The Walking Dead Seasons 1 – 2: Part 1

(FYI: Before I start, I just want everyone to be aware that I have not read any of the comics, and do not plan to.  Thoughts and opinions on the The Walking Dead come directly from the show)
Oh, Walking Dead, how you love to hurt me. 
The Walking Dead, and me, what we share is a perfect example of a unhealthy relationship.  For ever UP, it has a DOWN.  For ever tender moment, I receive a punch to the head.  I love The Walking Dead, and it hurts to know it doesn’t always love me back.
So, I am now one and a half seasons into The Walking Dead, and I think it is a show that has shown potential for greatness.  It’s in no way there yet, but I do see elements that could make this one of the best shows on TV.  That is saying a lot considering shows like Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men currently populate our TVs.  Chances are, if you are reading this you already have seen The Walking Dead, so what can I say that you don’t already know.  Well, how about this?  I know this is going to be controversial, but AMC did the right thing in getting rid of Frank Darabont.  I love him, I love Shawshank, I love his writing, but he has shown he is not the right man for TV.  I feel vindicated for saying that, considering the best episode of the series (not including the pilot) was the midseason finale, and reports are saying that was the first Darabont free episode.  While I do think Darabont had good ideas, he couldn’t seem to “nail” them the way other TV shows have. 
But Nick, you just admitted your favorite episode was the pilot, and that was ALL Darabont!  That is true, but everything else in Season 1 was Darabont.  Rick’s schmaltzy speech about sharing the names of dead zombies.  Rick’s continual inability to show passable leadership skills.  Lori being an insufferable character, let alone, a poor mother.  The Mexican gang with the heart of gold.  The entire Season 1 finale at the CDC.  Even the characters, outside maybe the 4 leads (Rick, Shane, Lori and Herschel) are for all intensive purposes, paper thin charactertures.  Thinking back to Season 1, I can’t even name one other character outside the group that survived the CDC explosion.  That right there says it all.  A strong show, will have interesting characters through and through.  Look at the Sopranos for a great example of that. 
Darabont seemed to have trouble, not making everyone melodramatic.  It’s fine every once in awhile, but you can’t do that in EVERY episode!  For instance, in the Pilot, when Rick is talking to the Walker who was crawling on the grass, perfect.  That scene hit every note it was supposed to.  Then, the next episode, they try to capture that moment again with Rick taking the wallet off a dead walker, and telling the group he is going to tell his family about that man, and how he gave his um, “guts” to save their lives.  At this point, we already know that Rick sees these zombies as unfortunate humans, so you don’t need to tell the audience again, especially in such a stupid way.  I’m sure your 10 year old son and wife are going to love the story about how you ripped apart this man’s insides and wore them as cover.  It was forcing the drama into a situation that didn’t need it.  And that is my complaint about Darabonts style, it’s like he almost didn’t understand what type of show he was making.  Not everything has to be a inspiring, or emotional speech. Not every character is Andy Dufresne. 
Between Seasons 1 and 2, I checked out The Walking Dead webisodes.  It was a prequel to the first episode showing how the half rotted Walker came to be, let’s call her “Halfy”.  Who’s idea was that, George Lucas?  Halfy was visually stunning in the pilot, but just because something is “cool” doesn’t mean we have to know every thing about it.  Mystery and allowing the audience to come to their own conclusions can be a great device when telling stories, and Halfy was a great example of that.  Also, AGAIN, we get an overly emotional speech.  Let me set the stage, the mom is going to sacrifice herself to a horde of zombies so her kids can escape.  The daughter looks to her brother, probably a year or two younger and says “don’t worry baby boy, everything dies”.  WTF!!!!  Who talks like that, the daughter is probably 12, and the son is 10.  It’s just bad writing.  I also understand it’s a webisode but I even know that when directing people, don’t tell the son who is about to lose his mom to a pack of zombies, to SMILE when he runs away.  Who knows, that kid was probably laughing at the “Baby Boy” line.   
After Darabonts departure, apparently for mangling the Season 2 premier, I was interested in how the show would pan out.  Would it improve, would it get worse, would it stay the same.  All three happened, I don’t know how, but it did.  The Premier was all over the place in terms of pacing, and it is very easy to see that it was once two episodes combined into one.  At the end of the premier, we are left with a missing character, Sophia, and a severely injured Carl.   Carl was quick to get better, but every thing else went slooooooow.  Why couldn’t the show be like Carl’s immune system?  The first season wasn’t great, but at least it wasn’t boring. 
 Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the show to be “bang bang” action, I want it to have action, as well as move along in terms of character and plot.  It didn’t do either, except for in the terms of Shane.  Shane is by far, the most interesting and fleshed out character on the show.  Between his lust for Lori (why?), his Alpha personality, and his love/hate relationship with Rick, it makes for good TV.  When he shot Otis, and shaved his head, I stood up and said FINALLY!  My wife thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t cheering because Otis died, I cheered because SOMETHING HAPPENED!  Shane’s arch so far is great, and every decision he makes, from killing Otis, to the barn raid could be viewed as the work of an insane man, or the work of a guy who is ahead of the curve.  Probably a little of both.  So, midway through season 2, Sophia is dead, Herschel wants them off his farm, and Shane is evolving (or devolving).
Oh yeah, and Lori is preggos.  I kind of knew that was coming but it really hasn’t effected any characters so far, so there is not much more to say other then “who is the daddy?”. 
I don’t want this whole write up to be negative, because like I said there is much to like in the show.  Shane, as well Daryl are great characters and they keep me coming back every Sunday.  I wouldn’t be doing the show justice if I didn’t mention the effects work.  The zombies look phenomenal.  This isn’t your blue face paint style zombies folks, the zombies in this show are the best looking ones I have ever seen.
I have high hopes for what is coming next.  Will they leave the farm?  What will Herschel do next? Is Shane a loose cannon? Will Merle return?  Who is Lori’s baby daddy?  Is Maury Povich still alive, so he can sort it out?  With only 6 episodes left this season, they have a lot of ground to cover.  Here’s hoping it’s done better and faster then the search for Sophia. 
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