Wait, I'm way off topic here. Somehow this was going to be a segway into how Walking Dead is back, but whatever, there it is. Walking Dead is back.
I don't remember being particularly concerned with immediately catching the premiere episode this season. Not because I wouldn't see it, but because the show had so far been somewhat underwhelming, as it had been for a lot of folks apparently. I mean, I liked it, but there had been only fleeting moments of awesomeness throughout the show so far. The first episode of season 3 was basically one straight, nonstop moment of awesomeness. Awesomeness the likes of which we had only glimpsed ever so briefly at the end of season two. This moment comes to mind:
Also this one.
But then, most of season one and two were kind of like this:
See, it's like, that's a totally awesome image. It's Rick Grimes and a horse, just chilling out and looking all cool as can be. I didn't even KNOW horses did that, and Andrew Lincoln is all like, "Yeah, 'sup. Just chilling with my sitting horse." But then, on the other hand, as awesome as this picture is, it sort of sums up the show. I mean, yeah, the concept is cool, but most of the time it's just like, sitting there waiting to do something mildly interesting, and in the meantime it's just like, "Yeah, it's a pretty cool idea and stuff, I guess."
Seriously, I did like the first two seasons of Walking Dead. So far I thought it had a great concept going, and sometimes it knew just how to take advantage of it, but most of the time, it just felt confused about what it wanted to be.
So, let's back up to season one here. The show kicks off, and the first episode holds great promise. You've got zombies everywhere, a sweet post-apocalyptic setting, a great cast, and also the zombies I mentioned. It also set up some interesting ideas to play around with, like Lori and Shane's affair, or the Center for Disease Control. The first season ran short, and so it was mostly just a few episodes of excellent quality, but then things just slowed further and further down, once the show got going and was in that awkward phase of figuring out how to turn a pilot into a show.
Then, season two came about. Oh, season two, you were not the favorite, were you? People said you had jumped the shark already, they talked about the inconsistent behavior of the characters, the stupid subplots. Worst of all, though, they called you boring. Boring, season two! BORING! How in the world can you be boring when you've decided to set your show against the fucking ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE? How do you pull that off, exactly? Oh, wait, I'll tell you how: film it on the set of god damn Little House on the Prairie.
Okay, just to make things clear, the whole thing with Hershel's farm happened in the comic. The problem is, the comic didn't dwell on the place that long, with absolutely nothing of any interest happening for months at a time. Not to mention, when they were there, their concerns were a little more fucking dire than love connections, or Dale fixing the RV.
Alright, maybe that's a little unfair. You see, as I've said, the show has a great concept, that being Robert Kirkman's comic book source material. The problem is, the writers were having trouble figuring out exactly how to turn it into a TV show. Sometimes it hit the tone of the comic down note for note. The hopelessness, the desperation, horror and fear. Most of the time though, it just kind of filled the gap between these moments with your standard television drama. There's a mixed cast of characters, all just finding conflict in even the most mundane of issues with each other. Sure, the Lori/Shane/Rick thing seemed important, but trust me, it wasn't.
You see, we're dealing with the end of the world here, people. Walking corpses roam the Earth, society has collapsed, and the remaining day-to-day lives of those living through it are unimaginable hell. The things we were worried about before have been replaced by a constant state of terror, and your only real concern is staying alive. Even stuff like Lori's affair has no place for long. Hell, if you want proof of what the show thought it should have been, look no further than Shane. In the comic, yes, he had a fling with Lori and then went nuts and tried to kill Rick. The thing is, though, it happened almost immediately, like before the survivors even left Atlanta. It drove the point home that the life Rick now had was a harsh, brutal nightmare of his former one, paving the way only for the further mind fucks our Mr. Grimes would live through. The show, however, strung the Shane thing along, and while it did make for some interesting ideas which could not go realized in the comic, it seemed more convinced that a juicy affair was good television.
This isn't the CW, guys. Drama on Walking Dead comes not from who fucked who, or who got pregnant, or who the hottest guy is. Those things are incidental. It comes from the way that every-single-moment is just one awful thing after another for these people. It comes from wondering just how in the hell a person can live in a world like that one, without completely losing their marbles. oh, and some do. In fact, many of them do. Even the children.
Think we'll see THAT on television? No, but we can recreate those same disturbing and often shocking moments the comic is so damn good at delivering. It may not have to be done like Kirkman is the word of God himself, but the same atmosphere can be recreated. Watching people wrangle cattle and discuss for 45 minutes whether or not Rick knows what he's doing is not that interesting. Not when there are psychotic human beings running around, ready to murder your loved ones for fun, or shambling corpses hungry for your flesh.
Now we come back to where this whole thing started. Season 3 aired Sunday night, and for those of you who saw it... Wasn't that fucking AWESOME? You've got Rick and the gang stabbing zombies in the face left and right, Michonne swinging a bitchin' katana around like it's going out of style, and the zombies. Lord, there were zombies. Zombies that were SCARY, not zombies that aimlessly roamed around only to look gross and then get conked on the head. My personal favorite moment? Rick hacks off Hershel's leg. Sorry if you haven't watched yet, but being as this is my own personal corner of the Internet, I feel comfortable spoiling whatever I damn well like. Still, Grimes just cut that sucker off, didn't he? No questioning it, no asking permission, no waiting for a response. Hershel lives, or Hershel dies. He chose Hershel lives, and that meant Hershel lives like a pirate, with a peg-leg and stuff. Oh, I so hope he gets a peg-leg.
This is the Walking Dead I saw in black and white in Kirkman's comic. There is no time to mourn the loss of the dead, there is no time for long debates about what is moral and what isn't. It's just survival. You survive, or you die a terrible, gruesome death, and the choice to take either course comes fast. There is no middle ground. That, to me, is what makes The Walking Dead such an incredibly compelling story. I feel like a jump forward in time was what the show needed, it gave the writers a chance to take a new crack at the characters. Gone are the bickering, sullen group of people we saw last season. Well, they're still sullen, but now there is no time for bickering. What we see now is a desperate, tired, hopeless crew of survivors, simply trying to outrun their own inevitable deaths - and they will die. Of all the things that I think make Walking Dead so terrible, yet interesting at the same time, it's the foregone assumption that, at some point in time, we will see every one of these characters meet a terrible demise. Some, in the comics anyway, already have. For others, it's only a matter of time. It's a truly uncomfortable thought, but one that I think keeps bringing people back. Like a train wreck - you don't want to see it, but at the same time, some morbid part of you does, just to see how bad it's going to get.
And that, my friends, is what The Walking Dead is truly all about. To drive the point home, I'll leave you with one final image to give you an idea of the direction this show is going in. You know The Governor? The guy we keep seeing in the trailer with Andrea and Michonne, who's all, "Welcome to Woodbury"? He's not a good man. Like, at all.