Is 'The Walking Dead' Terminal? Yes. Because It's Stupid.
There’s a major split on the conservative scene that threatens to tear us apart, and we need to confront the issue head-on. No, it isn’t the Romney vs. a Conservative fight – let’s face it, we’re all going to vote for whoever wins the nomination. Hell, I’d vote for my terrier before I let this crew get another four years. And my terrier is a terrier.
No, the great conflict I speak of is the schism between those of us who believe 'The Walking Dead' is great television and those of us who haven’t felt this level of disappointment in something they desperately wanted to support since John McCain got the nomination.
The premiere of the second season has scored boffo ratings, and Big Hollywood’s own Christian Toto has recently eloquently stated the pro-'Walking Dead' case here. Many people love the show. Can all these people be wrong? Yes, and it gives me no pleasure to say so.
The fact is that 'TWD' is annoying, liberalish, and frustrating. It was last year as well, as I pointed out at length here at Big Hollywood ('The Walking Dead: Populated With Racist Southerners, Dumb Characters'). Testifying to the level of interest was the fact that it received over 400 comments, mostly questioning my taste, intellect and parental marital status.
People love zombie stories – I love zombie stories – and no one wants 'TWD' to fail. But the problem is that in the second season it seems to be going down the same dead end road as in the first season – except faster.
The problems with 'TWD' come in two flavors. The least annoying – yet still annoying – are the liberal Hollywood assumptions that permeate the stories. The second is the fact that the characters act like such utter idiots that it actually suspends the suspension of disbelief – for example, a “shocking” sequence at the end of the premiere (Caution: Light Spoilers Ahead!) actually caused me to burst into laughter.
One set of annoying liberal assumptions is about religion. Last season, we saw how the brutal wife-beater was – wait for it – one of those crazy born-again types. Naturally, his wife’s version of Christianity in the premiere is a twisted, weird form of it unfamiliar to anyone who actually knows and hangs out with born-again Christians. Her religion only manifests itself when the writers want to creep out the audience with gothic freakiness – and not the good kind. Note that though the story takes place in Georgia, this weirdo appears to be the only one with any kind of pre-existing interest in religion.
The hero, a sheriff’s deputy who, for reasons that remain unclear to me, still insists on wearing his full deputy uniform, complete with shiny badges on his chest and Smokey Bear hat (More about distracting tactical failures below), also prays at one key point. He admits he’s “not much of a believer,” then proceeds to deliver a monologue directed at a crucifix. It’s not an offensive scene, just a predictable and kind of dull one. And let’s just say his prayer is not answered.
Then there’s the stuff about guns. The dozen or so survivors in the little band seem to have plenty of guns. It’s just that the hero and his cop buddy have decided no one else gets to have any. The rationale is that the others are “untrained.” Let’s leave aside the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of Southern folks who don’t know how to shoot – though this band seems nearly entirely urban except for one redneck guy.
The liberal premise is that firearms are to be reserved to an elite is obnoxious – in fact, one key sub-plot in the premiere is that they took the gun belonging to one woman away, and refused to give it back to her even after she was nearly eaten because she was unarmed. I can’t abide a zombie flick that would earn the Brady Campaign’s seal of approval.
Maybe they could solve the training “problem” by actually training the civilians, but that never seemed to occur to the self-appointed leaders. In fact, the two cops don’t seem interested in preparing the civilians at all. Instead, they spend most of their time talking about their feelings. It’s agonizing.
Here is the thing about the hero that 'TWD' itself does not seem to realize. He’s completely inept, and over the course of the show, his failure to perform with even the most minimal level of tactical competence has directly led to scores of survivors ending up as zombie chow.
The 'TWD' producers like to talk about how their show is about the people, not the zombies. Why that’s supposed to be a good thing is unclear. Regardless, part of the payoff should be watching people we like and root for, not ones who are so lame that the entire series seems to consist of them doing stupid things in the first five minutes and then trying to unscrew them for the next hour.
The zombie apocalypse premise is interesting because it makes you think “What would I do?” 'Dawn of the Dead' was a great example. We watch as they go into the sporting goods store and gather ammo. We see the characters choose to hide out in a mall. We see them clear the zombies out and then fortify it. We see how they set up a secret hiding place, just in case. These are good ideas. That’s why 'Dawn' was a cool movie.
Here? Well, it’s a fiasco. I’m not asking for the tactical precision of a well-trained infantry platoon, but everything these characters do devolves into a complete cluster-flunk, and it’s distracting as hell.
In the season premiere, they think there might be a military redoubt and decide to drive 100 miles or so south from Atlanta to Ft. Benning. Now, after attending the Officer Candidate School, Airborne School and the Infantry Officer Advanced Course there, the notion of anyone choosing to go to Ft. Benning is pretty hard to fathom, but the way they choose to do it is simply ridiculous.
Do they take light, four-wheel drive vehicles of the type that are all over the place in Georgia? No – instead of taking vehicles with mobility and fuel economy, they take a Winnebago with a track record of breaking down. Why? Who knows. Probably because it helps the plot.
They have a guy with a motorcycle. Does he recon the route? Nope. By the time they notice a jumble of wreaked cars, they are in among them. Then they drive deeper into the pileup not knowing if there’s a way out. Oh, and they bring the Winnebago into the jam, and it soon breaks down.
So then they pile out of their vehicles and proceed to talk. And talk. They talk a lot in 'TWD.' Mostly about feelings. Hell, the only good thing about a zombie apocalypse would be that it would wring out this society’s insipid embrace of constant discussions of people’s stupid feelings.
Do they post security in all directions? Nah. They put a guy on the RV who manages not to see a herd of about 200 ghouls until they are 50 meters away. By that time, all the survivors are scattered around the wrecks, walking about without a care in the world. Nice organization, Deputy. You just want to reach into the big screen and slap him.
Later, a search party composed of most of the survivors goes out, noting that they are taking everyone so they “can cover more ground.” Then, they proceed to walk in single file down a path.
The distracting part of 'TWD' is not that the characters do dumb things. People do dumb things. But that’s all they do – dumb things. It’s tiresome. It feels like it’s like a whole TV series that consists of nothing but the kind of dumb where the slasher victim’s hot best friend gets out of the shower in a towel to investigate a strange noise. Except there’s no hot girl in a towel, only these dumb dummies.
And don’t get me started on how, for a show about zombies, there are barely any zombies.
It seems like even with a new showrunner following Frank Darabont’s departure, 'TWD' is going to continue stumbling down the same path. It’s a shame; the idea is cool and the series could be awesome. But the execution is lacking, and if it keeps up, one Sunday night soon, crashing early is going to seem like the more rewarding choice. Pity.
But let’s not allow this conflict to tear us apart. No, in the end, those conservatives who find 'The Walking Dead' lively, quality entertainment and those who feel like hucking their shoes at the screen must find common ground. And that common ground should be a commitment to terminate this zombie administration.