After some hit and miss episodes, is there still life in AMC’s zombie horror series? Kieran Mathers finds out…
As a series, The Walking Dead has never aspired to the sprinting pace of 28 Days Later’s “infected”, and is usually content to amble along like a good old fashioned Romero zombie. But now it seems the series is degenerating into a legless corpse, dragging itself hand over hand, week by week, despite some occasional spikes in activity.
This week, our characters clear a well. Seriously, they hoist a zombie out of a well. Daryl (Norman Reedus) takes a walk in the woods and the little girl whom the audience no longer cares about is still missing. Some cars move … that’s about it.
I’ve said this before, but there is a frustratingly uneven style to the writing, which oscillates between excellence and cliché. And while it’s nice to get the focus off the Grimes trio and bring the supporting cast back in, the disjointed nature of the scenes means that any development is limited at best. This show needs a much better script editor.
At least the direction is pretty good, especially one great shot heading down the well to the creature within. This whole sequence is quite effective, even if the story beats are pretty predictable in their progression. Almost without realising it, The Walking Dead has adopted the comforting clichés of so many horror movies and you can predict with absolute accuracy that a supposedly secure feature will fail, that a character will fall and the screaming will commence. An attempt to introduce tension utterly fails because it is so predictable and because many of our principal characters have survived things like it before.
The zombie makeup is very impressive, however. The creature seems much more like a troll or mythological under-bridge dweller than a zombie but the progression into something much more monstrous makes a nice visual change. The highlight of this particular sequence is the bursting zombie – a wonderfully revolting effect. I don’t think the cast had to fake any of their reactions to this. Sadly, it’s the episode’s only effective surprise.
An unexpected sex scene in a pharmacy is simply irritating and suggests that the show has fallen victim to the classic hypocrisy which infects much of American culture. Regular readers will know that, while I had an issue with the sexual gratuity of Game of Thrones, I had no problem with the portrayal of the sex itself. But I do have a problem with the strange morality of The Walking Dead, that says we can see faces smashed open and bullets pulled from a child’s body, but that sex should be hidden, as though it were something to be ashamed of. It feels strangely coy in comparison to the show’s vein of realism.
It’s part of an unhelpful formula that the show has fallen into. Each episode roughly corresponds to one day for our heroes, and this does not allow for character progression. No matter how extreme the circumstances, people do not change that much over the course of a day. Factionalism, conflict and other elements will only develop if the show broadens its scope. And if it doesn’t… well, then we’ll have ten days of The Walking Farming Dead. In which case, like some of the characters, I’ll have killed myself in despair.