I’ve been reviewing TV for a while now and, up until now, it’s always been stuff I would have watched anyway. This is no longer true, because I agreed to take a crack at The Walking Dead. I’ve never read the comics, never played the games, and my viewing of the show had been spotty at best, until I rectified that by binge-viewing on my couch with 20 bottles of foamy lager. The things I do for you people! As for my opinion on the series… well, it’s not bad, but it has its flaws, which fanboys/girls seem more than eager to ignore.
Let’s begin with the premise. *sigh*. Zombies. Zombies are the basis of the whole series and that’s not something which thrills me greatly. See, I think zombies have been done to death. Every single thing in pop culture seems to also have a zombie mod. From Call of Duty to Pride and Prejudice, society has gone far overboard on zombies, but at least The Walking Dead has the good sense to be a character drama, rather than straight out zombie brawling. A good move, too (in terms of the show’s stunningly mediocre writing), is the decision to never say “zombie”. Geek, Walker, Biter, Deadhead, Infected, Thing… it’s a method of keeping half a vestige of realism. Yes, they’re zombies, but say that word and parody is not far behind.
And The Walking Dead doesn’t do parody. No character is safe, nothing is sacred. The bastards who write this show are loose-cannon types who play by their own rules. It might not be the best-written show on television but, by god, it’s entertaining. Mostly because you know throughout that pretty much anything could happen next. “30 Days Without an Accident”, the first instalment of the long-awaited fourth season. is a good example of that fact. Granted, no major character dies, but there are a few deaths that just come straight out of the blue. Take, for example, the completely new character of Zack, who was given just a whisper of personality, then died because of faulty maintenance. He may only have been a means to show this season’s model of Beth Greene, but you’ve got to admit, you didn’t see that coming. I mean, the boy was crushed by a helicopter.
Remember how I was talking about human drama? Well that’s what The Walking Dead is – human drama following a natural disaster. It just so happens that the water hazard on the golf course that is the apocalypse comes in zombie form.
Sidebar: I’m running a Kickstarter to fund The Walking Badgers, a shot-for-shot remake of the show, featuring badgers (of course) infected with a new Tuberculosis strain, which turns human victims into the aforementioned burrowing mammal. Ideally, Louis CK would play Rick. See, I think my version of TWD would be vastly better, because at least then the efforts at comedy wouldn’t feel so forced.
As per usual, this episode had a large chunk of its spotlight stolen by Rick Grimes’ solo antics – helping a beleaguered, insane Irish woman seemingly straight from the Great Potato Famine, and trying to rationalize his own behaviour. Rick’s such a delicate thing. It seems that Rick isn’t the sole leader anymore, with a council of elders now set up at the prison. Approximately six weeks on from the last season (or half a puberty later, judging by how Carl has aged), the prison seems like a nice sort of home for the (apparently) dozens residing there.
Cases of juvenile actors Bran-Starking between seasons aside, the feel of this episode is surprisingly organic. It’s somewhat believable that you could live in a prison after the end of known civilisation, if a little cliché. And characters’ relationships seem to develop really well in this show, even if sometimes how that’s expressed in a kind of heavy-handed way. The writers paint with strokes broader than your mom’s shoulders at times, though. Prime example? The pregnancy scare of Glenn the super-Asian and his trophy wife, Maggie, with Glenn making the point that survival is all that matters, and Maggie just blatantly dropping some optimistic, we’re-gonna-be-ok clichés. If only we could trust that sentiment.
The Walking Dead is a show. That’s pretty much all I’ll say right now (I’m remembering what my mother said about not saying anything if you couldn’t say something nice). “30 Days Without an Accident” – AKA “Safety in the Workplace, Extreme Edition” – was a good episode of that show, for whatever that’s worth. It wasn’t fantastic, but I can’t bring myself to put it down. Its only really crime was being that necessary, plot-advancing-episode type of evil. – J
“How many Walkers have you killed?”
“How many people have you killed?”
– Rick Grimes, with the three questions apparently asked to potential residents of the Prison Community