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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ultimate Geek Fu

The Walking Dead

My thoughts on this new show were requested, so I Hulu'd the first episode this evening.

Let me get the good stuff out of the way:

Yes, it is entertaining and I will likely follow the show.

Yes, it is fairly hardcore. Not as gut wrenchingly nasty as a modern zombie flick. But as far as the need for keeping children away, assume that if you wouldn't have them watching the original "Dawn of the Dead" than this one should be skipped as well. (The original, the recent remake is far and away nastier than this show.)

No, it is not following the standard formula of a zombie film. By this I am not talking about the zombies themselves, which are very Romero-esque in the sense that they are:

A) Legitimately dead, not diseased, rabid, under some form of mind control, or any other dodge that recent films have used to insert some small amount of realism. I suspect that they will try to come up with some reason to explain things eventually, but based on what I have seen thus far the walking dead in the show are true, honest to god, dead-brought-back-to-life grade A zombies.

B) Slow and clumsy. The standard Romero style zombie has what has become the stereotypical zombie lurching shuffle as they walk and are barely capable of using very simple tools, such as bludgeons or perhaps trying a doorknob.

C) Infectious. The show has not yet defined whether or not a zombie bite or other fluid exchange is actually required to join team dead upon a character shuffling the mortal coil, but it has definitively established by way of exposition that becoming infected by one through bite, scratch, or other contact is a one way ticket to cannibalism lane.

No, the way in which it is differing from the established formula is exactly the ways in which one would expect it to as a serialized media is not the same as a movie. The writers are taking a few fairly obvious shortcuts to hook the largest demographic possible. The most painfully expected one of course being the screwed up love interest, which I have no doubt will end up climaxing into something ridiculously overwrought and pointless somewhere between the middle and end of the first season. I hope I am wrong, really I do. But I don't think I will be. They are attempting to remove the obvious stereotyping in the characters and are generally not doing too bad of a job. But I find myself already concerned that in an effort to save money later in the season they will have ridiculous amounts of screen time dedicated to these characters in very soap opera style situations rather than the aspect that I find more entertaining, the "Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse" angle.

All in all I have many specific quibbles and concerns, but am impressed enough to want to continue watching. For whatever than might be worth to you all.

All that said, Now time for the spoilers.


OK. I understand WHY they did it. But the outright theft from "28 days later" of the concept of the main character missing the initial outbreak by being laid up in a hospital room shows an incredible lack of imagination. I am more than a little disgusted by this. Did it work? Sure. It worked better the first time when I hadn't already seen it, but it worked.

The main character seems to have been sucking the sweet tit of denial for the first quarter or more of this thing. After all of the damage, all of the dead, and after seeing a woman that has literally been torn in half and then rotted to the point that ribs are visible still is crawling after him with intent to bite he STILL doesn't seem to get the idea that something is more off kilter than just a few dead people. He then has the balls to give the first living adult human he finds a hard time for shooting a "Walker" in the street. Granted, he backs off in fairly short order. But the fact that he even felt the need to question it utterly baffles me. When there is that much dead in the street and some guy takes you in, changes your dressings, and FEEDS YOU, cutting the man a break and assuming he knows what he is doing MIGHT be the best option. Just saying.

The feel of the show is good, even though almost all of the things here have been done before and better. One thing that they did that I approved of from a storytelling standpoint is the show opens with him looking for fuel and coming across a child zombie which he is then forced to shoot. The fact that they opened up this show by killing by way of a bullet to the brain pan what looked to be about a ten year old girl makes me think that they won't be pulling a lot of punches on the action. I mean, when you start with the bar set on killing children it isn't like you can't throw in the occasional action packed zombie frag fest without ever encroaching on that level again if you don't want to.

There is a scene in the hospital that he wakes up in that is particularly good. Remember, he knows nothing of what has happened. He knows the hospital is pretty trashed though, and he has seen one corpse. He comes across a set of double doors that are chained shut with the words "DON'T OPEN, DEAD INSIDE" on them in spray paint. At first I thought it was just going to be standard mood enhancing graffiti type stuff. The same thing they put in every zombie film. And then the doors start to rattle while he watches. Grayish fingers find their way to the crack between the two doors and you can see the look of horror on his face as he realizes that he really doesn't know what is going on, but that he doesn't want to find out. The scene would have been more powerful without the kid killing at the opening. Showing just the fingers and having not already seen a sample of the enemy would have gone farther. But since I did like the opening as well, I guess that was a gamble they took that paid off, at least for me.

In the closing scene this idiot actually makes his way to Atlanta Georgia and has the incredible lack of common sense required to enter it on a horse. (Yes, horses are great, but in a city full of millions of dead things they are little more than a larger snack.) He finds himself hopelessly surrounded and taking refuge in a tank left behind by the military's effort to regain control of the situation. He loses his horse in a move by the director that will no doubt make staunch members of PETA cry into their pillows for a month, and the last moments of the show have this ass clown stuck in a giant tin can that is covered by the dead.

Is it a powerful scene? Yes. Yes it was. Not sure why they didn't just end it there and pick up in episode two. But no, they had one more trick to pull. The radio in the tank crackles to life and some observant individual, probably from one of the skyscrapers, starts belittling our "hero" and his plight. Honestly, the fact that there was somebody else there sucked away into the void most of the sense of desperation they were trying to illicit with the scene. I think including it in the first episode was a terrible idea. /shrug. But then, I don't make tv shows. So I won't claim expert status with it.

Again, all in all a good show. I will keep watching it until it begins to disappoint me.

Datatroll is an equaintance of Kersley's and an aspiring sci fi writer. He opines on his LiveJournal blog. ULTIMAGE GEEK FU runs every Wednesday (except when it doesn't). Have a question that's just bugging the heck out of you about Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Star This, Star That, Star Whatever, The Starlost, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Firefly, Fringe, Heroes, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Smallville, True Blood, The X-Files, The X-Men, The Man From Atlantis, or pretty much any other SF- or fantasy-flavored media property? Send it to slushpile@thefridaychallenge.com with the subject line, "Geek Fu," and we'll stuff it in the queue.
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