Season One/Episode 6: TS-19
Last night the mini first season of AMC’s smash insta-hit, The Walking Dead went out with a great big zombie plague origin story bang. Among the casualties were a couple of non-comic book canon characters who won’t be missed and lots of precious plot cohesion, plausibility or originality. I love the sheer, unadulterated page turn-ability of the Walking Dead comics and the first two episodes of the television show were incredibly good with the promise of even more great things to come. So it is with great regret that one of the only nice things I have to say about how the first chapter of the TV adaptation wrapped up is that new survivor Daryl and his crossbow will be around next season.
When I interviewed the cast and crew at NYCC Comic Con , I asked Norman Redus (Daryl), Laurie Holden (Andrea), and Steve Yuen (Glenn) if they were nervous about dealing with comic fandom’s geek army, who, as all respectable people know, can be notoriously prickly and meticulously critical of film and TV adaptations of the stories they love. But I didn’t realize I’d be one of those nerds. The first two episodes of The Walking Dead were smart, tightly scripted and faithful to the comic without being distractingly so or derivative. Those two episodes worked. But right around episode four, things went off course and now they’ve officially LOST me. And by that I mean, we’re six episodes in (HALF of the running time of a regular television season) and the show’s already receiving criticism for becoming unfortunately Lost-ian in its introduction of new and unnecessarily sprawling scenarios. Kirkman’s basic story template is so strong and provides such a firm and easily transferrable foundation for a television series. It’s truly a shame that Darabont and fellow executive producers, Gale Ann Hurd and Robert Kirkman, were unable to trust the strength of that source material.
Take the start of the episode, for instance. Was it truly necessary to flashback to Shane at the hospital? Did we really need to labor on whether or not he was trying to save Rick or leave him for dead?
Why start there, only to cut back to a series of farfetched and wholly odd scenes of the survivors interacting with the only remaining scientist at the CDC, Edmund Jenner? And, worst of all, there wasn’t a single freakin’ zombie fight in the whole friggin’ episode. Man. What I wouldn’t have given for a crossbow to the brain right about the time Rick drunkenly confessed to Jenner he was running out of hope for survival and humanity and Shane was attacking Lori. Shane should totally be dead by now anyways!
The intent of those scenes seemed to be creating a subtle, climatic build up to the penultimate scene of Jenner explaining your brain on the zombie virus. Instead they just came off as spurious and obvious. While it was intriguing and informative to delve into how zombie “resurrection” happens that knowledge could’ve been better executed. As I said last week, the introduction of the CDC excursion storyline played more like the introduction to an entirely new TV show. It would’ve been more respectful to the television canon so far (not to mention the comic’s) to continue to mine the intra-survivor dynamics for drama. Speaking of survivor dynamics, where the heck is Merle? Or Morgan and his son? Why were the specters of rendezvousing with Morgan and son and rescuing Merle introduced and then dropped? If Darabont and Co. are going entirely off comic book canon, an effort to stay within realms that are believable and organic to the show’s storyline so far should be observed.
To that end, don’t even get me started on the whole mad scientist setting off the Countdown to Decontamination Clock thingy.
That was just played and, worst of all; totally superfluous and distracting. Prior to the CDC “hatch” storyline, The Walking Dead TV show, while diverging wildly from the comic, was still grounded in the fresh and original premise of basically realistic characters losing their shit as they deal with a fucked up, apocalyptic scenario. Hopefully, when next season picks up on the car caravan of survivors rolling away from the CDC explosion, Darabont and his new team of writers will return to strong storytelling based on character development. They’ve already made the show a hit, now they just need to make it as great as the first few episodes suggested it would be.
In spite of my strongly negative opinions on the finale and second to last episodes, I think the odds are good that they’ll succeed in ironing out the kinks. This was a short season and there were some things that had me intrigued last night. I’m wondering just what Jenner whispered to Rick and whether or not Carl will off Shane eventually. I also can’t wait to see how they introduce the Governor. Heck, I’ll watch for the prospect of Daryl crossbow-stickin’ it to more of the undead alone! In summary, even with my dissatisfaction with how the first season wrapped up, I remain an avid and eager viewer of this show.
What do y’all think? Was I too harsh on the finale? Or not nearly harsh enough? What do you want to see more or less of in Season Two? Will you be tuning in next Fall or is this it for you? Sound off, people.