Monday, November 28, 2011

"The Walking Dead" and Ruining Your Welcome: A Television Review ("Pretty Much Dead Already")

Director: Michelle Mclaren,

Writers: Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman, and Scott M. Gimple.

So, apparently Herschel had a secret of his own waiting in his barn. This episode, "Pretty Much Dead," ended with a powerful and emotive ending, but did this final five minutes make up for the previous thirty-five minutes of predictable dialogue? The consistent drama and repetition of previous plotlines such as searching for Sophia (Madison Lintz) continued in this episode with the inclusion of a few more. The writing or lack thereof and reduced budget has kept this show in an idyllic landscape for too long. Now, is the time to push on.

As an aside, it is at this point that Frank Darabont left the show. His departure occurred during this episode or in epis. 8. How will the show progress? It is possible that Darabont plotted the rest of this series. However, the show's success now lies in the hands of producers Glen Mazzara, Gale Anne Hurd and the money grubbing cronies at the AMC. Mazzara's presence will likely not be felt much until seas. 3 and hopefully by then this show will be receiving the budget it deserves.

In this episode, Glenn (Steven Yeun) revealed his discovery in the barn to the rest of the group, a horde of walkers. Then, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) produced his best Hermes impression as he tried to forestall the group's eventual move into the zombie infested wild. Herschel (Scott Wilson) was having none of it. However, Shane (Jon Bernthal) was showing off his best one man looney tune impression as he threatened Dale's (Jeffrey DeMunn) life and forced a confrontation between Herschel's family and Rick's fractured group. The result was a one sided OK Corral shootout which left Herschel's family and friends in tatters, while revealing Sophia's hiding spot. Just think: no tears, no tears.

The powerful ending has been set up for several episodes now, but were these five minutes enough to satisfy zombie fiction fans? Epis. 8, which airs February 12th, will be the determiner. This reviewer found there to be too much dialogue and inter-group conflict here like previous episodes; but this showing was amping the tension to something. Much of the episode was dedicated to fostering a new alliance between Rick and Herschel. All of his work was undone by Shane's short-sighted plan.

And Shane's hijacking of the group's direction led to one very brutal gunfight. Rick being tied up by the plot device of a leashed zombie kept him from interrupting Shane's strategy. Shane has also likely put this group on the road as shooting Herschel's folks is not likely to sit well with anyone. Although, Daryl (Norman Reedus) seemed on Shane's side, the rest of the group seemed ambivalent, as well they should be. As guests, Rick and his group really know how to ruin their welcome. One last thought, Sophia's presence and eventual demise was very affective and her ruin finally puts to rest a seven episode sub-plot that should have been wrapped up in two or three showings. Certain story elements are being drawn out for far too long.

Now that "The Walking Dead" has taken a mid-season hiatus, it would be interesting to predict future plot developments. Based on promotional material, this reviewer is guessing that Shane is sent packing after his despicable actions on the farm. His survival will be limited based on the comic's forecast for this character. To be optimistic, the rest of this group will also be sent on the road, but this reviewer has a sinking suspicion that much of this season will take place on Herschel's overly safe estate. If the group does hit the road, then expect Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to join Rick's group. Also, T-Dog's (IronE Singleton) periphery presence in the show is a signal to this reviewer that his demise is looming. With this season's slow progression, expect T-Dog to find a zombie's maw next season. What are your predictions?

Overall, thirty-five minutes of the usual dramatic formula was almost overshadowed by a very interesting finale in "Pretty Much Dead Already." This show's budget seems to be hampering the excitement, while Mazzara's future helming of this series could create for a new path for the show. With the resolution of the Sophia sub-plot, there is no need to stay on the farm and the show should (this is a big should) take to the road. A zombie road trip could then potentially bring back some of the excitement to this series which has been lacking through much of the first half of the season.

Overall: 7 out of 10 (a good ending, more drama, little action, minor characters drifting in and out of episodes).

More on this show at the AMC:

The Walking Dead at the AMC

Another review of "Pretty Much Dead Already" at Hit Fix (Alan Sepinwall):

The Walking Dead Epis. 7 Reviewed at Hit Fix

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