Monday, October 24, 2011

The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode One: What lies ahead...

Hey there!

Alright, so, it's that time of year again and this time I've decided to try to review this season of The Walking Dead as each episode comes out, instead of doing it all in two big shots, like I did last year. Here's Part One and here's Part Two, if you need the refresher. Don't get me wrong, I liked last year's recap and while it's not as big a hit-count draw as the legendary siren song of this little baby here, it certainly brings in some respectable numbers of its own, internationally even... But just one episode at a time? I figure that's just easier to digest. See, what I'm doing is, I'm thinking of you, my dear and constant Readers, I'm trying to consider your feelings. No big deal. That's just me. You can thank me at your own convenience.

Unfortunately, I'm already off like a herd of turtles, as the first episode aired last Sunday night and the latest episode aired... oh... last night. This is a portent of things to come, my friends, take heed. I don't have cable, so I'll be downloading them, which means I'll be at least a little late each week. I hope you can deal.

Anyway...

THE WALKING DEAD, SEASON TWO, EPISODE ONE
"What lies ahead..."


The joke is readily apparent:

"If this is what lies ahead, then this is going to be a somewhat lackluster season..."

If you're anything like me and you've been reading my blog for awhile, then I'm sure you know all about The Walking Dead. You'll also probably remember that while I thought the pilot episode of the first season was really well done, well paced, creepy and cool and a really good mix of the comic's storyline and original content, I also felt like the rest of the season very quickly dove head first into crap city... and then it wallowed there. And oh, how it wallowed, people! I was flabbergasted at how much time they wasted on nonsense and dead-ends and red shirts. They had six hours of TV, six hours to tell a story and set up their world, and they failed. At least, in my opinion. And I wanted it to be good, too. The season finale was such a complete narrative waste of time though, so ridiculously ham-fisted, uninteresting, unimportant, and not in the least bit cool, gory, or scary, that I almost wrote the show off entirely.

But then the trailer for the second season came out.



Not bad, right? It actually looks kind of good, right? But then so did the run up to the first season. There does seem to be some really tense moments going on there, so maybe this here, coupled with the news that Frank Darabont fired all the writers from last season and the news that AMC then turned around and fired Frank Darabont... maybe the show could be getting on track finally. Maybe the problems were noticed and the ship has been righted? Maybe?


Nope.

Now, in all fairness, it should be stated that this episode was Frank's last one, basically the reason that he was fired. Word around the campfire has it that this season's premiere ran at an extended length not just because it was the premiere, but because it was actually two different episodes torn apart and welded together. Also, the premiere was written by creator Robert Kirkman, which could be considered a good thing, because he's pretty awesome and a great comic book writer, despite his tendency to get a little hammy when it comes to dialogue, except for the fact that the last episode Robert wrote was the horrible fourth episode from last season: Vatos. So, we're off to a bad start before we even begin...

Then I watched the episode.

The story picks up a few moments/days after the brain-numbingly bad final episode last year. The survivors are leaving Atlanta, at least until they get caught in a traffic jam, and then a massive herd of zombies show up, forcing them to hide among the wrecked vehicles.


As the herd shuffles by, the little girl of the group panics and runs and then the group has to look for her... for about 40 minutes. They don't find her. Then they see a big deer and the episode ends with SPOILER! Carl gets shot! Duh! Duh! DUUUUH!

It was slow, boring, and even though it went nowhere, it was all over the place.


It wasn't horrible, mind you, but it wasn't good either. It looked great, of course, but it always does. There are some great effects and it had that one pretty good traffic jam/herd of dead set piece, but otherwise the episode was slow. Slow, slow, slow and unfocused. What was it even about? What's the episode's arc? Things happened, sure, but nothing "happened", know what I mean? Sure, sure, there were some awkward attempts at character interaction and development going on, but it was on the level of TV writing akin to a nervous 14 year old boy going in for a kiss and then chickening out. Shit, man, a little light petting does not a sex-date make, you know? It wasn't real enough. It wasn't deep enough. It wasn't backed by enough emotional motivation. It was all together, not enough.


The traffic jam and the herd of dead was great, don't get me wrong, it was definitely cool looking, but you know what would have made it unbelievably awesome? If I had cared, even a little bit, about any of the characters. As it is now, they're nothing but hollow mouthpieces waiting for their turn to go on and on and on about who cares what in a really melodramtic fashion. In this episode alone, no less than three different characters had a heart to heart with a giant crucifix in a church they come across while looking for the little girl. Three different characters? And all of them basically saying the same hammy thing? Can you say: Waste of screen time? Robert Kirkman can, I assure you, and it takes him forever to do it, too. How come no one looked at this and thought. "Hmmm... You know what? All this wasted screen time could be used for some meaningful character development instead."

At this point, I think it's a good thing Darabont was let go.


It's funny, because I don't get mad about the characters making stupid decisions (ok, it bugs me a little bit), but what really drives me up a wall is how annoying and haphazard and inconsistent the characters are and it's all due to the subpar writing. Take Lori, for instance? (Please...)


She's the worst. The absolute worst. She hasn't done anything of substance in seven hours of show. She makes no sense, says the stupidest shit and whines and whines and whines. How two guys fell in love with her, I have no idea. And her worst moment yet was in this episode. They're stuck in the traffic jam and everyone is about to go scavenge for supplies and food and gas, you know, things that they desperately need and she goes, all whiny: "This place is a graveyard. I don't like this." Why? Why would you say that? They've been living in a graveyard for months! For months!

Lori, and this moment in particular, is the perfect example of what is wrong with the show, of where it fails. She says this stupid bullshit and the other characters don't pursue the discussion or remind her that the whole world is a graveyard or even acknowledge that she even said anything in the first place(which is probably the most realistic response, if they were real people and stuck living with stupid Lori...). No, instead it's just a piece of shit throw-away line, no value, no meaning, no worth toward the greater story, no point at all. It's just wasted nonsense and hollow bullshit, like you can just hear some pissy little weiner in the writers' room with his pinched little lemon face, wearing his stupid little rectangle glasses and carefully picked out vintage tees, feeling faux-deep and pseudo-literary one day, saying:

"How comes these characters don't acknowledge all the horribleness?"

Or something to that effect...

And instead of everyone yawning or throwing things at his stupid little pinhead, or making him explain himself, thus exposing his bullshit, they wrote in this one half-ass limp-dick line as if it's anything, as if it's an actual real moment, as if it's some kind of emotional exploration of the characters.

Hacks.


It's funny, at this point, the only good characters on the show are the ones who aren't supposed to be there--at least, as far as the original story is concerned. Shane is the only one with any depth, with any inner conflict, with any motivation. And besides Shane, Darryl is the only other character who ever makes any good decisions. I don't know why this is, it's not like the writing is particularly better with the two of them. I assume it's just an accident. That somehow their backstories naturally provide extra layers of character that even this show's writing staff can't fuck up or something... heh, funny. Not funny-ha-ha, more like unemployed clown getting an empty beer can throw at his head while trudging home funny, so more funny-sad, I guess...

The really sucky part is that I wanted this show to be awesome and fun and scary and cool, and it's just not. And there's no reason why it has to be either. But there's no use denying it, the show just isn't very good. Of course, it was also the most watched basic cable premiere in the history of ever, so what the fuck do I know, right?


I entered into this season with trepidation. I really liked how last season started and I hated where it ended, but the trailer for this season gave me some hope. Unfounded hope, for the most part, as it turned out, as I found this episode to be pretty weak and slow and generally without much going on. Basically, if things stay like this, I may not make it through the whole season.


And I still think this guys sucks...
Yours,
Jon

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