Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Walking Dead: Review Episode 6, "TS-19"

(Or: Unexpected Houseguests From Hell And How To Deal With Them) 
By Dread Sockett

Explody-type stuff
Awkward social skills

So in my really short, less-is-more review (bwahahaha) of THE WALKING DEAD Episode 5 (Wildfire), I took the news of Frank Darabont shite-canning his writers and ran with it like a Crackhead with a stolen TV set. Well, since then there has been a flurry of updates (read: cut and pasted links and paraphrases from primarily two sources) that in essence say: “No, Darabont didn't can his writers, not really...errr... sort of... and stuff... ooh look a butterfly!”.  Kirkman and Hurd made statements to downplay these erroneous reports saying that there's no big egos in little China and there's no writers being fired ... well, not as us little people understand "fired", just re-purposed in Illuminati-type ways only industry insiders are privy too and even though no writers got canned they still aren't sure how the writing thing is working next season, but still, chill bitches, chill.

WHEW! Glad we got that cleared up.

FINALE REVIEW, FINALLY: This is it. Countdown begins to next season. The good thing is, when that surfaces this show will finally get some darn breathing room. I'm going to assume these rushed stories and crackass, crowbarred script issues will be a thing of the past or downplayed to a noticeable degree. Consistency would be nice. I know you, dear reader, wonder how these reviews can be so negative yet I still look forward to Season 2. This is why: there's still so much to explore and work with and most importantly, improve on, but this show needs more time to do it. Hell, maybe they might even remember there was once a comic at the root of this TV series. When TWD first began, in all fairness, no one knew how well-received it would be. Well, now that it's a success, there's no need to jam everything, but the kitchen sink into 6 episodes.

This season had some really good points, but they were overshadowed by unevenness and terrible character developments (i.e.: getting insight into people pretty much as they die is just plain bad). And except for elements of the VATOS episode, I never had the same issue with the acting as some other reviewers. In fact, they all did pretty well, all points considered. I mean damn, I really believe Andrea is a psycho bitch that needs some serious medication. Jim & Jacki's actors sold their characters to me but then of course, got killed off leaving me more irritated at the writers for short-changing them than sad to see them go. Everyone else appears to be working with what they've got rather than under-performing. If we're lucky, and TWD's potential is really exploited, much of Season 1 will be nothing but a special feature on Season 2's boxset. Well, save for the pilot, which could almost stand on its own. Here’s hoping these last 6 weeks have just been warm up.

THE BAD: I understand that we've gotten little-to-no cozy time with Jaqui, but I mean really, expendable character or not, I had to clutch my pearls on this one. The writers had the Grrl switch gears and decide to get incinerated. For those needing the memo: they had her butt choose to burn to death. BURN. TO. DEATH. Don't talk to me about the world that awaits, how quick, blah blah blah. No warning, suddenly crispy character. Re-read them caps and tell me you'd pick that. Damn.

I would've bought this a little better if the story didn't go from cocktail party to Kamikaze in 60 seconds. Again, this is what I am talking about with the rushed feeling and sloppy writing. It would have taken a minimal changes to make this almost believable. The only change needed to make this work would have been the implied passage of time. I mean really, they show up JUST as the building is about to blow up??? Let the survivors feel safe for a few weeks. Food in their bellies, showers, sleep, and let the PTSD have a chance to take root. Let the doc get to know these people, care for them, and let the weight of his knowledge about the building's imminent kaboom grow into a beneficent messiah complex. Have him kill them out of mercy, not this wishy-washy version of it.

Of course most characters are going to react with a fight to the death survival instinct when someone is trying to make the choice for them.That's where it changes the game for most people. If Jaqui had been given a scene or two showing that she was terrified of going back outside it would have made sense for her to go from murder to suicide in the blink of an eye. I just didn't get a die-on-my-own-terms vibe. But whatever, I'm more of a Marilyn Monroe-leave-a-pretty-corpse kinda guy, so maybe it's just me. Maybe some people do like that crispy BBQ action. And despite her freak-out last episode I wanted to see what happened to her, but not like this.

CAROL THE PURSE BOMBER: OH. MY. GAWD. Sure.. ummm, I'll roll with it. Anyone, and I mean anyone who has the unmitigated badassery to calmly whip out a grenade that they've been lugging around in their purse like it was some TV remote they forgot about is alright by me. I mean really. A grenade. The men of the group are running around like a bunch of school girls tryin' to see Justin Beiber cuz they can't bust through the glass barrier and BAM! Carol just casually whips out an explosive that will save all their butts. Work that shit, Grrrl. Hope she has some tires, gasoline and extra food in that magic bag for later (Hell, maybe she has an extra husband in there too). I mean geez, how did Rick forget about it since he found it? Was there too much going on? Well, Carol remembered it while there was a crisis so what does that say? Told ya'll Rick was kinda thick. He might'z got a purty mouf, but shit for brains. Make that woman leader NOW!

My Ears are Crying: Before I tackle the obvious ongoing, closing-music-as-some-kinda-hipster-irony-whatever-deepness I suggest you snag yourself a copy of Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" (and yes, I do mean the version found on DR. STRANGELOVE). Now put that in place of Dylan's closing song and tell me that doesn't work better. Now remember, Jaqui done got blowed up... some of the escaping group were smote with pesky blast burns, bubbling flesh and missing half their face from being so close to ground zero (oops, sorry, that would be in real life, my bad), they're driving off into the sunset in more vehicles than there are survivors, and we're stuck waiting for a almost a fracking year for the next season. Go on, I'll wait.

(tick, tock, tick, tock)

There, see? Tell me you ain't all misty eyed like yer momma done took away yer XBOX and kicked yer ass out the basement with only a half bag of tater chips. Uh huh, thought so. Save Dylan for one of them Johnny Cash "The Man Comes Around" montages you know is coming.

OVERALL: This was a compelling episode. The opening was probably the most exciting segment of the show. Seeing how Shane dealt with Rick was revealing. At best, he was literally up against the wall with split second life and death decisions to make for both, creating some serious tension. At worst, we see he's a piss poor trained officer and first responder who let his emotions get the best of him when he was checking for Rick's vitals. Still pretty awesome beginning.

It was interesting that in the previous episode, Rick has a meltdown as his grand plan crashes around them and they are stuck outside with death inching towards them. Then once inside they repay the "kindly" doc, by getting shitfaced throughout the facility.  Nice. While they are eating, further displays of their shitty social skills come into view, and Shane kills the fun by being...well... a dick. He rudely confronts the doctor for info, as if he's pressing him for some murder confession. Luckily the doc shuts down his, and most of their rude asses, with, well....reality....and what a bitch she is these days. Guess that showed Andrea that there's a bigger bitch in town now. Didn't come for the eggs, indeed. I assumed the doc's little brain-go-boom presentation was gonna knock her butt down a few more notches and back to some form of civility. Nooooo, as usual Andrea has to go there again with the whole, "What yer saying is we're screwed" yammer like it's all his fault. See, it's all in the cadence... the nuance. She has none. She just has "Bitch". Gawd... I implore someone to take control of this character's writing before I kick in my flipping TV. And to Laurie Holden, you are selling this shit a little too well, Grrl. I hate your character more than one of my exes.

Now, as irritating as I found some of the survivors’ behavior, I did enjoy this infomercial...err, section most of all. It was almost payback watching them squirm as they realized their fates were hopelessly sealed, and we hadn't even gotten to the ‘splosion part. No more CRATE & BARREL. No more WAL-MART. No more ESPRESSO. It's OVAH! And no amount of tantrums, snarky comments, friending, posting etc.... is gonna save ya. I've always thought these guys were some damn rude SOBs that needed to effing chill and the doc managed to accomplish this with brutal, clinical precision and barely raised an eyebrow... well his voice maybe. Hopefully with their new lease on life they'll grow up a little.

I'll also hope that since we've seen a kid zombie, a horse eaten, a wife-beater beaten, children drinking, and now Shane's drunken sexual assault on Lori, that we'll get to see Carl finally get a gun in hand next season and none of this PC glaze over. The scene between Shane and Lori was a disturbing and well-done (although Lori still seems to act  by staring) that there should be no excuse to hold back in this show.

‘SPLOSIONS AND THINGS BLOWEDED UP: The ending felt rushed. The finale really needed some breathing room and it felt as if there was an entire middle sequence missing that needed to get us to the countdown room more effectively. It was because of this expediency that the doc's actions didn't quite gel. He's obviously a man of some honor who sticks to commitments and gives a damn. It's irrelevant that he's revealed to be a scientist grunt and merely stuck to the plan. He still valued human life enough to continue working besides the fact he let them in knowing things were ultimately futile. Was this his god complex in allowing them one last night of fun before he destroyed them? Also, despite containment protocols, he still wasn't depicted as unhinged enough that he would assume the destiny of these survivors was entirely his call. He went from quiet and having some suspected internalized issues to suddenly he's all suicidal and taking the party with him. It just felt like this section started pulling in too many directions at once. When we finally get to Andrea's choice to stay behind it also seemed a little effed that Dale is positioned in such a way as to focus on her only. This set up, doomsday timing and their relationship be damned, just looks sloppy as Hell that Jaqui is there like a piece of meat and no acknowledgement. Despite this, I was still quite moved by Dale's comments and Jaqui's choice.

So, there you have it. Time to start watching the clock for next season. More episodes should hopefully give the new writers....oops! The writers who haven't been fired but aren't all there some stretching room with the new freelancers that didn't really get hired. I'm eager to see Michonne & Tyrese show up – two characters I sincerely hope they do not mess with – as well as the reappearance of Merle. Guess we'll see, right?

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