TV Talk: THE WALKING DEAD 2.3 “Save The Last One”–Henri’s Take

Yeah, Lori’s still stupid. Shane is kind of interesting. Rick is… well, he’s a guy who always wears a sheriff’s outfit. But at this point I just wanna know more about the actual zombies.

I love that the three of us are having really different reactions to this show. None of us love it, but we respond so differently to each episode. Meredith thought this was a great episode (for this series). Devin thought it was mostly crap and hates the comic soooo much. And for the most part I still enjoy the show, but this wasn’t one of my favorite episodes.

First: the speeches. You’re right, Devin. That kind of “should we even still try to carry on?” conversation about nothing in particular is a total hallmark of the comic. But I think that’s actually part of the appeal. As I said in the first post this season, one of the things that draws fans to the zombie apocalypse genre of fiction is that more than any other fake apocalypse it somehow gets in your head and makes you wonder what you’d do, how you’d handle it. That’s really what the books are all about, and those long talks that culminate in one character yelling out “WE are the Walking Dead!” worked okay for me when it was on the page. On paper I was free to read each line at my own pace, to linger over what choices I would make. Would I rather raise a son in that hell, or would I prefer he skipped it? Hmmm… That level of extra contemplation works for my brain in print.

But on screen? BOOOOOORRRRRRIIIIINNNNGGGG. So during that scene on the porch I remembered how I felt differently about it in the books, and I tried to find that same contemplative joy, but I just couldn’t. I don’t know if it’s because I hate TV Lori so much or if it’s all just poor pacing. But I think it’s valid that something that works in one medium won’t in another, and so I definitely wouldn’t mind if AMC kept on firing people and took out anyone who’d breathed Kirkman’s air. I’ll still read the books, but I’d love for the show to be “inspired by” more and “following some of the arcs of” a bit less.

At the ZomBCon panel a few weeks ago, for example, Norman Reedus let it be known that Merle will be back, but he won’t be the Governor. And I think that’s great. I’d love to never see the governor, and just have a new story that takes the general characters and ideas from the books and then goes all over the place. That could also be because I’ve read the books, though, and maybe if I hadn’t I could be having all those What Would Henri Do moments now. Instead I’ve already had those thoughts, so I can’t stand watching Lori from scene to scene as she wonders what she should do in that world.

But speaking of the world of the books, that brings me to my second point:

What the heck are the rules for the zombies on this show?

And this is one of my biggest pet peeves with the entire genre, too. In a vampire story you always have that moment where the rules are defined. It’s always cheesy, but at least is sets up the viewer’s expectation when the vampire turns to the main character and says, “Garlic? That doesn’t work! What do you think this is, a fairy tale?” And then you have to wait to find out if they go catatonic during the day or if Spike can drive through sunlight as long as there’s paint over most of his windshield. Zombies never have that.

I realize that’s an intentional piece from the Romero canon, but it still always struck me as an excuse because no one could come up with a believable reason that the dead would start walking around again, so they just skip over that part of the story. And that’s fine. I don’t need to know if it’s a comet or a government experiment gone wrong or the 1% trying to get rid of Occupy protestors so they can drive their limousines in peace. But seriously – why do these zombies eat people, other than the fact that that’s what zombies do?

Return of the Living Dead touched on this, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in zombie cinema history. They don’t explain WHY eating brains is the only thing that makes the dead forget the pain of decomposing, but hey, at least it’s motivation. 28 Days Later has the rage virus, which makes it even plausible that their zombies run. Romero gets a pass because he accidentally invented the entire genre, and he has a great time letting the zombies evolve, which I totally dig.

But the characters here are just playing like they’re in early Romero’s world – Dawn of the Dead but outside of a mall – without acknowledging it, and that’s not fair. It’s also confusing, because I don’t know what to expect from these zombies from one scene to the next.

Why did some of them run after Shane and Otis? Romero’s just shuffle, and they would have been easy to escape at the school, because there weren’t enough of them to be a real threat.

But the big one – why did they eat the hanging guy’s legs off, and would Shane have been better off shooting Otis in the head? Based on the hanging guy, I have to assume that he would have, because the hanging guy would have been dead and yet zombies still ate him. So I’m assuming that they eat dead flesh that hasn’t yet turned zombie? So if you shoot someone in the head, they won’t pull your hair out, but the zombies will still eat them, yeah?

I guess so. And I know that we can assume that Shane doesn’t know these rules and so he assumes zombies only like the living and so on, but I don’t like having to speculate like that. Which is why if there ever IS a zombie apocalypse, I’m spending the first day testing shit out. Maybe stabbing them in the heart would be just as effective as braining them. Maybe they won’t be that fast, or that strong. Zombies always rip the guts out of people, but have you tried ripping the guts out of something with your bare hands? It’s tough. Even Daryl uses a knife, and that was just to gut a zombie.

But wait – are zombies softer, or has rigor mortis set in on part of their flesh making them harder to puncture? I HAVE NO IDEA. Because the stupid CDC can’t do anything right.