Sunday, November 29, 2015

From Start To Finish, THE WALKING DEAD Drags

Tonight's WALKING DEAD turned out to be another rather dull affair. The damaged tower outside the wall chose the final moments of the previous ep to fall and take out a portion of the safe zone wall, allowing in the dead. "From Start To Finish" consisted of everyone fleeing the wave of the dead, taking shelter in various houses then mostly just standing around engaged in some of TWD's patented stupidity and making some of TWD's patented speeches instead of doing anything about their predicament.[1] Near the end, Rick suddenly remembers the ol' cover-yourself-in-zombie-stink-camo trick and his group walk out the door between the zombies. The end.

That's the 10 minutes worth of plot that was used to fill tonight's ep. Some of the details:

Glenn arrived outside the safe zone in the last episode. He saw the tower fall and the zombies enter town. An obvious course of action would be to walk back to one of the many cars that, during the herding operation, the Alexandrians parked a short distance from the zone, drive it up, lay down on the horn for a bit and try to lure the zombies away. Instead, he just stands around throughout the entire ep, speechifying with Enid, watching the zombies to-ing and fro-ing, doing nothing.

Rick is the only one who even addresses a potential course of action, if one can apply that label to what he suggests. He wants to stand around and do nothing for a while until, hopefully, the dead bunch up somewhere convenient for him, he can slip out and get to the armory without being eaten and maybe use flares to draw them away. No hurry, though. Rick could, of course, do this right away using the zombie-stink camo trick he employs 20 minutes later--no need to lazily wait around while people elsewhere in the zone are probably fighting for their lives and dying--but TWD is still lost in self-parody mode, so as has been the case throughout this season, memory of that particular technique is turned on and off depending on whether its convenient to what the writers want to arbitrarily happen next. If Rick were to do this right away, it would preclude burning through yet another ep with idle chatter, therefore Rick only thinks of it near the end when his situation deteriorates.

His situation deteriorates because Ron, being an idiot, is all teen angsty over what he sees as Coral trying to steal his girl and with an army of the dead outside (and he's trapped inside with, among others, Rick and Michonne), he decides that's the perfect moment to try to kill his rival for Enid's hand. Only on TWD. He makes his move and in the utterly pointless struggle that ensues ends up smashing a door and letting the dead into the home in which he and most of our heroes are holed up.[2]

Morgan and Carol end up in the same place together. Carol gets it in her head to go downstairs and kill the Wolf whom Morgan has stashed there. Morgan decides he won't let that happen. There's a brief struggle, Morgan strikes down Carol, even though she'd earlier suffered a concussion,[3] the Wolf gets Morgan's stick and brains him with it then manages to escape with a gun and the town's doctor in tow.[4] The Wolf  had promised to kill everyone and having him simply leave without harming anyone after he'd gotten the drop on his captor and five others reeked of a major cop-out, an effort to keep Morgan around a little longer.

Whenever a TWD finale comes along, be it mid- or full-seasonal, the primary question on everyone's mind is "Who is going to die?" It would be nice to have a TWD that encouraged people to look forward to watching for some reason other than what "shocking" death will happen in the finale. This time around, Morgan was the only major player who had been overtly set up for death but I've thought it quite unlikely he'd have finally been brought on as a regular only to be destroyed so soon. My instincts proved correct; TWD opted for a redshirt. Earlier this evening, Arnold Blumberg, the "Doctor of the Dead,"[5] was on Twitter running a poll on "who's going down tonight." I chimed in with my guess:

...which turned out to be correct. Deanna has been doing little more than standing around making grotesque faces and, worse, plans for the future lately. If the axe was going to fall on one of the minors, she was the obvious pick. She was bitten by a zombie near the beginning, spent the ep dying and engaging in the usual Dying People cliche's (giving last speeches aimed at imparting hope to those who will go on, writing notes to those left behind, getting to see the baby "once last time," etc.)[6] and ultimately went out like an idiot, wasting the ammo she'd intended to use on herself on the zombies approaching her, thus ensuring she'd suffer a needlessly horrible death being eaten alive by rotting monsters. No loss there.

The paper-thin plot for this entire season has taken place over a period of only about 24 hours and for weeks, TWD has been merely waging a delaying action aimed at doing as little as possible in order to stretch that plot to the bigger-audience finale. It's a rut into which the series has always fallen. In the end, this midseason finale arrived and we were given what looks more like just another delaying action.



[1] I'm not sure what sort of mind one must have to sit through this ep without greeting the characters' actions with utter incredulity. Everyone runs into houses but no one looks for potential weaknesses that would allow the dead access. Because of this, no one bothers to attempt to barricade any potential weak spots until the dead are already breaking in. For all the talk, talk, talk that consumes much of this ep, no one in any of the various groups talks about what they can do to deal with the situation--the thing that should be foremost on their minds. Only Rick gets a few throwaway lines regarding a potential plan but he's in no hurry. In what should be a fairly extreme emergency, there's no sense of urgency at all. As usual.

[2] Among those holed up there is Jessie's son Sam, who gives an all new definition of "annoying" to the Annoying Kid trope. He spends most of the ep in his room listening to a record of Tiny Tim playing "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" played in an endless loop. The world has ended, Tiny Tim goes on. On the other hand, one could see "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" played in an endless loop as a perfect metaphor for TWD.

[3] Carol suffers a concussion because, when the monsters break into town, she runs and--yes--falls, one of the particularly worn horror movie cliche's; by my count, TWD has used it three times this season. At least she didn't twist her ankle.

[4] The way in which he gets the gun and escapes is bullshit. the Wolf is hemmed into a corner with both Tara and Rosita pointing guns at him while he holds up a knife and threatens to stab the town doctor. In such a situation, one could see Tara giving up her weapon; she's a civilian and one with a personal stake in the matter--but Rosita could have dropped the guy before he even flinched. She doesn't strictly through arbitrary plot contrivance.

[5] And btw, Blumberg's "Doctor of the Dead" podcast is great, even if he is more of a fan of TWD than he should be.

[6] Deanna, who is on her death bead, gets up to see baby Judith that one last time. Rick walks up to check on her, sees Deanna is no longer in her bed then goes into the baby's room to find Deanna hunched over the crib--figuring Deanna had already died and turned, he rushed to kill her, stopping at the last moment when he realizes she's still alive. It provides for a cheap jump-scare and the "see the baby one last time" melodrama but how stupid can Deanna possibly be? She's probably only minutes away from death which will turn her into a flesh-eating monster and she goes into the baby's room?


  1. A couple thoughts on tonight's episode

    1. I think the zombie guts trick has always been a bad choice for both the comics and the show. It just dramatically undermines the threat zombies pose when you can fool them with such little risk of things going wrong. There is no reason you would not use the guts trick any time you left the confines of you base camp. I would think zombies would use both sense of smell and sight and since zombies do not eat each other then they should be able to tell the difference between a live human and a walker. Especially at point blank range.

    2. I thought we would see a bunch of red shirt Alexandrian getting torn apart this episode but the entire place just suddenly like a ghost town. I guess no one is fighting back except for our heroes? No one made a bee line for the armory in the entire safe zone?

    3. Another problem, did the Alexandrians not remember they have a pretty effective escape route in the sewer tunnel that maggie and aaron used earlier this season? Seems it would be a useful thing to use to escape now that walkers have flooded the town.

    4. The wolves have been built up as a brutal big bad since season 5. We see them callously hacking people to death with machetes this season. But when the last wolf survivor who has promised to kill people finally gets his hands on a pistol and is confronted with an unarmed Eugene, Rosita, and Tara he somehow fails to pull the trigger? I didn't buy this at all.

    1. The zombie guts trick was always a bad idea and shouldn't have been introduced into either the comic or series. But once it's there, it's canon. One has to deal with it. And when, as has happened throughout this season, it's forgotten by everyone, that's very bad writing. Earlier this season, Michonne was trying to get a group of Alexandrians back to the safe zone, which had teleported to a much greater distance than it had previously been. One of her group got shot, another twisted an ankle. She could have used the zombie guts trick and walked them all back to the safe zone at whatever pace she liked. Instead, it was simply forgotten, even as they found zombies in the building with them. At any point in the last two eps, anyone could have used this technique, gotten past the zombies, returned to one of the parked cars and use it to lure them away. No one bothers.

      Likewise, that drain was introduced solely to allow that little Maggie melodrama to play out then was instantly forgotten.

      The Wolf failing to kill anyone after repeatedly promising to kill everyone is a cop-out, a means of preserving Morgan as a regular for a little longer. He's just become a regular and it's difficult to believe but he has been marked for death

    2. The writers could lampshade all of these issue a million ways, but they don't. even. bother. That's the most insulting part. They think we're goldfish or something. Or worse, they actually are.

      How this show has a 90% on Rotten tomatoes is beyond me. The Walking, Grandstanding, Inexplicably Stupid, Thoroughly Interchangeable, Uninteresting Dead.

      Z Nation has a better first season, with all its camp, than all 6 seasons of TWD.

      Btw just found this, so thanks for writing these essays out. I felt like I was going nuts watching this show and seeing so much praise everywhere. It has a few moments of revival now and then, scattered few and far between the seasons. Not to begrudge anyone else their enjoyment, I just can't anymore. Are you going to keep writing these? I'd just read these directly.

    3. Amen brother. I found Riddle's blog and dead honest reviews about midway through season three and it saved my sanity. Watching the second season melt away as characters living in an apocalypse stood around, chewing weeds on the farm and creating drama in arguments over who left the cap off the toothpaste tube because the zombies and basic survival had become a minor inconvenience. To meet the zombie quota, our heroes dangle Glenn as bait to lure a bloated zombie out of a well he has been pissing, shitting and bleeding in for days or weeks, because shooting him might contaminate the water.

      I searched every Monday for a review which would call this show for the trope-filled, nonsensical disaster it had become under Mazzara, but found nothing but one huge circle-jerk of critics and reviewers praising this mess as riveting television. I began to think I had lost cognitive abilities because all I saw was shit where seemingly everyone else saw gold. FINALLY, I somehow stumbled on to Lebeau's blog and life made sense again as he seemed to see that the Emperor had no clothes and he was an obese, Jabba-the-hut physical specimen. From Lebeau's blog I was led here to Riddle's brutally honest and funny blog and I knew that most of the rest of the world lost their marbles or were so hard up to see a zombie for just a minute, that they would sit through fifty minutes of this poor excuse for a soap opera. Thanks Riddle for saving my sanity!

    4. You guys are great. Anon, I probably am going to keep writing these. It's partially a discipline by this point. During TWD's second season, I became extremely notorious around the internet as the show's arch-critic/-fiend and I've always believed this is at least partly because I was saying some things about the series that lots of people had been thinking but no one was writing. The internet and, more broadly, mainstream criticism had all fallen under AMC's spell, where, actually, most of them have remained. Even six seasons in, Lebeau and I and a few others are the only consistent critical voices. This has, however, proven to be the season TWD has finally started to lose the love of the mainstream critical establishment but that's a ridiculous comment on that establishment. The show isn't really doing much any differently than it has been for years. It's just that the better eps that started to turn up in season 4 have gone away and all the other things that were used for so long to mask the problems have become old hat; the shiny objects used to distract viewers are now worn and tarnished and can't hold the attention anymore. I saw this coming last season, even predicted it on this blog.

      Writing about TWD may have saved my own sanity and in a real, rather than strictly metaphorical, way. When I wrote my first TWD piece, I was in a very, very dark place--the darkest to which I've ever been--and had been for some time. That article poured out of me like the Luftwaffe had just hit whatever dam had been holding it back. With TWD, I proved to myself I could still write and regularly and it not be crap.

    5. Absolutely. I wish I'd found this blog earlier because it could have helped with that exasperation. You were lucky, season 3? (Could have been luckier of course). It's even more absurd that it gets rave reviews when so many people can clearly see its moment-to-moment stupidity, and worse, its dullness. It nowhere near deserves to occupy the same tier of ratings as say.. Game of Thrones.

      It's not like TV hasn't had excellent programming in the recent past: for people to accept any semblance of drama where they could find it. AMC alone had two of the best shows in recent decades. For all its airs of being high drama, TWD is nothing but a mostly-airy bag of manufactured chips. And for all its run time, it's surprising how much of it is completely vacuous. So the ever-increasing rise in viewership is baffling to me.

      And to speak to your point, that people would sit through hours of TWD just to see zombies, then I hope Z Nation bleeds viewers away. The Z may stand for Zany just as often as Zombie, but at least it doesn't have any pretentious affectations. I wish there was a sincere show that mixed high drama with the apocalypse, but if it's zombies you want, don't squander your expectations on The Wasted Breath.

      When basic survival became a mere inconvenience (on the farm and now in Alexandria), the show had a chance to prove itself. That it didn't need simple grotesquerie or forced circumstances to be appealing. That it could rely on imaginative issues, interesting characters, and thoughtful philosophy on reconstruction to propel the action when mere survival wasn't the problem. Mad Men didn't have zombies, Breaking Bad didn't have zombies, but they were binge-watches. This show is dead air populated by dead-horse tropes and imbeciles, with the obligatory "Look what our make-up department can do!"

      Now, so many seasons in, the final impression is settled like hard cement: I've been had. Let alone an insightful horror-drama about the fall of society and the improbable thereafter, we're never going to get anything better than this thin prop for bland, illogical melodrama. Episode after episode the show continues riddling a beloved premise with irremediable holes; and just like its subject matter, the show keeps lumbering on, insensate and relentlessly unchanging. I think I'll just walk away.

    6. Just noticed you had responded. It makes sense that your reviews spread out starting that time. Season 2 was a tar pit and it bewilders me that the show only kept gaining popularity. A few noteworthy moments here and there weren't enough to salvage that wreck. It was so disillusioning, because even while Season 1 felt average, it actually could have gotten better.

      I absolutely agree. All the distractions are stale now, if they ever could be considered effective. But so they figured they'll spring their ace, Negan, and rest on their merry laurels until he arrives. People will keep watching purely in anticipation, so screw investing any effort in writing actual substance.

      I sincerely hope the other reviews keep turning negative and they are forced to seriously reexamine their writing. I'm so surprised they haven't already had to. With the exception of the opener, so little happened this season, it's ridiculous. You're right, I guess we have the glimmers of hope from Season 4 to thank for the extended benefit of doubt.

      I'm glad writing about it helped. So there's something to be grateful for in the show lol. Keep doing you, and I'll be happy and grateful to read. I would never recommend the show to people, but if I did, it'd be along with a companion guide of these reviews.

  2. This show is now entirely off the rails. 10 hours of screentime and they haven't resolved a single damn thing.

  3. If you've seen that commercial (for an insurance company I think?) that sends up horror movie stupidity; (Group of teenagers being pursued by some murderous threat, the girl says: "Let's get in that empty running car" and one of the others: "Are you crazy? Let's hide behind those chainsaws!"), then you know that utterly pales in comparison to the endless deluge of moronic character actions and pathetic plot devices in TWD.

    1. Insurance Company? I thought that was a trailer for TWD.

  4. It's obvious that it's now a retread of season 5.

    No Sanctuary - JSS (Carol attempts to rescue people from chaos)
    Beth storyline of individual days stretched out - The walker walk stretched out and "playing with time"
    First three episodes' intensity - First three eps with Hunters storyline
    Slabtown - Here's Not Here (one-off ep, fourth episode)
    Self Help - Always Accountable (Abraham temper ep)
    Crossed - Heads Up (buildup filler ep)
    End with mid-season finale with no payoff - End with an anticlimactic mid-season finale

    But hot damn, this is some season 2-level shit. I understand if the reason they're padding stuff is if they're getting too close to the comics, but at least make something like "Still" and not like most of these episodes. Most of my friends who are typically diehard fans have noticed how awful this season's been stretched out, and one guy who used to watch alongside me even said FTWD was better, which says a lot (I haven't and am not planning to watch FTWD). I used to watch TWD despite its clear flaws because of guilty-pleasure entertainment; now it's downright frustrating. (I've moved on to much-better genre shows like Flash and SHIELD. They're not perfect, but they're doing better jobs than TWD right now).

    And the fact that IGN, AV Club, Rolling Stone and other typically fanboy websites are now clearly displaying the show's flaws (IGN & AV Club's arguments are slowly becoming similar to yours, e.g. stupidity, themes battered to death, etc) kinda says something about the deteriorating quality of the show. Even the comments section of the show clearly displays the dissatisfied fans.

    Also, I wonder why they've decided to use Morgan as a foil for Carol instead of the potential Morgan-Rick thing they've set up for the entire season 5. I mean, there could've been a lot of potential there, even though it would've been wasted anyway.

    (Also, I read somewhere that Carol deliberately injured herself so that she could sneak in Morgan's house and take out the Wolf.)

    My only hope for S6 being a retread of S5 is that they'll repeat the usually surprisingly solid second halves of the previous years. And that tag in the end is promising.

    1. Great catch on the pattern between seasons. It is clear that Gimple seems to break off the characters and have pointless one offs. This would be ok once in awhile, but it happens multiple times per season and the episodes frequently are not very high quality now.

      I predict next half of the season we will get at least an episode of Carol and Morgan going out in the woods and looking for Denise. They will spend the entire time philosophizing to each other on whether it is right to kill or not. They will probably run into some randoms who will be killed by the end of the episode.

    2. If what they're saying is right that Negan will show up in the finale, then they're going to considerably push the story faster, or slower, depending on how you see it. It's "faster" because compared to the single-volume No Way Out this first half adapted, they'll run through two/three volumes - What Comes After, A Larger World & parts of Something to Far. It's slower because in my opinion it's probably one of the slower arcs of the comic era (almost nothing really is in motion during that arc, just better dialogue haha).

      Also, I read somewhere that they cut a couple of scenes from the ep. One featured Spencer, Aaron and Heath fending off the walkers, while another is from the comic where Fr. Gabriel sorta redeems himself and uses his church as shelter for the Alexandrians, which in the ep before he joins Rick. Not sure if those scenes are any good, but it would've really helped the ep if they were as promising on paper.

    3. @The Joesen One, I probably wouldn't push those parallels with last season too strongly but only because it may tend to give the impression TWD isn't constantly recycling from its other seasons too. The rehashing is extensive. As Wolverine Smith pointed out here at the time, for example, "JSS" was definitely a significantly weaker rehash of "No Sanctuary."

      I've always rejected the notion that TWD is made to drag because it was trying not to overtake the comics. TWD ignores the comics. Huge amounts of comic material have always been left on the cutting-room floor in the adaptation. The show travesties what it does adapt and spends mos of its time doing things that were never in the comics at all.

      FTWD is TWD season 2 and 3. If you didn't like those, your decision not to watch it is wise.

      I've noticed the criticism is finally starting to show up in the ordinarily ass-kissing review locales, particularly over the matter of the Glenn cheat. I've thought about doing a post on it, because the weaknesses are often being described by these reviewers as a recent phenomenon and they're not.

    4. I personally think the review locales have been too forgiving at first, and view the show as guilty pleasure entertainment and the speeches as crowd-pleasing so-called "character development" (which is why people liked the boring "Consumed").

      AV Club caught early on in the season the persistent "Alexandrians must adapt or DIE!!!!" despite their early reviews. Each succeeding review kinda shows how gradually frustrated/annoyed he becomes. His review is quite entertaining and is quite similar to yours - Rick's a dumbass, Rick's still right, people are doing stupid stuff in the wrong times, etc.

      Also, Matt Negrete is the writer of "Start to Finish", so that kinda explains the stretchy, speech-y nature of this episode. It's a shame because he showed a lot of promise in "Spend", his last solo entry, which was a lot better than his usual melodramatic eps.

      This episode had good cinematography and music, so I can give them that.

    5. *despite the early positive reviews
      *annoyed the reviewer becomes

      dammit, what happened to the edit button in the comments section

  5. Wolf has gun pointed at 3 unarmed Alexandrians- fails to act within his character definition.

    Selective memories- suddenly the zombie guts camouflage is back in circulation.

    Speeches instead of action.

    This episode was poor, even by t.w.d standards.

    ' off the rails' is a very good description.

  6. Can we just start using 'dove under the dumpster'
    Indteae of jumpthe shark. Off the rails etc...
    That should be the walking deads legacy!

    1. This show has now completely dove under the dumpster. 10 hours of screentime and they haven't resolved a single damn thing.

  7. lol

  8. When the herd breaks in everyone is under a spell of incompetence. People getting injured because a tower fell down three hundred feet away, people falling, hitting their heads, landing on saws, having a real hard time evading slow ass moving zombies. The gut solution as a means to save themselves could be applied to have some people get out of Alexandria using the tunnel and drive the zombies away. But alas, that would be so smart for them, the writing dead couldn't deal with such a development. All in all, a worthy TWD middle season finale made by the brain dead for the brain dead. If you enjoyed it I'm happy for you, but stay the f away from me.

  9. Not only did Deanna waste her ammo, thereby becoming zombie chow, but by not blasting her brains out, she sentenced herself to walk with the dead, feasting on flesh until one of the characters with thick plot-armor pikes her in the skull. Stupid choice and wasn't as dramatic or cool as the writers thought it would be.

    As far as Rosita surrendering her gun, I agree; she could have made that shot from that distance a hundred times out of a hundred. Personally, I would have refused to give up the weapon and invited the Wolf to go ahead and slit her throat, thereby losing his shield. I would first promise to shoot off his knee caps, then feed him slowly, feet first, out of a window to the walkers. I would also guarantee him he would regret his decision about the time the walkers finally made it to his gonads. If the doctor had any of his blood type available, I would give him infusion to keep him alive until the walkers started munching on vital organs. I would also promise him to keep his converted head alive and toothless with fresh meat dangle inches away for all eternity.