Monday, February 20, 2012

WALKING DEAD Gives Viewers the "Triggerfinger"

Another week, another episode of THE WALKING DEAD, and here I am writing about it again. "Triggerfinger," this week's installment, instantly become the best TWD of this season, and by a wide margin. Rather than thinking this a turnaround for the series, one should bear that judgment in mind when reading the rest of this.

This was the best we've seen of TWD this season because of the first 20 minutes, which allegedly picks up immediately after the events of "Nebraska." Allegedly, because, once again, the writers have paid absolutely no attention to their own continuity. I'll get back to that in a moment, though.

First, the set-up: Lori, having survived the car wreck at the end of the writers' last effort to prove all women are just stupid bitches, struggles to survive zombies looking for road-kill, while, in town, Rick, Glenn, and Hershel are involved in a tense shootout and escape with a gaggle of thugs. Rick shot some no-accounts from Philly at the end of the last episode; their buddies turn up, looking for some payback. For 20 minutes, we get some pretty good drama, for television. By the standards of this season's TWD, it's great drama.

As the situation unfolds, the thugs are driven off by the combined efforts of our heroes and of hordes of zombies who appear in town,[1] but they leave, for dead, one of their own, a young fellow who took a leap off a building and ended up with his leg skewered by an iron fence-post. Our heroes don't want to shoot such a youthful specimen, but if they leave him, he'll be eaten by the encroaching corpses, so they struggle to free him as the hungry dead creep closer and closer.

It's a pretty good set-up, a pretty good scene, and more in line with the spirit of TWD than anything that has happened this season. They're trying to get that guy off the fence as the walkers are closing in. They're blasting away, but there's too many, a whole army of the dead within a few feet of them. They're nearly out of ammo. It seems hopeless. In a desperation move, Rick forcibly rips the guy's leg free, and we cut to a commercial. A great cliffhanger.

Can't wait to see what happens next? Too bad, because--believe it or not--the situation is resolved off camera. The show never returns to it.

Instead, it just returns to form. And the farm. The writers throw out the drag-weights, kill the momentum, bring everything to a halt, and spend most of the rest of the episode wallowing in the pointless, overwrought soap melodrama that has become TWD's trademark this season. Baby-daddy melodrama, love triangle melodrama, Maggie relating what hack writers mistake for a fond remembrance of an incident involving her now-ill sister[2]

In order to clear the slate for all of this rubbish, Rick, Glenn, and Hershel don't even return to the farm until the next day! That brings me to "Triggerfinger's" epic continuity snarl, another element that has become a TWD trademark.

Two episodes ago, it was morning on TWD. Lori was chopping carrots for lunch, Andrea and Daryl were waiting to start the day's search for Sophia, Rick and Hershel were herding zombies, and Shane pitched his little fit and freed the walkers in the barn. Last episode, we pick up at that same moment. Hershel goes to town to drink away his troubles, Beth falls ill, Rick and Glenn go to retrieve Hershel, Lori tells Andrea to watch Carl, goes to retrieve everyone, and crashes her car. A pair of thugs show up at the bar, and, after a brief conversation, draw on Rick, and he blasts them.[3] That's the precise moment at which "Triggerfinger" picks up, except it's now suddenly night outside, total darkness that only falls over a Georgia summer well after 9 p.m.[4]

Where did all that time go? Did Lori crack up her car and lie in it for several hours? That's plausible, but did Rick really shoot that last thug, then just stand there, in a raised-gun pose over him, for a few hours? That's where we rejoined Rick in this week's episode. Maybe he just wanted to make really, really sure the guy was dead before lowering his weapon, but that doesn't explain why Glenn and Hershel would stand there beside him also looking at the dead guy for all that time.

What it really means, of course, is that those behind TWD are once again showing the same lack of concern with keeping straight their continuity as the soaps on which they've patterned their series. Amusingly, someone in the writers' room didn't get the memo, and was still working from what had been established--when, back at the farm, Lori's disappearance is finally noted at dinner, Carl says the last time he saw her was "this afternoon." That fits with everything up to this week's installment, but can't be squared with anything else in "Triggerfinger."

So hours of daylight have just been made to disappear. Assuming that darkness had only just fallen--and we must, because it was bright daylight outside right up to the beginning of this episode--that means we've still got plenty of night left. The shootout with the gunmen happens in real time, without ellipses. After Rick frees the skewered thug, there are several pressing matters. Hershel had made it very clear the fellow speared by the fence would need immediate medical care. Back at the farm, Beth, Hershel's daughter, was also urgently in need of the medical attention only Hershel could provide. The rest of the characters at the farm needed to be immediately told there was an unknown number of armed hostiles in the area. Night had fallen, a time when it's extremely dangerous to be out in the open. Our heroes should have been looking to return to the farm immediately.

Our writers, on the other hand, are looking to wallow in the usual melodrama, so these pressing matters are simply pressed aside to that end. The characters in town disappear from the timeline as if kidnapped by UFOs, returning to the farm some time the next morning. As they drive up, it's well into the morning, too. The sun is high. Everyone is preparing to go look for them. They've somehow managed to turn what should have been a flight back to the farm of only a few minutes[5] into one that took 12 hours or more.[6]

In other news, it's the same old story. TWD's misogyny holds firm--the "empowered" Andrea aligned herself even more strongly with Shane this week. Mind-numbing repetition being the soul of TWD, the awful writing from the past was revisited: Dale again talked to Andrea about Shane, listened to her tell him Shane had done more to ensure the survival of the group than anyone, including Rick, and, yet again, he failed to tell her about what kind of man Shane really is. Beth continues to be seriously ill, having collapsed, last episode, after tussling with a zombie, and, again, no one thinks to check her for zombie-inflicted injuries or even voices any concern that she could be infected by the zombie bug. Glenn continues to have cold feet about Maggie for completely ridiculous reasons.[7] The usual story.

This episode had a very strong opening, but in the end, it continued the series' habit of giving the viewers a finger. The one proffered is not the "Triggerfinger."


[1] While, theoretically, it seems entirely appropriate to feature zombies in the midst of a zombie holocaust, the sudden appearance of the creatures, particularly in such large numbers, was a jarring change for TWD this season. We've seen parts of the town a few times, but we've only ever seen one zombie there (one that apparently magically teleported into the local drug-store). The town has been deserted. No damage. No trash in the street. No bodies. No indication that much of anything, like, say, the end of the world, has even happened.

[2] One that, in this case, goes absolutely nowhere, and seems inserted for no other purpose than establishing a Maggie/Andrea rapport as a way of setting up something later.

[3] During all of this, it was bright sunlight outside. They walked through it. You could see it through the windows. It was quite bright in the bar, with no electricity, lanterns, candles, or light of any kind. It was bright daylight when Lori wrecked her car.

[4] Later than that, in the early summer, but it's probably late summer on TWD now.

[5] UPDATE: In the episode in which Maggie and Glenn take the first of two very leisurely horseback rides into town and back, Maggie says it's about a mile up the road. Rick and co. are, of course, driving a truck.

[6] Upon arrival, they rush the injured boy, Randall, into surgery, though he should be dead or well beyond their ability to help, by that point (he's gone untreated for half a day).

[7] Glenn's behavior with regard to Maggie in the last two episodes is indicative of a few of the bad habits of the writers. Because they insist on rendering everything through the lens of overwrought soap melodrama, no relationship is allowed to just be a happy one; every one of them has to be made dysfunctional in some way. At the same time, the writers get so lost in their purloined soap opera "storylines" that they completely lose sight of the premise of the show and how it should affect the characters. Glenn has found a woman who, after he chased her for several episodes, loves him, and, instead of clinging to her, he's pushing her away because he's unsure about whether she could really be in love (his story in "Nebraska"), then because she gives him something for which to live (his story in "Triggerfinger"). Those may form some basis for friction in a relationship on some brainless daytime soap, but on TWD, the world has ended, and this behavior is absolutely ridiculous.

[Cross-posted to my comics blog]


  1. Nothing really to add. You're right on the money on this one.

  2. Good stuff and I really enjoy your writing. I watched this last night and during the opening was wondering why was it dark now? Best epdisode this season so far just because of the first half.

  3. spot on. the writers/producers should be lynched for what is a series that continues to insult the viewers intelligence and take fans loyalty for granted...

    That cut at the commercials was as if they couldn't wait to get back to the tedium of that fucking farm!

  4. I just wanted to see if your blog was as stupid as the comments you make at IMDB. It is. Only an idiot needs every miniscule detail pointed out to them and explained on camera. The "bad writing" meme is getting old. Every time you are not sharp enough to understand what is going on in the show or fail to pick up on a clue that was given, to shout "bad writing" makes you look stupid.