I guess about 9 million people watched the second season finale of The Walking Dead, so I was thinking maybe one or two of you saw it. And then I saw some of you talking about the show in the comments, so that supports the theory.
For those of you who are watching and all caught up to the end of the second season I need to ask you guys about the last couple episodes, get a couple things off my chest. So this will involve the ol’ spoilers, including deaths of characters, if you care.
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It’s safe to say NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is one of the most famous movies ever, right? It’s been remade and badly remade in 3D and colorized and sequelized and homaged and recut and it’s in the public domain and pretty much everybody’s seen it and even if they haven’t they probly have some kind of familiarity with the guy saying “They’re coming to get you, Barbara” in the cemetery as a zombie stumbles toward them.
If they’re a little more familiar with it they might remember the news report:
“It has been established that persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder. A widespread investigation of funeral homes, morgues, and hospitals has concluded that the unburied dead have been returning to life and seeking human victims. It’s hard for us here to be reporting this to you, but it does seem to be a fact.”
DAWN OF THE DEAD rephrases it in that opening scene in the TV station with the experts arguing:
“Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills! The people it kills get up and kill!”
These days DAWN is probly the most beloved of the Romero zombie movies, and it’s definitely the most influential. It popularized the gory zombie movie, the activity of going around blowing off zombie heads, and definitely expanded on NIGHT’s concept of survivors squatting, scavenging and fortifying during a zombie disaster, which is the basis of The Walking Dead. Wouldn’t you agree that the idea of this show is to take George Romero type situations and stretch them out over a longer period of time? That’s what it seems like to me, and that’s what creator Robert Kirkman said about his comic strip book years ago in an interview with Dread Central:
“The thing about it is that the Romero movies are the be-all, end-all of the zombie genre. They represent the perfect zombie story you could do in movie form. We’re doing pretty much the same thing [Romero did], but it’s all different characters, all different settings, different dramatic stuff. We’re just doing the Romero film that never ends…I’m trying to keep it in tune with the Romero stuff just because it’s what I like and it’s about time someone canonized the zombie rules. Werewolves and vampires, they all have a set rule system. Everyone pretty much follows it. Zombie stuff? People just go crazy and do whatever they want.”
(The show has used other concepts from the Romero movies, even the people-who-keep-their-zombie-relatives-alive conflict from SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.)
I don’t think there needs to be one set of rules. It gets old having to explain them every time, but I like that (despite what he says in the quote) there are different interpretations of how vampires work, for example. You can make up whatever rules you want for your monsters, I understand this, I’m not stupid. But if you do 2 seasons of a zombie show acting like it’s the same as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, then how do you treat it as a big season finale reveal when it turns out that… yes, it really is pretty much like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?
I’m talking, of course, about the scene in the last episode where Rick tells the others that Shane “turned” after his death, and they don’t understand how that’s possible because he wasn’t bit. And he explains that in the season 1 finale when the doctor at the CDC whispered something to him it was that they all have a virus that makes it so they turn into zombies after they die.
In other words, what we all assumed – that all dead people turn into zombies and that everybody realizes this – is not true, but these characters all have a virus that makes it true. Oh shit guys, I think I might faint.
If they wanted us to think only people bit by zombies would turn into zombies, they should’ve told us that. Instead they assumed we assumed it, which means they assume we don’t know about any of the famous zombie movies, and confuse zombies with werewolves and vampires.
Shit man, it’s in the damn title! It’s not called THE WALKING BIT. Why would we have thought that?
(Side note: I assumed from the beginning that what the doctor whispered to him was that Laurie was pregnant. Since I thought Rick knew that she was pregnant I thought he knew that she had been with Shane and just wasn’t confronting them about it, which added tension. Later it did turn out that she was pregnant, and it did turn out that he had figured it out about Shane, but now much later we find out that both were unrelated to the whispering. Just a coincidence. So do I have to retroactively take back the dramatic tension? I’m not sure.)
Is it just me? Was anybody else befuddled by this shit?
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I keep watching The Walking Dead, but it’s a mixed bag. It started out pretty good and then turned into that formula of boring the shit out of you but putting one tantalizing scene at the end to make you think “ooh, maybe next week will be better!” The season finale did that big time with the appearance of a mysterious figure (popular character from the comics, I hear) with two armless zombie slaves on leashes. Okay, now we’re talking. It seems like. If you’re an optimist.
It’s kind of fun to see well-done gory zombie action on TV every week. Greg Nicotero does the effects, he was involved in some of the real Romero zombie movies (especially LAND OF THE DEAD, and I don’t think he generally gets enough credit for how well he did that). Zombies have become such a lazy cliche in horror, but they’re usually not done as well as on this show or in the Romero movies. The makeup doesn’t usually look as good, they don’t usually come up with as many interesting gimmicks to the different zombies and zombie kills, they don’t usually have the movement down as well as this, and these days they usually move fast, which of course most of us don’t like as much. The zombie scenes in this show are generally good.
I like some of the dramatic situations, and there’s usually a good scene or two per episode. The first season had a great scene where the hero Rick felt pity on a hobbled zombie and went back later to put it out of its misery. For a while they had some interesting complexities with the character of Shane, a crazy asshole trying to steal his best friend’s wife, but also a pretty well-meaning guy. I loved the subtle reveal in flashback that Shane blocked the door to Rick’s hospital room when he abandoned him there, so even though he was being a coward he saved Rick’s life.
There was a nice opening to the 2nd season finale where a series of cuts shows how a small group of zombies snowballs into a huge herd. I thought this was funny because a buddy of mine was complaining that one gun shot attracted a herd but in a previous episode they unloaded dozens of shots into the barn and nothing happened. I said maybe alot of zombies happened to be passing by at that time. I had no idea my theory would be proven in such detail.
Could’ve used some more moments like that earlier on. I think the show lost its way in the middle of season 2 in the endless slog of Looking For Sophia. A little girl goes missing from the group and for what seemed like half the season they just kept going around looking for her and then arguing about whether or not they should be looking for her and then deciding okay let’s look for her some more but I don’t know if we can keep looking for her. Okay, just three more episodes, four at the most, or six. And then we absolutely must consider not looking for her anymore after a two to three episode probationary still-looking-for-her period. Because I don’t know about this.
And every week I waited for them to leave the farm to get onto the next storyline. It was more than halfway in when I suddenly realized oh shit, they’re probly just gonna have one location per season. They’re doing this on purpose.
I don’t know if it’s because Frank Darabont got fired and somebody else took over, or if it’s just the way the season was designed, but starting with the “mid-season finale” (?!) it finally picked up and things started happening sometimes, like the one where Rick and Herschell went out and got in a gunfight with non-zombies. And that helped me give up my weekly ritual of wondering if maybe I should stop watching the show. Unfortunately it was too late to reverse my hatred of most of the characters, especially Laurie. I know they’re trying to have some grey area with these people, but I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be rooting for the hero’s pregnant wife to die every week. At least not before they made her suddenly give an evil speech trying to lure her husband into killing her lover, and then got upset when he did it in legitimate self defense.
And then they had to kill off two of the more tolerable main characters. Yeah, good way to surprise the audience, but then we’re stuck with the leftovers. Dale, admittedly, was a whiner. And there was some symbolic value in killing him off. Throughout the episode he was the only one standing up for morality, for doing the right thing, for not murdering a guy. The last remaining shred of civilization. So when he gets his stomach torn open and has to be put out of his misery it’s meaningful. It means “No, seriously guys, we really are fucked.”
I loved the opening of the next episode, where Rick’s eulogy about how they have to honor Dale by living up to his beliefs is intercut with everybody doing the opposite, and even running a Rodney King on a zombie. Gooey fun with substance.
Shane’s death was pretty dramatic too, and I didn’t expect it. But also a little weird since that guy’s giving the most interesting performance and has the most complicated character, who at least potentially could’ve kept the show interesting. It’s not so much that I’m sad to see him go as that I’m concerned they got nothing better to replace him with.
I wonder if they’ve ever considered just keeping Norman Reedus and ditching everybody else? Maybe instead of having him keep threatening to leave they could have him actually do it, and then we would follow his character and forget about everybody else. Then they could start fresh.
You know what I think the show is missing? Humor. I know, they’re trying to make it bleak, but they can make it more entertaining without violating that. DAWN OF THE DEAD is as bleak as they come, and it’s nothing like a comedy, but it has lots of laughs in it. It’s the humor that comes out of life, the gallows humor that people have to use to get through shitty situations. It doesn’t have to be jokes, but it can still be funny:
There are probly a few moments like that in Walking Dead, but not enough that I can remember any off hand.
Anyway, at least we now know that persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder. Hopefully next season we’ll find out what silver bullets and garlic do to them.
SPOILER FOR SEASON 3 FINALE: it will be revealed that the walkers are, in fact, zombies
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.