Thursday, July 19, 2012

Waiting for 'The Walking Dead'

In this publicity photo provided by AMC, actor, Andrew Lincoln, as Rick Grimes, center, is shown in a scene from AMC's "The Walking Dead," Season 3, Episode 1. (AP photo/AMC, Gene Page)

     This is primarily a book blog, but since AMC's "The Walking Dead" is a TV show based on an ongoing comic book series, which has been collected into "graphic novel" volumes, I'm going to give myself permission to blog about it. Not that I've done more than glance at a few pages of the comic, but I've seen every episode of the TV show's first two seasons.
    "Seen," not enjoyed. I quite liked the first season, but the second (longer) season I found pretty much a snooze when it didn't seem to be deliberately trying to irritate me.
     The third season was teased at the recent Comic-Con. It's scheduled to begin on Oct. 14, 2012.
     From the beginning, I've been a little bothered by how derivative the story is. As I've  blogged before, zombies are a plague on horror literature and film lately, displacing vampires to such an extent that the classic science fiction vamp novel "I Am Legend" was reimagined as a zombie flick. But it goes beyond that. 
     "The Walking Dead" opens with a scene that is a variation of the opening of the 2002 "non-zombie" zombie film "28 Days Later" (wherein the protagonist is in a coma when a "rage virus" turns almost everyone into  the zombielike "infected"). Since the comic book began in 2003, it's possible it was already plotted before anyone saw or heard of the Danny Boyle film.
    (Both were probably inspired by "The Day of the Triffids," a 1950s science fiction novel in which mankind is clobbered by a meteorite shower that blinds most of humanity, and is nearly finished off by walking, poisonous and carnivorous plants. The protagonist misses the meteorite storm because his eyes were bandaged after being temporarily blinded -- not in a coma, but hospitalized. He wakes the next day, removes the bandages himself, and discovers civilization ended over night.)
     Second, this season has been one long slog of boredom as we've been stuck on Hershel's farm while the characters have moments that pass for deep emotional breakthroughs or breakdowns on soap operas, but which advance the story of what do you do when the zombie apocalypse comes not one little bit. It was a lot like "Marty" ("What do you wanna do about the zombies?" "I dunno, what do you wanna do about the zombies?").
     The oddest thing about the season is that the farm, with fences no higher than you need to keep cattle penned,  is relatively free of "walkers." True, we learn that Hershel's people have been catching them and penning them in a barn, because Hershel thinks they can be cured, but if there are few enough of them that you CAN pen them, the farm is amazingly safe. It's also isolated enough that other, less sociable bands of survivors hadn't found it yet.
     So, with the survivors relatively safe from walkers, we just mark time and watch personal conflicts. Don't get me wrong, the show needs those kind of moments, but there were TOO MANY of them. I haven't read the comic books, but, based on recaps I have read, it seems the show has expanded this section of the story enormously, possibly (it was rumored) for budgetary reasons (it's cheaper to maintain one set all season).
     Now that the show is a proven hit, the show promises to pick up the pace (and budget?) by moving on to some of the most popular plots of the comic, including the prison, the Governor, fan-favorite character Michonne (briefly introduced in the last episode of season 2) and the return of Merle, a racist character from the early episodes of Season 1. He was so irritating that good-guy Rick Grimes handcuffed him to a pipe in an area infested by walkers and left him there, and so stubborn that he cut off his own hand to escape. Viewers have been expecting him to show up again, and he was seen in the Season 3 trailer at Comic-Con ... with a knife for a hand.
     Now I'm actually looking forward to the show's return.


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