Monday, November 26, 2012

When THE WALKING DEAD Come Knocking, Don't Bother Rocking

Way back in the first season of THE WALKING DEAD, it was established that zombies can differentiate the living from the dead by their scent. A stupid "rule," to be sure,[1] and one the series writers have since acknowledged or ignored depending entirely on the momentary needs of their "plot." This week's episode began where last week's left off. Michonne, with a gunshot wound to the leg, has managed to make her way to the prison. Having been covered with a gout of zombie gore last week, she can travel among the dead until the writers arbitrarily decide this no longer works, which, it so happens, is just at the moment she reaches the prison and is discovered, and just at the moment the wound is about to overcome her. There's no rain or anything to wash off the smell, as in the first time this trick was used--it just suddenly doesn't mask her anymore,[2] providing the episode's first moments of gratuitous zombie action.

Rick and co. rescue her, but are, of course, distrustful of a stranger. She tells them about the capture of Glenn and Maggie, about Woodbury, and about GINO, but, this being TWD, she fails to offer a word about Andrea, though she knows this is Andrea's group, and describes Merle, whose brother she knows is present, as merely the son of a bitch who shot her.

The gang decides to mount a rescue mission,[3] and that's pretty much the end of their story for this week. Not that it's the last we see of them, mind you. It's just the last thing they do that matters. The rest of their time, which is substantial, is spent trying to sneak up on Woodbury. They encounter a crazy old hermit, lots of zombies (more gratuitous action), and basically just act out a lot of filler scenes that had no other purpose than eating up as much screen-time as possible in order to delay, until the end, their arrival at the walls of Woodbury.

Speaking of filler, the Woodbury material this week features a pointless sub-plot wherein Andrea is asked to assist in an experiment studying how much of one's human consciousness survives when one zombifies. It's another one of those moments that inadvertently feature a dead-on metatextual commentary--in this case, it's on the translation of TWD from page to screen. Andrea isn't the subject of this experiment--she's just there to kill the creature when, it turns out, nothing worthwhile survives the transition.[4]

The rest of the Woodbury material is devoted to interrogating Glenn and Maggie. Andrea is now literally in bed with GINO, but, this, again, being TWD, the idea of using her to get info from them is never even broached. Instead, it's right to Merle. He isn't feeling very subtle this day, either. He roughs up Glenn, who takes the beating admirably, then, with Glenn's arms duct-taped to a chair, unleashes a zombie on him! Taped-down Glenn vs. the zombie in a junk-filled room makes for a really good sequence. Given that Merle is trying to find his brother and get info on the larger group for his boss, his actions don't make a lick of sense (one of his underlings even points this out to him later), but when Merle is pissed off, he isn't the sharpest tack in the box, and TWD can sort of get away with this one. GINO does, however, decides to handle the interrogation of Maggie personally. She's entirely unhelpful. GINO has her partially strip, and stands poised to rape her. In the comic, the Governor was a monstrous sexual sadist who would do this sort of thing at great length just for the fun of it, but this is GINO the Liam Lesser, tv's kinder, gentler "Governor," and he decides to spare Maggie (and the viewers) such an ugly scene. Instead, he puts Maggie and Glenn in a room together, puts a gun to Glenn's head, and Maggie spills the beans about the prison, giving up her father, sister, and friends to GINO and his thugs when a lie would have worked just as well.

As the episode is about to wrap, we get some interesting cinematography, the camera gliding along the group outside the walls of Woodbury, into the town, and on to Andrea, who was, at the time, walking by that same section of wall (apparently, the only section of wall the budget allows). The ending provides what, for my money, is the absolute worst moment, to date, of TWD's character assassination of Andrea--after we've witnessed GINO's very bad behavior, Andrea luxuriates in his arms, with a warm smile at his soothingly reassuring words.

And that was it. Mostly just another delaying-action to get to the last ep before the mid-season break.[5]



[1] Drawn, to be fair, from the comic.

[2] The episode suggests the zombies suddenly realize Michonne is alive because of the blood from her gunshot wound, but by the time she'd gotten to the prison, she'd already lost so much blood she collapsed, and the zombies had taken no note until, again, it was (melo)dramatically convenient. The vampiric zombie angle, wherein zombies pursue blood, was, in any case, added to the series very late--only toward the end of last season--and it's another ill-advised "rule" the writers follow or ignore on momentary whims. Zombies, when feeding, never attack one another, even though they're generally covered in fresh gore. This very episode offered an example of that when the crazy hermit was eaten. Actually, TWD's creators apparently couldn't afford to do the effect of a body being eaten (likely a consequence of Mazzara's throw-zombies-at-the-problems approach stretching the budget too thin), so they just threw in footage of their "zombie horde" scraping what looked like spilled Glidden off a bare porch floor and called it a feeding frenzy. All the zombies with a hand in it are covered with gore, yet no zombies bit pieces off any other zombies. Nor have we ever seen them do such a thing. Rewinding, the second-season opener had shown T-Dog slashing his arm open on a car door. The astonishingly copious arterial blood-spray that followed nearly made him black out, and probably should have killed him (an overdone effect). Instead, Daryl was able to put a dead body on top of him, and an entire herd of zombies--hundreds of them--marched right over him and the gore he's sprayed everywhere and never noticed a thing. And so on.

[3] Michonne had lost so much blood, she'd lost consciousness moments earlier, but after Hershel apparently applies some of his magic healing potion, she's rarin' to go, and accompanies the gang on their rescue mission.

[4] Two eps back, Rick had, for no real reason other than eating up running-time, instantaneously gone Stark Raving Mad. Last week, he was so insane, he spent the entire episode taking imaginary phone calls from dead people. This week, all of that is gone, and he's back to being Rick again--not even a trace of the extreme mental illness he'd previously exhibited. Perhaps Hershel's, off screen, administered some of his patent magical healing potion. Hey, it works on everything else--why not madness?

[5] And inspiring, by my estimation, one of my subbier sub-standard articles.


  1. Why do you call him GINO?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Governor. In. Name. Only.

  4. @Overhamsteren, GINO is an acronym for the Governor In Name Only. The Governor is the character from the comic, a truly vicious fellow who had descended into abject barbarism. GINO is the kinder, gentler "Governor" of the series, a standard-issue b-movie villain, played as a Liam Neeson impersonator.

    @Haunted Eve, during the time when Hershel insisted the dead were merely sick--and it's still hilarious that, on TWD, a trained physician can't tell the difference between alive and dead, and was feeding his "sick patients" raw chickens--no one mentioned what happened at the CDC, either. This is, to me, a relatively small fault--Jenner was a bit off his rocker by the end, and we've already seen that the dead retain some sort of memory (Morgan's wife returning home). The dead are a lot more interesting as twisted reflections of humans; I'm more disapproving of the writers' efforts to separate them so entirely from their previous humanity.

  5. And the virgin coward strikes again. You're such a frustrated little man it's not even funny.

  6. I doubt if Andrea knows about Penny, but it is obvious that Milton is carrying out the experiments to help her. Andrea isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she's smart enough to know that what the governor wants, the governor gets. There isn't much point in telling what she knows about the CDC.

  7. Lol at Hershel's magical healing. One thing that bugs me is, when Merle was interrogating Glen and refers to Maggie as "The farmer's girl" or something like that. When did they mention that Maggie was from the farm? Did they have a nice little chat on the drive into Woodbury? I didn't take the phone call episode as Rick going insane, I thought it was more like Rick coping with grief and guilt, his wife is gone and they never resolved their differences, they were beginning to but now its too late and he regrets it. Then because its the death of his wife, it opened the doors to the guilt of people from their group who had died while he was leader. He grieved and then remembered that he is still the leader of a group and he has a job to protect them the best he can. People grieve in different ways, he could have just as easily get into a fight with Daryl, beat the crap out of each other to feel better and give him a wake up call, but it wouldn't show the audience the other reasons why he acted the way he did. The guy in the woods was pointless, I was sure they would have easily killed the ambush of zombies. If it was used to prove Michonne's worth to the group, taking out zombies would have had the same outcome, to me anyway. I mean who wouldn't want someone on their team who is good at killing zombies?