Walking, Dead?

Thanks to everyone who’s read the first two posts on my tumblr.com page.  You are three more readers than I had two days ago.  Here’s the link: http://50percentfinished.tumblr.com/.  There’s two sections of Intruders posted thus far, a prologue and chapter 1.  If you want to read a fair-to-middling science-fiction/horror/portrait-of-the-inside-of-my-skull, give it a glance.

So last night I spent a few hours canvassing a couple neighborhoods to urge voters to vote “No” on Issue 2.  I’d like to point out that people were very supportive and enthusiastic about the arguments against the bill, and even those who told us they were voting “yes” were polite about it, at least (one lady wants more accountability for teachers—there goes “Hot Tub Monday” and “Leather Tuesday”).

There was some confusion about the logistics and semantics associated with the bill.  “No” is good, “Yes” is bad.  If you could, apply that strain of thinking to the first three issues.

Simple math: 1+2+3=NO!

I’d like to talk more about politics except I’m lying about that and don’t want to talk about it anymore, to anyone.  I don’t even want to hear the words “Senate,” “Issue,” or the numbers “1” and “5” ever again.  I’m removing them from my life.

Ask how many people live in my house.

Answer: n<6

Moving on, Sunday night was WALKING DEAD!  Sweet!


OK, kind of.

There’s a bit Jon Stewart does where he talks about walking in a rally against the local police department, and at the beginning he’s pumped, shouting along with everyone else, “Fuck the police!  Fuck the police!”  But eventually he finds that a lot of the people he was marching with have peeled off, he’s in a neighborhood he’d normally hit car-locks in, and it’s dark out.  He stops shouting “Fuck the police!” and starts to scream, “Where the fuck are the police?!”

That’s kind of how I felt with The Walking Dead.  I started with “Zombies! Hell!  Yes!”  Then it degraded to “Zombies, hell yes.”  And finally “Zombies.  Hell.”

Did anyone else feel like this?  The first twenty minutes were masterful in their sustained suspense, punctuated with some great carnage.  If you review the beginning of the episode, what you really have is a bunch of living people hiding under cars while a bunch of ambulatory dead people waddle by.  Not much a pitch, frankly, but the direction and editing were crisp, and—this doesn’t get enough attention—the cinematography was beautiful.  Not just later in the forest; anyone can make trees pretty.  I’m talking about the warm, southern light on the highway.  For whatever reason (I’m not a meteorologist) the light in Georgia seems pinkish, almost like Cuba; maybe it’s the combination of the ungodly humidity and red clay, but the show nails it.

I get that we needed a crisis to reconnect with the characters, initiate a conflict, and get the season’s plot-engine revving.  In fact, you could argue that this simple chase narrative (We lost a little girl!  Let’s find that little fucking girl!  OH SHIT—ZOMBIES!  SMASH THEM!) is exactly what I argued that American Horror Story needs to embrace in an earlier post.  However, if AHS is too convoluted because it’s more concerned with its own metaphysical bullshit, The Walking Dead seems to be embracing its genre a little too much.  I guess what I’m trying to say is I wish this episode wasn’t just “We lost a little girl!  Let’s find that little fucking girl!  Oh SHIT—ZOMBIES!  SMASH THEM!”

I’m not going to get as churlish as Ken Tucker at EW.com who suggested that the characters were two-dimensional at best and this episode shows just how flimsy the entire conceit of the series is.  I mean, it’s NOT Mad Men, but it shouldn’t be.  What I want to suggest is that the characters are fine, it’s how they communicate themselves that’s the problem.

And for that I have a hope, but it’s kind of counter-intuitive: Frank Darabont, the show’s creator and chief writer, quit the show in the summer.  You might say: “Are you absolutely nuts?  Frank Darabont’s a genius!  He made Shawshank RedemptionGreen MileThe MistThe Majestic!  Wait, forget the last one, it sucked!”

Yes, and if you watch those films you find the same problem, again and again.  When the characters speak, they speak in speeches and proclamations. Everyone’s holding forth, but no one’s actually talking.  Certainly not with each other.  At best, it’s at each other.

Same with The Walking Dead.  You have these long, well-choreographed battle scenes, held together by one character going either Braveheart or Billy Graham on the people around him (or her).  Last night had not one but TWO prayers, both ostensibly to introduce the idea of faith to this godless crisis but really an excuse to reveal character.  It’s lazy.  I learned more about Darryl watching how he gutted the zombie than I learned about Rick when he shouted at God.

Then we had to hear the old fart hold forth on Winnebago hoses and how they rate to bargain basement Utilitarianism, Rick’s wife go all mother bear on the rest of “Rick’s Doubters,” and Suicide Sue talk about why she should get a gun.  Talk; don’t speechify.  Character comes from the dynamic exchange of thoughts and feelings.  Speeches are an actor’s catnip, but they’re static.

However, Darabont’s gone, so maybe people will start talking.

Rick’s bullshit “prayer” did give us the nastiest surprise of the night, when his kid gets shot trying to touch a deer.  That is one ridiculous sentence I just wrote, but it happened in the show, and it had real oomph.  We’ll see if the wounded kid will lead to something more interesting.  More interesting than zombies, because maybe the creators don’t realize this, but the zombies are a MacGuffin.  It could be anything, really.  The kick of a show like this is the same kick I get at the first Terminator, or The Towering Inferno, or Robinson Crusoe, or even Red Dawn.  What happens when an individual, or group, comes into direct conflict with an unexplained, deadly force?  How do they survive?

I still have faith, though.  This show gave us the “Guts” episode last year, and the killer finale.  It’s worth keeping up with.

My next couple of posts are probably going to be a little more personal.  I’m working on a couple mini-essays about my middle daughter and being a student-teacher supervisor.  Bear with me, and thanks for reading!


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Filed under Issue 2, Politics, Television

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