THE WALKING DEAD: SOMEBODY NEEDS TO PUT A LARGE CALIBER BULLET IN ITS SKULL
The mid-season break of TWD has come and gone and 13 episodes of poorly thought out drivel and melodrama worthy of Desperate Housewives or a soap opera has rightly cost Frank Darabont his job. The absolutely heartbreaking thing about TWD is that there are glimpses and glimmers of a good show in among all the crap on screen. Almost every episode has one decent, good or interesting thing happen in it. Unfortunately the few good things are surrounded by 20 or 30 awful ideas, bad story choices, horrible writing or illogical and dumb antics by our less than plucky or interesting, for the most part, band of survivors. TWD has much in common with the ultra crappy NBC superhero suckfest Heroes first season. They give you just enough decent stuff in certain episodes to keep a viewer interested or a cliffhanger that makes you think hey they finally got it! Then the next episode, it kicks you square in the nuts with dumbness and gives you a Nelson Muntz HA HA.
The purpose of this post is me taking our weekly watching/goofing (meaning work) on the TWD and shit all over what could have been a great show. There is so much wrong with it that I’m just going to hit what I think are the highlights of dumbness that get squirted out on screen week in and week out. There will be spoilers galore so if you were planning to watch TWD or for that matter, read the comic strip, get out of here now. You have been properly warned so no crying about spoilers you mamma boys.
The writing on the TWD is generally awful and the plotting even worse and all that falls on the shoulders of Frank Darabont. He decided to take an avant-garde approach to writing the first season instead of the classic way TV programs are written. This approach cost the first season writing staff their jobs and put Darabont’s position as the big cheese on the clock. I think the problem here is that Darabont can’t divorce himself from being a movie director. TV with its short turnaround demands a different approach than movies. Maureen Ryan at AOL TV summed it perfectly:
“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about film veterans like Darabont is that they apparently believe characters, structures and formats that work in the movies will work on TV. Sometimes they do, but more often, the attention paid to individual episodes or characters is inconsistent or lacking in some fundamental way. It’s hard to balance overall arcs, episodic stories and character journeys, especially if the show is an ensemble piece, but that’s why the people who are good at doing all those things are usually paid via large truckloads of money. It’s really difficult to manage all the competing demands of episodic television — to give individual hours payoffs while building to an overall destination in which the emotional and even physical stakes for the characters are credible and high — and those are not skills you generally hone by writing and directing feature films, which require two or three hours of sustained tension and progression, not 12 or 13.
My hope is that veteran show runner Glen Mazzara, who is replacing Darabont, will bring in the proper focus and ruthlessness a TV shows needs to succeed. We will see in February when episodes he oversees start to air. If they can just stop the endless discussions that never resolve themselves in any meaningful way and are purely melodramatic, that will improve the show dramatically.
Before I get raked over the coals, I know the show is about people in an extreme situation and how they respond to it and not the zombie kill of the week (although they do that also). However competent writing isn’t based on repetition and repackaging the same discussion ad nauseam at some point resolution needs to occur to keep the forward dynamic of the story. 13 episodes of essentially the same discussion between Lori and Rick or Lori and Shane is just plain bad. Also if your discussions are similar to ones that can be found on Days of Our Lives or any other day or night soap you don’t get a pass just because occasionally you kill a zombie. The Sopranos was able to craft an interesting series that was essentially about a son in therapy trying to resolve his feelings towards his mother, the Mob angle just served to move the the story forward. Embrace the zombie as a story device and give TWD a sense of dread and danger which it lacks completely at the moment. The one good thing I’ll say about Romero’s awful unwatchable movies (TWD you should not use that hack as any sort of guide, his movies outside of NOTLD are garbage) feel like there is danger and dread everywhere and nobody is safe. So far The Walking Dead feels more like a very inconvenient camping/road trip than the end of the world.
Here’s how the bad writing affects the plot. Although to be fair, AMC slashing the budget isn’t helping either. I’m mostly going to use examples from this season because being stuck on Hershel’s farm for six of the seven episodes stalled what little momentum the show had built. Yes I know that Hershel’s farm is an important story arc of the second year of the funny book. As a wit on AICN pointed out, they’ve spent longer on the farm on TV than in the comic strip and they got rid of the gated community sub plot (sort of important) and the Tyrese character (and we got Step ‘n Fetchit T DAWG, really writers?) in order to speed up the story. Yeah, whatever. Anyways I’m just going to bullet point the trouble with the farm because if I didn’t this would be as long as War & Peace. The bullet points aren’t in any order except how they occur to me.
- The Magical Healing of Hershel’s Farm: Carl gets shot with a high power rifle round. Then gets cut on by an old veterinarian with shaky hands in an unsterile bed room and by my reckoning, at most 4 days later he’s up and around with no problems? FUCK YOU WRITERS YOU HACKS. Maybe I am oversensitive to this because I’ve been shot before but FUCK YOU WRITERS, you douche bags. It’s lame trying to force the group to leave the farm because Carl healed from a major wound, surgery and infection OVERNIGHT. Then there is Daryl. He took what looks to be about a 60 ft fall off a rearing horse while riding a ridge line. His side was pierced by one of his crossbow bolts and gets a concussion and hallucinates seeing Merle. Then he climbs back up the ridge about half way and falls down again with the bolt sticking out (and not breaking because thescene demanded that he pull it out of the wound to kill a zombie) knocking himself out only to wake up to a Zombie trying to eat his boot clad foot? WTF? Any other zombie attack they go right for exposed flesh but an unconscious main character the zombie is trying to eat a boot? FUCK YOU HACKS. Also Daryl heals up intwo days with no infection and hardly any indication of injury?
- Shane shooting Otis. I don’t have a problem with it because it made sense and I was thinking the same thing when Shane did it but I do have a problem with how it came about. Why didn’t they just bring more flares, like what they used to get into the FEMA trailer? Or for that matter, weren’t there ambulances they walked past? Why not just get what you need from those instead of crossing an open space filled with zombies? Why do characters have to do something dumb to attract attention from zombies? It’s stupid shit like that brings down the show to the level of a bad episode of I Love Lucy. Oh and when the Zs first chase them, they are super quick and get right on their asses as fatty and Shane get into the high school. But after they manage to escape the high school with Shane limping badly on a messed up ankle, the Zs become slow enough to not close on a severely limping Shane and fat tired Otis? The Zs magically became slow enough for Shane to shoot Otis in the knee, wrestle the bag of med supplies out of his grip and get away and no Zs follow him.
- Staying on Otis, we are supposed to believe one morbidly fat dude could wrangle all the Zs into the barn alone when it took 2 red shirt teenagers, Hershel, and a younger-than-Otis-much-more-in-shape Rick to do it and they almost screwed the Pooch? FUCK YOU WRITERS.
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
SPOILER MAJOR SPOILER ALERT.
An especially BIG fuck you for this one. At no point did Otis think to tell Herschel “hey I stuck a 12 year old girl zombie into the barn the other day” YOU KNOW like the one these new people are LOOKING FOR. So we are to believe that Herschel, who thinks all zombies are just “sick” and a cure is right around the corner and is trying to keep as many as possible safe, rules the farm with a Stalin like hand but Otis acts completely independent of him and never says a word about putting a girl zombie child in the barn? FUCK YOU WRITERS. Having contrived situations arise due to characters not saying a few words that would make the situation clear is one of the most hackneyed writing choices you can make.
END MAJOR SPOILER
The Zombie herd with +14 power of invisibility: This scene in the first episode of season 2 encapsulates perfectly what I am talking about with how poorly executed TWD is. The scene itself was semi-well handled with a decent amount of tension (until CSI Zombie starts checking out the RV) but the set up is mind boggling stupid and it launched the “Search For Sophia” arc that went on waaaaaaaay to long. Here’s the problem as I see it. The group just came from the same direction as the magically appearing herd with Daryl leading the way on a LOUD Triumph (loud pipes saves lives…except in a zombie apocalypse). OK, fine, no big deal even though they always whine about loud firearms attracting Zombies but OK whatever. Then they drive INTO a big traffic snarl they could easily have crossed the road to bypass but OK I’ll let that go. The RV breaks down right then. OK, no problem, you have to let stupid things go to move the story forward, I get that. Then they set up a watch with one guy using binos and another a scoped rifle looking in the same direction they just came from and nobody sees or hears a herd of 100+ Zs COMING FROM THE SAME DIRECTION THEY JUST DROVE FROM until the herd is right on top of them? Screw that, you just used up all your suspension of disbelief right there.
MAJOR SPOILER WARNING IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO WATCH SEASON 2. THIS SPOILER IS A BIGGIE AND IMPORTANT SO IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW SKIP THIS PART EVEN THOUGH YOU WILL MISS OUT ON AWESOMENESS OF THE WRITING THOUGH THE SPOILER IS PRETTY DAMN EASY TO FIGURE OUT
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
GET LOST NOW THIS IS A BIG SPOILER SO NO WHINING
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
How they resolved the search for Sophia was hugely anticlimactic and stupid. I understand that the entire point of it was for Rick to take out zombie Sophia so he could reclaim his place as “leader” which Shane has rightly been usurping and to force Herschel to confront the truth about Zs, that they’re dead not “sick.” Unfortunately the entire scene lacked any kind of real “gut punch” and here’s why. First, in the cold open of the very first episode of season one, Rick rekilled an even younger zombie girl than Sophia. That previous killing robbed the current scene of any real shock value. Secondly, other characters have killed relatives. Morgan rigged an ambush to draw out his zombified wife then drilled her. Andrea capped her sister. Hell, the group voluntarily left that guy by the side of the road to turn so maybe he will reunite with his zombie family. Huh? How would that work? Lastly, why should we even care about Sophia? The search for her was badly executed and stopped what little momentum the TWD had. More importantly, the character had 2 lines in 13 episodes, she just stood around scenes looking scared. There were zero reasons to be invested in her as a character. She served only as a bad plot point and for Rick to show “leadership” which he hasn’t done previously yet somehow he’s the boss.
I feel sorry for anybody who thought that entire arc was well handled. It wasn’t, it was complete shit on a stick and horribly executed. There wasn’t any tension about the resolution, Sophia had to be dead. By my calculations she was on her own for about 8-9 days in an area that had zombies wandering around. I could maybe see her surviving if she was a ranch or farm kid and that’s a very BIG maybe but some 21st century 12 year old suburban girl, nope, can’t nor will I buy that one.
END MAJOR SPOILERS HERE
There is a whole bunch of other shit I was going to ridicule but I can’t be bothered since this thing has gotten way out of hand. Instead I am just going to rail on a few things that bug me on personal level.
FIREARMS: I am serious about this. Fire the armorer on your show. He stinks and is obviously just sucking up a pay check. A competent armorer would never let you get away with the crappy firearm work exhibited on TWD, like from Shane. The character constantly and LOUDLY tells us he is a “CERTIFIED FIREARM INSTRUCTOR” yet he doesn’t handle a handgun correctly most of the time?
That fucktarded scene with Andrea who has never handled a rifle takes an unzeroed long gun with the scope blown out from the sun and pulls off an about a 150 to 200 meter down angled head shot on Daryl that almost kills him? And that’s after she was repeatedly told NOT to use the rifle (they attract zombies ya’ know) but she does it anyway? Further, there were three members of her group going to take care of what they thought was a single walker and she nonchalantly touches off a round while they are in the field of fire?
Then there is Andrea instantly turning into a Grammaton Cleric after Shane yells at her? I know in the funny strips she’s suppose to be a ‘natural’ shot but she became good after several training sessions andnot one like on the show and special side session with Shane that was so stupid it can’t even be described. This also begs the question, where are they getting all the ammo? They burn through a lot and are never seen plundering houses or gun shops like in the comic strip nor is there any evidence they are reloading.
Sound people FYI, the handgun Rick uses is a Colt Python .357 revolver. Did you catch the last word there, R-E-V-O-L-V-E-R. That style handgun doesn’t eject spent rounds thus it’s entirely retarded for you to use the sound of a round ejecting and hitting the ground. In a similar vein, in a few scenes you have Shane charging a Glock 19 by pulling the slide to the rear. OK, good enough, that’s how it works. However you idjits put the sound of a revolver hammer being cocked over it. I am sure you morons aren’t aware of this but a Glock is a semi-auto that doesn’t even have a hammer. It’s a striker fired pistol but you asshats use the sound of a revolver hammer being cocked. (For integrity sake, I didn’t notice this one myself. It was pointed out in several places around the internets. I went back to the scene I had access to and that’s when I heard it)
Also, whoever is loading your dummy rounds blows at it they are way to recognizable as fakes.
The Ft. Benning McGuffin: This is aggravatingly stupid on every level. Let me ask this, writers can I have your address? I need to send you humps a map because you seem to to think that the distance from Atlanta to Ft. Benning is like hundreds of miles. It’s not. It’s about 110 miles from Atlanta to Benning. a flat straight shot I’ve done it done it a lot. The bigger question though is why would you even go there? What do you think you will find weapons for the taking? In the first episode of season 1 in Atlanta (and episode 6 at the CDC), you had weapons like the M2, M240 and M249 on the streets (and ammo for them which again begs the question why hasn’t anybody, like for instance the Vatos in the first season, grabbed them? What brown can’t think of way to draw off the Z’s? Only white and yellow are smart enough do that? Fuck me this show is racist on top of being bad and stupid. Shouldn’t be surprised about that racism they have do have a Step ‘n Fetchit character named T DAWG.) Where do you think they came from? Not the National Guard or Reserves, they probably didn’t show up. That means it came from the armor, artillery and Infantry units at Benning whose equipment is littering the streets of Hotlanta.
On a side note, do you incompetent fucks even watch your own show? In the second to last episode of season 2 you had a flashback scene of Shane and Lori watching Atlanta getting napalmed. One of the areas of the city getting lit up was the same place Rick and the horse got attacked by zombies but there was ZERO FIRE DAMAGE. I know it was way back in the first season but come on dudes at least try to make a nod to continuity. The badly placed CGI left your cheese in the wind on that one.
Again why would you go to Benning? Do you think the base has a large stone wall with soldiers manning it? There isn’t. (Don’t believe me, google image it.) Ft Benning is an “open post”, there are no walls and not many fences. The few fences on post are around like motor pools, the power plant and the 3rd Ranger battalion area (which I maintain is to keep Rangers away from the decent folk. Doesn’t work.) so the place will be overrun with Zombies like anywhere else. But hey, OK I can let that go. What do you think going to Benning will get you, weapons? I already pointed out there were man portable military weapons (not the M2. though it would be perfect to help fortify a fixed position like say a farm) for the taking on the streets of Atlanta and outside of the CDC. So anyway, how would you get at the weapons? I’m sure there are some out at Benning but the risk rewards numbers aren’t favorable. It occurs to me though that you could pick up weapons lying about without having to try and get past the thousands of zombies on Ft. Benning. Further, you have to figure Benning got over run fast like anywhere else since most of their maneuver elements got wiped out on the streets of Atlanta.
Aw fuck it, this is much too long as it is, the show is bad right now. Glen Mazzara you’re our only hope since Darabont cluster fucked this mess from the jump.