Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walking Dead S2: Bloodletting

Welcome to our second post on season 2 of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Once again I’m joined by Joshua Winstead, who will be chatting with me about the week’s episode. Speaking of whom, I was very bad last week in not mentioning that he blogs here, and tweets here. Check out both spots for some really, REALLY great writing.

But before we get to the analysis, I have two zombie stories this week. First, we have this new amazing intern at work, and she got married last weekend. She was sitting in the lunchroom with me and one of our typesetters the other day and telling us about this zombie wedding cake she saw at a wedding show that had the bride and groom at the top with all of these creepy zombies climbing the cake to get to them. We both stopped eating in mid-forkful, and Troy said, “And you didn’t immediately stop and order this cake because…??!!”

Seriously. As far as I’m concerned, it’s worth getting married again just for the zombie wedding cake.

Secondly, my daughter, who is seven, plays with a neighbour girl all the time, who is five. The other day I was driving my daughter somewhere and she was talking about playing with her friend the other day, and said, “She was telling me about this show she was watching with her parents on the weekend. First, there were these two zombies chasing a little girl in the woods, and she had to go and hide near a stream by a tree so they wouldn’t find her!” I’m driving, staring straight ahead and thinking, “No. No, she can’t possibly be referring to…”

“And THEN, she said there was this part where these two guys killed a zombie and they ripped open his stomach and were pulling all of his insides out!!! EW!!!”

Oh. My. Lord.

Now, I’m not usually a judgmental person when it comes to other parents. Trust me, parents get enough judgment and “advice” from people who don’t have children to be inflicting it upon each other, but really? You’re letting your kid watch The Walking Dead at the age of FIVE?! Just in case you’re reading this blog and you’re not watching the show, but considering doing so, I should probably mention this is NOT a family show. The network has a warning on this show that people ages 18 and under need parental guidance. Please don’t show it to your kid if he/she is in kindergarten (or middle school, for that matter). It’s really not something that should be watched alongside Toopy & Binoo. (Not to mention it airs really late at night… for a REASON.)

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming. I’m going to let Josh have the mic on this one first. Take it away, Josh!

Joshua: Nikki, I wholeheartedly second your public service announcement about age-appropriate viewing: The Walking Dead may contain children, but as most of these characters are either dead or moving rapidly in that direction, they do not seem to be the target audience for this material. Please use accordingly.

That being said, this was a fairly low-key episode in terms of gore, but what it lacked in splatter it more than compensated for in matter. We also got a brief pre-plague flashback, a bunch of new character introductions, a change of venue, and a huge complication in the matter of Carl Being Shot To Hell. As if that wasn’t already complicated enough.

But since we have to start somewhere, I want to give a special shout-out to reader Tim Alan, whose comment last week about Daryl-as-Sawyer was dead right (excuse the pun) and proven so over and over in this episode. The first time I noticed it was when Daryl gives his Sophia pep talk to Carol and Andrea in the woods (“Am I the only one Zen around here? Good Lord.”), and then it pops up again when he scores the night’s first (and only?) zombie kill with a “shut up” ka-thwang of the awesome crossbow. But then the scene came along toward the end of the ep when he busts out the stash bag full of drugs, and the comparison was suddenly so obvious that I laughed out loud. In fact, I pledge hereafter to yell FRECKLES! at the screen every time Daryl does something Sawyery. This show could use the levity, anyway.

Nikki: Haha! We should start our own Lost meets Walking Dead drinking game. And, well, you started it, so I’m going to keep going. When Rick was giving blood to Carl, I couldn’t help but think of Jack giving the blood to Boone.

And then we’ve got Dale, the older wise man who says the things other people don’t want to hear, but is usually right. Do you think his dad threw him out a window, too?

Okay, enough of that. ;) (The Monty Python general is walking into the room and I need to stop that right now.)

I’m reading this post-apocalyptic novel right now where a group of people goes to a farm and suddenly in the midst of everyone in the city starving and unable to fend for themselves, here are people who seem to be largely unaffected. And we saw it again in this episode – in a house that was around pre-electricity, they seem to be doing just fine, thank you very much. I loved that the doctor turned out to be a vet (my husband called that just before it happened). I should know this, because I read The Stand very closely for one of my Finding Lost books, but I’m pretty sure the town doctor in that book is a former veterinarian as well, so that felt like a tip of that hat to Stephen King.

Given the horror factor of the show, though, when the doctor was talking about how he might have to do a surgery without anaesthetic, I thought oh my GOD that’s what they’re going to do. I’m not sure I’d be able to watch that, especially with it being a little boy. On an adult, maybe. But when Lori shows up and curls up in the bed next to him saying, “Baby boy, baby boy,” my heart was breaking. What a gorgeous piece of humanity in an inhumane world.

Joshua: At least they don't have to go anywhere near his dural sac.

They don't, right?

Seriously, though – the amazing work by Chandler Riggs as piece #1 of the slug was being pried out of his belly made that scene so very difficult to watch. Riggs was a local Atlantan cast without a lot of other acting credits to his name, and that kid has been terrific. I'm with you in that I don't know how much more Carl abuse I can handle.

We aren't alone in that, either, as Rick is fed through the ringer this episode, wearing naught but that agonized expression for most of its runtime; I even referred to him as 'Cramps' Lincoln in my notes at one point, so regularly contorted are his features. Rick's character on the show is not quite the cursed Fate's Whipping Boy that he is in the comics, but the poor guy isn't far off, and Lincoln does a great job of conveying just how unmoored Rick is becoming as circumstances spiral beyond anything he can hope to control.

And, as counterpoint to Rick's desperation, we now have Hershel and his wonderfully infuriating matter-of-factness. Doc Greene is another of my favorite characters from the comics. What I always found so compelling about him is how dead-set he is on the accuracy of his worldview, regardless of the circumstances. It's like he thinks if he can maintain order within his own mind, then somehow that harmony will translate to the world around him. (Wait... pragmatism vs. spiritualism? Everybody drink!) I know a lot of people who would be this guy post-plague, and I think the writers did a lovely job of porting his attitude here.

Nikki: Dural sac, hahaha!! Oh god, let’s hope not. Maybe he’ll put the kid under, cut something and then start making demands. “Yeah, you crazy kids think I haven’t watched episodes of Lost?! How do you think I learned how to do surgery?”

I think my favourite line of the episode – for its irony – is “This has turned into a very strange day.” Um… is there such thing as a normal day anymore?!

I will admit that the one thing I’m finding a little difficult to come to terms with is Sophie’s mother, Carol. Maybe it’s the shock of the situation that’s keeping her eerily calm. Or maybe the writers have so much else going on they don’t have time to factor in a hysterical mother. But if my daughter had gone missing, I wouldn’t just be quietly wandering through the woods as part of a search team, having conversations and listening to the drama around me as if MY DAUGHTER HASN’T JUST GONE MISSING AND MIGHT HAVE BEEN EATEN BY WALKERS!!! The horse comes galloping in, tells Lori her boy has been shot, and Lori jumps up on the horse and they gallop away. The search party says, “OMG, we need to rush back to the highway and tell everyone what just happened,” and Carol is all, “Oh, okay, sure, no problem. Since there’s another kid in peril I guess mine doesn’t matter much anymore, so tally ho!” Off she wanders to the roadside like it’s nothing.

I’m really starting to think it’s shock (part of her believes her daughter is dead, or the situation itself hasn’t fully sunk in) or serenity (she believes God will take care of her, the way she prayed to him in the church asking Him to). But I think many moms would have been out of their mind with grief and frustration at this point, me included. No one is treating Sophie’s disappearance like it’s the end of the world, not even her mom. And I remember in last week’s episode, I said to my husband that when Sophie first went missing and they all headed back up to the highway because it was getting dark, I was imagining that the next part of the episode would be that night – the worry of the walkers coming back at night to the motorhome, and the hell that Carol would go through lying there doing nothing, knowing she can’t go out there but that her little girl is alone. But nope, none of that happened. Instead, it was dusk, and then we skipped the nighttime and we were at dawn again, with everyone – including Carol – looking refreshed and well rested. I thought it was a little lazy. But that said, I really think with the length of the seasons they can’t focus on one character in particular. Perhaps that’s why Lori’s “Baby boy” reaction to Carl was so welcome to me – finally a mother who looked like she might lose it because her child was in peril.

Joshua: Absolutely – why we couldn't have sacrificed a scene (there were several) of Shane & Rick having “Southern Man Talk” in favor of some token hysterics from Carol on the first night that Sophia was missing, I don't know. Instead, beyond cursory group discussion (and Daryl's previously referenced pep talk of sorts), we saw no real consequence of another day without finding so much as the smallest sign of her. It wasn't enough to irritate me, but agreed that it was certainly noticeable. From a narrative standpoint, this kind of dismissiveness is usually indicative of a storyline that will go nowhere, and my suspicion is that we don't have long before Sophia turns up again. Whether she turns up alive or dead (or somewhere in between) remains to be seen.

[Noting that “Remains To Be Seen” would be a nice punny name for a TWD blog.]

But who knows? Maybe half of next week's episode is about Carol and Sophia. I am hesitant to be overly critical just yet. My hope is simply that this kind of shortcut stays the exception rather than becoming the rule.

While we're on the subject of shortsightedness, let's talk about that last sequence leading up to the cliffhanger.

I grew up on shows like The A-Team and MacGuyver and Airwolf, so the idea of A SUPPLY RUN ON WHICH SOMEONE'S LIFE DEPENDS got me hopping up and down on the sofa. And I love the way the show took that premise and turned it into YOU ARE SO VERY SCREWED so very quickly, all as a result of one of the worst tactical plans I have ever seen. Really, who thinks that “let's throw road flares” is a sufficient course of action in this situation? The police academy where Shane did his training needs to be immediately discredited.

And as a result, they're now trapped – correct me if I'm wrong – in something like 8 square feet of space? Protected by nothing but a folding gate? Damn, dude. I really like Pruitt Taylor Vince, and I hope Otis lasts longer than this.

Nikki: You know, at the end of my previous entry I was about to write, “So what about that FEMA trailer scene?” but then I thought nah, Josh will totally go there on his own. ;) I agree, that scene was terrifyingly awesome. But I thought the flares were rather genius! Of course, only if you plan to just run by them and then not have to run BACK at all. Because in that sense, you’re completely correct – stupid, stupid, stupid.

Pruitt Taylor Vince – I thought exactly the same thing. If they’re using Vince, he must be here for a long time!! I hope so, too. I like him in everything he’s been in (especially Deadwood and Murder One).

Here’s hoping you’re right about there being an upcoming scene with Carol, but honestly, I still think she’s way too calm for what the situation demands and I OH MY GOD MAYBE CAROL IS A ZOMBIE!!!!! No? She’s not? Oh. Okay, back to me saying it’s not realistic. ;)

But for that to be my only kvetch so far this season is saying something. Oh, and I can’t end this without mentioning Daryl’s brother’s stash of antibiotics because he sometimes got the clap. Oh man, I loves me some apocalypse humour!! That was seriously hilarious.

Thanks again, Joshua, and I’ll see you again next Sunday!


Page48 said...

"The Walking Dead may contain children"

I love it! If they could just find the one that contains Sophia.

SenexMacdonald said...

I agree about it being a little disconcerting that Carol is not more emotional about Sophie being missed. I am not sure what is happening but I am hoping that the payoff (good or bad) will show Carol having a massive emotional scene.

FYI, there was another Zombie commercial somewhere between the segments of the show. Keep your eyes peeled, people ... :)

The farm looked so well groomed that I have to wonder if they are mowing the lawn. lol Do they keep the horse stabled all day or is it let out to pasture once in a while? It seemed a little surreal and so I am wondering if a shoe will drop while they are there? Anyone else wonder about it? Could it be TWD version of the Bates Motel? Feel free to discuss. haha

Love the writeup; hated Carl having the shrapnel taken out but Chandler did a fantastic job. You do know that he was at both Wizard World and FanExpo here in Toronto this year?

I will let someone else talk/write now.

Eric F. said...

Love that you are writing about this show. Did anyone notice the blue meth in Daryl's bag of drugs? That was a nice nod to AMC's other amazing show, and my favorite show since Lost ended, Breaking Bad!

yourblindspot said...

Eric: AWESOME! Nice catch -- can't believe I missed that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Josh!

Game respects Game!

-Tim Alan

Anonymous said...

Also - am I mistaken or did Daryl's bag have the patented Heizenberg Blue Meth? I want to see the Jesse & Saul zombies!

Great recap

-Tim Alan

Joan Crawford said...

Toopy & Binoo shout-out! Holla!

Linda345 said...

Oh cool, we're doing TWD! And you guys had me seriously LOLLINg and I'm not lying, with your Lost references (esp. the dural sac one).

What annoys me about Carol is not only her attitude but--when did she last get a haircut? They've been wandering for a while, and seems to me that hair that short has to be maintained pretty often. Maybe she does it herself with a pair of clippers back in the van.

My little 3-year old grandson got freaked out watching Real Steel. And it was just a robot. He loves robots. It was a really, really big robot. Kids get scared and should not watch The Walking Dead and some other stuff that's on TV.

You know what I think about what Jenner said to Rick. Nothing. He didn't say anything important and it's going to be dropped. Rick hinted at that in his walkie-talk to Morgan.

Can't wait until tomorrow.

Austin Gorton said...

@SenexMacdonald: so I am wondering if a shoe will drop while they are there?

I was thinking the same thing throughout the episode, and kept having to remind myself that you can't make deals with zombies: there's no way this family could have, for example, agreed to give passerbys over to the zombie in exchange for their continued existence.

But that's totally the kind of thing I was expecting.

@Nikki: I wouldn’t just be quietly wandering through the woods as part of a search team, having conversations and listening to the drama around me

That's kinda been my problem with the whole "missing Sophia" subplot: it's the kind of story where, to depict an accurate reaction from her mother would make the scenes with her downright unwatchable. Just histrionics and a lack of clear thought. Which is all understandable given the situation, and realistic, but not terribly good TV.

So they dial it back, but then we're all reminded of the unreality of it, because it would be hard for a mother to dial it back in that situation. All in all, seems like a hornets' nest best left alone...