TWD “Next Boat.”

I debated on whether to be this honest. I loved the TWD. I did. This may end up being the show’s eulogy.

Maybe I’m might be alone in my disappointment of the last few episodes of TWD, but it’s been a consistent disappointment.

Over the years, I’ve been willing to forgive some less than brilliant episodes, episodes other fans reviled. TWD is a product, after all. It has to follow a production schedule, release dates, a budget as well as meeting the demands of managing personnel, meeting union requirements, complying with government regulations, etc.  In that context, consistent brilliance, even if periodically interrupted by mediocre or adequate episodes, is still amazing.

The last five episodes, however, have been sub-standard.  Episode 6.13, “The Same Boat,” brought back some of the same pervasive menace and horror that has, and should, characterize TWD, as well as the non-traditional use of and examination of female characters.

That said, it was marred by the turn in its depiction of Carol, which may have an undertone of traditional sexist narrative components: eventual punishment of a strong, decisive woman who is willing to take the moral grey ground to protect and survive. The theme has been furtive ground for feminist criticism since Hitchcock, if not before.  Since Deanna’s death, TWD writers and directors have been diluting and sexualizing the female characters, depriving them of autonomous storylines and now, it seems, plaguing them with out-of-character insecurities and frailties unseen before.

The bottom line is, sadly, “The Same Boat” was the best of the lot since the mid-season premiere.

Even “Twice as Far” bore the most serious flaw I find in poor television writing: the plot moved forward not based on inherent conflict or danger, but by stupid and out-of-character decisions by the characters.

No competent psychiatrist would self-diagnose, then seek to treat others and herself by venturing out – unskilled – into a dangerous frontier. It’s unethical. The first rule of mental health treatment is safety. That would be like telling a Domestic Violence survivor to face her trauma by spending the weekend with her abuser. The triggers alone are too numerous and intense to measure; when dealing with seriously traumatized people, which Denise has every reason to suspect Rosita and Daryl are, no responsible psychiatrist would encourage such a means of confronting them.

Such a scripted decision undermines the intelligence and strength we’ve seen in that character. The writers try to sell this with having Rosita and Daryl protest. It just about works, but that Daryl would inexplicably decide to take the tracks, knowing the random violence that lurks in those woods (he’s faced it dozens of times), lacks credibility.

I could easily have gotten on board, if the writers or director had sold this as a metaphor, or symbolic of some deeper theme exploring a spiritual principle and existential truth. That wasn’t the purpose. Denise’s trip was a device to get her into the woods, get her killed, introduce more Saviors and create drama without meaning.

Similarly, that Abraham, a military man to the marrow of his bones, would not leave a man alone and vulnerable over a sophomoric spat that was beneath historical TWD writing. Even if that could sell, how can we buy that Abraham let Eugene get abducted in the first place? Why didn’t Abraham stop the man from firing at Denise, if he’d been lurking there the whole time? Again, this was all a string of devices to get Eugene into the hands of the Saviors and create a battle scene of violence without meaning.

These kinds of gaping plot holes aren’t characteristic of the TWD I’ve known and loved. Scott Gimple, where are you when we (and your writers) need you?

I decided to take a look at the creative forces behind the last five episodes[1], episodes 6.10 through 6.14, and this is what I found:

Episode Title Nbr. Writer(s) Director
“Next World” 6.10 Angela Kang & Corey Reed Kari Skogland
“Knots Untie” 6.11 Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell Michael E. Satrazemis
“Not Tomorrow Yet” 6.12 Seth Hoffman Greg Nicotero
“The Same Boat” 6.13 Angela Kang Billy Gierhart
“Twice as Far” 6.14 Matthew Negrete Alrick Riley

We can already see a lot of chefs at the pot here, with this season.  What kinds of experience do these people have with TWD, and in television in general?

I am not slamming, disparaging, disrespecting, criticizing or otherwise diminishing the value of these people’s work, the other genres or shows they’ve worked in. They’ve worked on some shows I was a big fan of.

The problem, though, may be that the same tone and style doesn’t transfer across genres.

It’s like food.

When I want fun, I want fun. I put on my jeans, tie up my hair and my husband and I head down to this place with great fried mushrooms and little mini-corndogs. We know we might have a drink or two, laugh and play trivia, relax and let loose. When I want serious and intense, I put on a nice outfit, put on my makeup, and go to a place that has done things to lamb chops that made me want to cry with joy. I make sure I sit up straight, use my utensils appropriately, and don’t get too loud or rambunctious for fear of disturbing other patrons.

But I don’t go to one dressed for the other. I don’t expect to be able to transfer one set of skills from experience A to experience B.

My concern is that the need to keep the overall tone, maintain the psychological profiles that made the characters compelling, etc., is getting lost.

“Next World”

This was the mid-season premiere for Season Six, and perhaps the most notably different in tone. Many of the scenes between Rick and Daryl seemed like an installment of the Rush Hour franchise, and it introduced the “comic element” to their close relationship. I didn’t like it.

 Angela Kang and Corey Reed do have some experience with TWD.  Kang has written thirteen episodes since 2011, including “Four Walls and a Roof,” which I really liked.  She has also worked as a story editor on TWD, some episodes of which she was also the writer. However, she hasn’t worked much on many other television shows:  only as a staff writer for Terriers, which I think got cancelled. Otherwise, she’s listed as a writer on two shorts.

Corey Reed has written five other episodes, including “Four Walls and a Roof” with Kang.  His other television writing credits include Da Vinci’s Demons and Medium. I haven’t seen Da Vinci’s Demons (after ten minutes of one episode, it does look good), but I have seen a few episodes of Medium, and it has the light-hearted tone that “Next World” had, but is contrary to the soul of the TWD series.

Of note is the director: Kari Skogland. “Next World” is the only episode she’s directed for TWD, although she has directed two episodes for the franchise’s Fear the Walking Dead. She has numerous directing credits, but has worked on very few shows thoroughly or consistently. She has a long resume of writing for television, but the most work on one show has been eight episodes of The Listener over a four year period, and then six episodes for The Borgias over two years, then five episodes for The Traders in 1996. My point is this: her direction doesn’t show work that can give her an in-depth familiarity with the characters, themes, conflicts and sub-plots that develop over time in a long-standing series like TWD.  One-off directing may work well for shorts, made-for-television movies or feature films, but it seems the TWD episode suffered from that style of direction.

This would be a novel if I went into each season six episode’s director and writer histories with the same depth, so I won’t do that here.

I will say that after looking at the information, what I saw was a history of writers who generally – not exclusively –worked on solid slows, but whose tone is of the light, entertainment style: White Collar, Vegas, Penguins of Madagascar (Matthew Negrete). Some of these same writers have worked for grittier shows, such as Prison Break (Seth Hoffman).

White Collar (although, I want to give props to my favorite of that genre, Hide in Plain Sight, which ended about the time White Collar started) and its companions like Psych are great fun. However, when I sit down to watch The Walking Dead, that’s not what I’m expecting or want. Just like no one watching White Collar wants to see a body ripped apart into several pieces of ooey, gooey red nastiness (yes, I’m still getting used to that), TWD viewers don’t want the same story structure (build, build, build to a single moment of climax) or tone (light-heartedness). We want intense. We want catharsis.

My concern is that the creative minds aren’t in sync with what made TWD brilliant. I know a lot of fans will disagree with me. And “Same Boat” was definitely a shining moment in the season. However, I’m hoping some of us who appreciated the more cerebral subtleties of the show might understand what I’m saying.


[1] All information comes from IMDB.com

TWD: I got questions. Lots of questions.

As always, different opinions, corrections, additional information is more than welcome. 


I’ve debated what to write about last week’s episode, if anything at all.

I’m conflicted: I love the series, I think it calls to themes rarely touched on in popular television, and I think it has an important commentary on our current culture, regardless of whether that commentary is intentional social criticism, or something more unconscious that only Jung or Freud could appreciate.

I did appreciate, more than I can say, that this episode was an estrogen extravaganza. So much of what is missing for female characters in television and movies was in that episode: heroism and bravery, violence and villainy, desperation and faith. Women were shown as inhabiting the moral and emotional gamut that normally only male characters explore. We even got to see the gender-flipping of the expendable lover which usually goes to show the depth of a character’s violence and nihilism.

The episode also deserves kudos for presenting women of varying ages, but all of whom are not “girls” as having compelling internal lives. This has been one of TWD’s longstanding strengths.

That said, I have had problems with this season. The whole tone has changed, to the extent that I’ve begun to suspect a change in writers. Quite honestly, this new season seems less like an exploration of a new world order as discovered by traumatized, middle aged survivors, and more like a serial adventure one would find on the CW.

I’m not knocking the CW (and I’ve written the Supernatural fan/crossover fiction to show it)  but there is – and should be – a difference in tone between AMC shows, which offer an examination of the people and their culture, and the CW, which has a different structure  – one that usually explores (in the case of Supernatural) the inner and youthful angst of a life lived battling evil, tempered with humor and sometimes bending of the narrative form.

So last week’s episode left me (and one of my fellow TWD fans) very puzzled, given the vast difference in the characterizations of a few key characters:

  • The ease with which Michonne and Rick consummated a relationship – when the traumatic histories of both of these characters’ past relationships should have come into play. Rick’s past two loves have ended up dead, and Michonne’s lover’s irresponsibility led to the death of her child, and he ended up as one of the “pets.” There should be some trust issues there. I’m just sayin’.
  • The new “comedic” depiction of Rick’s violence. In the last season, there was a lot about the mellowing of Rick’s more brutal nature, and how he integrated that with the need to be a member of a functioning society. As one show writer tells  us in Alexandria, Rick had “been out there almost too long.” In recent episodes, that instinctive violence is comedic. Rick has never felt that his monstrous nature (the episode where he confronts the “claimers”) was comedic.
  • the absence of Carol the first few episodes this half of the season
  • the absence of any interaction between Daryl and Carol in the last half of the season.

I conferred with a fellow fan who agreed with me, given this context, where the characters are being radically redefined, we didn’t know quite how to take this new side of Carol: was it an insight into a previously repressed side, or just writing from new staff writers who didn’t understand the Carol character?

Maggie seemed more Carol-ish than Carol, honestly.

On reflection, my friend and I both agreed that perhaps the foundation for this was laid in the prior season with interactions between Morgan and Carol. Unfortunately, the first few episodes of this season broke that continuity. The essence of Carol is her strength, her resilience, and her unwavering commitment to survival at all costs. Any new information doesn’t “register” in our long-term memory for her: that Morgan awakened doubts and conflicts of consciousness were lost in intervening subplots.

Secondly, the direction in last week’s episode didn’t give us any indication if Carol was genuinely breaking down, or leveraging her own inner conflict to disarm her adversaries emotionally. One head shot for only a few seconds could have clarified all ambiguity. One tweet to The Talking Dead suspected some trickery, calling Carol “straight up gangsta.” To the writers: this is what we love about Carol. However, my friend and I agreed that we spent much of the evening yelling at the TV that whoever it was with the salt-and-pepper cropped hair sitting in that slaughter house, it wasn’t our Carol.

My other problem was the rosary and introduction of a faith theme for Carol. In the episode, Carol says her faith was what got her through the loss of her child. As a writer, I have a problem when narratives bring in important, key components of a character’s psychology and claim them to be long-standing traits. During the crisis with Sophia, we saw no important depiction of faith for Carol. Their encounter with Gabriel would have been the place and time for the writers to establish that.

Maybe it was established, and I missed it. If I need correction, write me (I’m dying for some comments over here). 

TWD: So sad.

This season we’ve seen two episodes so far.

The true horror may be that I have little to say, except one big “Yay” on the Rick-Michonne hookup.

And that about wraps it up for me. …

images

Wait. I can’t do that.  The last two episodes have been like seeing a beautiful woman with a bad haircut and worse make-up. Somebody needs to say something. I will.


The premier episode (2-14):

This left me a little disappointed, as the creators of the episode resorted to predictable moves and clichés they’d always avoided in the past:

On Carl’s response at Rick’s voice as he hung to dear life, how many soap operas now have we seen that on, right down to the fingers wrapping around the Worried Family Member’s hand?

Sam’s outburst that draws the walkers – how many weeks did we wait for that plot twist that burned up the chat room on the preceding finale? Nobody talked to him about the importance of silence?

Jesse’s death bothered me, too, as it’s a standard and sexist trope of many heroic narratives: the hero falls in love, but the love interest must die to spurn the shocked and grieving hero into fierce action. Only it was redundant because Carl being shot did that.

Bad Plot KittySo why kill her, unless writers wanted to pursue the Michonne-Rick love interest and didn’t know how to handle Jesse?

She was interesting, strong, and a good learner. The personality they built for her was too intriguing to kill her off as a disposable love interest. There were tons of alternatives:

  • A near-death incident for Jesse that brings Rick to the point of flashbacks and he can’t continue the relationship. Eventually he falls for Michonne deeply because she can take care of herself.
  • Jesse is careless, not to the point of tragedy, but somewhat is negligent when Carl gets shot. Rick also sees that she’s not a strong enough leader with Sam. He decides he cannot involve himself or his family with a liability. Eventually, because Michonne is a stronger fighter and group member, he feels safe having a relationship with her.
  • Jesse or Rick ends the relationship because Ron makes attempts on Carl’s life. One or both of them realize that Ron’s problems are too severe for a relationship to end well.

Also, the writers violated one rule of the TWD universe: that when disguised in guts, Walkers will not go for you. Even with Sam’s voice, there’s no explanation for the clear violation of that long-existing premise.

Last Week’s Episode:

Time Jump: I’m okay with that in principle, but in practice, we have no idea if we’re talking weeks or months  here. Maggie is not showing yet in the storyline (i.e., the writers did not use the pregnancy to mark time, and that’s a frequently used device). Maggie would have to be about six weeks along to know she was pregnant in the last half-season, and she (the character) should be showing typically at about four or five months. So, it can’t be more than about two or three months we’re skipping over: which is real-time for the viewer.

One huge problem exists for the time jump: Deanna. All that math just now means Deanna has been wandering the woods as a Walker for two or three months, yet shows no signs of decay when we see her, and no one has found her yet. Hummm. Thematically, I believe this should have been done in the last episode, if at all. The way the situation was left at the break, she should have been torn to shreds by the walkers.

In skipping over Rick’s grief over Jesse, and the almost certain emotional trauma that might have caused after losing Lori, alot of potential drama went untold. Is he really going to hop into bed with Michonne a few months later with no sense of “every woman I love gets killed in the end”?

The writers also didn’t give the audience enough time to mentally move from Jesse to Michonne, I thought. Agreed, we all wanted it to happen, but it feels like taking a ninety-degree turn at sixty miles an hour. The audience, with the previous Jessie-Rick narrative already established and abruptly ended, needs to see a bit more of a transition, I think.

What’s happening is that the writers’ agendas and goals are showing through the storyline. Things do not appear to be happening in our TWD fantasy universe because that is how the universe works, but because the writers need to rearrange storylines, characters and devices. To paraphrase an old woman’s warning (“your slip is showing”), guys: your script is showing.

The aerial shot over the bed, showing the intertwined lovers was absolutely beautiful; it was like a painting and I was thrilled it was included. I have no objection to that love story. To the contrary, I think the Jesse love interest was a mistake, perhaps underestimating the audience’s ability to support an inter-racial love story, especially one set in the Deep South.

On that note, please let’s keep two things in mind: this is the twenty-first century Deep South, which is not The South everyone learns about in tenth-grade history. Secondly, it’s the Post-Apocalyptic Deep South.  All this is to say, that when faced with starvation, the breakdown of modern civilization, life-threatening zombies and socio-paths, I don’t believe a small community is going to offer up a lot of resistance to an interracial relationship between the two community leaders (and Deanna’s ideological heirs) who stand between it and annihilation, if anybody even cares at all.

The problem is that the consummation of their relationship lacked the kind of emotional power it should have and would have had, had the episode had more tension and lurking peril elsewhere. There was none to be found. By the time Michonne and Rick became involved, there was no need to be overjoyed.  We could not feel the relief and security they should have felt (and showed us) and coming together after facing life’s extreme adversities and dangers in that world. There was more tension and buildup to Ross and Rachel, and I don’t even like those characters.

images (1).jpgThat leads me to the “comic” flavor to the episode. There are times for that, even in a horror show. Unfortunately, this had “spec script” written all over it. I don’t know that to be the case, just some of the symptoms are there. The entire storyline between Rick and Daryl felt like an old Smokey and the Bandit movie.  Rick and Daryl have a close relationship, and it is worth exploring, but the buddy movie format here didn’t explore a relationship, it merely used it to move plot forward, as the last episode did. TWD has never been a Buddy Movie, and never should be.

I don’t believe Rick and Daryl would have been stupid enough to let the truck land in the lake. That scene felt like a writer who got him or herself into a plot dilemma and didn’t know how to get out of it.

I don’t think they would have been stupid enough to waste ammo to show they had loaded guns.  For years the rule of the show has been that gunfire attracts a herd. I would’ve believed they would have beaten him senseless, or taken him simply so he wouldn’t have gone back to his group and ratted them out.

I don’t buy the “superhuman” abilities of this character Jesus. It’s like we’re in a whole different comic book. I’m all for comic books and super human abilities, I am, but the Golden Rule is always to stay in your universe. If Deadpool (~sigh~) doesn’t fight Zombies, then Rick and Daryl shouldn’t be fighting mysterious villains with superhuman abilities, either.

Finally, one note on Ri-chonne – it’s wonderful that was explored, but the Daryl and Carol relationship was established much earlier, and that has yet to be explored. I’ve always applauded the way the Carol character has been developed, but I have to wonder why, in the past seasons, we have seen no interaction between her and her closest and oldest friend, Daryl?

Carol and Daryl have known each other longer than either have known Rick. They bonded while at Herschel’s farm, and their reunion after Terminus made their closeness clear. Why have we not seen them share one scene together this year?

I’m concerned that because of age, the Carol character is being stripped of complexity, and is now just an androgynous fighting machine, and we don’t get to see the tenderness and love she has.  Is TWD going to fall into the trap that the only female characters deserving of “hot” romance and a sexy love story are under forty?

As I mentioned before, last Sunday’s episode seemed very atypical: there seemed to be only a cursory knowledge of the characters’ histories, and little exploration of the complexity those relationships have in the TWD world.

I know this review probably crushes any chance I ever have of setting eyes on Scott Gimple or spending time discussing the show on The Talking Dead couch. But, it’s all in the name of the love of the show that I have, and my desire to see it become once again one of the best written shows on television.

Twitter TWD Trivia Answers!

All trivia questions arise from my own direct experiences – this is the result of years some hard-earned TV-watching here. No questions were pulled from trivia games, sites, etc. I did use Wikipedia and IMDB.com for fact-checking.

In other words, I watch entirely too much sci-fi / horror TV.

You know you’ve got it bad when you tell your husband you don’t want candy for Valentine’s Day, just a trip to the Comic Book store.

————————————————————————–

1)   (10:30 am)
What two The Walking Dead stars are only one degree of separation from Supernatural?
(I think that may be zero degrees of separation for some people, but that gets into physics questions of inhabiting multiple spaces simultaneously and this is 
not that blog post.)

  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan (~sigh~) played John Winchester, Sam & Dean’s father
  • Lauen Cohan played the ill-fated femme fatale Bella.

2) (12:30 am)
True or False: the Centers for Disease Control has a Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Plan.

Oddly, tru. Go to the CDC site below, and they have fun with the Zombie Apocalypse premise, having even released a report. This is their way of promoting disaster preparedness.

http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies_novella.htmcdc zombies

On that note: it’s easy to dismiss “preppers,” until you hear the stories of some, such as one woman who’d been through three F-3 or higher tornadoes. In that context, it just seems like common sense.

I myself have been through a few hurricanes and a mild earthquake and multiple extended-period power outages, both in blizzards and heat waves. (And people wonder why I like Apocalyptic fiction!)

Preparedness makes sense.  

3) (2:30)
What beloved TWD actor played another Savvy Survivor on another beloved Sci-Fi show? Hint: “nuts”.

download

Lennie James played Robert Hawkins on Jericho (moment of silence). Hawkins was suspiciously on the “inside loop” regarding the bombings, but the writers’ strike and subsequent writing, then cancellation, muddled that plot line.

Fans of Jericho saved the show (for one lamentable season) by sending Nuts to the studio/network, echoing one declarative statement in the finale.

4) (4:30)
How can you get from TWD to Downton Abby in two degrees of separation?

I credit my husband with this one. We tend to play “find the actor” when watching TV, and it becomes an IMDB surfing race. There’s never a prize because (of course) I usually win. This time, he won.

Downtown Abby’s Mrs. Patmore (Lesly Nichol) => Supernatural: “About A Boy” (Katja) =>Supernatural’s Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan => TWD

5)   (6:30)
Michael Cudlitz plays brave, dedicated soldier Abraham on TWD. What experience may have prepared him for this part?

This is my favorite factiod. Muchael Cudlitz played Denver (Bull) Randleman (1920 – 2003) in Band of Brothers,  based on Steven Ambrose’s work about the factual Easy Company of World War II. Bull was also a southerner, hailing from Arkansas.

7eafc4a8d0ceabc60bfeb3d4047b8a2e (1)
Michael Cudlitz and the real “Bull.”

FYI: if you ever need inspiration for those tough times in life when you don’t think you can make it, and you need some real people to convince you that it can be done, check out either Easy Company or the Tuskegee Airmen.

If they can do what they did, baby, you can do anything.

6)  (8:30)
The opening premise for TWD may be an homage to what other Zombie movie?

28 Days Later (2002), directed by Danny Boyle. Bike messenger Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital from a coma after being hit by a car. His room is locked from the outside and a key was slid under the door. He ventures out to find that the world has been destroyed by a rage-inducing virus.

I will add that the soundtrack is phenomenal.

28DaysLater_poster

Bonus Round: (not tweeted)

Dr. Who’s Christopher Eccleston is  villainous Army Major. Given the heavy Brit power on TWD, I know there’s a way to get from Dr. Who to TWD (also given that Sci-Fi actors tend to stay heaving in genre).

If you can get there, send it to me. I’ll give you credit.

 

 

 

 


All images (with one exception) were indicated as free for reuse.
The photo of Lennie James was not, but I am claiming editorial use.

Mid-season finale –

I love Vox.com. If I planned on growing up one day, I’d want to write for them.

Below is a link to a review of last night’s episode.

To be honest, I’ve always been one to draw the wool over my own eyes – so in love I am with TWD that I’ve only explored looking at the themes. I come up short when it gets down to taking on a critique of the story-telling.

I need to work on that.

The author below has some problems with the story-telling in Season Six. My only disagreement is that a critic watches the show on an entirely different level: he/she is engaging in his/her profession, and brings his (the author is Todd VanDerWerff, so from here on out, it’s a “he”) A-game intellectually.

The rest of us are watching the show to “check out.” We’re looking for a “Calgon moment,” to take us away. As long as we don’t quite know what’s going to happen, and jump out of our seats a few times, hey, we’re happy.

Much as I’d love some of the great insights into story-telling structure I’ve read about – life has been a bit stressful lately. If something can get my mind off that for a while, then, hey, the story is doing the job I “paid” for it to do – whether buying a book or paying streaming/cable fees and tolerating advertising.

My whole exegesis, which I admit takes the whole TWD a bit too seriously at times, is part of my catharsis. The issues I discuss I think are important, but they are important social issues that I see around me, and have impacted my world. Freud would have much more to say on the subject, but he’s not here.

On another level, TWD is a means to an end to raise my voice o the matter. I’d be saying it anyway, but I have the show to hold up and say “Here! See? TWD says so, too!”

TWD also enjoys a good bit of relative elevation. Sci-fi and horror fans don’t get much in the way of original TV viewing, and so much of general TV is bad, so the mere gap between the average quality and TWD allows many of its shortcomings to go unnoticed.

That, and no story is perfect. Well, people say there was that whole Citizen Kane thing. But that’s not sci-fi horror, so …

One last comment on why the average viewer’s take might be more forgiving than a critic: sometimes the suspense isn’t on what happens, but the thrill ride in getting there. VanDerWerff mentions that no one was really worried about Maggie’s safety. Okay, fine. Maybe not. But it was still fun to watch her be worried about her safety.

Even if we know a character is going to be fine, we know they don’t. Their horror and doubt is worth it sometimes.

That said, even I had to notice some shortcomings last night. That says alot.

http://www.vox.com/culture/2015/11/30/9817762/the-walking-dead-episode-8-recap-finale

If Deanna was on death’s door and couldn’t move, how did she manage that final shoot-out? There is the trope of gathering one’s last bit of strength in a rally of defense, but this seemed — like Glenn’s survival — a bit implausible.

They waited too long to bring in any strategy for survival for the group walking through the zombies.

There have been some comments (as in the link) about the Zombie disguise: why don’t they do it all the time? The same we don’t abstain from bathing, the same reason we don’t just omit a few steps and pull up our pants right after doing our business in the woods: it makes for a disgusting, possibly puke-inducting day, for us and the people who share space with us.

Modern man just does not take on that drastic a change in hygiene if it doesn’t have to.

Kirkman had to answer that question on TTD last night. Well, think about it people.

Even if the Kirkman and Gimple took that tact, it would be seen and criticized as gratuitous gore, with critics saying “Oh, that’s not realistic, people wouldn’t do that if they didn’t have to.”

Still, I found parts dissatisfying: there were several clear moments of advantage when the Wolf was threatening to leave with Denise. The suspense and threat there seemed weak. Bank-robber and kidnapping scenarios abandoned that flimsy “helplessness” plot device years ago.

The conflict between Carol and Morgan seemed like simple device, too – a means to the Take-Denise-Hostage end. Philosophically it had been brewing, but there hadn’t been a history of animosity – only difference of opinion. Now they’re going at each other? In such a volatile situation? Really?

I live for those boring, expositional moments of dialogue when characters discuss – when the story goes to tell not show. A little goes a long way, I assure you, but it’s nice. That was the place for that. It didn’t happen. Moreover, the show didn’t take the position that we know the writers clearly have; it ducked committing to its own theme for lack of a way to illustrate it in plot. It sacrificed commitment to the thematic arc for a moment of cheap suspense.

C’mon Scott. I know you know better. Don’t make me take down my Gimple shrine in the basement.

When Carol said “I have to stop it,” I did feel a nice allusion back to the prison where she burned the virus carriers. It established this as her perspective on the world. Still, the fight seemed out of character even for her.

I can see where the invasion of the zombies seems like “same song, different verse.” In the forum, there was one question as to why no one noticed the steeple cracking. Well, people are just that stupid, I’m afraid. For one, I get suspicious when a storyline attributes more sense to humanity than it really possesses. I can fill this blog with tragic tales of disaster and loss of life because of a chain of events that simply adds up to a few stupid people in a row.

Rick and our gang are supposed to be better than that, and such an oversight flies in the face of the “we know more because we were out there” business.

 

 

Interesting TV Review

So this is a pretty interesting take on the way the Glenn problem was told in TWD.

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/11/24/walking-dead-heads-up-review-glenn

It’s critical of it from a story-telling perspective, and finds it a rather gimmicky. The article is a pretty interesting read of TV criticism, a cut above some of what’s out there.

The article reminds me I should have never listened to my parents, and taken more film theory classes instead.

I don’t 100% agree with all of it, but I like the way it takes social media and marketing into account as factors in the storytelling process.

For myself, I had two problems with the Glenn escape.

  1. THERE WAS A FIRE ESCAPE!! Why the hell did they not climb the friggin’ fire escape?

It was kind of like watching someone nearly drown when there was a boat nearby.

  1. Even I have to admit that the escape under the dumpster, which I speculated, was pretty implausible.

The only way that works for me is if there a theme (what the author calls “pretentious musings”) of Glenn as “resurrected” from the dead, which happens in this genre alot.

That Nagan is reputed to be a “savior” character makes that for an interesting option … will that character see some symbolism in Glenn’s “impossible” escape?

Given that the narrative generally eschews supernatural, magical plot devices, and implausible escape is pretty much their only option.

 

Can’t seem to find that line between fact and fiction …

The Walking Dead, Season 5-6:
Battered, beaten refuges from a violent, brutal, unruly world of ruthless people and harsh adversity come to the gates of a self-sustaining, affluent community of well-meaning people, seeking shelter, safety and a home.

A group of bloodthirsty savages with no sense of humanity lurk outside, posing a danger to anyone who crosses their path.

Eventually the group attacks, slaughtering innocent citizens.

Current Events: 
See above.

Line between fact and fiction:
Alexandria took the refugees in without hesitation.

Let life imitate art, for once, eh?
Take the refugees, they may have more to teach us than we have to give them.

Be Alexandria.


 

I keep saying, it’s not about them, it’s about us.

 

TWD as Epic con’t

Quick Item:

Descent to underworld requirement:
Episode when Rick is in the prison, following Lori’s deaath, and he goes into a deserted part of the prison, answers the phone and hears the dead.

Requirements:

Descent to hell: in our cultures, hell is for sinners, damned people.
In our society, we “damn” or judge people and send people to jail who’ve broken our rules.

Speaks to the dead:
Enough said.

 

Deanna, TWD and the Social Order

Update: Post-11.22.15 Episode:
Deanna may have a screw loose. It’s one thing if those plans are for survival within reinforced walls and protection. But she wants to expand? Optimistic, yes. Prudent? Not exactly at this juncture. Other things may need to be prioritized first.


 

The other day I was thinking and I had an insight. Now that I’ve recovered from that harrowing experience, I will share that insight with the rest of you.

Was into the simple solution for mankind’s many existential woes?

No.

It was about The Walking Dead.

What else did you think I would have an insight about? How long have you been reading this blog?

So, I’ve written elsewhere (or so I recall) that historically, characters representing social institutions really don’t end up being very … reliable. Or likable, or dependable, or moral.

In fact, they end up being pretty skanky, at best.

Let’s review:
Religion:
Father Gabriel  – holed himself up in the church while he let his congregation die gruesome deaths, only for them to un-die again.

Law & Order:
Lt. Dawn Lerner – Holds Beth captive, pimps her (and another patient) out. While her motivations are somewhat pitiable, she’s still not anyone that will inspire you to look on the law enforcement institution with confidence.

Medicine:
Dr. Steven Edwards – ensures job security through murder.

Science:
Dr. Edwin Jenner, CDC – became very nihilistic and blew himself up, happy to oblige anyone who wanted to ride the incineration express on his coattails.

Why have I not brought up The Governor yet? You may ask.
Well, gimme a minute.

I thought about Deanna. Deanna may not live up to my hopes and dreams, but there’s some promise here. She is the first character to represent any formal social order – she presides as the political head of her community – that seems trustworthy.

Some may argue she has committed a grievous error in underestimating the truth and reality of Rick & Co’s experiences initially. My recent premise has been that that narrative is one of morals of Season 6: listen to the people who have lived outside your walls if you want to build a stronger society. They (we) know what monsters lurk out there and we know how to fight them.

Where I find promise in Deanna is that she does just that. She listens, she heeds. She has her moment of shock and awe, and then she gets over it.  In terms of being a community administrator, I’m hoping she turns out to be every much the badass Carol is in terms of military covert ops (disguising herself as a Wolverine).

In one of the last scenes of one episode, Deanna is seen marking up crop placements on the map. Maybe I’m being naive to think she’ll actually get to execute her plan, maybe she is too. The point is, though, that she’s reacting to the reality around her, and she always has. She steps away where she recognizes that Maggie and her group are, at that point, the more able fighters during the Wolverine crisis. It’s unfortunate, and she’s weak for being that way, but she recognizes that reality. She recognizes the true nature of her son, Spencer and his faux leadership pose.

Deanna does what we all should do when working to build our society: listen to the people who’ve survived the dangers from which we need to protect ourselves. Listen to the outsiders. Respond, don’t just react.

So, I have hope, probably misguided, for our little Alexandria.


As an aside, this is where I want to stick my little head into the moral debate on Morgan’s responsibility for letting the Wolverines live, and did that lead to the attack. Well, hindsight is twenty-twenty. In that moment, Morgan was contemplating killing that seemed unnecessary in that context. He didn’t know about Alexandria, he didn’t know they were outlaws. His context told him they were dumb, mean kids and he’d given them their whuppin’ and let them go, hopefully wiser men.

And yes, we do say “whuppin'” down there.

 

Last Night’s Episode

A lot of Deus Ex Machina in last night’s episode.

And a few problems.

Abraham & the Hand of God:

Abraham got story time last night, and with that, the Hand of God that reaches down and make sure that “the table is set.” At every turn in his journey through the remnants of civilization Abraham finds bounty; he is literally the sparrow for whom God provides everything he needs. Abraham finds weapons for defense: he struggles with the monster hanging from the pole, to no avail. Then, providing the Zen moral to his experience, his moment of letting go proves to be the moment of provision. After he’s stepped away and waited, the zombie drops from the pole leaving the RPG free for the taking.

In the office, Abraham discovers a military uniform that – voila! – fits perfectly, despite the fact that Abraham is a man of no average build. His previous identity is affirmed and restored.

I firmly believe that plot devices like this are not instances of authorial indulgence or laziness, where the authors hope we stretch our suspension of disbelief to the point of breaking. Instead, I think they’re metaphors for when the authors want to point to either the metaphysical or the spiritual, without resorting to gimmicks. The suit fit, the body dropped because it shows us that God, or the Universe, or some divine force is working for Abraham.

Abraham returns to Sasha, fully embracing life and convinced that “the table is set,” which is exactly what has happened for him. And he makes it very clear that Sasha is part of that life he wants to embrace.

Daryl and … wha??

I got a problem. While I do think the triad of Gimple, Nicoterro and Kirkman are storytelling Gods, perhaps a combination that yields a composite Ovid of TV storytelling, what is up with bringing in new villians before we’re even into the exposition of the other ones?

As a viewer, I’m just speculating that the Wolverines were the exiled Alexandrians, and now we have Wade?

Okay, I know layering is a way that you keep viewers through long season breaks: you need to start one storyline so it’s a “cliffhanger” leading into the next season while you’re resolving the last one.

I know life absolutely does not neatly arrange adversities and adversaries in order, let you finish with one before introducing you to the other. I spent three years dealing with corrupt state officials, trust me I know. Verisimilitude, better known as “when it rains it pours.”

That said, c’mon, I’m a TV viewer. I realize that TWD is a commentary of life, but it is a bit of escape from the unresolvability of it, too. I need a little … traditional structure here. You already keep me hanging on with the Glenn thing … gimme something, gimme some gratification here. This is all foreplay and no …. Well, you get the point.

I couldn’t really glean anything from the Daryl and trio of ineptitude that was Tina and Whoever #1 and Whoever #2. Nothing they did made sense, the whole bit about burning the forest was unclear, especially in the context of this new Wade Gang. Was this whole storyline simply a way to get Daryl to trade up, which he did?

Was this Daryl’s Deus Ex Machine, providing him with a fuel truck after losing the bike.

Observation: the bike was a present from Aaron, a social relationship that was set up and not explored and the bike seemed to be on its last legs.