by Thom Yee
Why I’m watching… The Walking Dead
Everybody’s watching The Walking Dead. It’s a cultural phenomenon so strong that it’s managed to attract people to the original comicbooks and is actually bringing regular people into comicbook stores, and that’s an incredibly momentous thing (and something that even Marvel’s movies generally fail to do). What creator Robert Kirkman has managed to do is create a perfect storm of commercial success, with massive viewerships, over and above usual cable network metrics, and rapid sellouts of print material available in all fine comic and book stores. If you want to watch The Walking Dead, there’s Sunday nights on AMC. If you want to talk The Walking Dead, Talking Dead, a show built entirely around fans discussions follows right after (and gets better ratings than many of its timeslot competitors). If you want to read The Walking Dead, there’s 118 issues (and counting) of comicbook. If you want to gift The Walking Dead, the comics are conveniently reprinted in collected edition trade paperbacks and massive prestige-format hardcover collections. And there’s just enough difference in these formats that people are compelled to watch and read all of it. I’ve been reading the comicbook almost since the beginning (this month is the comics’ 10th anniversary), and it’s remained consistently surprising, consistently inventive, and consistently compelling.
But the show is kind of a crapfest.
By virtue of what it is — a zombie show with no set ending and enough momentum for big changes to come about relatively quickly — it is entertaining, and that’s enough to get a certain amount of attention. But it spends too long on boring story elements, its themes are heavy-handed and handled inelegantly, and it suffers from the cardinal sin of dramatic storytelling: characters acting stupidly and irrationally simply to serve the plot. In this regard, The Walking Dead is almost Heroes-bad. But it’s still worth keeping an eye on. And it always seems just a few choices away from being better. So I’m in. At least for one more season.
4×01: “30 Days Without an Accident”
The thing to ask yourself with a show like The Walking Dead, where every installment ends with some sort of cliffhanger or revelation (or revelatory cliffhanger) is whether or not you, as a viewer, benefitted from watching the episode. There’s almost always going to be some specific plot points revealed in each episode, so yes, if you want to enjoy the fullness of the show, you should watch every one. But if you had skipped it, but for those plot points, would you have really lost anything?
I’ll say straight up, I hated the Rick subplot of “30 Days Without an Accident”, but I kind of see it as necessary. Rick goes to check the snares and comes across a survivor who asks to join his camp. Turns out she’s gone nuts, showing Rick how bad things can go and how close he came to his own insanity. Compounded with the facts — his wife had a pseudo-affair with his childhood best friend, he was forced to kill said best friend who was growing increasingly erratic, his wife eventually died in childbirth anyway — and you’ve got a character who knows he needs to keep it together as the leader even though he should always be on edge. His trip with crazy lady was a good reminder to viewers about how much he’s got going on as, basically, our main character, but crazy lady herself was just annoying. And Rick never should’ve gone off on his own anyway.
The supply run was pretty much just more of the same. We’ve seen scenes like this throughout the series, and it really just served to show us the overall attitude shifts that have taken place in the camp with Beth’s reaction after hearing how things went. There’s nothing really wrong with the supply run scenes, and walkers dropping through holes in the ceiling is actually pretty cool, but it just doesn’t feel important. It’s too disconnected from anything else. It’s just another supply run. And in this universe, the Flash’s death was a lot less meaningful.
I think the big revelation of the episode is [spoiler alert] Patrick’s sudden death and resurrection due to illness rather than sudden, violent death. I’m not sure if this is a biohazard concern, a “danger can come from inside” thing, or some combination of the two, but this is basically the closest we’ve seen to somebody becoming a walker just because, so it seems eventful. It makes enough sense and there’s nothing about this world that’s ever come across as particularly sanitary. We’ll see how things go.
In some ways it’s unfair to judge an episode on its own, if only because you don’t know how frenetic the following episodes might be. Sometimes you need a slower or moodier episode just for a breather, sometimes you need an episode that shows us how things have changed and grown. While this episode shows us how things have changed since Rick let the denizens of Woodbury join his group at the prison, it was too slow to kick off a new season. If you skipped it, I think the only question you might have while watching following episodes would be “Who’s this Bob guy?”
The Walking Dead “30 Days Without an Accident” final score: 6.5
Items of Note:
-So we’ve got Sasha and Bob. But the show’s already got bigger, more notable black men and women characters. Wouldn’t it be great if they all survived the season, just to mess with people? “What? The black guy didn’t die? That’s not how these stories usually end!”
-Maggie’s not pregnant, hurray for Glenn and Maggie! Is this a new story revelation or were there hints about pregnancy earlier? I genuinely don’t remember.
-I really don’t want to go down an alcoholism storyline with Bob. I’m sure the writers wouldn’t have anything poignant or meaningful to add.
-I guess Patrick was supposed to be somewhere around Carl’s age (12-14?), but he looked old enough to be getting ready to defend his thesis.