Sunday, November 27, 2011

Walking Dead Mid-season Finale is Tonight

Sad fact of life: Morning DJs don't get out much, and we go to bed early. If you've read this blog -- pretty much ever -- you know I am pretty much in love with The Walking Dead on AMC, but don't generally get to watch it the night it airs. It's on past my bedtime. All that to say: I finally got around to watching last Sunday's episode on Friday.

(I should mention, the following contains a spoiler or two for the comic series, as well as spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen episode 206.)

It was excellent, and worth looking forward to, but I'm not going to write a review. Instead, since apparently everyone and his mom is writing previews and spoilers, I figured I'd look at where we are in the narrative, make a few educated guesses about where we're going next, and approach the show as though I were writing it myself. That is to say, every writer is different, and there's a good chance that my guesses will be way off; I'm hoping to offset my inevitable inaccuracies by saying, "I meant to do that."

Really, I'm not sure it can get any more clear than that.
To begin, a word about the show itself. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but it seems some people won't shut up about it, why should I? The single biggest complaint about the show (now that everyone has gotten over that whole "it's not a scene-by-scene retelling of the book" thing) is that there aren't enough zombies. A Clear case of Missing The Point. People with this complaint have either not actually read the books, or else didn't really get what Rick was saying at the end of (hardcover) Book 2.

The Walking Dead isn't about zombies any more than Rescue Me was about fire. It is a story about survivors. An understanding of this basic concept is pretty much vital to an appreciation of both the books and the show. As the series progresses, we see that it is, in fact, several stories, intertwined. Just like life itself. It is the story of individuals -- of each of their strengths, weaknesses, and desires -- and of the group as a unit. Learn this fact. The producers, no matter how much you bitch on their facebook page, will probably never turn TWD into a Romero movie.

And, let's face it, as much as I am a fan of zombie movies (my wife would call it an obsession), at some point the monsters themselves start to run together -- to look the same -- and ultimately, it really is the human story which is more interesting.

As it turns out, discovering you wife is pregnant AND
is trying to abort it, all at the same time,
IS a little disappointing.
So, to the human story that is The Walking Dead. By now, we're starting to see the cracks in Rick's armor -- and what makes him such a strong lead. Rick is a man who really wants to see and believe the best in everyone. He lives under the constant (and naive) assumption that, at their core, all people really want to do the right thing. While it is this quiet leadership that brings out the best in characters who, like Darryl, really had little going for them in the way of redeeming quality, it also blinds Rick to potential dangers -- particularly when those dangers come from people he has trusted.

Rick, to his credit, refuses to blame either his wife or his best friend when he finds out they had slept together during his absence. "I know," he says. "You thought I was dead. Didn't you?"  He's hurt, but is trying to understand. At the same time, it is not the nightmare in which he and all the other survivors live, but all these disappointments (great and small) in his fellow man, which are going to erode his sanity.

Same old story: Boy meets girl. Girl almost gets
eaten bya zombie. Boy discovers will to live.
Glenn, meanwhile, is slowly gaining confidence in himself as a leader. His uncertainty in himself this season has been a little weird, as, ever since we met him in episode one, he has been the epitome of walking, talking competence. In his own way, he's every bit at home in this new, apocalyptic world as Daryl seems to be. But he's also among the youngest of the adults (eluded to in Episode 205, by his and Maggie's place at the "Childrens' Table" during the dinner scene), and still unable and unwilling to make decisions that would affect the group as a whole.

Maggie is going to temper Glenn's willingness to risk his own life and also bolster his confidence in himself  as a contributing member of society. Glenn's character arc is far from peaked, though, and he's due for further testing.

Hype for tonight's show centers on a "shock" ending, which makes sense for a finale -- even a midseason. By now, anyone paying attention understands that the show is using the comic books more for character development and a very basic plot guide. But the producers have (rightly, in my opinion) decided to keep the show fresh by deviating from the book series in major ways. What this means is that viewers should probably prepare themselves to lose some characters early, who would otherwise have stayed with us for a while.

Crazy? I went crazy once!
Dale has a few more secrets to tell, and the real question is whether or not he's going to get to tell them. If he is killed off, it will be at the hands of the increasingly nuts Shane. This could be the shock AMC has in store. It would force Glenn to rely more upon himself and Maggie, though isn't entirely necessary to that dynamic. It would also further ostracize Shane, even if he did manage to tell a semi-convincing story to cover himself.  Two deaths with Shane as the only witness is going to drastically change the dynamic.

New story or no, Shane is himself on a death spiral. He will probably survive the midseason finale, and may even live through the season. But ultimately, he's going to die. While many would like to see some redemption for Shane, as he selflessly runs interference so somebody else can live, I have a hunch that, as in the comics, it will ultimately be a member of the Grimes family who puts him down. It may or may not be Carl, but I think it certain that it will be either him, Lori, or Rick.

Speaking of Lori, I have the feeling she'll be dead before the baby is born. The producers could choose to add the infant to the mix and see how it changes the dynamic, but I don't think they will. This means, most likely, killing off mom and daughter like in the comic books (which will come much later in the series), having Lori miscarry, or killing Lori and the baby in or before childbirth. If Darabont were still writing, I almost wouldn't put the first option past him (seriously: have you seen The Mist?). But he and the producers alike have to know how poorly that will play with American audiences.  The second option is possible; it's even possible that after such an event, Lori would commit suicide -- the emotional impact for Rick and co. would be pretty much the same. It's even possible to write it in such a way that her aborted abortion attempt could come into play. Still, it's exactly because of that attempt that I think such an option unlikely. The third option is most likely. It honestly wouldn't shock me too much if it were Shane who was ultimately responsible for it. For some reasons, while Audiences would have a strong reaction to such an event, it wouldn't be a wholly negative one.

There is also some speculation around the web that Sophia will finally be found in tonight's episode -- inside the barn, already a Walker. If it happens that way, it also drastically changes another character dynamic that's been in the works: that between Daryl and Carol.

Guess we'll wait and see.

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