Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Why I like The Walking Dead TV Show

Why I like The Walking Dead TV Show

1) I'm living in a time my 12-year old self would have loved. American pop culture is dominated by the superheroes and monsters I loved as a kid. It's a weirdly validating.

2) I always liked zombies, long before they took over pop culture and replaced the Western as the dominant genre for expressing hardscrabble American values in a lawless frontier.

3) I never thought I'd see a TV show that gets away with shit that Romero once earned an X-rating for. The Walking Dead is an extraordinarily violent show, with tearing bite wounds, spilled organs, and massive head wounds, all done brilliantly by the modern effects wizards at KNB effects. 

4) I like that the show goes all out for gore. Not because I'm a gorehound, but because if they drew back in order to protect my delicate sensibilities then they would draw back on the inherent nihilism of the material. 

5) I remember an interview with Robert Kirkman from some time ago. He said that he was always interested in what happened after the survivors escaped at the end of Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead. I always thought that was a dumb answer. What happens next is that the characters keep going until they get killed. All zombie stories are siege stories: the characters find safety, get complacent, and the safety is inevitably compromised. There is no happy ending in the zombie world, so why bother following characters to their inevitable doom? 

6) People make that complaint about The Walking Dead all the time. It's the same complaint they have about Game of Thrones: why bother caring about anyone when any of them can be taken out at any time. I suspect that people who make that complaint are a little too in love with the safety of formulaic storytelling. Sometimes you don't want the heroes to be safe.

7) I really like a lot of the characters in The Walking Dead. I like how Rick Grimes is barely keeping it together, while constantly stepping up when the group needs him. I like Daryl's tarnished nobility and badassitude. I like Michonne's cold ronin efficiency and reserves of pain. I like Herschel's dignity and wisdom. I like Glenn's quiet courage. The core group is interesting to follow.

8) I like the stillness of the show during silent moments, when the characters aren't arguing or battling for their lives. The wind shushing through the trees creates a sense of a world stripped of human life better than any special effect can convey.     

Conclusion: The show is far from perfect. The writing can be wildly inconsistent (season two was kind of a drag), smart characters do frustratingly stupid shit in order to move the story along, and the show occasionally falls in love with it's own bleakness. But The Walking Dead has done an amazing job at creating an entirely new world. When all is said and done, it's the best long-form story about the apocalypse.  

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