Before I go on, I feel the need to say that NO I did not read the graphic novels. I don't care what is in them. I don't care if they explain back story and I don't care if you think the comics are better than the show. I am responding ONLY to the show.
Now, upon watching the shows a second time, all at once, I started having issues.
First of all, the show is outstanding. AMC is good at creating gripping drama that works. The characters in the show, and how they react to the situations they find themselves, make for good, watchable TV. But that does not mean nerds cannot pick it apart!
SPOILER ALERT. If you do not want to read possible spoilers, stop reading here.
What is my beef? First off, before I can review each episode, I have some issues with the series as a whole. Trust me, this is not going to be an article bashing WD. I like the show. But some points need to be made and accepted before I can talk further.
Well, as zombie apocalypse shows go, it is well done. I think that the visual effects are outstanding for a cable TV series. It looks great. But there still has to be an element that remains believable in order for us to remain interested. I think that WD flirts with that line a little too much. Allow me to point out a few things:
First of all, time. The show speeds up certain things like the affair between Ricks wife and Shane, and the spread of the plague and slows down time in other areas. They don't really explain how much time elapsed while Rick was in a coma unless I missed it. But you get the sense that it was a couple of months. He got shot, and you get the sense that the plague spread shortly after. So there were probably a few weeks of slow breakdown while the government hushed things up, then a few more while things went to crap. Then comes the scene where the military is executing any one in the hospital that is sick, and Shane is with Rick, trying to wake him up. Shane escapes, and barricades Rick's door with a mobile cot. Now the clock is ticking. A human being can survive for 3 days without water. He had an IV, dripping fluid, and we can assume that a fresh one was administered right before Shane left him. I am no medical expert, but I cannot imagine one of those IV bags lasting more than a day. That means that it could not be possible for more than 5 days or so to elapse between Shane escaping the hospital and Rick waking up.
A couple more nights pass while Rick is getting debriefed by the black dude in the suburbs. I would say it can be accepted that a week has passed from the time Shane leaves Rick at the hospital, to the time that Rick is reunited with them at the quarry. During that time, Shane moved in on Rick's wife and Atlanta along with the rest of the world that we can see has been completely over run. The military has completely failed and roving packs of survivors have resorted to dangerous trips into populated areas to scavenge for supplies.
You just don't get a solid sense of reasonable time. But the time is the least of all my issues.
My big ones? The military collapsing, and the scavenging for supplies.
The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us and the military goes down like a two dollar whore!
Ok, I am not in the military, though I have two brothers and a father that were/are. But that doesn't matter. It does not take a genius to have a basic understanding of military tactics. Lets look back at the turning point in modern warfare in the industrial age.
World War One:
Step one: set up trench system that forces charging enemies into choke point.
Step two: set up machine guns at strategic positions for maxim coverage of said choke point
Step three: wait for enemy to come. when they come, pull trigger and mow the lawn.
This basic concept should apply to zombie apocalypse tactics. Create choke points, wait for the walkers to come, and mow them down.
Now, the program does not take the time to show us the time that elapses between Rick getting shot and waking up. So, in order to suspend my disbelief, I try to make allowances for the military. Like, they didn't know the zombie apocalypse was coming... Hmmm... no, can't buy it. I have to believe that in light of a zombie plague, the military would have been on alert before places like Fort Benning were overrun. Hell, even if they were not, army bases are designed to keep the public out. In other words. Even an unsuspecting military base checkpoint manned by a couple of snot nosed privates should have been able to repel what must have been a minimal zombie attack in the early days of the plague. But I simply cannot believe that any base would not have been on alert.
So, how come places like the CDC were overrun, and strategic choke points like the one where Rick first encounters the zombies in Atlanta were abandoned? If you look at most of the gun nests, they still had ammo belts fed into the chambers! You could say the tank ran out of ammo, but when Rick was inside, there were rounds ready to fire. I guess you can say the tank ran out of gas... But damn, if those vehicles in Atlanta had been overrun, I would imagine the tank plus the squad in the hummer would have put up a fight, and mowed down a few hundred zombies before being killed. There were none.
I guess the gun emplacements could have run out of ammo and not been resupplied fast enough because the zombies broke the supply chain? Yah those big military transports are pretty vulnerable to the zombie advance. Oh and what about all of those helicopters we have? It is not like they have to dodge rocket propelled grenades in Somalia. They can just find large hordes of zombies, hover and fire. When they run dry, they fly back to a secure staging area and rearm while the next one comes in and continues the zombie massacre. Given that it takes 10 minutes to unload the ammo on the dead, 10 minutes to fly back to base, 10 minutes to reload and 10 minutes to fly back, four or five choppers working together can lay down a continual flow of gunfire in protection of vital locations like the CDC.
And the guns nowadays are a bit more effective than the ones in 1914. You don't need to kill the zombies by shooting them in the head. Most squads carry a SAW, a squad sized heavy machine gun, a grenade launcher, and a bunch of M-16s. All of these weapons are capable of cutting a human in half.
Even if half of the soldiers went AWOL and/or crazy from unreality of the scene, I have to believe there was still enough fingers to pull triggers and waste zombies!
Now, it is not like the military was trying to defend a foot hold in Normandy. They were fighting a battle in the very streets of Atlanta and the suburbs. This means there was a pretty much limitless flow of resources. The nearest Home Depot would have had enough chainlink fence to erect a suitable choke point in a matter of hours. Plus they could have gotten some heavy machinery from any one of the major construction sites nearby to bring in rubble, to reinforce the chainlink, or hell, use the thousands of cars sitting around. Build a fence, to keep them out in the short term, then as the choppers cut down waves of dead, bring in cars to reinforce the chainlink.
I didn't even start with Mines, mortars, claymores and god knows what else is available. Even fire trucks with high power hoses would work against zombies. Use the hoses to funnel them all into a nice clump and napalm them. Or just save the ammo and run them over with a bunch of tanks.
Any way, the military could not do this. In stead they sent small groups of solders in hasmat suits into overrun buildings to execute straggling sick people. Since the program does not show us the military, we can only speculate as to what happened. Personally I think this would be the program we all want to see! Lets see some of those last stand fights! Lets see the tank in the streets of Atlanta get overrun! Did it run out of gas? Break down? What happened??
The other issue I have with the show is the scavenging.
Why the hell are they struggling to maintain a 30 year old RV in the middle of Georgia? For the love of god Georgia is the home of the Recreational Vehicle! You would think that at any point they could have pulled off the road and found a modern one. But no, they continue to drive that gas hog with a broken radiator instead. Further, they continue to drive past thousands and thousands of cars stuck in traffic on the interstate heading out of Atlanta. Why would they not at any point just have taken one of those vehicles? Why did they not syphon gas out of every car there? While I am on it, why would they not have picked up any of the dozens of military assault rifles sitting around the CDC?
Also, Atlanta is the perfect city. It is built like a wheel. The city itself is the hub, and public transit spokes out from there connecting all of the neatly planned suburbs to the city. Each of the suburbs is more or less a self contained community complete with Friendly's, Wal-Marts and Home Depot's. All of these commercial areas need distribution, and I'm sure Atlanta has an equally efficient distribution network where stuff is stockpiled to the gills. Granted that the time line from outbreak to Rick waking up is a couple of months, it probably took time for the distribution of goods to and from these hubs to stop. Meaning, there is probably still a horde of stuff from bottled water to Granola bars sitting around just waiting. Certainly the Wal-marts will be picked clean. But I have to believe that they would find at least once distribution center that is NOT infested with dead. It's not like they are placed in heavily populated areas, plus they are usually fenced! Not to mention the fleet of loaded trucks stuck on the road. (They did find a water truck in the traffic snarl.) I wonder where all Hostess trucks are?
But no. In Episode 2, they are driving two vehicles. A 30 year old camper, and an 80s SUV. Neither of which should be on the road at all. The get to the traffic snarl, and complain about not being able to turn back because they were out of gas. It was not until then that some one decided they could syphon??? Logic would suggest that when you are in a situation where there are NOT a lot of zombies coming at you, you stop and get gas. If there are, you drive away from them until there are not. It is amazing to me that after how ever long these survivors were camped, they finally came to the realization that they could loot cars in this episode.
Jesus, they risked going into Atlanta, surrounded by zombies, to loot a department store, when they had to pass a line of stalled cars miles long that are a veritable Wal-Mart on wheels. You think all those people trying to get out of Atlanta did not stock up only to leave their crap on the interstate? And no, don't say that the area was too hot with Zombies. Rick passed the whole line on his way into the city on Horseback at a slow trot. When they left Atlanta, they passed the same cars. This is just one small example of the same situation that could have played out any dozens of times as they were heading out of Atlanta towards the CDC. "Oh hey Rick, look at that, a RV dealership... think we can risk getting us a new RV?" "Oh and it is next to a Toyota dealership... how bout we upgrade your 1987 Jeep Cherokee to a 2011 Highlander Hybrid?"
There. Got that off my chest.
Now for the show. One thing they did right, is that they are smart enough not to fire their guns. The noise attracts the walkers. So they realize that they have to stealth kill the zombies when they encounter them. Nice.
So they went to the CDC and met the doctor slowly fading into insanity. The doctor decided to kill himself, along with some people. The survivors escape the explosion, leave the plethora of sturdy Hummvees and assault rifles where they are, and get away, now heading for Fort Benning. But on the way, they encounter a traffic snarl. Then the radiator blows on the RV. Of course. While they are looting the cars and getting gas, finally, Rick and the old dude are on watch. Here is something I don't get. The old dude is up on top of the RV with binoculars. Behind them is open highway with the exception of a few cars they tried to weave around to get through the snarl. They were driving down the road for what must have been a good while, and had no sign of zombies. But then while on watch, they spot one, then as the camera pans back, there is hundreds. Where the hell did they come from? How do you miss hundreds of zombies shambling toward you from the direction you just traversed? I guess they could have shambled out of the woods onto the highway, then turned to follow the highway, coming out from behind the bus. But come on. It was a cool scene I suppose, but in a program already pushing the envelope of reality, they need to tread wisely.
So, every one under the trucks. Lets hide. Some how these zombies snuck up on us and it is too late to run into the woods and hide for a few minutes. This brings me to another nit pick. In season one, Rick and Glen coated themselves with guts and gore and limbs and intestines so that they could infiltrate the shambling horde and get to a construction yard to take a truck. The zombies, unable to tell their smell from other dead, let them go. Until, of course it starts to rain the most unfortunate and timely rain squalls. As it rains, and washes off the dead smell, zombies start to smell the living bodies, then chase ensues. Now they are walking just as close to the living bodies as before, and the bodies are not covered in death, but have been sitting unwashed in the Georgia summer for a day at least, and not a single zombie smells them. Logic leap! Rainy day, people covered in body parts, zombies smell them. Sunny day, hot sweaty people sans dead parts, no zombie smells. Hmm.
So the zombies pass except for a couple who find the little girl, who runs for her life into the woods. Rick chases, kills the zombies, but loses the girl. The rest of the episode is spent looking for her. But here is where the genius of the producers shows. The zombies are not the drama, the characters are. The dead are a tool, a plot device, not the show. The show is about putting these people into whacked situations and seeing how they will react! And that is why I love it. At the end of the season 2 premiere, Rick's son is shot by a hunter. And the new episode opens with Rick sprinting towards a farm house carrying the boy.
What is great about this is that you finally see the cold, calculating and calm Rick unfold. His breaking point was his son. You see him literally transform from the well controlled and planning Sherriff into a shrieking crazy. Great scenes, great acting and great plot twists suck you in. Drama is almost forced though. Just when things look bleak, and you need something to happen, a zombie jumps out from behind a tree and nearly gets the blonde. Then we are right back into the story and drama.
Rick and his wife are now at the farm house, while the other survivors are dealing with the dilema of driving away or waiting for the little girl to return. The revelation that the doctor is just a vet is expected but necessary. It provided the opportunity for the line "Well I think we are all in over our head." Great stuff. I mean, blammo! Who are they to be picky about what kind of doctor is fixing their son!
Then comes the end zombie chase scene. I suspect we will see a lot of them. Shane and the redneck hunter go to a FEMA med shack to get supplies. When they get there, it is surrounded by zombies of course. They need a diversion! The answer? Open the squad car and get the flares that Shane happens to know right where they are cause he is a cop, then throw them to a spot away from the shack. Zombies go that way, we go in! But what happens when the zombies come back... Of course that was not important. Why didn't shane just get into the truck and drive over to the zombies, then drive away slowly, just fast enough to keep them close. He could lead them away for miles! Then kick it up to 60, run over a few in the way, and turn around and get back to the FEMA shack, meanwhile redneck medic dude is rummaging through the shack safely. IT would take at least 15 minutes for the horde to shamble back to the shed! Shane pulls up in truck and uses his shotgun on any remaining zombies, (Who cares about noise, you are already surrounded.) redneck jumps in the back with the stuff, and away they go. Nah. The two of them go into the shack while the zombies attention is on the flares. Get the stuff, then open the door to find hundreds of zombies right back where they started. Unable to run back the direction they came, they end up inside the school. Fade to black on a rickety fence keeping the zombies out of the school. Sigh. The writers need to work on having some less stupid characters. Another example of forcing drama by writing stupid characters. I love the show but the writers should work a little harder.
The episode serves a few purposes. One was to introduce a pool of new characters. The original group was splitting up and getting killed. I think that the young girl on the horse will end up joining the group. The Vet is a famous guy and the show tends to use the famous actors as one and done characters like Merl and the black dude who was on Jericho. So I doubt he will last much longer than the crisis with the kid. But the guy's daughter is cute, and capable. I think we will see more of her. Hopefully the blonde will die off soon. Her season 2 character shift has become annoying, with her antics and the old dude trying to protect her. Shane needs to man up and toe the line.
Ok thats it, Fingers hurt. Next week, now that I have my gripes about the series out of the way, I will focus on character development and what is good about it.