Monday, November 30, 2015

The worst The Walking Dead season yet

So, the first half of The Walking Dead's sixth season is over, and the show is going into hiatus. I'm feeling pretty comfortable saying that this was the worst season yet, and this is not a particularily high bar to crawl under, mind you. When the whole show grind to a halt in season 2 because of all the talking, talking, talking, they could at least point to budgetary problems as the source. But that is no excuse now, and the levels of stupid that this show has reached are incredible. Not even that, it has committed the worst sin of a show of its calibre: it's simply boring. 

Just recap the plot of these eight episodes: the whole story takes place in what amounts to two days, in which Rick needs to bring the Alexandrians under his particular philosophy of survival after he publicly killed a Bad Guy (tm) in the cliffhanger of last season. On a recon mission, they find a quarry full of zombies ready to burst at any time and plan to divert the whole horde by bringing them twenty miles out and essentially waving goodbye. When a horde of strangers attacks Alexandria mid-operation, the plan goes bad and the zombies surround Alexandria, scattering most of the characters over the countryside. Those outside the city need to try to get back, while those in repel the attack of the savages ("Wolves") and then talk some. Things get to a new high when an old tower collapses on the wall, flooding the city with zombies. 

In between, Rick and Jessie (whose name I had to look up because who knows the Alexandrians?) get together, her little son Sam gets mad, her big son Ron tries to kill first Rick and then Carl, Morgan tries to convert a Wolf, Carol gets suspicious, a new character named Denise tries to become a doctor, Glenn nearly dies, Maggy searches him, Abraham undertakes a roadtrip, gets lost and finds RPGs, several discussions about the future of the city are held, Daryl meets some strangers, recues them and gets robbed by them, meets Negan for the first time, and much else I already forgot. The cliffhanger is Rick and gang using the zombie-excrement-trick again. 

All of this, as I said, is supposed to happen within two days. Sounds a tad convoluted? That's because it is, and it's the first mistake the season makes. Something is constantly happening, without anything of it making any sense. The show is frentically rotating on the spot. There is no feeling for time, and the stuff that's happening and the developments of the characters feel random. 

Much of this comes down to really shitty screenwriting. The Alexandrians aren't even rising to level of cardboards, remaining stupid, stupid, stupid cyphers. Much plot happens simply because someone is doing something really stupid, and while most of the time it's the Alexandrians, the main characters aren't exactly above this either. Also, why is everyone falling all the time? I haven't fallen down as many times as those people do in eight episodes in all my life, including an instance where Carol falls down in the last episode for no reason at all other than pointlessly upping the stakes. 

So, everything (and I mean everything) anyone does is stupid, but how about the general theme? Sadly, there isn't really one. The closest the show comes to develop something is that the Alexandrians are naive because they're not badass but the characters are, and whether or not Morgan's new doctrine of killing no one ever is workable. Of course it isn't, and we all know it, so why is the show pretending otherwise? It's the sixth season, for christsakes. 

There are also some real problems with the pacing of the story. There's simply too much going on. In only seven episodes (one is only a flashback for Morgan), we have the big zombie cattle drive, the attack of the wolves, the debate for the future of Alexandria, multiple seperated groups essentially trying to survive, and the town getting overrun by zombies. Nothing gets developed, all is rushed, and all is without consequence. Characters are introduced only to be killed, for example in the prelude to the Wolf attack: Carol is playing housewive with a few other kind middle-aged women who are extremely out of place in this setting, and a minute after we get to know them they're all dead, and Carol weeps for them for a minute. Why should I care? Beats me. I didn't even know these people! 

The same is true for little Sam. He's shattered by the sight of the many zombies and hides in his room, refusing to come down. Considerable time is spent with him getting mad and fantasizing, but the whole story is still playing out over only one day - this is the fastest descent into madness I ever saw. Plus, I don't care for that boy either. He's just sulking and crying to get killed, but the show treats him like he's Sofia reborn (who herself wasn't exactly an emotional strongpoint). 

And then we have the writing, which, even by Walking-Dead-standards, is excruciatingly bad. The characters talk all the time, but they're not saying anything. It's the biggest misconception the creators and actors are making when they say the show gets boring when people talk. There are many really exciting shows that consist of mainly talking. It's that the talk is bad. Really, really bad. 

Even the production design got worse. The costumes were never a strong suit of the show, but please, couldn't you have hair cuts that resemble your situation a tad more? Isn't there any other fashion choice than the lumberjack shirt? The camera work and editing is also extremely lazy, with many action sequences being an utter mess in terms of getting a sense of place. Just one example: in the last episode, some people are running into a house, the zombies hard on their wheels, and then the camera pulls away for a sweeping aerial shot - that shows all zombies at least twenty yards away. What, did they jump back for the camera?

By now, I only watch the series because my wife is a die-hard fan, and even she despaired at the boringness and bad writing of it. For minutes at a time, we drifted off and couldn't even say what they just talkes about, but as it soon became clear, that didn't matter anyway because it was all pointless. This is happening all the time. I can't even get enraged about this anymore because it bores the hell out of me.

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