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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Walking Dead 4x01: 30 Days Without An Accident


You may have noticed that Teebore has been late with some of his posts recently. Well, he's going through some rough stuff that, while he may not want everyone to know about it, I think it's important that our readers are aware of what's going on.
It's no secret that Teebore has been doing a lot of posts per week and Teebore was planning to add to his already lengthy list of weekly posts with a The Walking Dead review. To accommodate all the posts he was doing he needed to stay up late. He started hitting the caffeine pills pretty hard.
At first I didn’t think much of it. Then he overslept for a singing audition I set up for him with a record producer after creepily recording him and his friends in the locker room. Turned out Teebore had ODed on the caffeine pills. Even though he missed the audition and was obviously burnt out he still immediately wanted to start writing his The Walking Dead post but first he went for the caffeine pills. I had to stop him. I knew it was all too much. While it was true that he was so excited...so excited he was also so...scared.
So I’m taking over The Walking Dead posts for this season. This is bad news for anyone who likes coherent, well thought out, thematic analysis of each episode but it is good news for people who like nonsensical ramblings loosely tied to The Walking Dead that more-or-less appears to be random words strung together during an alcohol induced stupor. It may not be perfect but if Teebore’s struggles in recovery from caffeine pill addiction has taught me anything it’s that all we need push on in the face of adversity and persevere.
Anyway...on to the review!

The Walking Dead has had very good season premiers and season finales. This season premier is no exception. I thought this episode was really good. However, this season premiere is different than others in the series. Usually The Walking Dead likes to start with a bang but this episode was more of a slow burn. It focused on setting up where the group is on a philosophical and psychological lever. (But not a physical level because, well, they’re all still at the prison).
In the past I have not agreed with the philosophical road the group was going down. Luckily, the group (which has grown significantly between seasons) have ideals much more agreeable to me. It’s the zombie apocalypse so security and caution will always be a priority but at least they’ve found a way to make the prison a home and are now actually welcoming new people into their community. New people need to be vetted (and I assume they have some sort of probation period once they’re accepted) but at least it’s no longer viewed as “us against the zombies and every other human being.”
A weakness of this show in the past has been the development of secondary characters. It appears this season will focus on correcting this. (Oh, and it's also correcting its racial diversity by adding a second black guy. That’s right there’s two, count them, TWO black males in the group!) This episode touched on each character and let the viewer know what they were up to and where they were emotionally. Even more shockingly, I can’t recall any of the characters annoying me!
So I was pleased with this episode. This series certainly can’t have every episode simply be a community of people getting along relatively amicably in a zombie apocalypse. However, giving us a glimpse that some sort of safe and "normal" life is possible was nice in a series that generally beats you over the head with its bleakness.
That's not to say seeds of discord aren't being sown. This is, Of course, a zombie apocalypse series. You know safety is always temporary. The group is comfortable, which leads to complacency, which leads to laziness, which leads to people getting their faces chewed off. And that all can work but this season of The Walking Dead will hinge on proper pacing and the ability to get the viewers invested in more than just two characters before the proverbial shit hits the fan. To start the season, however, I think there are good stories that can be told about people being safe, comfortable and even somewhat flourishing while surrounded by zombies.
Other thoughts
Despite my praise of this episode there is a definite “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” vibe I can't help but feel. I’m been impressed by previous season premiers that have lead to seasons that were…well…lacking.
Rick and Carl have obviously settled their differences for the time being. (Which I endorse.) Rick is firmly in a father role and Carl is actually listening to his dad. Carl’s sociopathic tendencies have also, thankfully, gone away…or at least are in remission.
As set up by last season’s finale, Rick’s acceptance to build a community of many instead of shelter a group of few is a welcome ideological change. I don’t completely agree with how Rick handled the situation with Crazy Clara but he was actually being TOO trusting for my taste instead of not trusting enough. That is huge for me. My solution would have been to give her food and then give her directions to the prison for her and her “boyfriend” to follow if they wanted to try and join. What if she was leading him into an ambush of 10 armed men? 
I understand Glen’s hesitancy at having children. But Maggie’s right that at some point they have to stop surviving and start living. Beyond that, it may sound cold but the human race survived before modern medicine by basically having as many kids as possible. A lot of the children weren’t going to survive so we played the number games. Maybe in this world humanity should get back to that strategy?
I assume the person Michonne is searching for is The Governor. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a mystery to the viewer or not. I’m also a little confused why (on the TV series) Michonne hates The Governor so much more than everyone else does. It kind of feels like a plot in the comic is being shoehorned into the TV series where it doesn't fit.
Beth's attitude towards the death of her pseudo-boyfriend may seem cold but I get it. Seeing death all around you has to take some kind of toll and make you very wary of getting attached to other people.
Hey, they’re actually taking time to kill the zombies at the fence!
Rick's comment about what good six bullets was going do for him seemed odd considering The Walking Dead has never paid attention to how many bullets a pistol can hold before.
So, Patrick died because of some apparent disease. Is it the same thing that killed the pig? Is this an outbreak of a normal (but still deadly and problematic given the circumstances) illness or is this a super-illness related to the zombie outbreak?
When Carl got uppity and indignant thinking no one’s experiences compares to his I appreciated the girl’s response. It basically amounted to “Don’t think you’re special. I’ve seen messed up shit too.”
I would totally watch a police procedure featuring Darryl as the lead homicide detective.
According to The Talking Dead the time between the season finale last season and this episode is approximately 6 to 7 months.
Just in case you’re wondering, my personal opinion of the entire The Walking Dead series up until now is that it is a show that has done a lot of things right, a lot of things wrong, can be very entertaining and can be dreadfully dull. In other words, it’s inconsistent but I’ve never actually felt the urge to just stop watching.
As an FYI, I do read the comic. I’m not up-to-date on the comic but I have read past where they are on the show…sort of. It’s tough to tell these days since the show has veered off course quite a bit from the comic. Beyond that, I generally watch The Talking Dead afterwards. I considered not watching it this season because it's an hour long and it's not always interesting enough to be worth watching. However, it may help with my reviews so I’ll continue for now.

8 comments:

  1. Yeah i feel like this episode took a big step in the right direction, correcting a lot of problems i've had in the past. Some of those problems may be little (ie, killing the zombs at the fence) but a lot of little problems add up.

    That said, why the fuck didn't they, oh i dunno, ask VETERINARIAN Herschel to take a look at the sick pig?

    Stuff like that, to me, just screams of lazy writing, like they forget he's a vet unless it's important to the plot (but by "important" i mean, character limiting, so he can't save someone from dying.) Like, they can't have him be a vet when it will actually help something or solve a problem, he's only a vet when it will make things worse.

    So, i'm cautiously optimistic. We did spend a bit of time wondering how those zombies got on the roof of that kmart...

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  2. I enjoyed this episode well enough, but overall I'm getting tired of the show. I realize it's a zombie apocalypse, so it's bleak by nature, but it's just too bleak for me sometimes. Sure, things seem idyllic at the prison for now, but that's obviously not going to last. But I'll keep watching and see if my mind is changed.

    As a side note, I think my level of investment in this series can be summed up by the fact that, as we checked it with everyone through the episode's opening scenes, I was wondering where Andrea was. Then I figued maybe she was still with the Governor and I'd forgotten. It was the next day when I suddenly remembered she had died last season.

    Sarah -- Good point about Herschel! I'd forgotten he was a vet, but the writers certainly shouldn't have. But they're on their third showrunner since the character was introduced, so who knows what anyone on the staff remembers at this point.

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  3. @Sarah: That is a good point. Why DIDN'T they ask Hershel to look at the pig?

    As far as the zombies on the roof. I think the idea is that people were on the roof hiding from zombies and they ended up dying there. Either from starvation, a zombie arriving or the fact a helicopter came to rescue them but ended up crashing on the roof. Those are just theories though.

    @Matt: Yeah, The Walking Dead certainly can get too bleak. You know things are going to get bad again but, really, it all depends on execution. Also, making the characters more likeable and not make stupid decision can go a long way.

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  4. I'm so excited! I'm so excited! So excited...so...so scared >sob<

    Seriously though, I like this show a lot more when I don't have to write about!

    Or maybe that's just because, as you say, it tends to have strong premiere episodes that suck you back in. Either way, I enjoyed this quite a bit, for all the reasons you mentioned (a return to humanity as a virtue, an expanded and diverse cast of characters that aren't all hella annoying or stupid, addressing little things like the fence zombies). I agree that we probably can't have (or don't even want) a full season of them just hanging around the prison eeking out a new society, but I hope we get to spend some more time seeing how all this works before it inevitably comes crashing down.

    One question: when Carol was teaching the kids about knives, and she asked Carl not to tell his dad, is the idea supposed to be that she's teaching them that illictly, or just that she doesn't want Rick to know Carl overheard it?

    Because it makes complete and utter sense to teach kids in this world how to defend themselves. It's a far cry from Carl shooting someone in the end in (nearly) cold blood and being like "this is a knife, here's how to handle it safely, here's how to use it to kill a zombie if you get attacked", and to pretend otherwise is as stupid as not killing the zombies lining up along the fence.

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  5. That’s right there’s two, count them, TWO black males in the group!

    If I didn't know the guy that got trapped under the wine rack was a new regular cast member (which, presumably, keeps him safe for at least a few episodes), I would have assumed he was going to die just to maintain the quota. :)

    I understand Glen’s hesitancy at having children. But Maggie’s right that at some point they have to stop surviving and start living.

    I think the thing I like most about Glen's attitude is that I can completely understand both sides of it, which doesn't make making a decision any easier. I totally get Maggie's attitude that they need to live, not just be alive, and your point about rebuilding the race is going to require volume, but at the same time, I get Glen's attitude: if my wife wanted to endanger her life by getting pregnant, my first instinct would probably be to throw up a big ol' "hell no!" as well.

    Sadly, right now, they're probably in the best place to have a kid, which probably means the moment Maggie gets knocked up is when everything falls apart.

    I assume the person Michonne is searching for is The Governor. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a mystery to the viewer or not.

    Ditto on both counts. I think Michonne hates the Governor because he essentially killed Andrea. But of course, that just goes back to the question of why Michonne is so attached to Andrea. I mean, I get that they spent a lot of time surviving together, but that's true of a lot of people who don't seem to have the same affection for each other that Michonne has for Andrea. I feel like that was one of the big failings of last season: never quite selling the depth of their connection.

    Hey, they’re actually taking time to kill the zombies at the fence!

    Finally. Thank you show! I loved that. I also liked the barriers/traps they had setup, like the big spikes the zombies got pushed into when the doors opened (and the fact that the big metal doors they'd fashioned were setup at an angle, making them more resistant to zombies pressing against them).

    Rick's comment about what good six bullets was going do for him seemed odd considering The Walking Dead has never paid attention to how many bullets a pistol can hold before.

    Also, it never bothered him before when he was more willing to kill zombies, even though I constantly thought carrying a six shooter that took forever to reload wasn't as sensible as carrying an automatic pistol. I get what they were going for (he's a man of peace now, doesn't want to relapse into violence), but they probably could have made the point in a way that doesn't call into question past episodes and the show's spotty history of keeping track of bullets.

    I would totally watch a police procedure featuring Darryl as the lead homicide detective.

    Ha! Me too. Question: should be be the guy who makes the puns, or the partner of that guy, who rolls his eyes at the puns. I can see it both ways...

    However, it may help with my reviews so I’ll continue for now.

    At the very least, it'll probably help you name characters. You're throwing out new characters names I had no idea about, since I haven't read any other reviews aside from this one and the show didn't spell them out. So that's good.

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  6. @Sarah: That said, why the fuck didn't they, oh i dunno, ask VETERINARIAN Herschel to take a look at the sick pig?

    Not surprisingly, Kristi said the same thing.

    In light of the ending, she also suggested that perhaps they should have some kind of protocol in place for getting sick - like, if you're feeling ill, tell someone so they can get you immediate attention and quarantine you and whatnot. Because in this world, and especially in the way they're living, something as innocuous as the flu could be really problematic even before it kills you and turns you into a zombie.

    Then again, the lack of such a procedure may speak to a larger complacency amongst the group.

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  7. // New people need to be vetted ... but at least it’s no longer viewed as “us against the zombies and every other human being.” //

    I like that a lot.

    The diversity at the prison is nice — more kids, a bigger age range in general, presumably different personalities clashing but also (of even more interest to me) working together — although "we now have as many black guys as the cast of Saturday Night Live" is a pretty mild achievement, in Georgia especially.

    What really stuck out for me was Carl interacting with other children, or whatever we're going to call younger people in that climate.

    // The group is comfortable, which leads to complacency, which leads to laziness, which leads to people getting their faces chewed off. //

    Also, I have it on good authority that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.

    Rick's new role is both admirable as a character trait in a father and welcome from a level-up perspective as characterization, but I'm concerned that the show isn't above the melodrama of one bad turn of events, particularly if it's predicated on his Zen-farmer patience, unleashing a torrent of revenge-fueled violence and self-loathing.

    Your assessment of the show is pretty much where I am. My big conflict is that I think the show needs to be merciless with the cast to a certain extent to be believable — or maybe I should say to maintain suspense — but there are certain characters whose loss would really tick me off, not just because I "like" them but because they are the most interesting to me.

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  8. @Sarah: // like they forget he's a vet unless it's important to the plot //

    Yeah, I'm with you on Hershel and the pig (which has to be a phrase rarely if ever typed in the course of human history).

    @Matt: // I realize it's a zombie apocalypse, so it's bleak by nature, but it's just too bleak for me sometimes. //

    This is why I'm hoping that we can get some community subplots going at the prison without it just being filler of little interest. For me, I've learned that I need to not fall behind on episodes not so much for spoilers' sake but because it's just too heavy to watch too much at once and because episodes in the middle of a season tend to run together as too much, well, "middle".

    @DrBitz: // You know things are going to get bad again but, really, it all depends on execution. //

    Rimshot!

    @Teebore: // I think Michonne hates the Governor because he essentially killed Andrea. //

    I get the sense that it's because the Governor took Andrea from Michonne, too, and not even in a way that makes it creepy; Michonne is clearly someone who, now if not before, chooses her companions carefully and numbers them few. I really wish we'd had a good flashback or even a dedicated series of flashbacks to the winter they spent together because we just weren't properly sold on the import of what had come before beyond the dialogue saying it was intense.

    // perhaps they should have some kind of protocol in place for getting sick //

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Of course it's totally insane that having someone pass away in their sleep could be a danger to the entire community, but that's part of the fascination. Along those lines, I'm pleased with the kinds of safeguards and boobytraps you mentioned, especially as it drew some continuity with Morgan in "Clear" last season.

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