Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Walking Dead: Review Episode 4, "Vatos"

By Dread Sockett

Since “predictable” is in the air these days, it won’t surprise you when I say I’ll (sorta) follow last week’s entry and drop dime with nerd rage first, then I’ll kiss and make it better. Cool?

Now that we’re starting to get into more serious character insight, I think it’s becoming evident that these episodes really need to be longer. Personally, I feel the short episode action is just not working and in fact I suspect it’s stifling the creators. There is just too much that needs to be communicated in the time allotted and it all ends up feeling rushed. It also bugs me because some of these shortcomings are going to eventually reflect poorly on KIRKMAN and his comics, which I honestly feel is almost tragic. AMC needs to hook this show up with more time, or slow the pace down, so the potential is reached. This also might relieve some of the cocked eyebrows the show is receiving because of these dense-ass characters and situations.

FIRST CASE IN POINT: I appreciated the intro sister chat between Amy and Andrea thinking “Yea, this is what I’ve been waiting for.” Here the characters can breathe and I can see there are people under these entitled and/or idiot facades. These semblances of attempted normalcy in this apocalyptic setting, while delivering insight into characters is sorely needed especially now that we’re two shows from the end of Season 1. I don’t care if they’re talking about fishing lures, just give me tidbits of their past/present and maybe I will understand and care, finally.

Then it occurred to me that well, this must mean one of them is gonna die. Not in the future, but NOW, this episode. There were just too many Hallmark reflections and tight camera angles happening all at once. It seemed to foreshadow one of their deaths per Hollywood Rules 101 (reflect on shared history and loss, then kill one leaving one left to carry the torch and there you have it: automatic character tragedy and sympathy). A classic cliché set-up. And BINGO!  We had a winner. The good thing at least, like Carl’s tent comments in episode 3, this sets Andrea on her 2.0 path comic readers will be familiar with (hopefully).

THANK BEELZEBUB that Andrea (Laurie Holden) pulled off the final scene with just the right emotion that this sorta trite setup was mostly forgiven. It really was touching. It’s these little moments I look forward to finding while wading through the quagmire that sometimes surrounds them.

A minor quibble: easing up on them micro-zooms would help let the scenes like this breathe a little. A contrast between Andrea dealing with the urgency of her sister’s death and the camp attack crisis surrounding her simultaneously would’ve taken this up another notch. As it was, I caught myself thinking of OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES’ almost aggressively, intimate zooms and really, that’s not a good thing when Laurie Holden is working her shiz. And that she did. Kudos to her.

HOODRAT CAREPROVIDIN’ - CASE IN POINT 2: Okay, havin’ a little...err... teeny bit of insight into this particular set up (hoodrats moonlighting as careproviders, not the whole zombie apocalypse or hostage trading) I really appreciated seeing this attempted. The thought counted, at least a little in my book. However, the execution of the concept was clumsy, like someone from the outside looking in and maybe even romanticizing what some crazy gun exchange would look like, but never having met a thug except through MTV’s Cribs. And yes, I do realize it was a front. This was a script issue, not a matter of whether a reformed custodian could pull off a smoke screen. Just cuz you’re a custodian doesn’t mean you’re oblivious to your environment, it is usually the opposite.

What stood out like a sore thumb, was our Junior homie in the wife beater who gets clocked by Darryl. Like the later gangbanger scenes, there was a mix between shit delivery and bad lines that made this feel a little tilted. It’s most notable because Darryl at this point is becoming damn near one of the best developed characters in the show and he makes the baby boy hoodrat’s deficiencies in script and acting stand out. The poor actor kid was no match to any of the guys in those scenes.

Which brings me to the “negotiation” scenes: So like I said, I was real cool with the end of the world homies as caregivers idea, as I can see people I know doing just that. But at the same time, none of their gangster asses shoulda broke code THAT QUICK (fakin’ the funk or not). Having a spokesperson who would seems also as unlikely, but maybe this is a down South thing the creators were doing. Grandma swoopin’ in doesn’t excuse things either. I mean shit, you go there and have this “new take” on “minorities” but then make them too stupid to barricade the doors effectively against the elderlies during a shake-down for guns?!

The selling of this scene relied first and foremost on credibility. Here, it fell flat, feeling like Hollywood Gangster 101 (lotta 101’s this episode). There was little tension and it felt rushed. I’ll give Kirkman some swing on this since some of what I thought was needed to sell this set up was more authentic aggressiveness in the script/lines, which in turn, theoretically, woulda allowed for less wonkyass delivery. I mean, damn, I never thought I’d say it, but more cussing would’ve improved the believability factor. But all the real-ness came through via the swagger display only (I mean geez guy, I was ready to slap wardrobe if I saw someone bust out with a DICKIES and STACY ADAMS combo with waxed, razor pleats). This just felt like the suits came in and did some ‘clean-up’. “We want that urban thing Kirkman, but it needs to play to middle America.”

THAT SAID: This is where I would’ve liked the episode opened up in length, with this idea and group explored a little more. It not only would’ve been a refreshing change, but there was an intriguing social dynamic at work here. They darn sure had it together more than Rick’s group.

QUIBBLES AND BITCH: Uhm... so let’s bag on Glenn for a sec. Now you’re buddies just tried to save your ass, while risking theirs, from what they thought was a near-death situation. You obviously have insight to what’s happening with your abductors to know the Homeland-terror-level-alert has dropped. The least you coulda done when they came into the joint was get off your ass and look like this meant something and start explaining. But noooooooooo... let’s not ask too much. Side-effects of WoW withdrawal are a very ugly thing folks.

CAMP: Jim’s meltdown was a moving scene. I’m glad to see his character finally having some depth after not knowing WTF he was about all this time. However, I still think the camp people are mostly idiots. Shane and the bunch showing up like a mob to someone who is obviously having a PTSD issue (even before the reveal) was a bit sloppy. Shane obviously missed the behavior mod classes at work. Dale, I like a lot and is clearly the most sensible of the bunch. His “Faulkner watch” speech wasn’t all that deep, yet actually kinda poignant, but our mall babies just missed it entirely. Are there brains in them heads to eat? Gonna be some hungry zombies.

ED: HAHA. AWESOME. And last but not least: the writers need to beef up Rick a bit. He’s kinda becoming the least interesting character. I think we’re skating on thin ice when Darryl becomes the more interesting of the two. T-dog seems to be coming around too and I kinda like the dude. His original rooftop intro wasn’t all that flattering. He’s feeling more like a real person now and not some cutout. And all hail the extras who get eaten. We’d have no cast and no reason to rewind to see who the Hell that was who got munched, cuz ya know ya never saw their butts before.

Speaking of munchies... Is zombie junk food fattening? I suspect I’m gonna be sporting a paunch when this season ends. There’s a lot of “stuff” in these ingredients, but dammit, I just can’t stop watching it.

1 comment:

Cyberschizoid said...

An interesting review and I tend to agree with most of it. It's good to finally read some honest opinions on this show that aren't just blindly praising it just because it happens to have some gore and is about zombies!

Keep up the great work with this blog and I look forward to reading Rigor Mortis!