The Walking Dead S3E16: Welcome to the Tombs

Rating: FR.The Season 3 finale was awesome? Carl’s an unrepentant monster. Rick’s insane, but tactically competent. Glenn and Maggie are space ninjas. Who cares whatever else happened?

MILTON ATE ANDREA!

Forgive my schadenfreude. I’ve been on the fence about continuing to follow The Walking Dead since about the middle of the second season, and the messy excision of Andrea, one of the most persistently irritating characters on television, goes a long way toward making peace. The underlying problem remains, of course, that the writers seem intent on systematically deconstructing every character until he or she is a quivering mass of insufferable twat. I suspect that this is not intentional, but the result of tone- deafness and a massive overestimation of their own subtlety.

Zombie Milton

Zombie Milton

To make a completely unfair comparison, the writers seem to be reaching for the sort of compelling moral ambivalence that we see in Breaking Bad, a show in which characters are so impeccably developed that is doesn’t matter which side they’re on. You can’t do better than Gus Fring or Walter White where fundamental slipperiness is concerned, and you certainly can’t do as well in the universe of The Walking Dead as it now stands.

In this show we need a good guy to come through for us unambiguously in a way that we can both believe and stomach. Frank Darabont’s Rick Grimes could do that for us, and drove it home in each of six short episodes during Season 1. The Rick we have now is the product of nearly thirty episodes of atrophy. He can’t seem to get out of his own way most of the time, and is continually being pushed around by an eleven-year-old. Sack up already. It’s the fucking apocalypse.

Rick Grimes in Season 3

Rick Grimes in Season 3

This finale had its moments. Even though we had to suffer through a twenty minute foot fetish video to get to it, the fact that MILTON ATE ANDREA was awesome. There were a couple of memorable scenes with the Governor that would have ably solidified his badass villain status had he not cried so much and gotten his ass kicked by Michonne earlier in the season. They’re working on making Michonne into more of a human being and less of a killer robot, and Carl has been almost completely rehabilitated since the nadir of his youthful character arc last season.

We’ll see what Season 4 has to offer in the fall.

The Walking Dead S3E3: Walk with Me

Rating: FFS.OK, I made it through Season 2 of The Walking Dead. The writing took a nose dive, the creative vision was blurry at best, and most of the characters were damaged in all the wrong ways. Still there were high points, and enough of the original show and premise remained intact to keep me hanging in there.

When I tuned in to Walking Dead, Season 3, I wasn’t sure whether I would see a show rehabilitated, or a confluence of unwatchable drivel that had backed up among the writing squad over the down months. I was pleasantly surprised. The first two episodes were not only watchable, but good. The new tack into the wind of unrepentant badassedness seemed to suit nearly all of the remaining characters. Order had been reestablished, and the apocalypse made sense again!

Andrea

Then they (Them, They, the shot-callers for this goddamned thing) presented us with a complete departure from the little bit of coolness that got them the goodwill back. They built the entire third episode, “Walk with Me,” around Andrea and Michonne.

To be fair, I wanted nearly all of the characters to be eaten by zombies by the end of Season 2, but Andrea was pretty much at the top of that particular shit list. I didn’t want her to die the way I wanted Dale to die by the end of “Judge, Jury and Executioner.” Angela Kang wrote Dale to death far before the zombie got ahold of him, and he was a credible presence in the apocalypse until that point. In fact, the only thing that I could hold against Dale before that was that he prevented Andrea’s suicide.

Andrea needed to be gone because she’s irritating and implausible. She was irrational and inconsiderate, but not endearing in any way. She acted strong, in the way that weak people do to make themselves feel better. Set her alongside Shane for a moment. Did he ever once feel the need to tell everyone how tough he is?


Shane was tough. He only brought it up if he was desperate to justify some of his own, often unnecessary toughness to some less tough members of the group. Shane was all evil and whatnot, and he cracked up, and had to go… but everything about him indexed the strong, confident assholes that we all run into in real life.

Andrea, on the other hand, is at the center of a story arc that’s meant to empower women. Glen Mazzara himself has said so in interviews. It strikes me that the people responsible for her have very little experience of women in life who are actually empowered, because Andrea indexes every insecure woman I’ve met who’s trying her hardest not to be a victim. It could be that there are a lot of people who can relate to that, I suppose, but her story is fundamentally one of insecurity.

Michonne is standing right next to her throughout “Walk with Me,” by way of contrast. She’s stoic, stony, even zombie-like at times, and an equally inconceivable cartoon of a character (yes, I know the series is based on a comic book). She’s not irritating, but neither is she any sort of real. Of the other female characters in the show, Maggie stands out as having the most potential for a realistic empowerment arc.

Maggie acts like people who are walking around out there every day, and I can relate to her. She’s neither disempowered, nor is she particularly insecure, and she has room to grow. She’s with Glen who is at the center of his own unorthodox sort of empowerment story, and one that’s been quite convincing to this point. Sure, Maggie was rescued by Glen in the Malt Shoppe (or wherever), but Rick got rescued by Darryl like a dozen times in the two prison episodes without the mildest threat of being overshadowed by him. Nobody is any more independent in the zombie apocalypse than in real life, and real life is at the core of the zombie apocalypse… or else it’s just a cartoon.

*****

Post Script:

There’s nothing inherently uncool about the Governor, Woodbury, or Merle 2.0 at this point. They’re all supposed to be our new friends, and “Walk with Me” was our introduction to them. It was like meeting a bunch of strangers on the recommendation of the most irritating and inscrutable people that you know. The episode did them no favors. 

Parks and Recreation S4E6: End of the World

Rating: FR.Here I just want to give a hat tip to the NBC series Parks and Recreation for two things: first, they had an apocalyptic episode; and second, they have Ron Fucking Swanson.

The Reasonabilists

Parks and Recreation is a sitcom, not a survival show, and it centers on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) as the Deputy Director of  Parks and Recreation in Pawnee, Indiana. The show gets the nod for apocalyptic content in the one episode, S4E6: End of the World, in which the Cult of Reasonabilism predicts global destruction at the hands of some extraterrestrial Zorp figure,  and schedules a vigil in one of the town parks for the occasion. The show’s generally pretty entertaining and its mini-apocalypse is a good time. Zorp never turns up. The world doesn’t end, and the sitcom goes merrily along afterward.

Ron Fucking Swanson

Ron Fucking Swanson

Ron Fucking Swanson (Nick Offerman) is a different matter, and this review is largely an excuse to talk about that dude. Swanson is a vindication of masculinity in a time when masculinity has been deconstructed, devalued, and pushed off into a corner.

He is a Libertarian who hates government, but works for the government. He wants to be reincarnated as a bolt cutter. He eats rare steaks and drinks whiskey, and watches The Bridge on the River Kwai on his birthday. He takes the Reasonabilists in stride, and is himself a “practicing none of your goddamned business.” Apocalypse or no, he’s Ron Fucking Swanson, and he’s worth a watch if you’ve ever had a moment’s hesitation on the direction of the 21st Century world. Check it out.