Monday, April 1, 2013

Welcome To The Tombs of THE WALKING DEAD

For a television series, a season ender is a big event. Ratings tend to radically rise, offering a chance for greater exposure beyond the normal fanbase, and traditionally, series creators really pull out the stops and try to bring their A-game to the project. The problem for THE WALKING DEAD has been that its A-game tends to look pretty much like anyone else's third- or fourth-string. The series has all the potential in the world, and there are the occasional episodes that don't entirely suck, but in the larger context of the series, they seem to be more like happy accidents than the result of anyone genuinely applying themselves. TWD splits its season, and, as a consequence, has had the equivalent of five season enders to date. None of them have been good. The second season ender, "Beside the Dying Fire," remains, to date, one of the absolute worst episode of the entire run. And that's saying an awful lot. Tonight's season 3 capper, "Welcome To The Tombs," did nothing to reverse this trend.

At times, TWD collapses into such a morass of ineptness that it plays like a parody of itself, and that was on display quite a bit tonight.

TWD has the pace of molasses in January. Its creators talk a bullshit propaganda line about running a show where anyone can die at any moment, but when it comes to potentially alienating the audience with the deaths of popular characters, TWD doesn't take any risks, and their decision to spend all season turning Andrea into a hate-figure added up, tonight, to exactly what it always does. GINO leaves Andrea handcuffed to a chair and viciously stabs Milton, leaving the bespectacled scientist to die so he will reanimate and chow down on her.[1] Milton left a pair of pliers where Andrea can get to them, though. It's a race against time, with Andrea trying to retrieve the pliers with her feet before Milton's life bleeds entirely out of him. As with most TWD races-against-time, though, it turns into more of a really slow creep against time, running most of the length of the episode, with--as usual with TWD--filler moments continually destroying any tension the scenario could have built. At one point, Andrea entirely halts her escape attempt to have a few minutes of conversation with the expiring Milton about why she stayed in Woodbury. Later, when she thinks he's reanimating, it doesn't spur her to redouble her efforts--instead, she comes to another complete stop, and just sits and looks at him.[2]

As I said, a parody of itself.

GINO takes a Woodburian army to the prison, which serves as the excuse to unleash some loud, visually impressive pyrotechnics as they blast their way in. These looked good in the "next week on AMC's The Walking Dead" preview, and that's the only reason they were included. After building to it all season, there's no big fight over the prison. Most of the prison group hides nearby while GINO and his men explore the empty facility. When the Woodburians venture into the zombie-infested area,[3] a smoke-bomb that was left for them explodes, and they run from the building like rabbits. Glenn and Maggie are waiting behind cover to shoot at a few of them as they run out. They needn't have bothered--Woodbury takes to its vehicles and flees in terror. GINO and a pair of his trusted lieutenants pursue, and, stopping the convoy, GINO becomes so angry his people won't fight that he guns them down himself! And so was ludicrously ended the great Woodburian threat.

Again, a parody of itself.

GINO and two of his men survive, though, and leave for parts unknown, leaving open the prospect of a return--something I imagine most viewers would, after this pathetic mess, welcome about as much as they'd welcome a return to Hershel's farm. Or the return of new Coke.

The episode did feature one really striking moment that hit at the heart of one of TWD's many shortcomings. During the prison attack, Carl guns down a surrendering Woodburian. Rick confronts him about this, and Carl thoroughly dresses down his father, noting that their failure to deal with potential threats in a responsible manner is what results in their people being killed over and over again. He failed to kill the walker that killed Dale; Rick failed to kill Andrew, which resulted in Lori and T-Dog dying; Rick didn't shoot GINO when he had the chance, resulting in the attack that had just happened. And so on. At someone finally speaking this hard, frank, nowhere-to-run-or-hide truth, this viewer and vociferous critic of the series felt like cheering. Even more so when Rick looked as if he'd been slapped, then took on the countenance of a rapidly deflating balloon. Unfortunately, TWD has never had the stomach for this kind of matter-of-fact sentiment, and Mazzara, its now-fired showrunner and the writer of record on this episode, double-stacked the deck against Carl's brutally frank words by having the incident that led to it be Carl shooting a surrendering teenager, then, in the end, having Rick take in the remaining Woodburians, mostly kids and old people (nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but it was presented as a direct and total repudiation of what Carl had said).[4]

Instead of moving everyone to Woodbury, Rick moved the Woodburians to the prison, damaged and still mostly full of zombies as a consequence of our heroes' failure to clear it.

TWD, this season, has definitely been a tale told by an idiot (more particularly, a group of them), filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing. Except without the fury. Fury requires competent pacing, and was definitely a no-show most of the time. The final count: three episodes that didn't entirely suck ("Seed", "Clear", and "This Sorrowful Life"), adrift in a sea of rubbish. The story: A lot of claim-staking and brainless posturing over a prison that, as was presented, wasn't worth keeping; and a threat to it posed by a well-equipped villain who has no motive to want to do them harm other than being the designated villain (and who turned out to be no real threat at all). It doesn't add up to anything.

Except THE WALKING DEAD.

--j.

---

[1] GINO kills Milton because Milton torched his zombie zoo in the previous episode, and, he says, because of that, eight Woodburians were killed by Merle, which makes one wonder if Glen Mazzara, the writer of the episode, even bothered to read the script for the previous ep. Merle was able to take out a few Woodburians because he brought an army of zombies to the meeting, and shot GINO's men in the confusion that resulted. How more zombies roaming around through that situation would have helped GINO is anyone's guess.

[2] And because of the episodes in ludicrous ass-draggery, she is bitten and meets her end.

[3] Why on earth would our heroes take over a huge prison as their new home, then confine themselves, all season, to one tiny, filthy cell-block of it, while allowing zombies to roam freely through the bulk of the facility? There's a collapsed wall on one end of the compound, allowing the dead--and, more importantly, any potential enemy--free access to their home, while cutting off their only means of retreat, should they be attacked. Why on earth would they allow the existence of that breach, unrepaired and entirely unguarded, throughout most of this season? To use it as plot points later, of course! Tonight was the payoff on that.

[4] In another low point, the writers attempt to free Rick from the appalling, irremovable stain they'd left on his character by having Michonne forgive him for contemplating turning her over to GINO, telling him that considering it was the right thing to do. She even thanked him for taking her in!

11 comments:

  1. There really isnt a show like this on tv. Its a hard balance between setting, props, story, zombie visual effects. How can you say they arent trying the effects look way better then hollywood movies. The production team has given it their all. Any time an actor talks about it, they say how the entire team actors,extras,effects department are like one big family. Yes the writing is bad but everything else is a step above. Focus you anger n shows that suck in every aspect like any CW show. Or star trek voyager you should ne forced to watch that show, you want to know why they stay in one part of the prison the entire complex was built for the show. Its a heck of a set piece. Id rather have a small real prison. Then a large fake set in a soundstage. It says your an aspiring film maker. Analyze everything about this show its easy to point out its flaws in story telling. Woodbury is also a real place as is all other locations they film at. Its an amazing job they have done on set pieces

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll take your defense for the show as an April fools joke, Anon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. has to be. a set piece cannot make up for fatally bad writing. they are f*&^%ing up the whole show and opportunity to create something seriously bad ass but its like they are all no-talent high schoolers or something trying to write a show and managing only to create D-quality crap that is sometimes a mid-B range.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just want to point out a very confusing part for me regarding Carl shooting the teenager: they clearly say "drop" the gun to the teenager but the teenager tries to hand it over to Carl (the whole time I was thinking it was a trick for the teenager to get close to Carl to subdue him).

    So I was confused when everyone remembers the situation and is outraged but they never talk about the teenager not complying with the command to DROP the gun and not hand it over(Carl saying he drew, the old man saying he was giving up, etc). I would have shot him, also, after saying DROP the gun again instead of not saying anything!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Me thinks your criticism pales in the success of the show. . It would seem that many people disagree with your opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I watched all the season of The Walking Dead cause I keep on thinking it'll get better and it never does. I was very disappointed with the finale. I hated seeing "If Daryl dies, we riot" shirts and crap like that on my Facebook feed. The show is okay but nothing special and the only reason why a lot of people watch it is for Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon). A lot of people will deny that but let's be honest, Norman's fan girls trump those who watch it because it's a good show or fans of the comic book. I think "Horror from the Grave" put it best when Zero and Jamie said it's like a soap opera with zombies appearing time to time.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRYREgtsfGA

    ReplyDelete
  7. Check out the walking dead facebook page. I think people are starting to catch on that this is garbage tv that had great potential and squandered it all. Mostly negative comments after finale.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I just got finished checking it out. Wow, I guess folks are catching on. It took 'em long enough. There are some people that are saying how long they have to wait until October when season four starts. People with no life, I suppose. What they should do, instead of going on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr making these stupid graphics that have a countdown till the next TWD episode, they should watch Romero's zombie films and Lucio Fulci's zombie films too and maybe just maybe they'll really wake up and see TWD for what it really is.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I forgot to add, I wrote a blog post about this show last year. Here's the link if you wanna check it out.
    http://varioustopics1.blogspot.com/2012/09/overrated-overhyped.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm going to start reading your blog. Your posts about TWD are pretty much spot on. But I will say this. I just don't understand why EVERYONE seems to think Rick should have moved the group to Woodbury. Even filled with walkers, the Prison is far more defendable than Woodbury. Rick doesn't have half the manpower the Gov had to defend a long wall the Gov's men couldn't even guard themselves. Rick and Friends did sneak in TWICE to cause trouble.

    ReplyDelete