A few thoughts on AMC’s The Walking Dead

Crack open Hedgie’s skull and feast upon the delicious words within.

So this past weekend saw the second season finale of The Walking Dead, AMCs zombie apocalypse drama starring Andrew Lincoln as an American Sheriff and Sarah Wayne Callies as the most up-and-down nutcase of a wife in television history. Also some other people.

As season three is only a few months away (I really like this system of having a short gap in the middle of a season to allow for a short gap between the seasons themselves), October most likely, I thought I’d lay out some thoughts about the most recent season, the series as a whole so far and what I’d like from season three.

Serious spoilers follow for season two, including the finale, and for the comic up to at least TP 5. You’ve been warned. If you’re behind, don’t read the damn article.

Bye, lost city of Atlanta

Okay. So this season started with a massive horde of walkers, and the opener was one of the most tense hours of television drama I’ve ever watched. Already a ratings powerhouse – the first season premiere was the most watched program in the networks history – this highly anticipated event garnered a whopping 7.3 million viewers, making it the most watched drama in the history of cable television. It was gripping, it was nerve wracking and it ended on a high note.

The rest of the season opener. Not so much.

I’m a huge fan of tense drama, and of the series basic philosophy that the characters are the centre of the piece and the zombies happen around them. It’s a philosophy shared with the original comic series by Robert Kirkman and it makes for better TV in my opinion. That said, the first seven episodes of season focussed almost solely on the search for Sophia, the young daughter of Carol. This was, to put it bluntly, awful. I understood the aim, and in the mid-season finale the arc was brought to a really visceral and satisfying end. It’s just a  shame that the lead up to said finale was so fucking boring.

It wasn’t tense, it wasn’t entertaining, it wasn’t much of anything really; in part because the focus of every-single-character’s each and every word, thought and action was in search of a character with all up about ten minutes of prior screen time and in whom the audience was not particularly invested. Sure Sophia had been around, she was there in episode one of season one, and in the background of almost every episode afterwards but there in lies the kicker; she was a background character. Unlike Carl she wasn’t the child of a primary protagonist, and so with such little emotional investment in the character prior to her disappearance, there was very little urge amongst the viewers to keep spending every single goddamn episode looking for her; no matter how good the kicker was in episode seven.

The revelation that Sophia had been in the barn, at the farm, undead, the entire time was great but could have had the same impact if the ‘search for Sophia’ arc had been the B plot in every episode, rather than the A. I know why it happened, thank AMC for slashing the budget. Doesn’t change the fact that it was dull.

Sorry but we just aren't that invested

Things got a lot better though after the mid-season break and there were not only a lot more zombies, but more of our time was spent following the actions of characters we care about. Or who at least had more than six lines in the series so far.

Rick is showing the strains of being leader of a bunch of morons who do nothing but whinge and second guess his every move. Lori is still the worst person in the world who, after literally weeks of hinting that Shane needed to be taken out, is now all bitchy and upset that Rick did just that; props to Sarah Wayne Callies though, she’s doing a great job of playing the deranged, bitchy Lori I love to hate from the graphic novels. The tension between Shane and Rick was truly outstanding. Poor Dale. Chandler Riggs (Carl) is proving to be a great little actor. Kid’s only 13. Daryl continues to be the highlight of every episode.

The introduction of René from True Blood and his chunky friend was great and the follow up arc involving Shane and Rick’s butting of heads over how to deal with their new captor, Randall made for some really nice moments. Shane spent the entire season going rapidly downhill. Several cast members died, even important ones; thus cementing (finally) in the minds of viewers that, just like that other most-excellent television series Game Of Thrones, nobody is safe. Nobody.

It was a long time coming, but by the end of season two the series finally had the teeth and the balls that it had promised in season one and that the comic series has demonstrated from the word go. It was always there, just under the surface, but with the events of the episodes leading to this weeks finale, we finally got what we had been promised. Also: prison. Yay. Finally.

To finish my recap, here are my favourite characters:

L-R; Carl, Rick, Andrea, Daryl

– Daryl. Give this man all the screen time please.

– Rick. I can see season three being pretty hard on him.

– Andrea. In one season she’s gone from damsel in distress to head shots from a moving vehicle. Fuck yeah.

– Carl is great, now that he has something to do besides cry and get shot.

And my pick for most hated characters of all time ever:

L-R; crazy bitch wife, token black guy, Lady McWhinge-a-lot

– Lori, although she’s kind of a bitch in the comics too though, so at least it’s accurate. I don’t have a problem with Sarah Wayne Callies, far from it, I just love to hate Lori Grimes. She’s a moody bitch and pregnancy has just made her worse.

– Carol. When was the last time you did anything useful, Carol? You do a lot of moaning about how your family died and how Rick is terrible and you want Daryl’s lean, muscular body pressed against yours (okay fine, she doesn’t say that but it’s fucking obvious) but really, what do you contribute to the group? Nothing? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Shut up.

– T-Dog. It’s like the show creators both do and do not want ethnic diversity. There was a nice little borderline-racist-but-its-okay-coz-they-are-friends Asian driver joke between Daryl and Glenn in the finale, and the dynamic between Glenn and Maggie is really, really great but why is T-Dog even here? He just sort of stands in the background, has maybe one line every three episodes and then suddenly is all about taking charge and leading them to the ocean.

He’s the worst background singer in the world; taking up stage space but contributing nothing to the song until the last chorus when he jumps in front of Beyoncé and starts belting out a different tune.

I’m all for having T-Dog around, but ether give him something to do, or kill him and let Michonne and Tyrese pick up the slack. Ooh, maybe we’ll get an awkward “we’re the only black characters on the show” love triangle between T-Dog, Michonne and Tyrese. Should Tyrese show up at all. Which I figure he will.

Anyway. Loved the finale. Loved it. Glad they killed some peeps so we can have new peeps to also kill. Lori needs to make up her damn mind about something, ANYTHING, Carol needs to shut up, Carl needs weapons training and I hope Andrea slaps some people for leaving without her. Particularly Carol, who contributes less than nothing to the group and also was the only person there who could have had Andrea’s back in the finale.

Stay in the goddamn house, Carl! No? Okay then shoot things!

So where to next? Season three is confirmed and in production, and like the first two will probably start some time in October. That’s not really that far away; thankfully we have Game of ThronesThe KillingThe Legend of KorraAwake and Falling Skies to keep us occupied in the meantime. I really hope Falling Skies is better this season than last, which was decent but not outstanding.

What I’d like to see from Season Three

– The prison. We know it’s coming, it was revealed at the end of the finale. I’d like to see the group clear it out and then set up camp. Some of the best character moments came during the prison section of the graphic novels and it makes a nice base of operations but;

– Use it as a base of operations, not an excuse for and endless series of bottle episodes. Pretty much every episode should have a bit of them living in the prison, making a new life for themselves, and a bit of exploring the world. Really, outside of Atlanta, the farm and that one town that they keep going to despite how shitty it is there we’ve not seen much of it. Also;

– Zombies. Every episode. More than one of them. Some of my favourite prison stuff involved the group clearing the fence of walkers. It’s a zombie show; don’t be afraid to show some zombies.

– Carl needs to learn to shoot, properly. Comic Carl is fucking badass. Stop telling him to get inside the house, you know he won’t anyway, why put up the front? Just let him shoot things, he’s already better at it (and subsequently more useful to the group) than Lori, Carol, T-Dog and Beth combined.

– Wiltshire Estates. In the comic, the group finds a nice, gated community where they try to hunker down. Turns out it’s not the best idea. It was really tense on the page and could translate well, perhaps sometime between ‘side of the road’ and ‘prison’.

– Can we get some closure on Morgan and Dwayne?

– Also Merle Dixon? I have a feeling he’ll be setting up shop with The Governor. Which is going to be fabulous.

– Getting back to the prison for a minute, can we have some nice ‘not everything sucks’ moments? Those lulls in the tension where there is that sense of security make the tense, dramatic action better. It doesn’t always have to be so goddamn dour. Have them make a farm in the prison, have them secure for a bit, and maybe start to enjoy themselves. Then rip that contentment away from them and stomp on it and set it on fire.

– Please do Michonne right. We’ve got enough whiny female characters who do nothing. If Joss Whedon can give us awesome female character after awesome female character; you guys can manage two.

– A little more of Randall’s group.

– Winter. I think they hinted at that in the finale when Carl was complaining of being cold.

– A little more backstory. Other than Rick and Shane, we don’t really know much about what the characters did before they spent their lives running from walkers and complaining that Rick doesn’t respect their feelings. Glenn was a pizza delivery guy. What about Andrea? Or Carol? Or Daryl? Or Maggie? Or T-Dog? With Michonne making her debut next season, it’d be nice to explore a little more of who these people were before the world went to shit.

– A cameo by Rob Kirkman. Because of reasons, that’s why.

That’s all I can think of now.

Overall, I really enjoyed the second half of the season, and the first half should probably go to show AMC that you can’t slash The Walking Dead‘s budget, give it to Mad Men and then still expect it to perform. Some shows are just going to cost money. Deal with it. Some of the characters I hate, but that’s good; it’s good to have dislikable characters to spice things up a bit; to disagree with Rick, to lose sight of Carl for the billionth time, to get them into trouble with walkers, with other survivors and amongst themselves, to get all swoon over Daryl… and to then be subsequently ignored completely by Daryl.

I love this series, despite its faults and I think that they’ve done a great job of recreating Robert Kirkman’s original world on screen, while making it different enough to remain interesting.

In the mean time, trade sixteen of the comic series drops in June and I cannot wait.

You can harass the author of this post via Twitter: @CAricHanley