Stay in the House, Carl: 'The Walking Dead' Declines into Cruddy TV
Why do we keep watching AMC's 'The Walking Dead' if its characters keep acting like idiots?
Going out on a limb here: Does anyone else think that The Walking Dead is, well, kind of terrible?
Those first six episodes were pretty amazing, I’ll grant it that. The characters were smart, and scared, and stuck in a world turned upside down. And we got a good six hours of scary, gooey, gory antics as the suspense and horror mounted and we learned about this new environment and what to expect as things went from bad to worse.
And then the show got, well, worse. And you can blame that on writer firings or director turnarounds or producer interference or any number of things. But it happened. And everyone’s watching, but I’ve started to notice this fleet of Walking Dead apologists.
“It’s the only place to go for zombies on tv.”
“It’s gonna get better.”
“She’s got a sword!”
I actually heard the last one as a reason given, last week. If “woman has a sword” is enough of a reason for a focus group to tune in, I’m sorry, I want off the ride.
See, here’s my problem with The Walking Dead: any show that relies on creating tension because the characters repeatedly do the same dumb things, over and over again, is not a good show. These people (with the possible exception of Rick) just don’t learn.
Let’s look at Carl, our impressionable youngster. Every time there’s zombie trouble, someone says to Carl: “Stay in the house.” Or car, or prison, or whatever. You get the point. And where does Carl not stay? It’s become an eye-roll-inducing moment, because we know there’s no payoff. Carl doesn’t listen, he gets imperiled, it all ends up okay. It’s happened that way at least three times.
We’re also at the point where all suspense, with a few notable exceptions, is based on characters just being idiots. At this point, don’t you think our gang would’ve tracked down some thick clothing, or body armor (maybe from those prison guard zombies…), or something, in order to minimize cuts and scratches and bites? A little bit of forethought and maybe ol’ Hershel wouldn’t be watching My Left Foot with a whole new sense of sadness…
That was a terrible joke. My apologies.
Anyway, I like having zombies on my TV, I like the potential of this show, I’m just so…well, miffed at the general gap between that potential and execution. Let’s kill off some of the dead weight characters (Lori…) and actually create some real white-knuckle drama. I keep hoping that the new prisoner characters will do that, or maybe the return of Merle and the Governor (one of the best parts of the comics…Google if you want to spoil yourself rotten).
But as it stands, this is a show I’m watching as an eye exercise. It’s not scary, it’s not suspenseful, it’s not dramatically powerful, it’s not even really entertaining. It’s just on.
C’mon, AMC. You can do better.
So, with that, a very special Halloween edition of WATCH IT, FLIX IT, DUMP IT:
WATCH IT: American Horror Story: Asylum follows all the trappings of horror that The Walking Dead seems to have gotten wrong. In its first season outing, AHS took a page from Stephen King: you can put your characters through Hell, you can do awful and revolting things to them, you can kill and maim and sap them of their will to live…but at the end of the day, every horror story needs to have some form of happy ending, or it’s all just not worth it.
This season takes the cast of season one and throws them into different roles, in a different setting, with a whole bunch of different rules and thrills. It’s one of the few shows on TV where I have no idea what’s about to happen…and that’s a great thing. Turn out the lights. Light some candles. Watch it.
FLIX IT: I have to give it up for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the majority of the work of Joss Whedon, all available right now on Netflix.
What’s possible with science fiction and fantasy/horror on TV expanded dramatically because of shows like this. It’s alternatively spooky and scary and heartbreaking, and it’s awesome to watch episodes from ten years ago and see tricks that made it into Whedon’s blockbuster The Avengers.
If you’ve got to watch just one creepy episode this weekend, track down season four’s “Hush,” where a squadron of creepy demons steal the voices of everyone in town, and the score does the heavy lifting. A neat lesson in suspenseful filmmaking.
DUMP IT: Hey, after reading this whole thing, how about we dump The Walking Dead and just watch Dexter on Sundays, instead?
See you next week, lovelies, when I’ll talk about Thanksgiving specials, and what’s great and terrible about them.