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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Walking Dead 5x05: Self Help


So, Eugene let the cat out of the bag. I can’t say that I’m surprised. I doubt other viewers were either. This is The Walking Dead after all. Somebody providing any sort of tangible hope was too good to last.

I had already read this revelation in the comics but even I was hoping-against-hope that this iteration of Eugene was actually telling the truth. (Although, I’m sure if he was he’d end up getting devoured by zombies just as he’s about to complete the zombie cure.) I have no idea how those who don’t read the comics felt about this. Was it at all surprising and/or did they feel jerked around?

Anyway, aside from the revelation at the end this episode there wasn't much going on. We did have a bit of characterization (especially regarding Abraham's past) and, while appreciated, it wasn’t enough to fill out the rest of the episode. This is second episode in a row that has dragged and I think the problem is two-fold.

Firstly, they have, once again, split the group up. The producers seem to think that focusing entire episodes on just one part of the group is the way to go. However, they’re not giving these isolated stories enough content for an entire episode. They need to pick up the pace. What if they combined last week's episode with this one? We’d end up with a faster pace, more exciting show instead of feeling like we're back in season 2.

I think this issue will resolve itself. My hunch is that sooner rather than later the group is going to reform. Probably by the midseason finale at the latest.

The second problem is when they’re doing one of these quieter episodes they think all they need to do to “spice things up” is bring on a zombie attack. We’ve seen zombie attacks. Many of times. The group has warded off so many zombies so many times that almost all tension is lost.

The Walking Dead tries to do different things with zombies like last episode’s shots in the dark and this episode’s zombies drinking from the fire hose. But those unique variations only add so much. In the end, it’s getting harder and harder to feel any excitement when a random door opens up and zombies start shuffling through.

This second issue is a bigger problem. The Walking Dead is built on one thing, zombies. So what happens when zombies become uninteresting?

I suppose you could make humans the enemy. But how many more variations of that can they do? They could explore the idea of a benevolent human community banding together to help each other out and fortify themselves against the zombie hordes. But that wouldn’t be portraying humans in an anarchy as amoral, selfish monsters would it?

The Walking Dead could focus on characters and interpersonal drama. My first reaction to that is “boring!” But it doesn’t have to be. It’s all in the execution. Of course, character development has never been The Walking Dead’s strong suit. Perhaps that’s the root of this problem. The Walking Dead has a lack of characters that I connect with.

To be fair, The Walking Dead is trying to do more character development but I think their cast has become too large. There’s not enough time to focus on everyone. I don’t think this had to be a problem but the fact is The Walking Dead basically ignored character development when the group was smaller in the first few seasons. Now the group is growing. They’re trying to get us to care about new characters even though we still barely care about the old ones. Make sure your foundation is stable before worrying about the windows and roof.

So, I don’t know what the solution is. They could pare down the group. Or hope bigger zombie hordes leads to more excitement. Maybe they could create super zombies? I’m not sure what’s needed but I feel like something has to happen to inject some excitement back into this series.

Other Thoughts:
As an example of my lack of connection with these characters; this episode prompted me to look up if Maggie is pregnant or not. She is not.

AMC continually flashing messages that, due to my satellite provider, I may lose AMC (and The Walking Dead) makes The Walking Dead less enjoyable to watch which, in turn, makes me less concerned about losing AMC and The Walking Dead.

A part of me thought it would be funny if everyone in the bus was just dead after it crashed. Maybe I have a morbid sense of humor.

I knew Eugene wasn’t capable of handling himself but I didn’t realize he was an out-and-out coward.

Eugene said peeping on naked women is a victimless crime. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate.

It was odd that Tara tells Eugene to not sabotage the mission again but never thinks to ask why he’s sabotaging the mission in the first place.

If a door opens without the characters noticing then you know zombies are shuffling out.

It’s a good thing the zombies didn’t start moaning until after they exited the door.

Eugene really did deserve to get punched. If I was one of them I would’ve tried to get between Abraham and Eugene and the tell Abraham he only gets one punch, so make it count.

So Abraham is once again a soldier without a mission. I would say I feel sorry him because he’s got nothing now but, to look at the glass as half full, he’s still knocking dem boots which is better than most people in the zombie apocalypse.

In case you’re wondering, according to The Talking Dead (and the comic) the men Abraham killed in his flashback were people a part of a group Abraham was with. They ended up…doing nefarious things…to Abraham’s wife while he was away.

Also, on The Talking Dead, you get to hear Chris Hardwick say things like, “Part of what’s fun about this show is that every character has to do terrible things.” I’ve...got nothing to add to that...

3 comments:

  1. Having not read the comics, I was still not surprised at Eugene's revelation. A cure is hope, and this show squashes hope every chance it gets, because apparently people love that shit.

    I *was* surprised that it was revealed so soon. Like you, I figured they'd drag it out to the last possible moment, like, the group reaches DC, having lost all but two people in the fight to get Eugene to a computer console, zombies and cannibal rapists pounding at the doors, and Abraham yells at Eugene to do his thing. And then he turns and says he's not a scientist and has no idea what to do.

    I don't think I was as down on the last episode as you; it certainly wasn't action packed and I had my issues with it, but it was still tense enough in a somewhat different way. This one I felt was much more slow moving, and while I appreciated the focus on Abraham (the reveal that he came across Eugene right after his family left him, just as he was about to kill himself, said a lot about his obsession with getting Eugene to Washington without saying a word, a nice bit of smart, restrained writing) I would have liked a little more of consequence to happen (I did get a kick out of the zombies drinking from the hose, though).

    Maybe that's just because, for me, plot solves a lot of problem. This show has usually eschewed long form plot arcs (or blown them up before they get too long in the tooth), but I think one of the ways to keep the show engaging even while zombies become more and more of a casual thing, is to give the characters some kind of overarching story. Even though I had no expectation that Eugene would cure the plague, I was hoping this storyline would get at least this group of characters to DC. That would them (and the show) a goal, some progress to measure, some way of moving forward even while the episode-to-episode mechanics remained mostly what they are (character moments punctuated by zombie violence).

    Let's give these characters some kind of objective, let's get them out of Georgia, let's give them something to do other than just survive.

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  2. They could explore the idea of a benevolent human community banding together to help each other out and fortify themselves against the zombie hordes.

    Words cannot describe how much I would like to see this.

    We've seen the characters struggle to survive in a world overrun by zombies. How about now, we watch them struggle to rebuild a society in a world overrun by zombies? I think that could be endlessly fascinating, and inject a ton of new story ideas into the show.

    Maybe they could create super zombies?

    Or Super Zombies. That'd work too.

    As an example of my lack of connection with these characters; this episode prompted me to look up if Maggie is pregnant or not.

    I wonder if the show will ever go down that road again? The resolution of Lori's pregnancy was plenty dramatic, but there's probably more stories that could be told in that area.

    Certainly, the thought of pregnancy occurred to me when Abraham and Rosita were knocking boots. Hope they're taking precautions...

    A part of me thought it would be funny if everyone in the bus was just dead after it crashed.

    Heh. It certainly would have been surprising. "Welp, there's half the cast, dead in the opening minutes of an episode halfway through the season."

    It was odd that Tara tells Eugene to not sabotage the mission again but never thinks to ask why he’s sabotaging the mission in the first place.

    Yeah, that was weird. At first, I just figured he'd sabotaged the mission because he didn't want to split up/leave the church. But then they never actually said that, and just left his reason hanging there, until the very end of the episode. But it was odd that Tara was just like "okay, whatever, don't do it again".

    They ended up…doing nefarious things…to Abraham’s wife while he was away.

    Of course they did. Because when society breaks down, it's just rape, rape, rape all the time!

    you get to hear Chris Hardwick say things like, “Part of what’s fun about this show is that every character has to do terrible things.”

    You know, I hear something like that, and it just really hammers home how disconnected I am from (apparently) most of the fans of this show. Also, that Chris Hardwick is a massive tool.

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  3. "Super zombies" sound as an idea a horrible one. The thing in zombies to me is the relentless unescapable lurching by a fearsome horde of individually weaklings. The Dawn of Dead type of running zombies already was, ah-ha, a dead idea.

    Unless of course done totally over the top like for example with zombified cyborg Universal Soldier types breaking out from the same military research facility where they originally developed the zombie pathogen. They could have originally called the cyborg soldiers "warlocks", and now that some/all of them are dead-ish, they could be called... well, I don't know, something's bound to suggest itself I guess.

    The fortified benevolent human society though, could it in practise be much different than the one in Road Warrior, except that once the hostile zombie siege begins, they would pretty much just hang there? In both sides. For dramatic purposes there would need to be plenty of armored truck escapades to the outside areas, which would necessitate gasoline being available.

    (daym, I feel like Eric Cartman with my continuously referencing Road Warrior)

    For my suggestion to new ideas I propose some rare enough zombie animals. Maybe a pack of zombie dogs, a single giant zombie grizzly somewhere. Or, them learning it's a Necromancer in Denver who's behind it all really and who they set out to destroy while the show takes complete turn into fantasy.

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