THE WALKING DEAD, SEASON TWO, EPISODE SEVEN
"Pretty Much Dead Already"
"Pretty Much Dead Already"
Oh, and from this point on: Here there be SPOILERS!
You've been warned
Ok, so, in a nutshell, this episode encapsulates absolutely everything that is wrong with this show. All flash and no substance. All show and no go, ya'know?
Maybe that’s a bit harsh. I mean, it’s undeniable at this point that since firing the ENTIRE season one writing staff and then turning around and giving Frank Darabont the boot, the show has gotten better. It was the right idea. AMC recognized that the previous season had some issues and made an effort to correct them and taking these actions have resulted in a dramatic rise in quality with each successive episode (for the most part…). There have definitely been some cool moments.
That being said, all those folks they used to replace the fired ones?
They are only marginally better.
Which means, instead of ridiculously, embarrassingly bad and overwrought and completely lacking focus, it’s now merely boring and pedestrian and seemingly unaware of its lack of complexity. Now, some would say that the writers are simply making the best of a bad situation, responding to the fall out of things put in place before their time. And sure, I can see that, to an extent, but here’s where that theory starts to leak…
The season arc (or at least, it's intention) isn't the problem.
It's just fine in fact. It's a good goal. Look, here's how it should go: In Buffy, a season’s arc would be something like exploring Buffy’s first love and her first heartbreak and to tie that—both literally and metaphorically—into the story of Angel losing his soul and “going bad”. Now, compare that to this season’s arc of The Walking Dead, which was—as I see it—Sophia goes missing, so the group looks for her while trying to stay safe on the farm and metaphorically tie all that into the characters’ realization that the world has become harder and meaner and lost it’s innocence. Now wait, you say, both of those sound pretty alright. I mean, sure, the Walking Dead's might be a little more clunky and heavy-handed, but hey, Buffy was a superior show. So, what’s the problem?
Well, let's take a looksie...
The problem lies in the wetwork, the stuff in close, the character moments, the dialogue, the little in between bits that lie between the framework that Darabont erected and that the new writing staff may or may not have been helpless before and forced to deal with.
The problem is: All of that stuff is poorly done.
This episode starts with off with Glenn finally telling the rest of the group about the walkers in the barn. The rest of the episode has everyone hemming and hawing around, doing nothing, arguing nonsense and killing time, while Shane tries desperately to point out the obvious truth of what needs to be done, and why, to the gigantic herd of idiots. All of this culminates in Shane, fed up with the group's stupidity and unable to take it anymore, boiling over when he sees Herschel and Rick trying to drag two more zombies into the barn, so he instead releases the whole lot of them and then he and the others shoot all of the zombies down. Problem solved.
But then, one last zombie comes out of the barn and it’s Sophia. Oh, the pathos. Pathos, sorrow and sadness. Rick shoots her down and… roll credits.
Here's why: Who the fuck is Sophia?
This moment might have meant something, if Sophia had spoken more than maybe a dozen lines in the first season or appeared in maybe more than four or five minutes of the first episode this season, which is the last time we ever saw her. Sure, we know she’s Carol’s daughter, we know they’ve been looking for her, and anyone with half a brain can see that they’re trying to re-do (poorly) the same theme that they lumbered into last season (poorly):
The world has been horribly and irrevocably changed.
What? In a zombie apocalypse?
And just like the previous season, they fumbled it. First off, the shock is somewhat diluted because they’ve already pulled the “shoot a little kid” heart-string and they did it in the very first minutes of the very first episode. Secondly, because they just took too damn long to kill off a character we don't know at all. Maybe if they had kept Sophia around for even one more episode and had her actively participating even a little bit, maybe they could have made her a character we cared about more than just in a vague “nobody wants to see a little kid shot” kind of way.
You know what else might have made the moment better?
Carl should have put her down, not Rick, and for two reasons. One, like I said, Rick’s already shot a kid. Two, it could have been what is sometimes known as a: “character moment”. It could have been used as a signal that Carl is entering this world before the adults are able to, or even capable of, that he's surrendering his childhood prematurely, and that would have been a sad thing and more in line with the greater theme they were aiming for, and it would have been a hell of a lot more of a gut punch than just having him swear while talking to Shane, which is what they did instead…
Even better, imagine if it had been Carl in that barn...
That would have been something, because bottom line: When you kill a character that matters, people sit up and take notice (Game of Thrones). When all you do is kill off glorified redshirts, only the stupid get swept up.
Now, was the whole shoot-out at the end cool? Yeah, it was great fun and like always, it looked great too. But like the herd scene, like the well zombie, like Shane and Andrea in the suburb or whatever, a handful of awesome does not make up for all of the lackluster character moments, the go-nowhere wheel-spinning plots, and the terrible (and often repeated in the same episode) soliloquies.
Of course, this dumb plot isn’t just the show’s fault. The whole Hershel/"zombies are just sick" thing is from the comic and it was just as stupid there, too. I mean, I get it, let’s say Hershel is mentally ill.
Let's say that he had a mental break when his wife zombiefied. That’s understandable. He couldn’t kill her or his step-son, so he lost it and locked them in the barn instead, deluding himself that they’re just sick and that they’ll be cured someday. Ok, fine. Got it. It can happen. I'll accept that.
But what’s everyone else’s excuse?
All those other people on the farm? What the fuck? I mean, I love the elder males in my family. I respect them, I listen to them. They’re good people. But if, say... one of them wanted me to wrangle a rabid dog into the garage instead of shooting a very dangerous and contagious animal that is threatening our family? I would tell them to shut their mouth and pull their stupid old head out of their stupid old ass. The problem with Hershel’s stance (and his family’s acquiescence to it) is that it is just so God damn stupid. It’s so blatantly wrong, there's no way you can empathize with him. It just becomes annoying and that gets in the way of enjoying the show. Is it possible that people could have the same reaction he does? Is it possible that people could do the same thing he does?
Yes, of course it's possible… BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S GOOD TV!!!
Because it most definitely is not. The audience--especially myself--just sits there and looks at the reality of the show and listens to the crap Hershel says and watches Rick put up with it… and it’s just annoying. You just sit there and wait for it to be done and hope for a better storyline and that is the problem with the show in a nutshell, for me.
I’m watching it and the whole time, I’m just waiting for a better storyline. And at this point, I don’t think it’s coming.
Look at what they do with Shane in this episode.
Here’s how it works. Basically, every time Shane opens his mouth, he’s right.
1. He left a comatose Rick behind, because he weighed his options and realized he couldn’t save Rick, his family and himself, so he had to choose and only an asshole could see it any differently.
2. He said it was a bad idea for Rick to go back for Meryl and it was for every reason you could think up. Meryl was a junkie, degenerate, racist redneck asshole, who may not have deserved to die, but he certainly was a threat to the group. Plus, it took much needed guns away from the camp, which they ended up needing when zombies attacked and people died.
3. He realized that there was no way he and Otis could get away and thus, save Carl (who Otis so irresponsibly shot—if he was close enough to see the deer, he was close enough to see Carl), so he put Otis down. A cold choice, but he weighed the lives of his loved ones against a stranger. It’s not a fun choice, but in a zombie world? It was the right one.
4. He was right about Sophia being dead. Of course she was dead. It was just too impossible for her to get that lost in so short a time in such a small area so close to a highway. Especially when you add zombies to the mix. Even without zombies, after 72 hours you’re not looking for a kid, you’re looking for a body and he knew that staying in one place so long only put the group in danger and as it ended up, it was only through his direct action did they avoid a repeat of the zombie camp attack.
5. He wanted to put down the walkers in the barn, because they're dangerous, despite what Hershel wanted, because Hershel is a stupid old crazy asshole. Shane realizes this because a. Hershel had a barn full of walkers. And b. Hershel wanted the main characters, a group that consisted of basically EXTREMELY nice and helpful and well-armed people, to move on and leave him in the middle of nowhere, with just his old ass (who doesn't "like" guns), a boy, a girl, and two women that he doesn’t let do anything… What about running the farm long term? What was his plan in case of attack? Shane saw all of this and said: “Why would anyone listen to the old bastard? He’s just going to get people killed.” And he was right… as evidenced by all of the family members he had in the barn…
And the truly hacky part of all of this is that you can tell that the writers are trying to turn Shane into this big meanie, nothing but a loose cannon (But he gets results, you stupid chief!), one that can’t be trusted. They're trying to make him into some kind of dangerous and evil potential bad guy, but… they just keep accidentally making him into “the smart one”. You can just hear them in the writing room, too, just so fucking confused about why people don't like Rick more:
"But he's the hero...?"
Speaking of Rick, why does he even want to stay at Hershel’s farm? Hershel doesn’t “allow” them to carry weapons. He has no fences. His house is all windows. They don’t keep a watch. The only reason these people are still alive is due to the fact that somehow the zombies haven’t run across them. They're like the zombie apocalypse version of a drunk person stumbling unscathed through traffic. I mean, they live two miles from the freeway where a massive herd of zombies almost got the main characters. It is completely indefensible and unsafe, not too mention generally unfriendly. It’s only upside is the multiple wells, but shit, fat lot of good that’s gonna do you when the first floor of the house is teeming with zombies.
But I digress…
You suck You suck
You suck Ugh, you're the worst
You're cool You suck
You're alright I want to like you, but I just don't
You annoy me Who are you again?
You're not even on the show anymore. You're cool
And so, another season of Walking Dead lumbers in, meanders about, falls over and drags itself to its death. I really want to like this show, but I just can’t. I love the idea of tuning in each week for a bit of the zombie apocalypse. If this was good and I had Game of Thrones, maybe a Marvel Knights type show and a live action Star Wars show that was good?
Heaven, my friends. Heaven.
But no, the Walking Dead is just another V or Heroes or Terranova or Falling Skies or whatever, this is a show that the concept is something I want, adore, but the execution is something that I just can not stand. And worse yet, it's not because it doesn't adhere to my own personal vision, it's because it is bad. It is poor quality. And I feel like I’ve given the show its fair shot, more than its fair shot. 13 episodes of wheel-spinning and needless soliloquies and flubbed character moments and missed opportunities and hack banter. It's bad.
In the simplest of terms: This show sucks and when it returns in January, I won’t.
And it had so much potential too...