Noted local sports bully, Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm), recently twittered that he has watched every episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead and he’s still unsure if he likes it or not. Frankly, I could not agree more.
To be fair, we haven’t been given a whole lot of shows to evaluate—eight through Season One and the start of Season Two. So far they’ve given us a lot of atmospherics and situational suspense. I won’t bother covering plot specifics but, basically, the earth-as-we-know-it has been taken over by the living dead, or “Walkers,” as they’re called (Zombies don’t exist in TWD universe, says show creator Frank Darabont). A group of survivors, semi-led by a reluctant and loyal Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes, are wandering around Georgia trying to find more of their own. They encounter Walkers along the way that are dealt with in effective ways. There are other, trivial things that happen that act as foreplay for something bigger, which the show hasn’t gotten to yet.
We get dramatic rises and falls of the score. The zombie make-up is terrifically stunning and frightening. Action scenes are grisly and splatter-y. The foley artist is really working the hand-wrung chicken guts and boot-sloshing-in-the-mud effect vigorously. The pacing flags at times. Characters stare of into the distance or at each other for long periods without any narrative payoff. Slow burn, much? This brings me to the central problem of the show. When you make a show about zombies and build some story-telling durability that will extend more than a season or two (just got its Season Three order, by the way), then you’d damn-well better have some interesting characters and razor-sharp writing. But, there are no Al Swearengens or Walter Whites or Omar Littles here. There’s nothing particularly fascinating or uncanny about the characters' conversations. The producers didn’t even have the decency to hire any southern bona fides for actors. The lead is a Brit and his band mates are mostly Yankees. Jon Bernthal’s Shane Walsh is particularly terrible, assuming an accent ripped off from James Van Der Beek a la Varsity Blues. Pathetic.
I understand that Darabont is off the show as director and show runner. He nailed the pilot episode and apparently left the remainder of Season One in the hands of junior writers. At one time, I read that this was standard operating procedure: an early season would be written by the juniors then the seasoned seniors would come in and take over after the network pick-up of more episodes. Darabont says that he had to carry the load a little too much last season so they got some heavier hitters in there. It can only get better right?