Monday, November 19, 2012

Viewers Hounded By THE WALKING DEAD

Another episode of tv's highest-rated zombie soap has just meandered by, and I must confess "Hounded," this week's mangy melodrama, has me somewhat up a tree. What manner of creature is this? Certainly not the lovable, lop-eared flea-bag suggested by the title. The episode isn't good, yet it seems wrong to call it a turkey, because TWD has set such an appalling standard for full-blown turkey-ism. I suppose I could just cut-and-paste my review of "Walk With Me," from a few week's ago:

"Insofar as viewer expectations are concerned, the breathtaking idiocy and awfulness that, in season 2, became its standard succeeded in setting the bar so low that anything that isn't just as breathtakingly awful and idiotic can't help but seem a significant improvement."

To an extent, "Hounded" has changed my mind about how to properly evaluate this particular species, though. Being an improvement over the absolute rubbish that constitutes TWD's regular output doesn't seem enough to earn it any praise anymore. I certainly have none for it. I don't have much of anything for it. Up a tree. It's that kind of episode.

It's mostly filler, but pointing this out doesn't really seem to say anything. Most of what happens on TWD these days is filler.

Absolutely nothing interesting happens. Last week, the writers showed some of TWD's patented Character Development by having Rick instantly go from being Rick to the way-over-the-top bad tv/movie version of Stark Raving Mad. He spent this week's ep taking imaginary phone calls from dead people,[1] while the writers rolled out another example of their skills in this area; a thug from Woodbury, part of Merle's merry band out to murder Michonne, goes from pissing-his-pants scared and practically having to be dragged around to, in a span of mere minutes, gung-ho stone killer, who wants to pursue Michonne into a zombie-infested area, and openly defies Merle. At this last, Merle, in what I'd like to see as a bit of metatextual commentary by actor Michael Rooker,[2] draws his gun and blows the guy's head off.

Some of the characters from the prison meet some of the characters from Woodbury. Nothing very interesting, there, either. In the comic, the Governor had gleefully descended into abject barbarism, the living embodiment of everything bad the Brave New World of the undead could do to someone. The prison, on the other hand, was a community where the characters tried to maintain some semblance of the prior civilization. All of this has been removed from the television version, replaced with empty melodrama and a standard-issue b-movie villain. A conflict is coming, and this week brought it a step closer, but it's without substance, and it's hard to give a damn about it.

"Hounded" is aggressively mediocre, an episode that, like several this year, gives off a vibe that even the awful writers behind TWD have lost interest in it.[3] It's a challenge to write something interesting about such an episode. To consistently do so about repeated eps of this caliber is really tough. It could be argued I chose poorly when I made TWD the subject of my first foray into weekly blogging about a series,[4] but looking back over my output, it hasn't been so bad. Even when I was feeling quite burned out, I still managed to say something. This week, a proper metaphor may elude me, as "Hounded" is neither fish nor fowl, but it is rather foul, and perhaps the fact that I've made it this far through such a generally subpar series but find myself so entirely uninspired by this week's offering says enough.



[1] UPDATE (19 Nov., 2012) - The writers are bringing the same skills and thoughtfulness to Rick's "character arc" this season as last. In season 2, the gutsy, smart, take-charge leader-of-men Rick from S1 was arbitrarily devolved, suddenly written as weak-willed, indecisive, overly emotional, and dumb, just so he could "evolve" (revolve?) back to some semblance of a leader. This season, he was written as instantaneously transforming from Rick to this cartoon version of madness presently playing itself out--so entirely insane that he's already taking imaginary phone-calls and hearing the voices in his head. Rick eventually got to a point of near-madness in the comic, but he went through a lot worse for a lot longer before he started having imaginary conversations. The stress of leadership--which was much worse in the comic--had taken him frighteningly close to the breaking-point several times. Unlike the television version, Rick and Lori had a good marriage. He and his wife loved one another, and losing her, after everything else, was just more than he could bear. The television version stripped away all of that development, in favor of Just Add Water Instant Lunatic. Paradoxically, it stripped away most of his reasons for becoming crazy in the first place--his "marriage" was a poisonous thing he'd basically abandoned--while at the same time making him much crazier than he was in the comic.

[2] And I'd like to see it that way because Rooker really is great at what he does, and far better than the material he's being given, here.

[3] Speaking of disinterest, the characters couldn't be bothered to search for Carol last week. After she disappeared, they simply declared her dead, without a trace of evidence for this, and even dug a grave, which they then filled in with dirt and marked with her name. She turned up alive this ep.

[4] I'd argue it!


Something else:  During last week's baby formula fiasco, we were told the group had failed to find any formula during any of their scavenging throughout the entire 9 months of Lori's pregnancy, and discussed having to drive a long distance to even look for any. Then, they manage to find some almost immediately after they start looking for it. In "Hounded," they find a huge supply of it at the store just down the road from the prison.


  1. This show killed my spirit. I don't have the power to flame it anymore. It's that good!

  2. There really wasn't much to say this week. I couldn't bring myself to delve in too deeply either. Rick's storyline was pure filler. And like last week, he went way, way over the top with the TV crazies. Only to clean-up nice, hold his baby and return to relative sanity.

    I lose respect for Andrea every episode. Why did the TV show turn her into such a bimbo?

    I like your meta approach to Merle/Rooker. The character Rooker is playing is very different from the Merle we saw in Season 1. Heck, he changes from scene to scene. I sort of think that he's just being himself. I imagine the show as Michael Rooker running around the set of The Walking Dead with an arm-mounted pig sticker.

    I'd say Rooker takes no prisoners, but he does.

    My favorite head scratcher of the week was when Rooker/Merle gives up his hunt of Michonne. He actually kills a guy to avoid following her into the "red zone". And then, a few scenes later, they both wind up at the same place by coincidence. How is that possible if they both went in different directions?

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  5. really share your exact opinion on TWD, and enjoy that you explain and clarify WHY all these episodes are ridiculous.
    but it's still fun watching and comparing to the comics.

  6. @Lebeau, oddly enough, I just added an update about Rick's ridiculous "character arc" this season. The business about him having imaginary conversations should be a major turning-point for the character, but it comes across exactly as you describe it--as pure filler. Something being used for no other purpose than to eat up screen-time. His Descent Into Madness is totally unconvincing, and yet another example of carrying over something from the comic then changing all of the circumstances that led to it in the original version until it doesn't even make sense anymore. On tv, he has no real reason to go crazy, but is, paradoxically, written as far more insane than he ever was in the comic.

    @Haunted Even, good catch on that matter of manpower. Merle can't have a few guys--or even go himself--to search for his brother, but they can send a team after Michonne so GINO can have her head.

    Thanks to everyone for the comments.

  7. what's the story with Michonne just now realizing that zombiestuff keeps zombies from wanting to bite you? didn't she have two zombies chained to her for months for that very purpose?
    Still my favorite scene of last night was the guys guts pouring all over her. Love you Nicotero.

  8. You really don't see the reason that he feels the need to go after Michonne and not trying to find Daryll?

    Are you even paying attention to the show?

    Has Daryll ever been in Woodbury? Can he expose the governer for what he knows about him?

    Now ask yourself those same two questions about Michonne?

    Now go ahead and make the argument about who she's going to expose him to, becasue you are about to see that in the next episode when she meets Rick nad his group of survivors!

  9. Anon 10:43,

    Did someone make a logical explanation of why your show is a complete writing disaster?


  10. Yeah it does kinda make sense that the Governor don't want his most useful henchman leaving to search for a brother no one knows where is but he does want revenge over the woman who defied him.

    Of course the rest of it makes little sense. Why send the three greenest rookies to help catch a bad ass ninja, unless of course the plan is for Merle to kill them after they take down Michonne because people can't know that Governor wants her head.

    But really if that's the case just let us hear Governor tell Merle that. It's not like the show is super subtle in other parts.

    Also funny to consider how risky it is for Merle to bend over and scream at the kid while zombies and Michonne is in the area.

  11. I just hope the dynamic between Rick's crew and Michonne is a little more rewarding than what I saw of her so far.

    In terms of the complexity of her characterisation, I am feeling short-changed. Have they even tried to explore her character yet? From what I have seen so far she is either an incredibly wooden actor, has poor direction on set or has an incredibly crappy script written for her role.

    Her 'visual' introduction to culminate season 2 was compelling, but since then all she has shown is a bit of zombie-smarts and an unlikely handiness with a sword.

    Her morality is clouded, her motivation unknown. One moment she is nursing Andrea, the next cutting down survivors for their crimes of association with Governor. Her inability to articulate herself to Andrea made me wonder how they lasted 9 months on the run, and really explains why Andrea would ditch her at the first opportunity.

    I haven't read the comics so I have no pre-conceptions on her character, what she will do in the future, or how integral she is to the story arc. All I know is that at the present, she is merely a 'Charlie's Angel' kick-ass chick representation, with the (un)compelling dialogue to match.