Monday, March 19, 2012

Holding Out Hope for a Crappy Girlfriend -- Reflections on "The Walking Dead" Season Two

You can't leave this behind, now, can you?
The Walking Dead is like a shitty girlfriend. No matter how much you want to, you can’t get leave her. You see, she’s hot, she’s kinky – I mean, she’ll do shit no girl has ever done for you – but she’s also batshit crazy. One moment she’s rocking your world, the next minute she’s telling you that you spend too much time with your friends and rearranging the art on your wall. She’s the sort of girlfriend you know you shouldn’t be with, but you couldn’t respect yourself for dumping because you just know you’ll miss out on something great the moment you let her go. The shittiest girlfriends aren’t the ones that treat you bad, they’re the ones that treat you just good enough, often enough that you trick yourself into thinking you’ll never find someone like her ever again.

Season two of The Walking Dead fits this description neatly. For every great moment, there are a twice as many horrible ones, some so horrible that you find it hard to respect yourself for continuing to watch. Yet, the good moments are so good, so awesome, that you couldn’t respect yourself if you quit watching. If you don’t believe me, check out this list (by the way, from here on there be spoilers aplenty, so if that bothers you, you shouldn’t be reading a season ending retrospective.).

Great Moments
Awful Moments
Carl gets shot.
Sophia – who we hardly know – gets lost in the woods.

Andrea yells at Dale for saving her life and constantly gripes about not being allowed to have a gun.

Shane shoots Otis to save his own life.
Carol doesn’t seem like she cares about Sophia being gone. Actually, no one does.

Shane and Otis use road flares to distract walkers, but don’t think about how they can’t get back and have trapped themselves. Stupid pills ingested.

Daryl hallucinates about his brother, Merle, and wakes up in time to kill some walkers.
Shane washes himself multiple times in an act of symbolism.

Rick and Hershel share multiple scenes in which they have the same damn conversation.

The barn massacre.
Glen allows himself to be used as bait to go down into a poisoned well, cause he’s a gamer.

Sophia was in the barn the whole time. And no one knew!

Rick kills the two men in the bar.
Rick shoots to kill attackers on the bar, then chooses to save a kid who was shooting at him.

Dale attempts to hide guns in the swamp.

Rick and Shane’s fight and subsequent escape from walkers at a school district office.
Lori goes searching for Rick after telling him he shouldn’t abandon her and their son, and subsequently gets into a car wreck while looking for a map as she drives on a road going only one direction.

Lori advocates for women’s rights to return to the kitchen.

Dale’s death.
No one ever watches Carl.

Dale does his best Henry Fonda impression from 12 Angry Men, but no one asks the obvious question about Randall -- how does he know Maggie and Hershel?

Rick kills Shane; he comes back as a walker and Carl kills him again.
Lori plays both Rick and Shane against each other, then gets on a moral high horse.

T-Dog shows up, then goes back in the house when the rest of the men go searching for the missing Randall.

The barn burns down.
No one misses a single shot on the intruding zombie horde, even from moving vehicles.

Everyone has ample amounts of ammo, despite Andrea carrying the weapons bag.

Andrea encounters ninja chick with walker pets in the forest.
Even dead tired and gasping for breath, Andrea is a sure-shot.

Rick reveals they are all carriers of the walker virus, and everyone gets mad at him for keeping a secret, despite the fact that it doesn’t change anything for any of them.

Rick announces this is no longer a democracy.
Lori inexplicably gets angry at Rick for killing Shane, even though she was the one who kept telling Rick how dangerous Shane was.

Hershel, despite living in this area seemingly his whole life, doesn’t seem to know there’s a prison nearby.

Check out all those watercooler moments. Just the ninja chick alone – whose name in the comic is Michonne, which the creators have not kept secret from the non-comic reading fans – is worth sitting through all of Lori’s whining and Rick’s waffling. Hell, she has pet walkers! How cool is that?

Geekgasms aside, this is why The Walking Dead is indeed that shitty girlfriend. The ninja chick’s appearance is like the day your girlfriend shows up with a copy of the Kama Sutra and a bottle of lube. The show gets the small moments wrong, but the big moments so right!

But there’s hope for this show, I think – as we always think about the shitty girlfriend. Season one was only six short episodes, giving us only a hint of what this show could be, or what it was about. Season two began with an upheaval in the creative ranks as showrunner, Frank Darabont, was ousted and replaced by his second in command, Glen Mazzara. The second half of season two was significantly better than the first half, which spent six episodes on a farm in which the characters lazily searched for a little girl we never cared about while debating about chores and philosophy. They tried to pass it off as character building, but the characters – other than Shane and Daryl – never really popped, and some, like T-Dog and Carol, were all but ignored. The bloodletting of the last three episodes felt more like an attempt to clean house than a dramatic necessity.  Yet, with Darabont fully gone, and Mazzara in charge, there may well be a focus now that season two lacked.

That’s the thing with shitty girlfriends, though: we always hold out hope they’ll get it together and become the whole package.

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