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The Walking Dead Underachieves Because of Its Radical Nihilism (Spoiler Warning!)

(Warning: This post contains spoilers through Episode 4×14 of The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.)

Right now, The Walking Dead is my favorite show on TV, which sucks because of how disappointing the show can be. Don’t get me wrong, the zombies are terrifying and the action scenes are creative and captivating, but I just can’t stand the people moping around when they are on the verge of running out of food. What would make the show better is a dose of conservative ideology.

The Walking Dead underachieves is because it’s a wildly liberal/nihilistic show, embracing the motto, in the long run, we’re all dead. Whatever satisfies you now, do it. Which works great, in the modern American world of 7-11’s and mass convenience. When you put that philosophy into practice in a world full of flesh-eating zombies (as TWD tries to do every week), at some point, the characters become unsympathetic, because there’s so little pleasure in the world. If you live for pleasure in the zombie-apocalypse, why don’t you walk into the arms of the biters?

Season 4’s second half demonstrates how dumb this philosophy is. Rick and the counsel would have plan ready if they had to suddenly abandon the prison, like bags that were ready to fill with food, and a place to met on the outside (and getting to this specific, predetermined place could have been the major arc of the second half of the season). Remember how Glenn slept on the broken bridge through the night after the Governor’s attack? The prison was intact enough that they would have time to go to the kitchen and gather supplies before they left.

Instead, the characters run off into the woods and scavenge houses and eateries for food. Hadn’t they picked the area clean when they were on the road a year ago, at the beginning of season 3? The world went to hell, but it’s as if the McDonald’s never closed.

This roaming-in-circles, Cheese-Wiz-from-the-sky attitude is because Hollywood holds luck, not hard or planning, as the main arbiter of success and failure in life. The belief in the supremacy of lucks leads to a belief that personal actions are not important, and at some point, there’s no point in watching people whining over their personal autonomy being violating. (Like Maggie in Episode 4×13, for example.)

There’s a simple conservative ideology that could fix this: building for the future. Things may look bleak, but we have inalienable rights steaming for our creator, however we define him, and we have to preserve our society. To those who want to keep ideologies off television, I’d say this: this is a mild conservative ideology that would make the show mostly apolitical, and if you want to watch more liberal TV, you have unending options. No one says you still can’t have a couple pessimistic characters to balance things out.

I do have a glimmer of hope that The Walking Dead will get better, and that has to do with the one arc that I have found interesting in the second half of this season, the Daryl-Beth story. I know fans tend to complain about Beth (seriously, fans of guy shows hate woman as a general principal it seems), but Beth got Daryl to be more optimistic and to open up. If this season ends with Daryl saving Beth and becoming a more purposed character, that could be a great arc into the next season. But given how this show likes to play ball, I’m guessing that Beth is going to be killed, and her death is somehow going to motivate Daryl to be more of a leader. While the latter scenario would be ideologically consistent, it would do the impossible: it would make The Walking Dead even more nihilistic. But at least I might be able to give up the show then.

(For more on TWD‘s ideological issues, check out this post from The Federalist.)

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Oh Beth, if You Were Only on Hart of Dixie

Walking Dead: How to Film a Terrifying Herd, Season 2 Finale, and Where to go from Here

Last Sunday night I turned off my cellphone and settled in to watch The Walking Dead‘s season finale. Just judging by the promos, I knew the show would be great. It was the classic zombie situation: a small group of strangers are stranded in a house, facing an endless sea of predators. While I do wish the zombie herd would have spotted the herd in episode 10 or 11 so there could have been more build-up, this zombie sequence did something right that I think many of the zombie sequences on the show haven’t done as well.

The Walking Dead‘s fans have spent ample time complaining about the shows slow episodes, and while I’m not thrilled with those episodes, I think that criticism is misdirected. What I think is a real problem is that, the some of the larger zombie sequences this season have been poorly directed. This has happened in two ways: one, a smaller number of extras is shot in a way that only makes them look large, such as the herd in the season premiere that pinned the survivors down on the interstate, plus the herd that was chasing Shane and Otis at the end of episode three.  Also, the motion of the zombies in both scenes is a problem: the run straight too much. In the zombie scene at the ed of episode four in season one, the actual number of zombies is quite small. What makes it terrifying is that they seem to be coming from everywhere randomly.

The second major problem is with the zombie scene in episode ten, when Rick and Shane are at the school. When the zombies break out of the building and start chasing Shane around (and it’s a small number of zombies to begin with), there’s too much open space for the scene to be really terrifying. The bus is out in the open, and it’s too easy for Rick to get to it with car. But all this said, the worst zombie scene in The Walking Dead is roughly about as bad as the worst ice cream cone.

There are ways that the show does a job of building terror with only a few zombies. Take the scene in episode nine where Rick, Hershel, and Glenn are finding Randall with his leg stuck on the fence (literally). You didn’t to have a whole herd of walkers rushing them as they decided what to do with Randall; just the sight of a few zombies approaching was enough.

But this herd was done right: it came from seemingly nowhere, and it looked endless. I was surprised they didn’t just barricade everyone in the house but, there were some great kills (T-Dogg hitting the zombie with the truck got a huge buzz on twitter). (MAJOR SPOILER🙂 The deaths of Jimmy and Patricia, secondary characters who didn’t do a lot the second half of the season, were not that surprising. When I saw Patricia and Beth running in the promos, I thought strongly one of them would die. The Walking Dead is a show that demands not only a high body count, but you need those scenes where someone gets pulled into a herd of walkers, the fate husband and wife Otis and Patricia shared. As far as death-management goes, it is somewhat disappointing that either Dale and/or Shane’s deaths, as well as they were done, were not saved for this sequence. Dale dying in his RV instead of Jimmy while saving Rick and Carl would have meant more. They still could have killed off Jimmy with the walker Carl set free and kept that storyline for Carl. (Side note: the RV is another “character” I’ll really miss.)

Ironically, the group of ten that began season two is ten again. Three of that group were lost (Sophia, Dale, Shane) and have been replaced by Hershel, Maggie, and Beth. Beth is a characters I’d want to see more of (she was great in episode ten) and the show needs more female characters. Like many of the other fans, I’d like to see more of T-Dogg, but it’s also easy to forget that T-Dogg played a huge role in episodes two through four in season one. With the news that Merle is returning, it will be interesting to see if T-Dogg factors into his story. And if Merle is part of the Governor’s Woodbury, it will be especially great for Daryl, who ended the season at some odds with Rick.

That leads me to my disappointment with the final scene. Let me be clear: The Walking Dead takes place in a harsh world. That said, I thought ending with Rick’s speech about he’s the new dictator in town was the wrong tone to end the season. I don’t have a problem with Lori being upset with Rick for killing Shane. But it might have been better for the show end with the survivors actually looking on the prison rather than having the camera pan to it. Michael Ausellio noted in his Spoiler Alert video podcast after episode ten that the show is getting almost too conflict heavy, and does need more moments of the characters bonding and working together. It is possible for the show to get too depressing and the characters too dark to root for, as 24 did during its sixth season.

As for the other major revel, I’m as excited as the comic fans to see Michonne, mainly for a reason that Kirkman shared on Talking Dead post-finale: while most of the characters we know are stupefied by the world of zombie, Michonne has figured out how to survive. Michonne was already trending on twitter before the character appeared on screen, and perhaps the sighting of a warrior-character will keep the show from being too depressing.

So here’s what I expect for season three: generally, the overall theme is going to be, band together. The season will encompass the prison storyline, from Rick and the survivors clearing out the zombies that remain in it, dealing with the inmates that are still alive, and finally, facing the destruction of the walls by the Governor and his Woodbury army. Hershel will die by the end of the season, along with several of the original survivors. I think there’s a good chance there’s a jump forward in time and Lori will have the baby by the end of the season. I’d love to see more back story for Glenn and T-Dogg. The Governor is one of the biggest questions I have for the season, mainly because he’s clearly going to come in a lot earlier than he does in the comics. My guess is, Andrea and Michonne run into Woodbury and are part of his

That leads me to the question I’ve been debating for a while and that is Lori’s death in the comics, which happens at the end of the prison storyline. Part of me hopes that Lori survives and can be a part of the post-prison story. Kirkman and Glen Mazzara have stated that the comics aren’t the definitive blueprint for the series, and that the show characters may outlive their comic book counterparts (Shane) or die before them (Dale, Otis). I hope that Lori does live on in the show, but if she does die, that’s what happens. I do know one thing: if Lori does outlive the destruction of the prison, it could be hard to get rid of her after that.

In closing, my favorite moment from the finale was the preppy walker that Carl, Rick, and Hershel encountered at the interstate pile-up. The preppy walker is to me, the mark of a great show. Too often, all of the walkers are dressed in the same dull, drab attire, and it was great to see one that stood out. It was just a little touch, but it was that’s what great shows do: pay attention to detail.

(My post from earlier this year: Walking Dead as analogy).

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