Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 2 Recap...

I was an unabashed fan of this show during their groundbreaking first season. Finally a television series featuring my worst nightmare-the walking dead rising and coming after the living with a vengeance. It started off great, even though I admit an overriding preference to the faster moving zombies introduced into the genre in the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead". Season 1 was fast-paced, action-packed and the storyline hummed along beautifully, with the ever-evolving plot line heightening the sense of claustrophobia, dread and hysteria that only a zombie apocalypse can bring. I expected more of the same going forward, and was promised as much, but the show has clearly changed for many reasons, and none of it has been for the better.

Season 2 was absolute garbage, and some of these characters are turning into the same, tired, old clich├ęs Hollywood LOVES to chuck onto the small screen in no small part due to a serious lack of imagination. Season 2 of The walking Dead has put cinematic and directorial hackery once again at the forefront of television. I'm referring first and foremost to the main character Rick Grimes, the "Dudley Do-Right" of the crew, who plays "Mr. Integrity" to an obnoxious and nauseating fault. His incessant speechifying about always doing the right thing, regardless of the fact that no one named him leader, is absolutely grating. He'll do anything for anyone and always has the best intentions of the whole crew at heart. His dedication to his overbearing, eyes-a-bulging wife and snot-nosed punk of a kid would be admirable if it wasn't so fucking annoying.

Then you have his shrill harpy of a wife, whose constant stomping towards and immediately away from anyone before they'd said their piece (because she must have the last word in any conversation) made me want to substitute some of those poor chickens that were fed to Old McDonald's walkers in the enclosed barn for the opportunity to throw her dumb ass in head-first just to listen to her shrieking voice for the last time as she gets maniacally disemboweled by the undead while calling out for help that would never arrive.

Then we have another totally dickish, one-dimensional pillar of integrity, Hershel the veterinarian, a prototypical white-trash Evangelical Christian whose "My Way or the Highway" ethos is in direct contrast to the very ethics he spends so much time studying. He spends half his time reminding Rick that he and his people have to go while secretly keeping a barnful of the undead because of his sympathy for their plight. He's keeping them around because these former family members and neighbors may one day may be "cured". This philosophically twisted fuckhead doesn't show half as much sympathy for the living human beings that stumbled into his midst, even though he did save Rick's kid after accidentally getting shot, and must constantly be cajoled by his hoochie younger daughter to cut Rick and his insufferable crew some fucking slack. She is another distant and emotionally crippled twat who loves fucking her Asian paramour Glenn but shows as much tenderness and warmth towards him as a prostitute to a client who runs out of money.

Another problematic plot contrivance is how this veterinarian/yeoman farmer is living in relative tranquility with no security measures. There are guns on the premises, but he'd rather not see them, and makes Rick's crew of lost souls give up their weapons if they were going to stay on "his property", a tired, overly-used phrase that makes this stupid old fucker that much easier to dislike. This unrealistic scenario breaks Rule #1 in the Zombie Survival Hand Guide-you board up the fucking house or wherever you can hide and barricade yourself so zombies can't just sashay in and tear shit up. The scenery around the house, always warm, sunny, and peaceful, with trees in full bloom and a healthy green lawn as far as the eye can see, reminds me of a tampon commercial. Not the sort of image you want your audience to conger up when the attempt is to keep them at the edge of their seats in sheer terror.

The writers and directors decided to substitute the authentic fright at their disposal with the contrivance of face-on-face interactions that have swelled the irritation factor by a square root of a thousand. Sweaty, annoyed and perpetually constipated, the actors faces express a level of anxiety that is in direct conflict with the lack of actual dread. Not one zombie has elected to cut across the beautifully manicured lawn to see just what the commotion in that house is all about, so the danger is substituted by...more unbearable face time. Dale, a character who I thought would continue to evolve as the resident sage of the group, has caught a creepy fascination with the hot blonde who spitefully throws his concerns back in his face like a petulant child and decides to start fucking around with Shane, the resident bad-ass and the guy you'd least want your daughter to date. Except these familial plot outlines are exactly what helped turn Season 2 into such a crashing bore. You can't have characters trying to reproduce whatever relationships they had in their previous lives because of the manner in which fate has cast them together. These relationships don't work anymore, and the more airtime they get the less face time for the creatures responsible for the dread in the first place.

All the characters do is sweat under the oppressive Georgia Summer sun, talk to each other with looks of monumental fright, and hang out on the farm, a place which seems oddly unaffected by the goings on out in Zombieland. It was as if the nightmare had passed them by. They're still rustling up chow, or "supper", if you prefer an even more egregious Redneck reference, they sit around the dinner table passing around the mashed 'taters and biscuits and saying Grace, all while Farmer Brown paternalistically doles out chores like your average inbred cracker matriarch, barking out overused catchphrases like "everyone pulls their weight around here" or some such bullshit in exchange for letting Rick and his merry band of frazzled asswipes stay, because hey, Rick would always want to make sure he and his people did the right thing, by golly, self-righteous cocksucker that he is.

In his maniacal, mentally ill quest to be the leader Ghandi would have envied, Rick totally destroys the very point of the whole series-that when the world ends or at least falls apart to the point where you will never, ever be able to order another movie from Netflix or a pizza from Domino's because they don't exist anymore, the social contracts that one associates with living in an overfed, entitled country like the United States pretty much ends, so new rules need to be implemented.

A catastrophe of this magnitude dictates that the morays of yesteryear are useless. One has to readjust and revert to a very primitive and basic survival mode, which means doing things and making decisions one wouldn't ordinarily subject themselves to. Shane knows this, and even though he's become a reviled figure for, among other things, acting like a cowboy asshole and shooting that poor fat slob that went with him to the hospital to get supplies for Rick's injured son, thereby easing his own escape, he at least gets it and behaves accordingly.

The constant battle between good and evil that gets exaggerated in times of severe stress was the focal point of the second season, making it difficult to watch, much less enjoy. This is magnified by the fact that we were promised a lot more excitement and turmoil during the cast interviews and initial reviews of the episodes in question. The seemingly endless, pointless search for one of the character's daughters, who is finally found when she exits the barn after having morphed into one of the undead says it all-the search took too long, it was drawn out way past the point of interest and in the end Rick, who carries the guilt of having been the one to abandon her in the woods in a misguided attempt to keep her safe, shoots her with a Colt .45 Magnum and she just plops to the ground. Rick could have done us all a favor and shot her equally disturbing mother, who if she isn't crying hysterically is somewhere sweating like a pig on a Saturday. The butch-style haircut doesn't help endear us to her feminine side, either.

Anyone who knows anything about guns knows that a little girl getting shot in the head with a high-caliber gun at close range would have been blown off the ground feet-first like a rag doll. She instead meekly falls in a pathetic heap, giving the scene a cheap sense of a bad moment filmed badly that no budget constraints can excuse. And let's not forget how the one brother on the program, "T-Dog", has basically been written out of the script for no apparent reason. His appearances are as few and far between as Isaac on "The Love Boat", and are always just as meaningless to the overall plot. It's not like they couldn't cut out, oh, say half an hour of the other character's haranguing to let homeboy get some on-camera love. Instead he's left to pull look-out duty on top of the camper with the burnt-out old man Dale, watching out for zombies the audience knows will never arrive.

So on we go now this coming Sunday to Season 3, and again the cast and crew members promise excitement to no end. I'll be watching, but if we are subjected to the same long, drawn-out dialogues where the characters bloviate to no end in excruciating face-to-face detail, I will be forced to turn the station. The problem with such an excellent premise as a zombie apocalypse is one keeps watching past the point of interest in hopes the program gets better. I won't be drawn into this charade this time around. The fact that the majority of the episodes in Season 2 were filmed in basically one spot on this idiot's farm tells me there is a combination of budget constraints and lack of ingenuity by the writers and directors adversely affecting the quality of the overall production. Let's hope this gets better. There have been recent series that have suffered from creative malaise, like "Boardwalk Empire" and the recent episodes of the reality show "Jersey Shore", which is dying a horrible death from the staleness of the characters and the inherent boredom that usually accompanies living such a useless, vapid life on camera for the world to see.

C'mon, guys-a zombie apocalypse is a great premise for an ongoing TV series. Step up to the plate and give us something worth watching besides the crap you laid on us in Season 2. The firings of their staff writers after Season 1 for non-union independent writers paid by the script is no doubt a ploy to save money, as I've mentioned in a previous blog entry. This cash crunch was obvious with the use of Hershel's farm for a full six episodes. The lack of zombie action to save even more money exposed this series for the pathetic bore its' become. Get it together, AMC-you guys have a ratings winner here-why are you being so damn cheap?

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