“I know that you can be overwhelmed, and I know that you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever be just whelmed?”
“…I think you can in Europe.”
– 10 Things I Hate About You
Last night was the first zombie dream I’ve had since The Walking Dead premiered. I used to have zombie dreams all the time, but during the show’s run, they stopped. Which was nice. I mean, on Sunday nights I’d go to sleep thinking about zombies and sometimes wake up thinking about zombies, but my sleeptime was blissfully unperturbed. Lest you think I overstate my case, in my dreams, the zombies evolve. They get smarter, faster, and harder to kill, but for some reason, everyone always trusts me to lead humanity. Big mistake, people. I don’t even know how to fire a gun, and I am always clueless about that crossbow you give me.
While the zombies themselves weren’t smarter or faster in last night’s dream, they were controlled by an underground zombie larvae (sort of like the brain bug in Starship Troopers, which, I recently realized, has Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” playing during a totally incongruous scene, like the whole point of interstellar insect war is to perpetuate shoegaze music across the galaxies). Also, this time I was a co-leader in fighting the zombies. I don’t normally dream of Graham for some reason, but last night we were leading the zombie apocalypse together. Much like the group making it to the CDC in The Walking Dead’s season finale, we managed to locate an abandoned warehouse and use it for a safe place. Until we found out about the zombie larvae, of course, which lived directly under the warehouse. Then everything went to shit.
Judging by what I read on Facebook this morning, I’m the only person on it who has enjoyed all of The Walking Dead. Everyone else reports being disappointed or underwhelmed at the series. The most common complaints I’ve seen are that the show doesn’t match/isn’t as good as the books, the characters are “dry,” and there aren’t enough zombies with their accompanying gore. Clearly everyone is allowed to have their own opinions about a zombie show on basic cable, but:
Of course the show doesn’t match/isn’t as good as the books. I’ve never read the books, myself; aside from the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac series and my dad’s old Archies, it’s hard for me to follow comics or graphic novels. But I’ve also never seen a show or movie based on a book that didn’t disappoint me in some way. Sometimes the disappointment is small, like when I saw the Lord of the Rings. Yes, some things were missing, but overall, I think the films did incredible justice to a series that was mostly about walking (cue Randal Graves). Sometimes the disappointment is massive, like when I walked out of Queen of the Damned ranting that if Aaliyah hadn’t already died in a plane crash, I would just have to kill her myself. I didn’t set myself up for disappointment by reading The Walking Dead books, but I’d like to think that if I did, I might have been able to understand the limits of translating a comic book to a multi-season television series.
To everyone who complains about the characters being “dry:” are we watching the same show? I think the characters are, while not too terribly deep, well-written for a show about zombies. There are undead people with rotting limbs staggering through downtown Atlanta; I hope you weren’t expecting a Merchant Ivory film. I think that for a fairly large cast and a limited number of locations per act (due to the limited number of resources because it’s the freaking zombie apocalypse), the characters’ backgrounds are thankfully brief. There are bigger things to be worried about here, I don’t need everyone’s life story. I want the details in the exact way they’re being revealed – from one character to another, during the short and few times they can allow themselves to let their guards down. This doesn’t make the characters “dry” or any less human to me. These people are in survival mode, and in a world full of the walking dead, they are having trouble remaining as human as possible. Let’s see you be a better person when you’re smearing yourself in zombie guts.
Which brings me to the central complaint raised by people who have trouble discerning AMC from HBO. Not enough zombies, not enough gore. While there were markedly less zombies and gore in the later episodes, to me this makes sense. It’s a story arc, for chrissakes: lots of zombies in the beginning to illustrate the problem, less zombies later as the group struggles to find a safe place. And it’s not like we won’t see any more zombies in the future. The show was picked up for a second season, which means there is plenty of time for more zombies, more gore, Morgan and his son, Merle, the helicopter, and the hombres in the nursing home. Quit yer cryin’, sissies.
Yeah, so I’m not done defending the characters…it can be difficult to pay attention to everyone in such a large cast and some characters are stronger than others, but I think that in general, everyone has evolved at least a little bit since the beginning. This is what I always look for in any character, because it gives me a reason to be interested in their experience. For example, I think Darryl has gone from being a 100% redneck asshole to someone who squeezes back a few tears after leaving the campsite they’ve just realized is unsafe (okay, fine, he gets drunk on SoCo later and tries destroying the CDC, big deal). Also, Shane is essentially a good guy and best friend who’s been traumatized into loneliness so extreme he becomes a drunk almost rapemonster. And even when there’s not much room for personal evolution, the characters of The Walking Dead can impress me. Surprisingly (to me), one of the best characters is Rick and Lori’s son Carl. This is a big deal because I think “Carl” is one of the most loathsome names on the planet, but this kid displays genuine fear in the really scary moments, and when he screamed “MOM!” when everyone was attacked on the mountain, I think one of my ovaries died.
My favorite character is the old guy. I don’t even remember his name, but I would have considered not watching the second season if he’d blown up with the CDC.
Also I think he may have made Andrea pregnant.