Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Walking Dead Episodes 5 & 6 “Wildfire” and “TS-19”

All in all, season 1 of The Walking Dead was a pretty big disappointment. The production values were great. The writing was good. The acting was pretty good too. However, the series took a downward path from great beginnings to middling viewing. These last two episodes were, for lack of a better word: boring.

They tried to tackle important subjects. They are to be commended for avoiding gore for gore’s sake and actually spending time showing us important conversations about deep subjects. They tackled the issues of how people would deal with a Zombie apocalypse (or any devastating, world ending tragedy), how they would find closure, how they would accept the inevitable or hold on to hope… all good stuff but all done ultimately in a boring fashion.

The problem likely lies in the choice of metaphor. Zombies have always been problematic as a metaphor for evil or communicating any message really, because they are about as pessimistic a view of the world as one could present. Most stories told in the Zombie subgenre are by definition nihilistic and hopeless. Vampire stories (before they were appropriated by those annoying Twilight sycophants) are hopeful because they represent an evil that can be fought and defeated. Other horrors similarly represent morality plays where there is a choice. Zombie stories assume that humanity is lost. Those who remain are not fighting to overcome the “evil” but merely to survive as long as possible. They are postponing the inevitable.

The Walking Dead has painted itself into this corner for now. It began as a story of a man searching for his family. Once that was resolved, it became a philosophical exploration of a post-human world. It can be commended for taking the thoughtful road over the thrill-ride. Unfortunately, it lacks any compelling thrills at all. It has created a scenario in which we have ceased to care about any of the characters and we no longer have a compelling reason to visit the world they have created. Unless something changes early on in season two, things do not bode well for the audience.

The characters end the first season choosing any sort of (brief) life over certain death; but the show may have done too good a job of painting a hopeless situation for us to imagine that as a good decision.

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