Sean Patrick Flanery.  I would have told him he was the only well written character on the show.  But despite those few things, all the praise this show gets is very confusing to me.  I know there's no other show to compare it to in the zombie genre, but as a horror show, it falls flat on it's face.  American Horror Story captured and still holds my attention week in and week out, and I thought that show wouldn't have enough stories to keep it going.  And it doesn't have any padding in it.  And it's scary.  You know what's not scary?  Stopping looking for someone for five screen minutes to autopsy a zombie because you found bits of flesh in it's mouth.  Way to go Gil Grissom from CSI, how many of those walking meat bags do you think have skin under their nails and flesh in their teeth?  I would say most of them.

Her teeth and nails are immaculate.  Move on to the next one!

Like I said before, I didn't go into this show wanting to hate it and I'm going to keep watching it to see if it gets better this season.  The last year of my life has been immersing myself in all things zombie.  I figured it was about time.  So I was just as surprised that this show pissed me off as most people are.  But I can't just like something because it's insanely dramatic and gory and cool.  The reason I've moved from liking movies more to liking story based television more is that you get more story out a seasonal television show.  This show might be attempting a big story, they just seem to be taking their sweet time to get to it and by the time they actually figure out what they're doing, the terrible humans will have already killed each other off.  All the zombies really have to do is wait them out.  And when the main character; the moral, sensible, righteous one, stops to pick up his cop hat in the middle of zombie infested Atlanta with the dead at his heels, it doesn't seem like the zombies have to wait too long.  You are not Indiana Jones.  Your hat isn't a part of who you are.  Go team Z!  I'm rooting for you, fellas.

P.S. Spoiler alert... who gives a shit if the baby is Shane or Rick's?  What are they gonna do, go on Maury and get a paternity test?  Maury Povich is a dead rotting corpse somewhere.  If you tell Rick it's his, he'll believe you because you've got him whipped and he's a guy so he doesn't understand things like your oven timer and baby-baking.  Tell him you're stressed and it came out early.  And honestly, if your biggest concern is that somebody will notice if that baby you're going to have during the end of the world is going to have Shane's Jew nose or Rick's non-Jew nose... you don't deserve to live anymore you stupid bit--

On closer inspection, he might have already turned.

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