TWD’s Big Send-Off

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“The Walking Dead” returned last night for the second half of its eight season, and SPOILER, it featured a major character death: Carl, Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) son. Actor Chandler Riggs has been on the show for nearly half of his life, so seeing Carl written off, after succumbing to a walker bite in the first half of season 8, is probably still difficult for fans to process. The opening minutes featured Carl writing letters to everyone he loves and snapping photos with baby sister Judith, so she’ll remember him. It was a nice tribute to his character, and the rest of the episode was packed with emotional weight that provided some glimmer of hope that the show can rights its course. Question still remain, though.

For the entirety of TWD, be it the comic or TV show, most of the decisions that Rick made were based on what’s best for his son. Removing Carl from the show makes it unclear what role/purpose Rick will now have. It also needs to be said that Carl has some of the most important story arcs in the comic after the All Out War/Negan/Saviors arc draws to a close. What does that mean for the future writing and main plot points of the show? That remains unclear. On the show, Rick still has Judith, but he doesn’t even know if she is his kid or Shane’s, and Judith never occupied as large of a role as Carl.

The 90-minute episode  focused on two plot points: Carl saying goodbye to everyone, especially Rick and Michonne (Dania Gurira), and Morgan (Lennie James) losing his pacifism and ethics by slaughtering Savior after Savior. The juxtaposition illustrated two very different ideals. As Carl was dying, he pleaded with his father to build a better world and “make it real.” The rest of the narrative focused on Morgan resorting to violence, even ripping out the entrails of a Savior, thus raising a question that the TWD has always raised: is peace in a post-apocalyptic world even possible?

Carl’s death also showed the randomness and violence inherent in such a world. Early in the episode, Carl told Rick and company, “It wasn’t a Savior. It just happened. I got bit.”  For a moment, at least, it made the walkers the villain again and showed they are still a threat and can take down one of the main characters. It also showed that you can do everything right and do your best to survive, but that doesn’t mean you’ll make it. The world is random, and in a setting like TWD, it is also cruel, cruel, cruel.

The episode was rich on character, and at times, it felt like earlier seasons of TWD, when we had a reason to care about the characters. However, the few scenes of gunfire between Rick’s group and the Saviors served as a reminder that we still have to deal with the guns, explosions, and war arc at least until the end of the season. These long, drawn-out action sequences can be numbing, frankly, and have taken the show away from what it used to be. Last night’s episode was a reminder that TWD does best when it focuses on character and the relationships these survivors have with each other. It may be best for the writing when the war arc draws to a close, perhaps allowing the show to find its footing again, as it did during last night’s episode.
 Rips the Walking Dead Over Race and Gender Issues

A few blog posts ago, I wrote about the 2012 election results and how this has been the year of the female voter and women’s issues.  Following the 2012 election and all of the discussion over women’s rights, posted an interesting article slamming AMC’s hit TV show “The Walking Dead” over its portrayal of female and minority characters.  The article can be read here.

I will admit that I am a fan of the TV show, but I do agree with several of the points Salon raises, especially that minority characters are nearly invisible and women are reduced to domestic spaces and depicted as constantly needing protection.

Salon’s writer, Lorraine Berry,  analyzes a few of the main characters on the show, including Andrea, Lori, Michonne, and T-Dog, raising valid points about each. Regarding Lori, the writer is especially critical that Lori’s main role by the third season is only to carry Rick’s baby (or Shane’s), and she sacrifices herself to fulfill the pregnancy. She is not even given a choice as to whether or not she wants to have the baby in a world where its chances  of survival are slim to none.

Berry also points out that Andrea too is depicted as weak, especially at the start of the third season when she can barely survive on her own and has a gushing crush on the governor, probably because of the false sense of security and protection he provides, and who, like Rick Grimes, can be viewed as an example of a white patriarchy ruling in the post-apocolpytic world. This is quite a contrast to Andrea’s depiction in the comic; she becomes a sharpshooter and critical to the group’s survival, even as early as the prison arc. Meanwhile, the govenor’s right-hand man is Merle Dixon, absent from the comics, but one of the most outwardly racist characters on the show, frequently dropping racist and sexist slurs.

The writer does acknowledge that hope for a strong female lead  is introduced at the end of season two, when the katana-wielding comic favorite Michonne is shown during the last few minutes of the season finale. However, Berry points out that so far, her role has been reduced to a captive of the governor and his Woodberry crew, which doesn’t happen until a little later in the comic. Still, I have hope that the writers  will illustrate Michonne’s strength and perseverance evident in the comic, and she will indeed take on a grander role. I hope she  enacts vegence on the governor like she does in the comic, and I have my fingers crossed that she’ll take her katana to Merle’s neck.

Berry’s criticism extends to the shows few minority characters. The show’s only black character, T-Dog, has already been killed off. The only ones remaining, excluding Michonne and Glen, are depicted as prisoners or lackeys for the governor. This is another aspect where the show and comic differ. Throughout most of the arcs in the comic, the group has minority characters that are key to survival, but for whatever reason, they’re absent from the show.

The comic certainly avoids some of the racial and gender stereotypes and clichés that are prevalent on the show, which is surprising since the comic’s main writer also pens several of the screenplays. My hope is that these stereotypes and the white patriarchy Salon describes will change as this season progresses. Bigger, stronger roles should be written for Michonne and Andrea, once they flee Woodbury. Meanwhile, the writers should introduce a multi-layered minority character, like Tyrese or some of the others featured in the comic.

I am curious as to whether or not anyone else who has read the comic and watched the show has noticed a difference in regards to character development and gender and minority stereotyopes.