The Walking Dead Season 2 in ReviewPosted: March 19, 2012
If you haven’t pieced it together yet, I really don’t like The Walking Dead. It’s not that good a TV show that receives a lot of undue attention, hype, and love. The characters have been mostly unlikeable and their development has been mostly static, the action has been pretty stale, the plot has gone nowhere for an entire season. So, without further ado, here is my review of the second season of the Walking Dead (spoilers galore), which I would call The Watching Dead.
So, what happened?
Nothing. Like, seriously. It started with them driving and walking around in the woods. Carl got shot, so they sought out a veterinarian. The vet needed supplies, so a morbidly obese man and Shane set out to find some. Shane continued his fall to the dark side and (in a practical manner) shot Fat Otis in the knee, turning him into zombie food. Carl got better and the team decided to sit things out on the farm. Sophie, a girl, goes missing so Daryl sets out to find her, becoming the show’s only really likeable character in the act. There was a mysterious barn which turned out to house zombie relatives of the vet (Herschel). Shane freaked out, threw open the doors, and killed the zombies. Rick shoots the last one who turns out to be Sophie. Shane boned down with Andrea and taught her how to shoot. Lorie is pregnant with Shane or Rick’s kid. Shane continues to “dog” Rick. The gang end up in town one day looking for Herschel and get ambushed by another group. They take most of them out but Rick decides to spare some kid named Randall. The gang spends several episodes dicking around about what to do with Randall, and decide to set him free, then kill him, then set him free again. Dale gets ripped to shreds by a walker Carl didn’t shoot when he decides to go for a late night walk in a dark field with no light source. Shane eventually frees Randall and kills him, tries to kill Rick, but gets a knife to the heart for his efforts. Walkers see a helicopter, follow it for awhile, wander around, and the whole horde mysteriously finds its way to Herschel’s farm. A gunfight ensues and Hershel’s son (I think, I don’t know, he never talks) gets killed through his sheer incompetence in Dale’s old Winnebago, Herschel’s other-daughter (maybe? I don’t know) also bites it. Everyone else gets out fine except for Andrea, who wanders around until some chick with a katana and two-armless slaves saves her from a walker. The rest of the gang all get the same idea to head back to the highway; they wander off and have to set up camp where Rick reveals to them he killed Shane and that the group is no longer a democracy, that he’s taking charge. The camera pans to a colonial mansion in the distance and we all watch the credits begin, each of us a richer person for the experience.
Not a lot happens in the entire season. The gang spends most of its time camped down in Herschel’s backyard, the group evidently having decided that there could never be a zombie cure and sitting down would be a better move than looking for a safe place that had more than a dozen people; the ridiculousness of this plan is highlighted when Rick tells Shane that come winter, they could probably steal some snowmobiles to make runs into town. All in all, it’s boring: season one, while also lame, at least had some kind of destination in mind. Rick’s goal for the group is for them to settle down and “make a life for eachother.” I get that this is somewhat of a realistic portrayal of this man, but it ultimately makes for boring TV. I believe in art for art’s sake, but this isn’t art, it’s just crap. While I disliked Land of the Dead for it’s heavy-handed message (hint: the humans are the monsters, not the zombies!!!!!!1111), The Walking Dead has the opposite problem: there is no message. None. There’s nothing to be learned or to be gained, there’s nothing that enriches our lives, there’s nothing that makes us better people. We learn that Rick’s nobility is ultimately a liability, but we also learn that Shane’s long-cocking attitude is as well. Rick, instead of deciding to go some kind of middle-road, shades of gray style attitude, decides to go from white knight to Shanewannabe. The show leaves us with a look at the Governor’s mansion which, if you haven’t read the comics, isn’t that helpful, and a glimpse of a character evidently known as Michonne, who is cool if you’re 13-years-old and a katana still impresses you. The problem is that the entire series so far has been one long cocktease and in the final episode even, there’s no payoff. There’s a bunch of dead zombies and this broad and that’s it. Had the first part of the episode in some way made up for the lousy season so far, the Michonne thing would have been an excellent tease for the next season. As it stands, since we’ve just spent two seasons waiting for something to happen, excuse me if I’m not that excited.
The characters, of course, bug me. While some of them are portrayed by passable actors, Andrew Lincoln’s portrayal is awful and Sarah Callies portrayal of Lori is cringe-worthy at best. The main problem with all the characters is, however, that we see nothing of their pre-apocalypse life. As it stands, all these characters are blank slates and what we know of them from their first appearance is usually all we get of them. They rarely talk about their pre-zombification lives but, well, it happens so rarely and is usually so insignificant that it doesn’t matter. The thing about any sort of post-apocalyptic future is that, especially when you’re talking about people who lived through it (opposed to, of course, people born after it) is that you’re expected to care about exactly how much the characters have lost. It’s hard to imagine your entire world being obliterated like that. The problem with The Walking Dead is that we don’t know what these characters lost. Sure they lost friends and family and whatever, but we don’t know any of them. We don’t know Glenn’s dad or Dale’s nephew or whatever. We only know about their living or recently deceased kin, but other than that, we’re left with these mannequins who are running around fighting zombies. A flashback or two — hell, one or two every episode — would go a long way in fixing this. It would be cool, for example, to have seen Shane drive to the Grimes’s house and pick up Lori and Carl, and speed off, cut through traffic, mow down a few zombies, drive on the highway median whatever, just as the apocalypse hit. Get some scenes in before, too, about Rick and Lori’s evidently troubled family life. Some stuff about Daryl and Merle, and Andrea and her sister, and Dale and his family, and everything. It’d be a neat gimmick if every time they met a significant character, we got a significant cutscene. Maybe they don’t do it in the comics, but it’d be nice if we had a reason to care about the story’s protagonists. Maybe I’m crazy that way but I like characters I can either hate or love, and I just find myself not caring about these morons… with the notable exceptions of Glenn (I like the idea of Glenn more than the man himself, to be honest), Daryl (it was great to see him so heartbroken over Sophie, to fall back into his usual patterns, and to pull himself back out), Dale (again, I like the idea of Dale — his death felt heavy-handed, “oh, the group has lost its moral compass!” etc), and T-Dawg (who rarely speaks and when he does so spews black-stereotypes, demonstrating the crew’s inability to write a black character who isn’t black for the sake of being black).
The final thing that really bugs me about The Walking Dead is somewhat unrelated to the show proper and that is the insistence of fans that one reads the comics to appreciate the show. This really bugs me because, well, watching a TV show should be the only investment you need in it. I have watched every episode of The Walking Dead and that should be enough to appreciate the show. That’s it. But there are people who adamantely insist that, despite huge differences between the comics and the show, one needs to read the former to “get” the latter. That’s not an argument I buy and I suggest that if that’s the case, then the TV show is just bad. That’s all there is to it, I think. I can think of dozens of TV shows, dozens of movies (comic book adaptations among them), dozens of books that don’t require a thorough understanding of an alternative medium to understand them. The most extreme example I can think of is T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, which is chock full of allusions; certainly knowing the sources for these allusions helps, but even then one can appreciate the poem without them. I would argue that there is no good piece of art that requires an intricate understanding of something vaguely related to “get it” (even good sequels/prequels don’t require an intimate understanding of the preceding/following film to enjoy them, though that helps). There are cases, I suppose, where an intimate knowledge of an inspiration or whatever helps, but I would go on to argue that even if one had the backing of the comics, the show itself would still be garbage on its own and a pale imitation of the inspiration.
That’s it. The season finale was better than most episodes of season two, but that’s like saying eating sand is easier than eating gravel. That may be the case, but why bother in the first place? Watch The Walking Dead season 2 if you have like ten hours to kill or want a lesson in how to take a great premise and make a bad TV show. AMC should just hand the keys over to Matthew Weiner and let him handle it.