What Happens after All Out War? Some Thoughts on TWD

 

This post is going to contain some spoilers about The Walking Dead, so if you’re reading the comic and not yet past the All Out War story arc, or if you haven’t seen last night’s season 8 premiere, then you may want to read this later.

I have to confess that for the first time since TWD has aired, I was not excited about the season premiere. For the last few seasons, the show has moved at a sluggish pace, perhaps because they don’t want to outpace the comics. Only one book is released per month, and after one more major story arc, the show will be caught up to the comic.  Last year’s season premiere was memorable, for better or worse, after Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) bashed Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham’s (Michael Cudlitz) face with his beloved barbed wire baseball bat Lucille. This happened to Glenn in issue 100 of the comic, and it was far more brutal on TV, to the point where it drew a fair amount of criticism. This is a show where zombies devour people, but the prolonged head bashing did seem gratuitous and even senseless.

My waning interest in the show, though, started before the infamous Negan/Lucille scene. Episodes prior to that, the script writers decided to make everyone think that Glenn was dead, devoured by zombies after getting trapped near a dumpster, only to bring him back a few episodes later and have him brutally killed. The season 6 finale teased who would be killed by Lucille, and it wasn’t revealed until the season 7 premiere, which, like Glenn’s fake death, felt cheap and gimmicky, a plot device whose only purpose was to maintain viewers.

Last night’s season 8 premiere, the start of the All Out War arc in the comic, when communities of survivors fight against Negan and the Saviors, felt dull, uninspired, and painfully slow. Sure, there were some cool shots of Daryl (Norman Reedus) riding a motorcycle and blowing stuff up to attract a massive horde of zombies to the Sanctuary, the Saviors hideout. However, about half of the episode included Daryl and friends trying to lure the horde to the Sanctuary. The rest of the episode included speechifying. The best scene included a verbal face-off between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan, before Rick starts firing at the Saviors. Nothing else happened in the entire episode, though, and it seems clear that the All Out War arc, which should be exciting on the small screen, will drag on for several episodes, thus worsening the show’s pacing problem.

The comic also faces a problem. It has recycled the same storyline time and time again. Rick and company find a community, only to be confronted by a group of humans worse than the zombies, the community falls, and then they eventually find a new community, only to encounter another villain again. This story has reoccurred since the prison arc. I had hoped that Robert Kirkman would break this after the All Out War art concluded, but soon after the dust settles on that arc, the group meets Alpha, Beta, and the Whisperers, engaging in yet another war.

Robert Kirkman recently teased that no one is safe and Rick could die at any time. The season 8 premiere hinted that. On the one hand, the show flashed forward to Old Man Rick, post-All Out War, similar to the time jump that happens in the comic. He was happy, surrounded by his children and Michonne (Dania Gurira). In other scenes, which seemed like a much nearer  future, he was shaky, sweaty, and red-eyed, probably infected by the virus. That possibility is far more interesting and maybe where the show or comic are going. If Rick does indeed die, then it would allow greater character development from the fairly major cast that still occupies both show and comic.

Either way, the season 8 premiere provided a different possibility than the comic: the good guys could lose, and the Old Man Rick storyline is not guaranteed.

This would be a huge departure from the comic and maybe the type of shake-up the show needs to partially reinvent itself and allow stronger character development. The comic has been dancing with the Negan/Rick storylines for so long now, but maybe the show is willing to do something different. We’ll have to see…

 

 

 

 

Salon.com 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, Salon.com 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.