Friday, November 12, 2010

"The Walking Dead"

A new series called "The Walking Dead" premiered on Halloween. I've seen the first and second episodes, and think the show is pretty good, overall. It moves at a slow, foot-dragging pace at times, as if the editing were a reflection of the shambling reality of zombie existence. Thus far, the main character-- a local sheriff who, in the first episode, missed the onset of the zombie apocalypse because he was comatose for weeks-- hasn't bothered to ask anyone what caused the world to turn upside-down. The show takes great pains to avoid the word "zombie," preferring instead to use euphemisms like "walkers."

"The Walking Dead" seems to be more character-driven than suspense-driven; I don't recall a single frightening scene. Even as the series explores the relationships between and among the main characters, I hope it will explore, in depth, some of the quirks and properties of zombies. That is, after all, one of the advantages of a series: the writers can mine the details and weave entire episodes out of them.

Some walkers appear clever enough to be tool-users (e.g., when one zombie uses a rock to bash through a department store's locked front doors). There's an implication that zombie-hood is a disease; it begins with a fever, is followed by death, and ends in reanimation. The living know better than to touch zombie grue; the blood and guts can somehow infect a person. We learn in the first episode that walkers are attracted to noise; the second episode establishes that zombies hunt by smell. True to the established mythos, a zombie that has lost half of its body is still capable of dragging itself along the ground by its arms. Zombies appear to retain nothing of their original, pre-mortem personalities.

But much about zombies remains mysterious. They travel in packs, but do they have hierarchies, à la Charlton Heston's "The Omega Man"?* They seem capable of primitive reasoning if they're able to use tools: tool use requires an ability to use secondary goals in the service of a primary goal. I was also interested to see that one zombie girl, at the very beginning of the series, stopped shambling for a moment to pick her teddy bear up off the asphalt. Does this imply that zombies possess some sort of interiority? That might wreak havoc on philosophical notions of zombie-dom.

Although I find the series likable, I wouldn't rank it among my favorites. I may need to watch a few more episodes to see whether I can get a feel for the big picture, i.e., whatever the main story arc is. Right now, the picture we have is still fragmented, and the series holds our attention by letting us discover this horrifying new world through the eyes of the protagonists, especially our sheriff.

*Heston's film was based on the novel I Am Legend, which was recently remade into a movie starring Will Smith.



John from Daejeon said...

You might want to take a look at the comics on which this series is based. Personally, I have a lot of trouble just getting past the lead characters murdering of the Georgian/Southern accent. He is no Hugh Laurie when it comes to American accents. What's even worse, is that the producers didn't do their homework as most Southerners under the age of 40 don't really have strong (or any) accents anymore thanks to the California accent that has been prevelant on American television over the last 40 years.

On the plus side, the series has been renewed for a second season of at least double the first season's six episode order.

John from Daejeon said...

On the job front here in South Korea, you might want to check out this recruiter's website. It seems that teachers at specialized hagwons (SATs) in the "nicer" areas of Seoul can make a lot of money pretty quickly, but the hours are a bit on the brutal side.

I was able to put aside a bit of money and will soon be buying a tiny, energy efficient house to put on my few lake-side acres in Texas.

Anonymous said...

I'm watching the fourth episode as I write this. Personally, I love the show. The fact that it is an on going series rather than a 90 minute movie allows the creative team to explore some ideas that you rarely see in a zombie film.