TV Talk: THE WALKING DEAD 2.1 “What Lies Ahead” — Henri’s Take

Devin didn’t like it. Meredith kinda did. Henri thinks this is a zombie survivalist fantasy, so we can only expect so much. Or maybe he’s just continuing to make concessions because he’s committed to watching the entire season.

YOU GUYS, I GET IT. Exposition is tedious. None of the characters are likable. Especially Lori. But still – and I know I said this last year – this is just zombie survivalist fantasy. The zombie genre isn’t about character arcs or getting anywhere. With the exception of Shaun of the Dead, every major pop culture zombie fiction of recent years has only been about showing different versions of the world after a zombie apocalypse so the viewers can spend time thinking about what they would do if that ever really happened.

Seriously, is there any other genre out there where “how to handle it if this really happens to you” guide books are more prevalent than narrative fiction? Maybe if you count relationship self-help books like The Rules as the guide books that go along with the massive amounts of fiction in romantic comedies. But then you’d have to count Shaun of the Dead as both genres and those guide books count as zombie survivalist guides and so the answer is NO.

A good zombie story doesn’t need as much “story” as other types of fiction; you only need to have a great time exploring the world in the aftermath of everything falling to shit. You only need to be able to imagine that you’re a part of the group of ragtag survivors, not that you’re actually one of them. And you need to hope that the writers aren’t using the apocalypse as some sort of way to preach at you about how “man will always be your worst enemy.”

Last season The Walking Dead forgot that, and amidst all the cool gore it felt like Darabont and Co. were way too focused on making us look inside ourselves to see what we could change. The racism episode. The other racism episode. And then that episode that dealt with the poignant issues of racism in America.

This week’s episode didn’t have any of that. Instead, it had a hunter rip open a zombie’s guts to see what it fed on. It had a church full of zombies who just hung out in the pews, even though there was an entire herd going by outside. It had Andrea stick up for her right to decide how to kill herself to stupid self-righteous Dale. And it had a kid get shot in the gut, apparently by a telekinetic deer who can shoot bullets out of its body.

That’s awesome. Who cares if it still had Lori? Maybe it won’t for long. Maybe in this version of the story Shane will fucking shoot her in the head!

That’s what I’d like to see more of. Not character development or consistent rules or any of that; I just want to see cooler and cooler shit. I want to see an homage to Fulci and Jaws 3D where the gang decides to head south from Atlanta, ends up in Sea World, and drops a zombie into a shark tank just so they can watch and see what happens.

But yeah, that’s not this show. Maybe Zombieland on Fox can pick up the torch on over-the-top awesome. But the attempted realism here makes it watchable and entertaining for me. Still not great, but soooo much better than last year, where the first 15 minutes of the pilot was forced to be a shot for shot remake of the opening of 28 Days Later and we had to wait for all the people to finally decide to get along right before the one really awesome scene – the first herd attack at the camp – finally made the show good again, then took us down into the CDC. But at least we’re past that, and we know more of the government is fucked here. That lets the new writers veer off as far from the comics as they want (hey, writers, seriously – let Shane shoot Lori in the head!). If nothing else, that should make it an interesting ride.

Immediately after Carl’s gut shot I tweeted out how happy I was that I wasn’t Darabont that night, because I felt like the show was working sooo much better without him. Then Devin schooled me and pointed out that Darabont was still a writer on that episode, albeit under his pen name. Damn. But maybe that was for the best. If left to his own devices, Kirkman will almost certainly have the fake voice of Morgan come back through the god damned walkie talkie and we’ll be “treated” to an entire episode of walkie talking.

But my hopes are still high for this Sunday.

Incidentally, I’ll be spending the weekend at ZomBCon in Seattle, where Jon Bernthal (Shane) is rumored to be hanging out as well. Hopefully I get a chance to talk to him, and if I do I’ll add that into a special edition of TV Talk over the weekend. Any questions you’d like me to ask if I get a minute? I mean, besides the obvious, “WHY ARE YOU STILL ALIVE???” I’m sure he hasn’t heard that one before.