Monday, October 26, 2015

Caught in a loop of its own making

Arterial Splendor
Time has stopped and, no, not because of the implied shock of the scene above (even though time has "stopped" in that picture because, y'know, it's not moving... Meta!... This may be why some people believe cameras steal your soul... but can they steal the souls of zombies? I digress...) No, it's because the first three episodes of season 6 of The Walking Dead have all revolved around the same two-hour period. In the same way we never left that goddamned farm in season 2, we may never leave this day in the show. It'll turn into a soft landing spot for Bill Murray after the movie bomb of the weekend- Groundhog Day 2: Continually Back from the Dead (Meta!)

My friend, Nathan, texted me a few weeks ago as he was catching up on season 5 and said that he thought the writing in the second half of last season was the best yet and I agreed with him. I thought they were really pushing the envelope on certain characters and showed that they were willing to drive people like Rick into seeming insanity as the grinding, horrifying nature of life finally started taking its toll. Clearly, the theme of this season is the introduction of chaos in the form of good intentions. Happy Fun Land, otherwise known as Alexandria,  has been doing just fine up until Rick and Co.'s arrival. Now that they're here to demonstrate to the natives what it takes to survive in our brave, new world, said natives are dying in droves. What was this supposed to help again? If the intent is to show the road to hell, that's great. Sometimes people don't need a whole new outlook on life when they've been doing just fine to this point and turning Rick's group, the people that the audience is closest to, into well-intentioned idiots is something of a curveball. Will people still be fans of Rick and Carol and Abraham and the other hardliners if they show that the only thing that they brought to Alexandria was the elimination of half its population?

We're here to help. Really.
But some things are starting to gnaw on me (Zombie joke.) On the one hand, yes, being cooped up inside Alexandria with actual food, electricity, and Call of Duty: Black Ops (Meta!) means you haven't really been tested on how to live in the "real" world, but it also doesn't reduce you to the equivalent of a 2-year-old trapped on an escalator. The stark, raving incompetence of most of the inhabitants makes me think they'd have trouble pushing a wheelbarrow, much less maintaining a solar grid and constructing the kind of wall that surrounds the place. Yes, the Grimes band are survivors, but that doesn't mean that everyone in Alexandria is incapable of using a fork when eating, either. The writers have been really heavy-handed in emphasizing just how vulnerable and stupid most of the Alexandrians are and it's starting to get a little tiresome. We know that Rick is tougher than everyone else. He's proved it. But if you're telling me this whole town of fools and invalids has lasted for a couple years, post-apocalypse, I say you're a liar and these people are all actors.

Similarly, they've now introduced at least one person per episode this season who is only too ready to overtly accuse Rick of leading everyone to their collective doom. That person is subsequently killed off within minutes of stating said objection. If this is how the writers have chosen to portray the fact that Rick's best intentions are actually doing a ton of damage, we've gone past "heavy-handed" to "hit you over the head with this plot element like it's a cinder block." We can already see that things are going awry just fine by ourselves. We don't need to be reminded by the whiny assholes each episode, only for them to suffer the Truthsayer Phenomenon ("If you'd only listened to me, maybe I wouldn't be dead!") Perhaps that's their way of keeping Rick as a sympathetic figure while he's leading everyone to destruction because other people have to keep standing up for him, even while doubting his actions (like Michonne this episode)? If so, well played, but it's still getting annoying.

This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bo staff.
Next episode is supposed to be another time excursion as we get 90 minutes of Morgan, delving into his past and watching him wrestle with the problem of being the designated Arbiter of Morality in a world that tends to lack any. I like Morgan more than many of the other characters because he's conflicted but said conflicts haven't become a weight around his neck in the same way that, say, Carl's moroseness has become for him. (How annoying must it be for Chandler Riggs to have spent the vast majority of his acting career to date playing a petulant teenager, especially because he's... sixteen? Um, meta...?) Morgan also wields that staff (it's either a short bo or a long jo) with something approximating real knowledge of the weapon (I still grit my teeth every time I see Michonne gripping that damn sword like a baseball bat), so he automatically qualifies as interesting/hardcore for the martial arts geeks among us. So, even though we'll still be trapped in the Day of Infamy while we take the flashback train with Morgan, I'm OK with it.

The other big topic is, of course, the fate of Glenn (not really shown at the top of this post.) My opinion is: he's not dead, walking or otherwise. It was clear that Nicholas, after conveniently removing himself from the ranks of the returned via serious head trauma, fell on top of Glenn as they made the world's worst attempt at crowdsurfing. The blood and entrails were clearly coming from that body and Glenn's anguished reaction was from seeing someone else torn apart on top of him (which, y'know, could be trying) after having just witnessed a suicide. This is clearly a bad mental health day for Glenn. So, yeah, he's alive and this is shock value. Of course, in doing so, the writers are taking the viewers on a bit of a thrill ride by dangling the possibility that a crowd favorite is on his way out, but the payoff at the end of the ride seems almost impossible to do correctly. If Glenn does just die, then they might as well have just shown that and given everyone the Game of Thrones moment ('Anyone can be killed! Er.. except people crucial to the plot!") and moved on. If he doesn't die under a pile of walkers, then they're going to have to introduce some kind of deus ex machina moment that saves him and no one with any sense of storytelling will like that. At all. If they do come up with a way that successfully navigates out of this scenario, great. They've surprised me and that's always good. If not, well, they've made a cheap gamble for viewers on the most popular show on TV so... WTF?

Anyway, still worth watching. It's just descended a bit from "really intriguing" to "OK, but what do they do when this day is finally over?"

No comments:

Post a Comment