WE are the Walking Dead

I’m a big believer in not having guilty pleasures when it comes to media. You like what you like and if you can justify the enjoyment it brings to you, then you should keep on enjoying that thing. People (like me) will reserve the right to say that thing is objectively terrible, but you should continue to defend it, because nobody can argue with subjectivity.

I both objectively and subjectively despise The Walking Dead, and yet I can’t stop watching. Help me.

I watched the season nine premiere yesterday, which made this the third year in a row that I ignored my instinct to stop. I think at this point it has become a form of punishment; You don’t deserve good things, so here you go Matt, watch fifty minutes of crudely constructed television that manages to mess-up despite an inexplicably high budget.

The first season of the show was groundbreaking, next-level television. The tight, six-episode story was refreshing for an American production, and at no point did it waste a single minute of your time. I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the best “first seasons” in TV history, up there with Breaking Bad.

Season two saw a drop-off in quality, which we can largely assume was due to the departure of Frank Darabont. The show became less focused, but for a few years still managed to tell interesting-enough stories. Half of the characters were two-dimensional beings lifted straight from a serialised, soap-opera-esq graphic novel, but the rest were well-rounded, complex individuals.

Up until the second-half of the sixth season I can still recall story arcs and individual episodes that entertained me. And in a show with sixteen episodes per season (I thought we were done with this 20th century BS), that’s probably the best you can hope for. With season seven and eight, I felt like the zombie — Glued to the screen but completely dead behind the eyes.

I think the only reason I tuned in this year is because of new show-runner, Angela Kang. My hope was that we’d get a completely new direction, and a fresh pair of eyes at the helm. I didn’t think she’d be able to bring TWD back to the glory days of season one, but I hoped for the quality of season four or five.

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Season nine opens with a set-piece, in which most of the main survivors (and a few red-shirts) are at a large museum building, where they’re recovering old pioneering supplies. The biggest object is a covered wagon, which they slowly pull down the steps of the museum. The ground floor of the building is made of glass and, of course, hundreds of Walkers are below.

The group decides to carry-on with their wagon-salvaging attempt, despite it being the least useful of the objects they came to recover. The glass cracks and King Ezekiel is the one to fall. Surprisingly, not a single red-shirt fell into the Walker-filled abyss to build some tension. Ezekiel manages to avoid fifty sets of teeth and nails, to survive without a single scratch.

This opening sequence puts us back in the place we were last year; Zero reason to care emotionally about these characters because they survive the most ridiculous and complex situations. About five minutes after this scene a red-shirt is bit suddenly from behind as he goes to fetch a horse. Go figure.

Sure, protagonists should overcome difficult challenges, but if those challenges are painlessly conquered then I’m not going to care when they eventually succumb to whatever kills them off. The classic TWD example being that Glenn’s impossible survival and fake-out death ruined the emotional impact of his real death.

I did enjoy the small moments between survivors during the museum scene, particularly the scenes with Michonne. She looks to the history displays and sees words like “confederacy” and lots of pictures of old white people. In looks alone we get the sense she has anxieties about building America in the exact same way it was in the beginning. Later this is confirmed when Michonne and Rick are talking privately, and she suggests that they draw-up a charter instead of a constitution.

You can make the argument that race doesn’t really matter in TWD, and that a zombie-apocalypse is the great equaliser for society. However, the best post-apocalyptic fiction reflects contemporary society where it can, and last year the angered far-right went absolutely crazy at the introduction of a Muslim character. So I’d say an understated commentary about race is appropriate.

The second-half of the episode is about Maggie’s leadership of the Hilltop. It’s been a year and a half since the war ended and since then they’ve had an election. Maggie won the vote, against the scheming former-leader, Gregory.

Gregory opportunistically capitalises on the death of a red-shirt from the Hilltop, and convinces the grieving father to assassinate Maggie. This fails and Gregory is found-out, resulting in his execution at Maggie’s command.

I really enjoyed this storyline and I’m interested to see where they go from here. Maggie confronted Rick and showed her power as a leader in this episode, which is more actual character development than we saw from anyone else. I also liked the continuing themes of rebuilding society and the struggles that come along with it.

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Overall, the premiere was average. I’m excited about some things, but also nervous about others. There are far too many characters to truly care about any of them, so I feel as though they need to take an axe to the cast. It worries me that Negan is being kept alive, as that’s a poisonous storyline that should’ve just ended, never to be returned-to.

The previous show-runner once said that TWD could go until the fifteenth season, I hope that idea has died with him. I think I’m with this show for the long-haul now, because I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction, and I still have fading memories of what once was one of the the strongest season premieres in recent history.

I am a zombie, the seven-million US viewers still watching are also the zombies. We’ve been told our role in this story, I just hope we can witness a few decent moments before we disintegrate into mush.


Today is Tuesday, October 9th and an Evangelical leader said this about Democrats; “The most intolerant people in the country are those that preach tolerance.” I thought the irony there was depressingly hilarious.

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3 thoughts on “WE are the Walking Dead

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