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Was The Walking Dead Too Trigger Happy? (Spoilers through Ep 3×12)

Warning: The following post contains spoilers through episode 3×12 of The Walking Dead. For those of you waiting for it to come out on Netflix, I envy your financial restraint.

While I’m in the minority among cult show fans, I like Sarah Wayne Callies on The Walking Dead. I enjoyed her on Prison Break, as she is an actress who brings a lot of depth and has a real “Average America” look. So when Lori died on The Walking Dead, I was disappointed. I speculated that Lori might die (as she did in the comics), but I hoped it could be done the right way.

I was somewhat disappointed with how early Lori was killed in the show, in the fourth episode of season three. My thought when it happened was “soon, but maybe not too soon.” Rick and Lori still had issues to work on in their marriage, but I was willing to see how the aftermath of her death would play out. Robert Kirkman stated that he’d dreamed up big arcs for characters, only to end up killing them, and a lot of characters on TV end up getting killed off way later than they should. My philosophy is, if a show makes a mistake killing a character, it will very obvious after six or seven episodes.

After so many episodes, I was annoyed that Lori has appeared four times: the phone call in episode six, the two ghosts appearances in eight and nine, and in a picture in episode twelve. If you’re going to portray her four times in eight episodes after you killed her, it is questionable whether or not Lori should have been killed to begin with. Especially now, Lori could have had a huge role guiding Rick now that he’s burden with the threat of Woodbury. Herschel is the only voice of reason for Rick, and there’s only so long Herschel can survive with one leg.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying Lori’s death was a mistake. I’m saying, if you are going to kill her, go all in. Don’t show her more than once.

To be fair, TWD is going to have more deaths on it than the average TV show, just because it’s a world where 95% of the population is flesh eating zombies, and all the advances of modern technology are lacking. If there wasn’t a higher death rate than other shows, it would look completely unrealistic.

That wasn’t the only questionable move TWD has made this season. Rick kicking Tyrese’s group out of the prison was downright idiotic. (What, where else were they going to end up other than Woodobury, with a guide of how to get into the prison?) But Lori’s early death could end up making the show unlikable and without heart, like 24 in its sixth season. To all the fans who found Lori whiny, I would say, who doesn’t come across as whiny in the lead female role of a male-oriented serial drama? Any of Jack’s 24 girlfriends or Kate on Lost faced the same complaint. Prison Break fans campaigned to bring  Callies back to their show. Outside of Michonne and Maggie, is there one female character on TWD the fans like?

The storyline that directly came out of Lori’s death, namely rick’s delusions, is one I detest. Maybe it’s because I’m use to my dark drama grounded in realism (24, Prison Break, The Following), but I just find delusional Rick to be campy and too easy. Anyone being that self-absorbed in a world of flesh eating zombies won’t last two minutes (and he almost didn’t). TWD is best off when it is grounded in reality, like Lost was.

The last episode as of this writing, “Clear”, did move The Walking Dead in a positive direction. I don’t think it is one of the “series greats” Kirkman touted it to be before it aired, but Rick seemed to realize he has to live with his delusions, and if that brings that storyline to a close, I’ll do jumping jacks. Michonne’s character was deepened too, and given how much fans want her to be a huge part of the show, that’s a good thing. All this points to is that The Walking Dead needs a mini-reboot as Season 3 ends and Season 4 begins, which a lot of shows need after three seasons.

I just hope Sarah Wayne Callies finds another show to do. Missing her on TWD, I found the Tarzan series the WB did ten years ago on YouTube and loved it, aside from a poor cast Tarzan. Maybe the CW could redo that show with SWC now; she’d be believable as an NYC police detective, and is the perfect Jane.

Walking Dead: How to Film a Terrifying Herd, Season 2 Finale, and Where to go from Here

Last Sunday night I turned off my cellphone and settled in to watch The Walking Dead‘s season finale. Just judging by the promos, I knew the show would be great. It was the classic zombie situation: a small group of strangers are stranded in a house, facing an endless sea of predators. While I do wish the zombie herd would have spotted the herd in episode 10 or 11 so there could have been more build-up, this zombie sequence did something right that I think many of the zombie sequences on the show haven’t done as well.

The Walking Dead‘s fans have spent ample time complaining about the shows slow episodes, and while I’m not thrilled with those episodes, I think that criticism is misdirected. What I think is a real problem is that, the some of the larger zombie sequences this season have been poorly directed. This has happened in two ways: one, a smaller number of extras is shot in a way that only makes them look large, such as the herd in the season premiere that pinned the survivors down on the interstate, plus the herd that was chasing Shane and Otis at the end of episode three.  Also, the motion of the zombies in both scenes is a problem: the run straight too much. In the zombie scene at the ed of episode four in season one, the actual number of zombies is quite small. What makes it terrifying is that they seem to be coming from everywhere randomly.

The second major problem is with the zombie scene in episode ten, when Rick and Shane are at the school. When the zombies break out of the building and start chasing Shane around (and it’s a small number of zombies to begin with), there’s too much open space for the scene to be really terrifying. The bus is out in the open, and it’s too easy for Rick to get to it with car. But all this said, the worst zombie scene in The Walking Dead is roughly about as bad as the worst ice cream cone.

There are ways that the show does a job of building terror with only a few zombies. Take the scene in episode nine where Rick, Hershel, and Glenn are finding Randall with his leg stuck on the fence (literally). You didn’t to have a whole herd of walkers rushing them as they decided what to do with Randall; just the sight of a few zombies approaching was enough.

But this herd was done right: it came from seemingly nowhere, and it looked endless. I was surprised they didn’t just barricade everyone in the house but, there were some great kills (T-Dogg hitting the zombie with the truck got a huge buzz on twitter). (MAJOR SPOILER🙂 The deaths of Jimmy and Patricia, secondary characters who didn’t do a lot the second half of the season, were not that surprising. When I saw Patricia and Beth running in the promos, I thought strongly one of them would die. The Walking Dead is a show that demands not only a high body count, but you need those scenes where someone gets pulled into a herd of walkers, the fate husband and wife Otis and Patricia shared. As far as death-management goes, it is somewhat disappointing that either Dale and/or Shane’s deaths, as well as they were done, were not saved for this sequence. Dale dying in his RV instead of Jimmy while saving Rick and Carl would have meant more. They still could have killed off Jimmy with the walker Carl set free and kept that storyline for Carl. (Side note: the RV is another “character” I’ll really miss.)

Ironically, the group of ten that began season two is ten again. Three of that group were lost (Sophia, Dale, Shane) and have been replaced by Hershel, Maggie, and Beth. Beth is a characters I’d want to see more of (she was great in episode ten) and the show needs more female characters. Like many of the other fans, I’d like to see more of T-Dogg, but it’s also easy to forget that T-Dogg played a huge role in episodes two through four in season one. With the news that Merle is returning, it will be interesting to see if T-Dogg factors into his story. And if Merle is part of the Governor’s Woodbury, it will be especially great for Daryl, who ended the season at some odds with Rick.

That leads me to my disappointment with the final scene. Let me be clear: The Walking Dead takes place in a harsh world. That said, I thought ending with Rick’s speech about he’s the new dictator in town was the wrong tone to end the season. I don’t have a problem with Lori being upset with Rick for killing Shane. But it might have been better for the show end with the survivors actually looking on the prison rather than having the camera pan to it. Michael Ausellio noted in his Spoiler Alert video podcast after episode ten that the show is getting almost too conflict heavy, and does need more moments of the characters bonding and working together. It is possible for the show to get too depressing and the characters too dark to root for, as 24 did during its sixth season.

As for the other major revel, I’m as excited as the comic fans to see Michonne, mainly for a reason that Kirkman shared on Talking Dead post-finale: while most of the characters we know are stupefied by the world of zombie, Michonne has figured out how to survive. Michonne was already trending on twitter before the character appeared on screen, and perhaps the sighting of a warrior-character will keep the show from being too depressing.

So here’s what I expect for season three: generally, the overall theme is going to be, band together. The season will encompass the prison storyline, from Rick and the survivors clearing out the zombies that remain in it, dealing with the inmates that are still alive, and finally, facing the destruction of the walls by the Governor and his Woodbury army. Hershel will die by the end of the season, along with several of the original survivors. I think there’s a good chance there’s a jump forward in time and Lori will have the baby by the end of the season. I’d love to see more back story for Glenn and T-Dogg. The Governor is one of the biggest questions I have for the season, mainly because he’s clearly going to come in a lot earlier than he does in the comics. My guess is, Andrea and Michonne run into Woodbury and are part of his

That leads me to the question I’ve been debating for a while and that is Lori’s death in the comics, which happens at the end of the prison storyline. Part of me hopes that Lori survives and can be a part of the post-prison story. Kirkman and Glen Mazzara have stated that the comics aren’t the definitive blueprint for the series, and that the show characters may outlive their comic book counterparts (Shane) or die before them (Dale, Otis). I hope that Lori does live on in the show, but if she does die, that’s what happens. I do know one thing: if Lori does outlive the destruction of the prison, it could be hard to get rid of her after that.

In closing, my favorite moment from the finale was the preppy walker that Carl, Rick, and Hershel encountered at the interstate pile-up. The preppy walker is to me, the mark of a great show. Too often, all of the walkers are dressed in the same dull, drab attire, and it was great to see one that stood out. It was just a little touch, but it was that’s what great shows do: pay attention to detail.

(My post from earlier this year: Walking Dead as analogy).

World of Hurt: The Walking Dead as an Analogy for Depression, and a Recap of Nebraska

Last night, I stayed up way too late waiting for The Walking Dead (my current favorite TV show) to come online; I went to bed at 10:30, show still not online, but then woke up at four, only to find that the show had come onto one of the other sites and I had searched under the wrong terms.


While I wasn’t a fan of the comic or the zombie genre before, I turned into the show because I love post-apocalyptic, serial drama. This season, the show has reminded me of what Lost was like before Lindelof and Cuse became stars of the show: a bunch of ordinary people, trying to survive in a world with few rules. Yes, some of the episodes this fall have been tedious and short on action, but remember this a young show that has budget constraints. 24 was very similarly slowly in its early years, and the show grew once it was syndicated. As long as the second half of the season has more action, I’m good with that.

Of course, every time I see them show what should be a huge group of zombies, I get the sense that it’s only a small group that looks big because of the camera angle, but hey, the show is great. I’m a frugal Nebraskan, so I appreciate anyone making the best of what they have.

I wonder how much HBO burns over that they could have had the show. Probably some; they have made their share of blunders since The Sopranos left in 2007, and it’s not as bad as canceling Deadwood and not getting the two movies based on the series. Certainly, NBC looks more blundersome when they let Desperate Housewives slide out there back door. Of course, HBO does have Game of Thrones now, so they likely the biggest disappointment in the matter belongs to Thomas Jane, who would have played Rick Grimes, had HBO ordered The Walking Dead to pilot.

But the more I reflect on The Walking Dead, the more I see an analogy that reflects a world I’ve lived in: the world of depression. The survivors are the depressed people, and the zombies are the world around them. So many themes fit that depressed motif: the sense of hopelessness, the feeling as if everyone is oppressing you, things only getting worse. Not that I know Robert Kirkman’s motivation, but the themes do arise in the work. Perhaps that’s what takes this horror parable and makes it so appealing to geeks and masses, is it is that world of rejection they live in every day.

But back to last night’s episode, named for the state of my residence: this episode was slow-starting, mainly because it had to deal with the revelations of Sophia’s death, plus Hershel’s family that had become walkers being shot. But it ended in a better place than it began, as Rick’s decision to take out the two Philly survivors will have consequences in the next episode, as well as Lori’s car crash. (The latter event seemed about as staged as Carl’s getting shot, but that can be remedied by a good payoff). While Dave was going for his gun, you can see Rick going down that dark road that Shane did when he killed Otis, although Shane’s path was certainly darker. The conflict with this other band of survivors (as seen in the trailer) should provide some good fodder for the remaining five episodes this season. Personally, I have been rather impatient for them to get to the prison (working theory since last summer was that they’d get there by season 2’s end), but now I can’t wait for these episodes. Best moment this week: Andrea delivering the final blow with a farm implement.

Final thought: the same thing that makes The Walking Dead great is what makes Chuck great. The show creates conflict between multiple characters on multiple levels, maintaining from beginning to end. Take Lori: even though she didn’t want Rick to leave, she feels the need to go after him herself, for the same reason he wanted to leave. Daryl is willing to look for Carol’s daughter, but won’t go after Rick. Rick kills Sophia, but then commends Hershel for holding out hope for the walkers. That’s great storytelling.

(Update: A follow-up)


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