TWD is maybe good again
After great success jumping back on with the new season of Doctor Who, I thought I would try the same trick with The Walking Dead. I gave up on the show after they killed off Glenn. I will not go into a long rant about how badly the show had lost its way at that point. Suffice it to say that I prefer stories where communities pull together against zombies, not stories where bands of crazies wage war against each other for no good reason. The show had gotten so bad that I doubted I would ever go back to it. What was once so refreshing had become a bit of a slog, as the group of survivors wandered around the woods getting into fights with various bands of invincible and unbelievable psychopaths. The word around the nerdosphere, however, was that season nine was something different, and I still had a lot of love for the show because of those first two or three, inspired seasons, so I decided to give it another try.
From what I could tell, Rick is still in charge of the group, mostly, at a fixed base in Alexandria. Rick’s people are shown to be very competent about killing zombies, spending the first ten minutes of the show professionally and casually dispatching them without exchanging many words. I know all these characters have a rich backstory, even the ones I am less familiar with, so the show already has a lot of goodwill built in because of that from me. If you have never seen the show before, however, it would all be a little random and hard to follow.
After a while setting the scene of the new, idyllic lives of Rick’s people, a small band that includes Rick, Michonne, and a bunch more of the show’s stars, heads off on a mission. They go into a museum, where the show demonstrates it is still capable of effective scares, followed by a great joke involving the March of Progress. On the way to the museum there are beautiful tableaus of cities that are devoid of life, though undoubtedly chock full of the undead. I love shots like this, where we see the hubris of Western society brought low by the zombies. That will never cease to be an effective metaphor, and exhibits in the museum about politics and voting hammer home who the zombies are and what is in danger for our own time.
There is then a beautiful setup at the museum entrance that involves a glass floor and a pioneer wagon that is similar to the zombies on the roof of the supermarket scene from 30 Days Without an Accident, the fourth season premiere. Unlike the helicopter, roof setup, which was very believable and organic, the setup in the museum doesn’t make any sense at all… but it is exciting. The guy in most peril is black, and the show’s problematic past with black men meant I was terrified for him.
The episode also gave some love to a character I, and many other people, have a real soft spot for, Daryl. I like the fact that he is a bloated version of the hot stuff he used to be in the very first episode. This is a guy, unlike the eternally young Rick, who really looks like he is living through a zombie apocalypse. All this is great, and half way into the episode, I was enjoying the show immensely. Unfortunately, based on long experience, I was also wondering how they were going to mess things up. And there were wobbles…
A second, even more ridiculous set piece involving the pioneer wagon followed, where a zombie hoard arrives that is presented as too dangerous to engage. The zombies serve the purpose the writers intended for them, and then suddenly the zombies are easily dealt with. One moment everyone is running for their lives, the next they are casually chopping the zombies down. It doesn’t make sense and jolts you out of the drama.
After spending so long on Alexandria, focus shifts to another group of survivors in a town called Hilltop. A third location, called the Sanctuary, is then introduced, and we are given a big infodump about all the factors that are causing tension between them. It all felt a little artificial and rushed. The show really seemed intent on setting up the conditions for a huge conflict, and my interest absolutely started to wane.
But then the story goes small again, with a touching discussion between Carol and Daryl, two of the stars from the very beginning, and that worked very well. In the end, I just couldn’t make my mind up if I was enjoying the show, or not. There is a very touching scene where Rick and Michonne are together, and she teases him about the way the groups see him as “The Great Rick Grimes” but then they start chewing over the petty politics of these small communities, which is dull. Then again, their solution to all the trouble is to get everyone to pull together to repair a bridge that has been washed out. That is a very symbolic solution, that I like from a storytelling perspective.
There is a great, adrenaline-pumping confrontation between Maggie and a political rival – she’s a leader of one of the three communities – but then she goes crazy, becoming a character that does not jibe at all with what I know about her. It is all very odd, and a tortured way for the writers to build conflict. On balance, I reckon I’m back in, at least for a while, but I imagine it won’t take much for me to check out of this season again. It was real mix of good and bad in almost equal measure.
Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet, brings to light an ancient archaeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him.