The Walking Dead is a good show. It’s gritty, dark, often times raw, and has that gore factor that you just can’t find on broadcast television. It gets people talking.
But, as all stories, there are imperfections. I’m not here to ask why they have a 2013 Hyundai when the apocalypse happened in 2010 (something has to pay for all that gore and apparently it’s the South Korean car makers).
I also don’t care about certain characters unlocking infinite ammo mode. Let’s just assume they reloaded off camera.
“But, there was no time…”
LET’S JUST ASSUME!
Here, I want to talk about some weird storytelling flaws that you should avoid. (Probably spoilers, but, dude. Netflix.)
1. Almost every episode’s plot is launched by someone doing something stupid.
You didn’t have to be a super genius to survive the apocalypse. The law of averages says that isn’t the case. When The Walking Dead starts, Rick comes out of a coma and is thrust into a world he doesn’t recognize. It’s okay if he makes some mistakes, especially if he’s just going through routine.
“Hark, a monster! I shall shoot it!”
Gunshot brings hordes of zombies. Okay. He didn’t know any better. He learns that shooting them is maybe not the best course of action (if he survives).
In the second season, Sofia, a little girl, goes missing. She was supposed to stay somewhere and wait for Rick. He went back and she was gone. The rest of the season is spent with them living on a farm, sending out search parties. Now, when I was a kid and Mom told me to stay somewhere and wait for her, you better believe I did. When I was separated from her in the grocery store, I knew to not wander around because she would retrace her steps.
Realize I was not surrounded by zombies at the time.
Again, I can forgive an 8 year old for getting scared and running like Hell, but she didn’t even go back to the car. And she wasn’t attacked by a zombie at that point, either. See, when they do find her, she’s a zombie. And, she still looks pretty normal. Which means she was bitten and got away or she died of natural causes and the infection took her. Rick wasn’t gone for very long, so she wasn’t attacked where he left her. He would have heard a scream and the zombies would have lingered.
The real stupid thing that got me, though, was after the massacre of the zombie pets in Herschel’s barn (that’s right, I’m not addressing the stupidity of the zombie pets).
Herschel is in town, drinking away his feelings. Glen and Rick go to find him. They tell everyone before they leave:
“We think Herschel went into town. We’re going to go get him. We’ll be back later.”
Ten minutes later, Lori, Rick’s wife, is running around going “they’ve been gone too long.” Jesus, lady, it hasn’t even been an hour. So, she decides to go into town and find them. She doesn’t tell anyone she’s leaving. On the way into town, she’s looking at a map and crashes into a zombie (flipping the car because…physics?), and she’s lying unconscious as zombies start to close in around her.
Meanwhile, no one at camp has even realized she’s missing. They don’t realize it until nightfall. While I’m sure some people think, “High Drama!” I say, “No. Let the bitch die. If she’s dumb enough to A) go looking for someone before they said they’d be back B) not tell anyone where she’s going in a world populated by zombies and C) not watch the goddamn road, let the zombies eat her.”
When anyone says they like The Walking Dead because of “the characters” I’m forced to ask why. They are TDTL, too dumb to live. You like the show because people are running from zombies and there’s high tension with climatic payoff. Call a spade a spade.
It’s not drama. It’s stupidity. People don’t like dumb characters. If you’re going to get your characters in stupid predicaments, try to give them a smart/unavoidable reason to be there, otherwise, it’s dumb. (more…)
For example, Glee followed up a stellar first season with a lackluster second that lost at least one viewer (me). Even one of my favorites, Fringe, stumbled starting from the second season block, abandoning its direction to maneuver back on a strong course, and why not?
After the first season, you’ve hit your stride. You’ve told a story. You’ve come to a conclusion. More than starting the first time, starting all over again is hard.
In contrast, Once Upon A Time hit season two running. Curse is broken. Things are moving.
Once Upon A Time hit its stumbling point in season one. The show seemed aimless, turning into name dropping, introducing new characters each week while the original narrative spun out of control. By adding some new voices to the team, OUAT was able to turn around and close with an amazing finale.
Did they go full dragon? Yes. Yes, they did.
So, what makes the second season strong?
How about a mob marching on the queen? A few new characters are snuck in, some in our parallel universe. The most curious new character came in at the very beginning. I refuse to conjecture at this point. On top of that, a new Evil is unleashed in the wraith.
But what’s a big source of conflict? A bunch of suddenly self-actualized fairy tale characters are trapped in a town, each individual seeking their own happy ending. It’s a clash of storytelling. Everyone has the potential for conflict, even without being an evil queen or corrupted immortal.
Which brings me to the “bad guys.”
In Regina, our evil queen, Once Upon A Time has given me the villain I want to root for. They muddied those waters by giving her a weepy backstory (I don’t need my evil queens to have backstory; just make them kick ass and I will be pleased). She’s not misunderstood. She’s not trying to simply create her own happy ending. She has power and it has corrupted her. She’s smart and manipulative. Chillingly evil. I love it. She foils those annoying do-gooders and it looks like a team-up is on the way.
By the end of the episode, our smart, spunky modern girl is transported to fairy tale world with her same-age mother. So, like Revolution, we’ve fallen into another commonly used YA trope, but at least we’re dealing with grown-ups this time, right?
While I still think Once Upon A Time is an advertisement for Disney movies (Whistle While You Work is not from the Brothers Grimm; Pongo is an overt reference to 101 Dalmatians), it’s still doing wonderful things for the fantasy genre in making it accessible and acceptable to the masses. If you haven’t seen Season 1, it’s out on DVD and available through Netflix. Catch up and we can talk about it.
Are you watching? What are your thoughts? If not Once Upon A Time, what should I be watching?
Typical Midwest middle class family.
If that phrase doesn’t help you form a mental image, I apologize. This post may not make that much sense.
The first family member I told about my move to Los Angeles was my younger brother.
“When are you leaving?”
His thumbs twirled as he delved back into Call of Duty, and I could see his brain processing the news as ‘I get your room’. I called my older sister, who lives in Washington, D.C. the next day.
“Oh my God! That’s so cool! Have you told Mom and Dad yet?”
“Are you going to?”
After a pause that was longer than it needed to be: “I guess.”
“You’re going to have so much fun. I’m jealous.”
“Really? I’m having an anxiety attack.”
INT. KITCHEN – AFTERNOON
MOTHER sits at the table on her computer.
I didn’t sugar-coat it. I want to write for TV. LA is the place to do it. I told her about some of the places I found with housing potential.
Mom: “Can I just say one thing?”
Kate: (sighs) “What?”
Well, she kept it to one thing. Silly me. While I was worried about affording rent and a car, not to mention food and healthcare, I should have been thinking about my drug budget. I’ll have to stick with the cheaper drugs for a few months. The mountain of cocaine is a dream…no. I don’t do drugs. It’s never been an issue. Now, it is, for some reason.
I let her ramble. Things like: “you don’t have a home there,” and “I guess that means you’ve given up on horseshoeing school,” came up.
I kid you not. My mother had a dream for me and it was shoeing horses. How do these things happen? Mom had my whole life planned before I hit ten years old. She even picked out the guy I was supposed to marry by the time I was eight. Seriously? In the words of Sarah Palin: you betcha. Imagine her disappointment when he moved away after second grade.
I know this because she told me. It is one of my greatest failings (in her eyes) that I haven’t pursued a relationship with a guy I haven’t seen or heard from in sixteen years who may or may not remember me.
Are you starting to see why I need to break free?
Let’s tack a lesson on here:
Life’s hard. The economy sucks. People will do obscene and degrading things for minimum wage just to have a job. Can you imagine what they would do for more?
But, things can get better. Maybe you don’t need to pack up the car and take a Thelma and Louise dive into something, but you need to get out. You need to be on your own. Your parents will never see you as an adult. They had dreams for you, but you aren’t their horse-shoeing Barbie.
Lesson learned? Good. I’m going to make the world a better place.