Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on the "Walking Dead" premiere

Tonight is the second season debut of the AMC zombie series "The Walking Dead." I got a chance to see the first two episodes of the season a few weeks back (yes, legally... a friend loaned me an advance screener...)

Some quick thoughts:

The show is exceedingly well-made. The art direction, make-up effects, music, cinematography... all top drawer, pretty much as good as anyone can reasonably expect from a TV series. You can't really tell this wasn't made for, say, HBO, except in the general reluctance to impressive sets or crowd scenes. But the show is deft enough in how it develops to distract from that.

Here's my issue, and it's less a problem with the show "The Walking Dead," I suppose, than with horror TV in general. The story doesn't ever go anywhere. The basic premise of "Walking Dead" - the episode-to-episode plot arcs - has remained completely unchanged since the first episode. Honestly, I don't even need to put a spoiler warning on this review (not that I'd summarize what actually happens specifically in this episode regardless.) It's still about a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse who have banded together for the common defense even though there are lots of little personality clashes and conflicts along the way.

These people are essentially wandering around aimlessly, and the show has by now fallen into a rhythm that's considerably, noticeably repetitive. And it's starting to impact my enjoyment of the series. The group wanders around, thinks they come up with a good idea for a new location to settle, they head there, run into trouble along the way, stop and make friends with a new group, then get attacked and watch a few people - particularly their new friends - get picked off. These cycles take about 2 episodes or so, usually, to play out before we're on to the next destination.


The character development and interpersonal relationships on the show have utterly stagnated. We've got the same weak love triangle playing out as always, and then the sort of forgettable "we should hold up here vs. we should go take the fight to them" arguments you'd see in any zombie genre film. Over and over again.

I don't mean to sound churlish. I get that people just love seeing well-executed scenes of zombies attacking and killing people, and "Walking Dead" has at least 1 or 2 of those per episode. And that's enough. And yes, I do prefer it to a good many shows on television right now, and like the atmosphere and zombie effects enough to stick with it. But in terms of being compelling - "appointment TV," as they used to say - the show doesn't even remotely compare to the best dramatic series of TV, many of which surround it on AMC's schedule. (Can't be easy to draw immediate comparisons to "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men," in my opinion the two best contemporary series on television.) It's good at being a zombie show. But so far, that's about it.

Posted via email from Lon Harris

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