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On Don Draper

A Man's Man: Don Draper

A Man’s Man: Don Draper

After watching the entire first five seasons of Mad Men in two weeks I  realized that I fucking hate Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and that despite all the talk about how cool and suave he is, I have found him to be nothing but a philandering, obnoxious, selfish, disloyal, sexist, unpleasant asshole incapable of love.

He is handsome. He is sexy. He is a panty creamer. Absolutely. But that is were the fascination ends.

Let’s recap Draper: he cheated on his first wife Betty (January Jones) at every opportunity and when he got caught he only apologized because he did not want to mess up his perfect little white picket-fence life with the good, gorgeous and dutiful wife and the model kids by his side (and not because he really regretted what he had done).  As a matter of fact, he kept cheating on her while he was temporarily moved out and supposedly regretting what he did and he continued to sleep around when she forgave him.

After she eventually found out about him and his secret past and his affairs, he threatened her and called her a whore. When she had gained weight due to emotional problems and a health condition, he called her a fat whore.

He uses people and treats them, especially women, with the same care as the cum stained tissues amidst his luxury satin sheets. For years he took advantage of and disrespected Peggy (Elizabeth Moss), talking down on her and letting her do all the work while taking the credit for it, including awards. Despite her stellar work he  pays her a fraction of what he pays his other, mostly untalented, male copy writers; she landed them account after account and when she asked for a raise or at least recognition he reached for his pocket, threw a handful of dollar bills in her face, literally, and patronizingly told her that she would go to Paris after all. He never apologized to her and on the same day he threw a wad of money at her face like she was a whore, he made Joan (Christina Hendricks) partner after having her sleep with the head of the Jaguar account

He is a lousy father to his three children whom he treats like puppys in a pound he occasionally agrees to take for a walk and he is never there while their mother dearest goes psycho on them.

After all the quality women he has met so far, he chooses to make his sweet-brained secretary Megan (Jessica Pare) his wife whom he pretends he is totally in love with (as if he could) and who of course gets billing before Peggy at his firm for the sole reason that she is pretty and fucking him.

Yes, the 50s Sucked for Everyone Who Wasn’t a White, Straight, Male

This is what the culture was like in the 50s and 60s. I understand. However, it seems as if the admiration for the magnetic, charming sexist, straight, white, racist homophobe Playboy was not just confined to that era.

A Hard Drinker - err Thinker too

A Hard Drinker – err Thinker too

Don Draper today is a source of fascination and admiration in our pop culture. Ask Men asked why people want to be like Draper.  The answer was evident: he is, after all, a real “man” because he is so unlike the chronically unmotivated, sexually clumsy, socially inept, economically immobile, and childish boys in most of today’s movies such as Knocked up and The 40 Year Old Virgin; movies filled with “men” who are really boys and obsessed with fast food, video games and bodily functions.

As if there were only two kinds of men: the chic, suave, handsome selfish assholes like Draper who treat getting married or being a father like it’s doing someone else a favor, or the Seth Rogen, stoned-all-day slacker with no motivation or checking account. Uh-huh.

A Man’s Man

AskMen praises Draper’s “masterful manhood” and most importantly his professional and upward mobility above all, because god knows upward mobility and “the accumulation of wealth” as someone once told me after I asked them what they wanted out of life, are the things that truly matter in this country and define one’s manhood. 

It doesn’t surprise me that despite all his other very serious character flaws such as his infidelity, his disloyalty, his lack of compassion, his misogyny and cowardice the one thing people know him and admire him the most for is the fact that he is good with hot women and upwardly mobile. Nevermind that he regularly fires people for things that are his fault or things that he does himself but judges others for.  Or that he fired a gay employee because he did not want to sleep with a client, or when he made his secretary and long term friend sleep with a client to get the account, and when he drove a business partner and close friend to suicide by refusing to give him a break after that friend had a temporary laps in judgment.  Nope, that is no big deal. As long as he is sexy and rich doing it, it’s endearing. 

The only things he is criticized for are his chain smoking, his alcoholism and generally unhealthy vices. He is rarely, if ever, criticized for his deep misogyny and just the shitty way he treats people in life. Ironically, his wife Betty is considered the least popular character on the show while Don the most popular, even though he is the philandering asshole.

A Woman’s Man

As AskMen put it “even those who consider themselves died-in-the-wool feminists — admitted that Don Draper represents just about everything they want in a man: not only is he tall, dark and handsome, but he is commanding, enterprising and always — always — in control. When we have, on occasion, pointed out to these same women that he is inwardly unavailable, hopelessly uncommunicative and serially unfaithful, many of them have conceded that, as one friend put it, “he would probably make a lousy husband and a bad dad in real life.”

Umm…no. I don’t know who all those legions of feminists are that AskMen is referencing here but no feminist would find a manipulative, abusive man like this “everything they want in a man.” In fact, I doubt that any woman with an ounce of self respect and aversion to abuse would want a man like Don Draper in their lives.

Aside from his aforementioned blatant and obvious misogynistic and cruel ways (qualities I cannot imagine many people finding attractive or enticing), Don Draper – as a partner – a husband – insistently wants his women to be someone that they manifestly aren’t, which is classic emotional abuse dynamic. Draper does not respect his partner’s agency and consent and he is someone who continually asserts to know their partner’s needs and desires better than themselves. Thing is, someone who is emotionally manipulative, sexually coercive, and conditionally affectionate will never just be okay with accepting their partner’s feelings for what they are, or respecting their boundaries.

When you watch Don Draper interact with women – his lovers, girlfriends and wives – what you really see is a horror scene, set to romantic music.

So, when AskMen asserts that Don Draper is what women really want, especially feminist women I a) highly doubt that the editors over there at AskMen know diddly about what either women want or what constitutes feminists and b) I am horrified that there are young men, lots of young men (and even women) watching this show and then reading articles like this thinking that this is what women want, that this is what women should want and that this is how men should behave because… this is what women (allegedly) want.

They walk around thinking that these kind of relationship dynamics are the norm, healthy and desirable. That if you are a man and you act like this, you are cool  – and that if you are a woman accepting a man acting like this, you are romantic, when in reality Don Draper and his behavior isn’t a model for romance. It’s a blueprint for abuse.

It is certainly not what woman want. Or what women who want to be in emotionally healthy relationships with men who respect their agency and boundaries, should want.

It is ironic that the editors at AskMen agree with one of the male copywriters in the show who once told Draper that women basically just want a man and that they’ll buy anything that’ll help them get a man

Apparently assholishness is very complicated

Apparently assholishness is very complicated

Of course AskMen portrays Draper as the kind of guy not only all women want, whether they know it or not, but also as the kind of man most men wish they could be. You know, being “able to drink and smoke with abandon, womanize with impunity, […] rule over everyone while being ruled by no one [despite being] an alcoholic, a chain-smoker and a depressive introvert.”

Note again, that nowhere are Draper’s misogyny, lack of compassion and bigotry mentioned as character flaws.  Apparently in the world of Men, that is a non-issue.

So Why Does Everyone Want to Be Don Draper? 

Because in essence not much has changed from the 1950s/60s with respect to the patriarchy and how our culture sees the two genders. I bet a lot of men watch this wishing things were that way again.

It is not surprising. After all, we live in a culture that considers “men” who are self-reliant, shrewdly ambitious, emotionally inaccessible and philandering misogynists to be the ultimate hallmark of masculinity.

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The article laments manhood and white, male privilege of the 50s as a lost opportunity; a fall from greatness that still somehow appears to linger in the hearts and minds of men today who look at it fondly exclaiming that “if only things hadn’t changeda man could still be a man“.

Ah, the 50s and 60s – the decades where men could be men instead of human beings who are no better, or less, than any other human being around them, male or female, black or white, straight or queer, thin or fat, handsome or ugly.

Progressive Masculinity

That is, of course, a very outdated and primitive notion of what constitutes masculinity. Or is it?

The patriarchy teaches young men, even today, that anger is safe and manly. Hurt equals weakness. If anyone questions your masculinity you must fight. Be assertive, be in control. Only a sissy pussy is not in control and so forth.

Don Draper is the opposite of that and according to AskMen, those are the hallmarks of not only real masculinity but also success, attractiveness and sex appeal.

The brilliance of the show is that no matter how redeemable Don Draper is made out to be and no matter how much sensitivity and vulnerability he is shown to possess, at heart he is a sexist and a bigot and overall terrible human being who does not believe that women (and gays and blacks) are deserving of and entitled to the same rights as men. He does not see them as equals, no matter how much he may ultimately care for one of them on the personal level – such as Peggy or even his own daughter Sally.

His misogyny is so rooted in him, such a fundamental part of his core, that he cannot part from it. And the writers don’t try to. They do not try to all of a sudden make him an advocate for equal rights or an enlightened man who really  stops to check his immense white, male, straight privilege.

For Draper, women being nothing but child bearers, sexual conquests, housewives and neat accessories at parties to show off are a given that will never change.

The fact that our pop culture of today looks at someone like Draper and laments his greatness and masculinity that somehow seems to be amiss amidst all the equal rights mumbo jumbo, says a lot more about how far we have come (or not come) in that area rather than how bad things used to be.

When people look at a black man like Obama running this country and yell “we want our country back“, Don Draper and the world of Leave it to Beaver and housewives like June Cleaver are what they are referring to. That’s the America they want back. The America that was great for no one but straight, white men; for the Don Drapers of the world.

The truth is that the masculinity of men in the 50s and 60s and thus of Don Draper  – much like the masculinity of men today – is a mask; a facade hiding a person deeply out of touch with who he is on the inside.

It is also a mask that allows them to navigate the world unhindered and thus without ever having to question the status quo. After all, why would you question a world that is so perfectly suited to and tailored towards your needs as a straight, white man?

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On a personal level, feelings and emotions are tools that help you deal with life and when you constrict them the results are people like Don Draper in the 60s and a culture that considers everything Draper stands for, some 5o years after he stood for them,  as the gold standard of masculinity and success ultimately.

Mad Men is a brilliant show and I thoroughly enjoy it, but the hype about Don Draper is just that. He is nothing but a pretty face in a nice suit attached to a big dick.

I enjoy following his journey but boy, I can’t stand the guy. Especially after he got married to his office bimbo and penile-equivalent Megan – whom they are trying to pass up as a really interesting person – I lost whatever little hope I had that there may be a worthwhile human being behind that spineless, quivering soul of his.

In Mad Men, Draper is portrayed as a complicated man. Even Hamm, in his recent Rolling Stone interview, admits that Draper is a “complicated man”. Someone lost in the woods, halfway through the journey of his life, who ends up exploring hell. Only that Draper is not that complicated man going through hell.  Unlike Dante, Draper is part “The Inferno” – including, and especially, his fucked up sense of masculinity which – more than anything – is the source of his ruin and distorted sense of self,  rather than its consequence.

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Review The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 12 “Clear”

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I have not written any reviews of any of the third season episodes of The Walking Dead because most of it has been pretty bad. Badly written with terrible, fifth-grader level  dialogues and comatosely boring content lacking real meaningful dramatic tension and  forward momentum.

Everytime I was going to write a review I realized that my review was going to be nothing but one huge rant criticizing all the things that were just wrong and pissing me off with the show and which ultimately diminished its quality and the phenomenally amazing tone set forward by Frank Darabont during the first season. And  as much as I sometimes love to hate this show, mainly because of the abysmally bad and incoherent writing and ridiculous plot outcomes, I just did not want to spend my time basically saying the same thing one episode after another.

Alas the latest episode titled “Clear” has departed from that abysmally bad note and was definitely worth a review  But before I get to that let me summarize the things I have taken an issue with during this entire season:

1) Despite the success of the show just numbers wise,  AMC seems to be either on a tight budget or just cheap. The entire second season took place on the Farm of Our Discontent and this entire third season has taken place in one facility (prison) and a set (Woodbury village).  People are getting bored with the lack of forward momentum and diversity. There is only so many exciting episodes you can shoot in the same one or two locations.

I mean, how many more times do we wanna show Walkers breaking into the prison? How many more times do we want to show these people sitting in prison cells bickering over something? How many more ghost images and knotholes can Rick make out with? How many more times can we watch Carol and Daryl give each other longing, awkward looks without it going anywhere? How many more times can we watch long, drawn-out shots of the Governor bullshitting his way into Andrea’s panties? I mean really. You would think this land and the prison on it were the last patch of land left.

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2) This show has gone from phenomenally good to ok to bad to abysmally bad. Jumbled together story lines, non existent character development, soapy, stagey phony struggles, half-assed dialogues apparently written by contest winners, too many characters –  none of whom are properly explorers and developed – much like a soap opera – bickering and arguing and blaming, lack of continuity, gaping plot holes and just overall implausible plot developments and outcomes.

A few examples:

–> Andrea’s deep loyalty to the townsfolk whom she just met two or three weeks ago and her dispassionate, half-assed speech a few episodes ago about how they must hold on was painful to watch. Especially since these are townsfolk who, may I add, are nothing but bloodthirsty sheep cheering at gladiator torture games and who have nothing worth saving.

–> Andrea’s loyalty to the Governor and acting like she and him had been in a close, personal relationship for years, when all they have been doing since she moved in two weeks ago is fuck.  That scene at the beginning of the mid season premiere where she tells the Governor to not “pull away” from her now and “close off” was phenomenally cringeworthy and completely unrealistic. Bitch just met the guy two weeks ago. Seems to be fucked in the head, literally, for being so dick-whipped that she apparently  – despite all evidence to the contrary – just does not seem to get how bad he is.

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This is a character who was so observant that she knew that Shane and Lori had a thing going on, someone who confronted Dale who wanted her to be thankful for having saved life by telling him that she saved his and that what he really did was take away her choice to end her life as she wished. And suddenly she is too stupid to recognize what a terrible sociopath the Governor is? Even after Michonne tells her? Even after the death match he set up between Daryl and Merle and the myriad of other pieces of evidence? She was supposed to have been an attorney in her life pre zombie apocalypse.  How come she be so immensely dense and unobservant?

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Speaking of:  her allegiance to people she doesn’t know is totally unreal, especially when in the loyalty department she is lacking as she, just a few weeks ago, abandoned Michonne, her friend of 10 months for the governor’s stick. Her loyalty to people she met five minutes ago doesn’t make sense. Not to the point where she is willing to betray Rick.

3) As to the Governor, it is unclear what his agenda is. What is inspiring him. What is informing him. He is just an uninspired, boring, dispassionate  villain on autopilot. He is just doing all things you expect villains to do, but he is one dimensional. There is no passion behind his villainary, so to speak. He is just an archetype. Not a real person. He might as well be the Joker in Gotham city hating Batman. That is how (un) real he is.

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People, at least I, don’t like characters that are unreal. Not in a show like this which is explicitly not supposed to be fantasy.  Now if this show was supposed to be Batman, it would be cool. But it is not, so why create real characters with real issues and then throw in this archetypal, comic book villain?  That seems fake.

The Governor and his character, if one call that incoherent, dispassionate jumble that is his person a character,  sounds made up and is evil and bad because it says so in the script and fits in nicely with the story, not because he has an agenda, a goal, a passion.

4) Grimes gang’s artificial holding on to the damn prison as if it was the last patch left on Earth that they had to defend until the bitter end not only makes little sense it pissed me off.  I mean shit, just about anything is better than this toilet they live in that has been compromised a dozen times anyway with the psycho Governor on the other side having it in for them for no good reason.  Just get the fuck out. You have cars and after this episode an arsenal, so just get out. At least with Walkers, bottomless pits of hunger as they may be, you know exactly what you get. 

5) Merle. Oh boy. Bringing back that backwoods degenerate who does not possess any redeeming qualities, whatsoever, is still beyond me. And then that fake, stagy made up attempt at trying to redeem him out of the blue without any evidence to a shred of humanity within him in the entire previous seasons. It is called building up a character.

If you wanna show that the character you are portraying is misunderstood and does have redeeming qualities hidden deep within, then freaking show it. Shows us glimpses of his humanity hidden deep within, like they did with Daryl, so that when he does change, it is believable  Otherwise it just seems like pulled out of your ass to fit the story line.

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I mean how did Merle go from being a violent, angry racist thug to a remorseful good guy feeling sorry for all he did in just as few hours? Not even weeks or days, but literally within hours? I am all for people changing and making amends but not within hours. That is not how it works.

Okay, so Hershel is established as a religious sort who very reasonably might have Bible quotes memorized. I buy that.  But then Merle cuts him off and completes the Bible verse? I didn’t even know Merle could read, let alone memorize complicated sentence structures.

Then he follows it up by saying that Woodbury has a good library which he misses. Hahahahahaha….yeah right.  I mean no. Merle did not spend the last 10 months hanging out in the Woodbury library memorizing the fucking Bible or reading shit.  

That is not plausible any way you look at it. It is also very inconsistent with his character as Assistant Grand High Oppressor of Shitburry.  I desperately hope that the intent is that Merle is lying to Hershel in order to gain his trust, because anything less is a laughably transparent attempt to retcon a lazy-minded bigot monster into some kind of conflicted warrior-poet. I am so sick of the writers trying to tell us Merle is interesting or trying to artificially create character development where there is nothing to create anything from.

Merle is not sorry, as he claimed, about what he did before or after the ZA. I mean it’s been only been, what, two days since he has fallen out of the Governor’s grace? He did not change and for the writers trying to tell us that he has by making that scene is terrible writing at best and insulting to our intelligence at worst. 

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Maybe Merle is just bullshitting his way through Hershel and Michonne knowing he has no way out and has to stick with these people or else be on his own. But Michael Rooker played the part convincingly. There was no guile in his tone or expression, so unless he is a terrible actor, which he is not, it is doubtful that he was just playing. In other words, when he said he misses the library, he meant it. And the writers meant it too.

I could go in with the inconsistencies and lack of forward momentum and the myriad of other issues with TWD since Darabont’s departure and the pooh-pooh platter of characters that are barely fleshed out always bickering, arguing, deceiving,  backstabbing and conning one another soap opera style, but suffice it so say that the third season has left much to be desired and I consider the episode Clear to be an outline rather than the rule.

The great thing about the Walking Dead has always been the extent to which the story of its protagonists has been rooted in reality. The challenges facing these people – from basic survival to the emotional and philosophical ones – aren’t stereotypical caricature type of struggles you see in most zombie movies. The problems of our protagonists feel real as these people suffer the way one would expect real people to suffer if the world had come to an end. The end of the world feels real and is palpable rather than being some fantasy scenario we can detach ourselves from.

The great thing about TWD, therefore, has been how real it felt and how authentically it portrayed the end of the world.

Zombies stopped being zombies but instead became Walkers and the apocalypse and the tragic end of human kind stopped being fantasy scenarios and instead became real – with survivors facing real problems and real dilemmas.  Talking to Jenner at the CDC you could say “yeah, I can imagine this taking place.” Not that zombies make scientific sense, but the end of the world and peoples’ reactions to it as depicted in TWD do.

This isn’t Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. These are real people, having real lives like you and I suddenly seeing the world as they know it end. These are people who have to start questioning not only their own humanity but humanity in general and all the beliefs they grew up knowing and holding on to so dearly, such as Hershel who suddenly found himself questioning his lifelong beliefs in his Bible and Christ, suddenly not really being sure anymore if any of it was true. 

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Questions human beings have been asking themselves ever since they have been intelligent enough to ask such questions, are being posited again and in a way forced into the foreground given the dire, end-of-days, apocalyptic reality these people are facing. Before the Apocalypse, these people never had to ask such questions so fundamentally and direly. But now they have to and with them we, as the audience, have to as well.

What has made The Walking Dead such an epic and compelling tale, therefore,  is that it feels real and close to home. There is something deep within the tragedy of its protagonists that resonates with us and which we all can identify with as the themes of loss, tragedy, pain, desperation and survival are real for all of us.

Being able to identify with the characters and story is very important. If nothing you see here could possibly involve you, the viewer, and you could not possibly identify with the emotions, struggles and tribulations of the characters, then  you also have no stake in this. Then you might as well just read a fairy tale/fantasy book.

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There is no destiny, no archetypes in TWD (except the Governor, which is what makes it so problematic).  Just real people who want all the things you and I want in a world were everything has gone to shit. Real people with flaws, hopes, dreams, setbacks, and strengths.

I’ve never been a chosen one, or a mystical monk, or collected aquariums with heads in them etc. I have, however,  been someone who holds a job, has coworkers, skills, and dreams and people I care about and lost. And I want to see that in the characters I watch and follow. Therefore, TWD always speaks to me more than just any old zombie flick out there.

The Third Season

In the third season, the dead or death, the Apocalypse, the disaster that has brought these people down, is just not as important anymore. It is about the interpersonal issues and rivalries of the protagonists and villains with the Walkers as the incidental backdrop. It’s been all about the Governor and his gang vs Grimes and his gang. Like Boys in the Hood but with zombies.

In season one and even two the zombies, or Walkers as they are called here, were almost like this third character and their presence directly affected every action and move by the characters.  In this season, however, the show has shifted from being about survival to being about war and gang rivalry. How the Apocalypse has been touching the people – our characters – in a personal as well as practical matter, is what makes the show and story enticing and interesting, however. Something the writers of the show have been forgetting increasingly in favor of prime time soap opera story telling schemes.

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What are the philosophical struggles these people face? What demons are they fighting? What real challenges are they facing day to day? Battles and wars and just having to fight a specific enemy while you are traversing the apocalyptic landscape is ok, but there has got to be substance, and episodes filled with questions about survival, humanity and science, describing the Apocalypse and its fall outs. I don’t care to see people bickering and arguing over the same garbage over and over again.

How is the fate of the world affecting people and society without spending a whole season showing a lame villain who is uninspired, dispassionate and apparently without an agenda?

In this Season 3 we have not found out anything about these people,  their inner torment trying to reconcile their new world order with their humanity. There is no questions of survival and the why. Instead, it’s all about the Governor, who is a caricature, and the townsfolk – who are also caricatures

That is why Andrea’s allegiance and loyalty to the people in the village of the damned seems so unreal. She is essentially rooting for one dimensional caricatures which most of us cannot identify with.

Clear

Last night’s episode Clear took us back to that. It took us back to Darabont’s original vision. It was beautifully written and the characters fleshed out and developed in a way the show had failed to do all season long – or in fact, for a very long time since the end of season one. Their tragedy was palpable and their humanity raw and exposed. We finally got to the psychological toll this has taken on people because aside from physical survival the most important part of survival is  psychological survival. Something often glossed over in such apocalyptic movies where people seem to be taking death for granted.

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No Woodbury and its terrible caricature of citizens  no prison, no stupid baby, no Lori, no Lori the unfriendly ghost, no Hershel speaking in sermons,  no arguing about Rick being the leader or not, no arguing about Merle, no arguing about trusting strangers, not much arguing at all in fact, no Carol rubbing up on the nearest man, no spontaneous Beth songs, no frumpy Michonne moping in the background, and none of Andrea’s hands-on-the-hips head-bobbing. Instead, the focus of “Clear” was sharper than Michonne’s katana because the episode isolated its story. And it was just the kick in the pants the season needed.

The episode wasn’t action-slammed and it didn’t feature a river of zombie brains and intestinal tracts. But it was one of the most thought-provoking, enlightening, and well-written episodes of the series. The writing was solid and beautiful at times,  with depth and nuances. And a great amount of Walker and Zombie Apocalypse moments reminiscent of the powerful and amazing work of Darabont in the first season.

It was great to see how the ZA has affected the world outside of the prison and outside of Rick’s immediate group. It was heart breaking and tragic to see him return back to his own old town haunted by memories of days gone by only to see it in devastation and ruins. The connection they drew to his and Carl’s respective pasts was beautifully done, ultimately putting a human face on the tragedy and preserving the continuity.

No comic book villains to fight, no gang rivalries, no bickering and arguing, just three people trying to make sense of a world in ruins. When Carl held the picture of his mom and dad and said he wanted it so he and Judy could remember how she looked like, the humanity that has been elusive for so long came back. And with it the extent of their tragedy.

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I loved the continuity and the connection to the first season. What happened to Morgan and his kid has always been on the minds and hearts of the audience and Rick and with this episode the tragedy laid out so beautifully in the first season has come full circle.

It was also a pivotal plot moment because Morgan, who apparently lost his sanity after his Walker wife attacked his son, was sort of the mirror for Rick.

In the past few episodes we have seen Rick gradually lose it, talking to ghosts and having visions and here we saw Morgan, having apparently gone down the same tragic path. When Rick saw Morgan, he saw himself or his future. His potential future.

In the brilliant first episode of this show, Days Gone Bye, Morgan was a strong man showing cracks and mourning the recent loss of his wife, but he still had something to fight for in his son Duane. In “Clear,” that man no longer was and in his place we saw a deeply troubled and emotionally troubled man talking to himself and writing gibberish on the walls, tormented by isolation, fear and guilt; we saw a broken man who had lost everything, being merely a shadow of himself today.

Seeing his old buddy in such a state was bad times for Rick, but it was also an eye-opener as Rick saw a potential future for himself in Morgan, realizing that if he continued on the same path, he could one day become Morgan. As Rick said to Morgan, they both started out the ZA together. Rick realized, in a final moment of epiphany when he left Morgan after having tried everything to help him get back on track but in vain, that Morgan was a goner and that if he wasn’t careful, he would soon be too.

Morgan's wife Jenny. Season 1, Episode 1

Morgan’s wife Jenny. Season 1, Episode 1

When Rick was telling Morgan, “You have to be able to come back from this,” he was also delivering that advice to himself. An advice he got just a few days ago from Hershel.

At the end of the episode, when Rick was staring off into the distance and Michonne told him that she knows he sees “things,” the “thing” Rick was staring at could’ve easily been Lori waving goodbye because Rick rocketed back into reality after seeing Morgan’s tumble and disintegration into insanity.

Just brilliant and beautiful.

This episode also showed just how apocalyptic their situation is.  – which is something the show loses sight of while it’s busy writing the next soapy segment.

In this episode we finally saw what it was all about all along, namely the zombie Apocalypse. Everyone they loved is dead and the landscape marred by the apocalypse. This was really in tune with the tone and spirit of the first season. The best episode in the whole season in my opinion.

Toward the end I was thinking that Michonne, Rick and Carl really make a good team and that I wouldn’t mind if they carried the show from now on. I mean, just go off by themselves and never return back to that group of dysfunctional losers.

I also realized that I would, in fact, be able to enjoy the show if all the other characters were dead, from Carol to Daryl to Maggie, Glenn, Hershel and Beth. Even Andrea. Who knows, maybe they can just have Rick, Michonne and Carl go their own way and give the other characters a show of their own which they can call Days of Our Zombie Lives or some shit.

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Review: The Walking Dead – Season 3, Episode 2: “Sick”

Securing the prison

The Walking Dead is back with a vengeance for its third season and unlike the comatose second season of the Days of Our Zombie Lives style that was thrown our way –  the new season – up until now at least – has been quintessential zombie apocalypse.

Instead of cluttering our from stupid TV shows already half dead brains with prime time soap opera junk  – which was the entire second season – debating Lori’s rate of sexual intercourse and trying to find the answer to the number one question burning on everyone’s mind after the world has come to an end, namely who the father of Lori’s child is – the first two episodes of the third season (Episode 1 titled “Seed‘), have finally picked up in speed and intensity taking the show away from the bore  that was season 2.

Shelter in prison

This season starts off great by taking us back to all the things that originally made this show great: the chase, the herds, survival, thrill, making life and death decisions in the face of absolute dread. In a way it is great Shane is out of the question so that we can finally move away from the love triangle bullshit drama that was degrading this show into comatose depths.

The strength of The Walking Dead has always been the realism with which it portrayed the journey of its protagonists through the barren apocalypse of a world run over by the flesh eating undead. Whereas Season 2 had abandoned all those questions in favor of dealing with the domestic problems of Rick, Lori and Shane with zombies thrown in for show, this season starts off by once again placing the zombie apocalypse, its aftermath and the drive for pure survival at the forefront.

Maggie getting into the spirit of things

Flashback to season 2: the group had narrowly escaped Hershel’s farm  after a massive herd had swept through there, killing half of Hershel’s family. Rick, who had been led into the woods by Shane to be killed, finally realized what was going on and shot Shane. Andrea got separated from the group. The others believe her dea and meet up at the freeway trying to figure out what to do.

Fast forward through the winter and it is summer again; it appears to be going by the lushness of the vegetation and the sweat everyone seems to be breaking. People look worn out and even though around 10 months have passed, Lori is still something like 7 months pregnant holding her belly like it was a bowling ball she was afraid might roll out from underneath her at  any second. Don’t ask why, but we will get back to internal consistency later.

A transformation has taken place within Rick as well. Optimism has  given way the shadow inhabiting all of us. Unlike Shane where this transformation seemed forced and became off-puttish, the change we see in Rick is subtle and more believable   It makes sense. And it is also very revealing of the inner struggle he is facing; the inward battle to try to accept that the world as he knew it is over and with it every bit of morality that existed within that world.

At the beginning of their journey. Rick went back to save Merle from the roof of the mall after he had been handcuffed there for his threatening behavior. He risked himself and the group in order to do the right thing telling Lori “I don’t care what he [Merle] would do. I cannot let a man die like this.”

This past year seems to have taken a heavy toll on Rick’s ability to cope with the new order of things.  In a world having fallen apart at the seams – where good and bad and morality and ethics no longer have the meaning they used to have pre apocalypse – Rick’s priorities as a leader  – but also human being  – have changed.  And in a way, they have to.

Big tiny indeed has a tiny brain

In the absence of government and law enforcement or really any of  kind of structure of governance in place and thus the things that keep society functioning as we know it, humans degrade to savagery, committing unspeakable crimes against one another. In such a world, holding on to grand principles established in a world with government and the rule of law would be futile.

As the leader of the group, Rick is facing a daunting challenge on many fronts. And much like any leader, he is forced to make the tough choices. in light of those challenges. Diplomacy just does not work with entities that operate under no code of conduct.

I don’t think people – even Lori or Herschel – realize how truly   alone Rick is in this and the immense weight on his shoulders.

Unlike Shane who seemed to have been in his element in the world post apocalypse, willing to kill people in cold blood under the guise of “saving everyone”, Rick really does have a hard time pulling this off.  Everytime he makes a decision in that direction, he seems to struggle deep inside, even if he doesn’t talk about it.

Rick may have unwillingly become the leader of this of group of people that look up to him for guidance and leadership, but it appears as if this role has also given him something to live for; to strive for, to fight for. It is what keeps Rick going in light of absolute devastation in the remnants of days gone by. Rick’s allegiance to this group is unequivocal. Giving up on the group would mean giving up on hope and a future and Rick cannot go there if he wants to make it through this in one piece.

I think the writers have done a great job portraying Rick’s struggle and how he is divided and conflicted. Leadership is ultimately about making the tough calls and actually realizing that the call you are making is tough.  It it weren’t, it wouldn’t be leadership. And Rick is a leader, flawed as he may be in other aspects.

“Aim for the brain guys. No more of that prison riot bullshit”

Having said that, there are still some inconsistencies which puzzle the astute observer – in no particular order:

1) When we left off at the end of season 2, Lori was upset with Rick having killed Shane and that Carl had to put Shane down after he had turned. Halfway through the first episode of the 3rd season, that resentment is still apparent. But suddenly that changes and Lori complains that after everything she put Rick through, it is no wonder he hates her. But hello…where did that come from? Just five minutes ago Rick was the one trying to making amends with Lori but now suddenly Lori is the one having to make amends with Rick? It seems like the writers decided half-way through to change this around hoping we won’t notice.

2) Why does Carl hate mommy dearest so much? If something happened in the winter months we didn’t get to see, then the writers should have made it clear somehow. Without having done so, however, it just seems a bit odd.

3) When we left off, fall had begun and the group was trying to figure out a way to survive winter.  Let’s say it was October. Now it is summer again (going by vegetation sometime around July)  – so something like 9 months have passed. Yet Lori is still pregnant (looks like 7  or 8 months). How is that possible? Lori must have been at least a month or two pregnant by the time she found out. If something like 8 months have passed, how can she still be only around 7 months pregnant?

Rick is not kidding around

4) If everyone is infected anyway and they “turn” after they die, then why does it matter whether they are bitten or not? You only worry about such things when you worry about viral or parasitic transmission. But if everyone is infected anyway, why do they care? And for that matter, why do people who get bitten die sooner than those not bitten – even though both are infected?

I think that, by far, this is the biggest disconnect and disappointment in terms of internal consistency. Maybe there is an explanation for it but they are not telling us what that is, so we are left with speculating  – which is always a sign of bad story telling.

Tight formation

5) How the hell is Hershel alive? How did the infection not kill him? He first had his leg hacked off by a dirty ax lying around in the decay of the prison. Then they used a bunch of unsanitary towels and everything they could find in the stench to dress the wound. How did he not get an infection or die from blood loss? He is an older man who has been probably malnourished with a weakened immune system. How could his heart and brain have survived  the lack of oxygen from all the blood loss, not to mention the immense infection? I mean this was a leg being hacked off for crying out loud.

6) Finally, exactly who is brain dead may I ask? For 10 months these prisoners are stuck in there with everyone dead and zombies walking outside and it never occurred to them to break out? Or go figure out what has happened. They just stayed there hoping the National Guard would show up? Really? For ten months? Since when do prisoners not look for opportunities to break out, especially in light of complete chaos.

Such inconsistencies gnaw at the believability of the show and the writers are well advised to avoid them. It remains to be seen how far down the rabbit hole the writers want to take us; just hope that that particular hole isn’t something we can find easily in prime time soap.

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Review: The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 13: “Beside the Dying Fire”

The season finale of “The Walking Dead” was, for lack of a more captivating word,  fantastic. It was beautifully photographed and choreographed packing the right amount of action with solid narrative. It was very reminiscent of the types of episodes we got to see in season 1. In fact, this was the best episode since the pilot.

Iconic Shot Into Atlanta

I couldn’t care for most of the second 2 and its soap opera/love triangle/who is the father of my baby/the jilted ex lover going psycho/Days of Our zombie Lives stagy drama about basically two Alphas being engaged in a “who has the bigger dick” debate.

Or that dumb kid Carl roaming around the farm in the zombie apocalypse unsupervised for no other reason than to move the plot along when convenient; or the trite, oftentimes idiotic and hollow dialogues apparently written by a bunch of college freshmen who still haven’t taken that “Writing 140 for Freshman” class read any literature other than comics it seems; or how the entire season was about those three above mentioned people and their petty problems while the other characters were grossly neglected and in fact were slowly moved to the background becoming mere props and scene fillers while Rick and Shane worked out the question of who exactly has ownership of Lori and Carl.

I didn’t care for any of that and most fans of the show didn’t either. Season two was mostly slow and uneventful with boring episodes interspersed sparsely with real thought and engagement.

But the finale almost made up for all those comatose episodes. This episode was intense, dark, scary, heart-breaking and terrifying – all at once. I was nailed to my seat the whole time, which I can’t say of any of the other episodes in this season really.

A few thoughts:

– Lori has got to go. She is selfish, unreasonable and ungrateful. An overall unlikable character and actress. Totally miscast. She is a terrible mother (she fucking never knows where Carl is),  disloyal wife, lousy friend and she’s always treating Rick like crap.

Even in the pilot, when Rick talks about her and what she said to him in front of their son and when she herself, in flashbacks, talks about her marriage and what she said to Rick, it is evident that she treated him like crap all the time. She slept with Shane a couple of days after her husband was murdered and when the shit hit the fan, she refused to take any responsibility for it and instead hid behind Rick to fix it.

A few episodes ago she pillow talked Rick into getting rid of Shane or doing something about him. Now that he did fix it – and that only in self defense – she is all upset and disgusted and looks at him like he was the worst human being. Urgh. This woman. I cant wait for her to turn into the zombie she really is at heart.

Daryl and Carol

– Carol is meek and annoying. I am tired of her victim, door-mat mentality. She always complains, whines and blames others for not doing stuff for her: whining to Rick, whining to Daryl. She never does anything but clean and cook and whine. Daryl was right “What do you want?” What does she want? She is stabbing Rick in the back for no apparent reason and questioning his dedication and leadership. Rick only treated her with utmost kindness and respect, he never raised his voice on her. And it wasn’t his fault Sophia got out from under the car and ran into the woods and then again moved even though he told her to stay put.

And so what he lied about the virus? That doesnt make him someone “who is capable of anything. ”

I thought Carol’s character was interesting at first but I don’t see it going anywhere except for her just instigating hate and making people turn on each other. She strikes me as one of those people from the Salem Witch Trials who just screams “witch” and everyone listens to her because she is quiet and calm otherwise.

I also don’t get what the deal is with Daryl and her. What does Daryl see in her? And what does she want out of him? Love, romance, protection? What?

– I like Maggie. I didn’t at first but she is cool and she finally grew up and she has integrity too.

– I don’t like that they are trying to make Rick sound mean or as some sort of a second Shane. They all looked at him like he was Ted Bundy when all he did was defend himself. I mean, the guy was being led to the woods to be murdered by his best friend who was after his wife and son. And people look at him like it was his fault. Rick gave everything for the group; he has character, integrity and loyalty – which is more than can be said of a lot of people here – yet the first respite they get, they blame him.

– Andrea is a trooper. I love her. She is the only woman who doesn’t act like a stereotype and like she couldn’t take a step without a man telling her or ordering her to – like Lori and Carol and those farm girls (except for Maggie). Lori is an idiot who defines herself based on the men she sleeps with it. Carol is meek, but Andrea, she risked her life to rescue Carol and she made her way out of that terrifying chaos surrounded by Walkers; on foot no less. She kept running and running and the whole time I kept thinking “how does she do that, she is amazing.” She is a fighter to the last minute and she has character and is loyal.

It strikes me as bizarre that everyone is always interested in Lori and Carol and that throughout most of season 2 Andrea’s character was neglected.

Andrea has great leadership potential  and is overall just a great and quite intriguing character. If Rick takes his head out of Lori’s ungrateful ass for once and stops being hung up on making her happy, he will see that and actually work with Andrea as opposed to ordering her around. I think they are all taking her for granted but they know that if push comes to shove, she is “the man”. Remember Rick entrusted her last episode with keeping an eye on Shane. He knew he could count on her and if you noticed, he doesn’t talk to her the way he talks to the other woman. He talks to her like she is one of the guys. She should go out there with Daryl too taking down Walkers – they’d make a great team.

– Glenn is cool. I have always liked his character. He was made to be meek halfway through season 2 but they picked up his character finally.

– Hershel is cool too. I forgive him his references to christ and the bible. He is an old man set in his ways and he views the world from that angle he was indoctrinated into, even though I think he actually has come to terms with the fact that all that christ stuff is nonsense at this juncture.

I sincerely hope the writers don’t venture out into soap territory come season 3 and are able to keep a deft balance between character development and adventure. The slow parts should built up to something like we have seen in this episode. In fact, this episode is great because they have moved away from that petty party that was the farm and the love triangle.

Where to now?

I understand that not all episodes can be about running away, but the focus of the show must shift from soap opera drama into survival and overcoming real life and death challenges as opposed to bickering internally. Confclit is good but it shouldnt hijack the show’s overarching theme.

The Walkers have to also be treated as another character as opposed to the incidental backdrop for these characters to work out their petty quarrels and for the producers to check off their list that they made an appearance for posterity in any given episode.

I also hope they actually use Daryl, Andrea and the other characters more during the next season, develop them and their friendships and roles in the group. It is a shame a lot of them were neglected so badly that the actors playing them (Jeffrey DeMunn and Jon Bernthal) felt the need to quit.

This episode introduced an important character form the comics, Michonne, who is seen in one shot here saving Andrea with two zombies in tow as pets almost. It had a very comic-y feel to it and I am afraid that this might be the direction the show will take on in season 3.

I always thought that one of the strengths of this show was that it depicted a sense of “realism”.  There weren’t any instances of magic guns with unlimited ammo, there weren’t really illogical twists, there was emotion with the death of friends and loved ones, and there was a feeling of doing whatever it takes to survive. In fact, when I was watching season 1, everything made sense and I felt like I had to suspend disbelief minimally. I was totally blown away because that is rare.

But as season 2 rolled along,  making it the disappointment it has been for the most,  I felt that I had ot suspend disbelief quite frequently, which I must says has been a contributing factor of my stark criticism of season 2 thus far.

I still love the finale but eventually all this bad writing and sloppiness has been catching on, such as stealthy zombies, or Daryl saying “I got a tip Sophia is in this direction“, as if there existed some sort of a zombie tip off hotline in the apocalypse, Rick and that horrible woman Lori letting Carl roam around without supervision in the zombie apocalypse, a zombie tearing off a man’s chest cavity with his bare hands, not having a contingency plan or meet up point in case the farm is overrun, risking Glenn getting killed in the well with the dead Walker even though the contamination had already occurred and there was fresh bottled water at the freeway jam, Hershel’s son sitting in the RV with the windows rolled down casually and the door unlocked…you name it.

For most people this is no big deal, but it gnaws at the believability of a show.

Everyone is Infected. Everyone is the Walking Dead

The most unbelievable part of The Walking Dead has been how they treat the infection issue, asserting that this was Jenner’s secret he whispered into Rick’s ear and that the child Lori is pregnant with might possess the immunity in its blood from which antigens can be created to save the survivors.

It is unclear, however, why Jenner would have lied to them about the virus having infected everyone. He had them locked up and tried to convince them to blow themselves up and die. He was having a hard time convincing them and only reluctantly opened the door. Such a revelation would have served beautifully in that capacity. So why did he not say it? And how would they even get the antibodies of that baby to vaccinate everyone. There are no labs left, no equipment, maybe even no scientists. It’s not like you are baking a cake and just need to come up with the ingredients. Making a vaccine is not something you can just do without proper facilities.

In this regard this show doesn’t make sense more often than not and it looks like season 3 will be more of the same, especially now that they will enter comic book characterizations and story lines.

I don’t know what is worse: soap opera story telling when you write about the apocalypse or comic book story telling. I do like comic book villains but not in The Walking Dead. Such fantastic depictions would really take away the show from its powerful origins and realism that has made it so enticing.

If there is one thing I have learned about what makes a great zombie movie, then it is the extent to which the story is truly believable.  The closer to real life the zombie apocalypse is depicted, the more authentic, more sinister and terrifying it appears because it allows the audience to identify with the protagonists and those in peril as opposed to just being the audience watching what happens to others with whom they do not share much. The more you share with movie you are watching, the more authentic and cerebral the experience.  That is what draws you in. Moving The Walking Dead into comic book realm might really work against this goal.

There is a great canvas to work with here and I hope the writers will see that and stop messing up or making this up as they go along. I mean don’t these people rehearse the scripts they write first, wondering whether what they have the actors say makes sense and is something real people, in real situations, would say and do? Just because this is a movie, one should not write a script with the “suspend disbelief” factor as a given or get slopping hoping the audience will either not notice or “understand” because this is a movie after all and you have to suspend disbelief.

Overall, this was a great episode paying homage to some of the best and most exciting zombie moments and greatly enriching the genre.  The best since the pilot.

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Review: The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 12: “Better Angels”

It is unbelievable what they have done to this show. It really seems like AMC and its set of unsophisticated, juvenile writers have their heart set on ruining this show by process of elimination of one important character at a time. Last week we saw Dale, a relatively major and regular cast member who provided an important dynamic to the group, be killed off in the most outlandish way (a zombie opening up his chest cavity with his bare hands, yeah right), and this week Shane, a principal cast member, was also booted off the show.

AMC should just cancel the show. They ruined it. Killing off Shane was an even more epic mistake than killing off Dale. Shows rarely recover from such major cast changes. Yes I know, in the comics, Shane dies pretty early on. But

1) the show has already deviated quite substantially from the comics anyway and
2) Shane was a regular cast member and the audience had established a connection to him. He was a major player. Killing off major characters like that is demoralizing.

Here son, keep the gun you stole.

I don’t think people realize how much his absence will be felt as the show continues. It will change everything.

Personally, I dont care much for following this past season 2. I might take a peek out of curiosity every now and then but this show is done for me. Shane was a central figure – controversial or not- and the writers just turned his character into a caricature.

Word has it that Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale) left the show because AMC fired Darabont and he just didn’t want anything to do with the show anymore and that Jon Bernthal (Shane) left for the same reason. In fact, Bernthal has been cast in Darabont’s next TV project, “L.A. Noir“. So it seems like the writers messed it up for everyone so badly by firing the head creative mind followed by lousy writing and the direction they took the show in general, that now half the cast are leaving voluntarily. Next week more will be killed off; personally I am betting on T-Dog, Hershel and Carol but it wouldn’t surprise me if they offed Glenn too.

This show should have been about the adventure and this disease and trying to find answers as well as surviving, traversing the landscape marred by the apocalypse. Darabont set it up masterfully: dark, and sad and sinister. When Amy died and turned, the transformation was tragic and sad and it had resonance. It was filmed beautifully, humanizing the character in a world ravaged by disease.

Daryl, the only meaningful character left in the show

They didn’t even do that with Shane, it was just rushed and he turned almost instantly. It’s like they couldn’t get it over with fast enough to finish up in the time allotted.

The narrative fail on the show since Darabont’s departure is palpable. One can clearly see the shift upon his departure. Looking at season 1, of course, and also parts of season 2, which Darabont still had an influence on,  it is obvious that character layout and development is diminishing in the episodes following Darabont’s departure. With lines like “I have a tip that Sophia might be here in these woods” or “stop acting like the queen bee” and other stupid, incoherent dialogue between the characters, you seriously have to question the writer’s not only maturity but also writing skills.

That is because writing is an art, especially when writing a script and a dialogue within. The writing on this show was college freshman 101 level. I mean, a tip? I didn’t know they had a 24 hour zombie missing persons hotline in the apocalypse. Or the entire conversation Lori and Andrea had in the kitchen, which seemed to have been written by adolescent boys, not to mention the ridiculous internal inconsistencies such as mistaking the morning after pill with the “abortion pill” RU-486 (the latter of which you wouldn’t find lying around in a pharmacy) and a box that actually reads “morning after pill” are just a couple of examples to the point. I mean these writers apparently don’t know how a woman’s anatomy and reproductive cycle works when they suggest that Lori take the morning after pill, weeks after intercourse.

Most actors were also not given anything meaningful to do and because the story did not move on essentially from one week to the other, it felt like we were rehashing the same garbage episode after episode:

– Shane wants to kill everyone in sight

-Rick thinks they should talk it through and keep their humanity

– Lori avoids Shane in embarrassment and gives him weird looks

– Darryl hunts squirrels and gives Carol stolen glances from the side when she is not looking

– Carol, who after her daughter’s death is still doing exactly what she used to do before: clean and cook and laundry without one meaningful sentence or dialogue.

– Dale sits on his RV with is sun hat, throwing wise cracks into the vacuum since no one ever listened to him

– Andrea, who was also a complex character, now mostly walks around with a dumb grin on her face always getting to gear up (we never know what and where but it apparently isn’t relevant becasue the main story arc is the love triangle) and

– Glenn tip toeing around Maggie all meek, as if he was about to burst into tears but wasn’t quite sure if it would be appropriate at the moment.  I mean Glenn actually had a great part in season 1. He was the smart kid who got them out of the mall in the city twice. Look what they did to him. He has become Rick’s handyman and Maggie’s bitch.

The writers, after Darabont’s departure, have degraded this show to soap opera level with lousy writing. Some drama and tragedy is good (like in season one) as it humanizes the show, but this show has become just that, a drama. Zombies and the zombie apocalypse have become the mere incidental backdrop you could exchange with any kind of other disaster.

Rick saw a helicopter in season one, but we dont know what happened and he never mentioned it again and no one ever asked again. If the world had come to an end and I saw a helicopter in the sky I would have hope that there is something left and ask questions and pursue, instead of hanging out on Little House on the Prairie bickering with my best friend over some woman.

And while we ar talking about inconsistencies and narrative fail:

1) Why is that kid unsupervised? Over and over again, he just pops up in a scene from nowhere. I mean since Lori gave Andrea a lecture on how to be a good doormat of a woman, she just got the award for the worst fucking mother ever for letting this little asshole Carl wander around the zombie-overrun world unsupervised. Is this a joke?

2) I “liked” how no one was phased about Dale’s death. Maybe with the exception of Glenn, everyone just sort of went about their business like nothing of proportions happened. Andrea, from what I gather in the comics, was shattered about Dale’s death, whom she was close to since Amy died. But here she just had this dumb grin on her face like “oh well, things happen”.

3) Very stealthy of both the readers and Shane to drag Rick into the open field where everyone can see them to kill Rick.

4) This episode, much like the last and half a dozen before it, is not about zombies and the end of the world. It is about two Alphas stuck in a “who has the bigger dick” contest and the entire show since season 2 has been just about that, which has contributed to the complete and utter destruction of Shane’s character into nothing but a caricature and stereotype of the psycho Alpha.

The Living are the Walking Dead

Apparently the title The Walking Dead refers to the living, not to the dead. In this episode it is somehow established, in the finest tradition of vague and incoherent story telling these writers are accustomed to, that whatever that virus is that turns you, has apparently infected everyone, the living, so that now everyone turns after they die, even if they were were not bit.

If that is true, then why didn’t we see that anywhere in the show (except for 2 episodes ago)? They spent the whole first season showing how people who get bit, and bit only, develop the symptoms such as getting a fever and dying. Not ONCE did they ever show an incidence that it was otherwise to somehow foreshadow what is to come.

We saw dead bodies on the highway that had not turned and had no head trauma. Now suddenly the dead turn without a bite. That doesn’t make sense and it’s called continuity or lack thereof.

The assumption is that the virus mutated and that this is what Jenner told Rick. But that also doesn’t make sense. Why would Jenner withhold that info from everyone except for Rick. Why wouldn’t he just tell everyone that they are infected? He told them everything else; in fact, he had them under lock up and tried to convince them to die. This information would have served beautifully in that capacity. What was in it for him to lie anyway? That just doesn’t makes sense and the only way it makes sense is that the writers are in fact just making this shit up as they go along – which evidently is what has been happening since they fired Darabont.

With regard to Shane: instead of keeping the differences in opinion between Rick and Shane to a manageable level and expanding on it, so as to keep the antagonism between the two with regard to how to approach the post apocalypse, they turned this show into this stagy, melodramatic love triangle and Shane into American Psycho, ruining his character.

The thing is, Shane’s character provided an important aspect and tension to the story. He was the guy who seemed headstrong, having gotten a little carried away given the totally desperate situation they are in (this is the Zombie Apocalypse after all, we’d all lose it), but he was also strong and made sense and the audience was split: some agreed with him and some didn’t, reflecting exactly the kinds of dilemmas these people were facing as a group: make an attempt to keep our humanity or stay strong and adhere to the no nonsense attitude Shane was advocating to survive.

When Shane insisted they give up searching for the girl, audiences agreed. He was believable, he made sense. Remember Shane was shocked seeing Sophia come out of the barn, he consoled Carol after Sophia’s demise, he did feel bad when he shot Otis to get away. And instead of continuing to keep his character complicated like that, they went overboard and turned him into a psycho who was about to murder his childhood and best friend over a stupid woman.

There is such a thing called consistency within a plot dear AMC writers. You can’t just make characters, in a span of 10 days, act out of character without any prior evidence in the plot, thus making a 180 degree turn. Shane’s character was not a sociopath, which is exactly what they made him into even though there is no evidence for it based on his history and life prior to the end of the world. That is just lousy writing folks.

I am gravely disappointed with how this show has turned out. AMC should continue on its path of crappy cheapness, as they did with this show by keeping the cast in the same place for the whole season doing the same crap over and over again, and just cancel the show.

There is a lot of serious narrative fail in not only this episode but throughout the second season and I think people are starting to feel the void of Frank Darabont and his masterful storytelling. The network and the crappy, cheap writing has literally driven away most of the actors and most likely also a chunk of the audience.

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Review: The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 11: “Judge, Jury, Executioner”

Dale is facing his demise

Poor Dale, he was such a humanitarian; a real Mensch and likable character. I think the group really took him for granted and killing off his character was an epic fail on part of the writers as he was not only a likable character but also represented a balancing force in the dynamic of the group. Now they are left with the trigger happy hanging judges that run the group and it’s going to be hard to water down the intensity of their polar opposite points of view. And if rumors of serious cast changes are true, more deaths are to come as we approach the season finale.

I noticed that in this show most of the characters are beginning to behave in a way designed to service a desired plot outcome (like Carl attracting the Walker to get Dale killed) instead of the plot responding to the characters.

Carl playing with fire

For example, Lori and Rick must be just about the dumbest parents ever. Who lets their kid (that was just recently shot), wander around unsupervised in a world run over by the flesh eating undead? Especially after what happened to Sophia. I mean that stupid kid was wandering the woods, climbing into the barn with Randall yelling “I am a man, I can take care of myself”, was almost eaten by a Walker and not once did his dumb parents wonder where he is. That is not very believable and was obviously put in there to service the desired plot outcome.

And then that kid Randall: they all act like there was no alternative to execution, just so the writers can put the characters in a situation where they have to contemplate his execution. But there were several other options besides murdering the kid and the writers didn’t do a good job at showing us that they really exhausted all options and really had to now consider execution. It wasn’t believable and again put in there to service the desired plot outcome.

The logically incoherent rules and reversals of elements according to whether they need them in an episode is also annoying. The Walker that attacks Carl is not strong enough to pull his feet out of the mud and is barely able to wrap its paws around him, but just a few hours later tears a man’s chest cavity open with his bare hands? I didn’t think that was even possible. A wild animal with claws needs to put more work in that but in this case the Walker just went through Dale like a hot knife through butter. And where did that stealth zombie come from anyway? One moment we see Dale walk in an open field with no one is sight for miles, next minute a clumsy Walker is standing behind him.

Hershel goes from “No guns and violence on my farm” to “meh, kill whoever you want, I dont care”. And for Rick, the decisive reason not to cold-bloodedly murder someone is not what Dale said, but that his kid is watching, whom he just five minutes ago asked to never ask any questions or disagree with anyone, no matter what. Are they kidding me?

The dialogue in this show must have been written by juvenile boys. It is completely devoid of any kind of substance, wit and insight. The writers have gone from quoting William Faulkner in season 1 to last week Lori giving Andrea a hard time for not being a good submissive woman who knits and does laundry for the big strong men and Rick telling his kid, whom he never even asked what he actually said to Carol, to just summarily shut up and never ever ask any questions or question anyone. Great values to instill on your kids. This show should seriously be called The Assholes on the Zombie Farm, because that is what most of the characters are.

It is also insulting that T-Dog, who did have somewhat of an interesting role in season 1 (and even beginning season 2) and actually had meaningful conversations with other people, barely ever appears anymore and when he does, he is standing in the corner quietly. I think his “what do we do with the body” single line was the most he has said since episode 3 of this season, which just points to the overall crappy cheapness of this show (dont have to pay actors that dont talk much or are seen, same location…). T-Dog’s role in the show and group has been reduced to that of doing the grunt work. Sure, let the token black guy take orders from king Rick and queen bee Lori. What’s gonna be next? let him be eaten by zombies?

They should bring the focus back on the apocalypse and what caused it and survival and leave the farm and they should use zombies as another character in the show – as Jenner did – instead of as just props that pop up every now and then so that the producers and writers can check it off their list of things to do. Didn’t Rick see a helicopter when he was in Atlanta? Whatever happened ot that? Seriously, it seems like the writers are making this up as they go.

The previews are unfortunately showing that we are going to go back to that Rick/Lori/Shane triangle and I just don’t care about these peoples’ personal issues. No one does. The world has come to end, get over yourselves and your petty affairs you selfish dolts. Why couldn’t they have gotten rid of Lori? Everyone’s problem would be solved if Lori was gone, because let’s face it, as the Alpha, Rick is acting like the judge, jury and executioner to prove to the other Alpha, Shane, that he can take care of the water hole and his mate.

I hear something about the comic’s nemesis The Governor making his way through season 3. So then it will be this group vs. the Governor’s gang. Like  Boyz n the Hood but in a zombie setting. Yawwwn. Been there, done that. Not very original.

Darryl takes over, doing what Rick could not do anymore

And hey, if you run into a group that looks like they wanna hurt you, go somewhere else. No reason to waste 16 episodes on it and artificially build the story around it. It is not like there is only one patch of land left for all of humanity and these people had to fight for it. Again, the writers are artificially extending these peoples’ struggles by creating directions and “issues” that don’t make sense. This isn’t South Central LA. You don’t like, move on.

This group’s murder lust (it was like they were taking all their anger out on this kid) is becoming disturbing and I love it. You lose your principals and humanity, you lose your essence as a decent human  being with a conscience, which is what Dale desperately tried to  explain to the group. In a way, these people are pushing the bounds of their humanity and entering dangerous territory. There is a huge difference between leaving someone on the run to save your skin (as Shane did with Otis) or planning the execution of someone you perceive as dangerous to the group.

So,  maybe it is better Dale died. He wasn’t going to make it in this world. He pretty much lost out on the execution debate as no one had his back and thought he was some naive and delusional old man. And he said that he didn’t want to live in this kind of a world anymore. When he left the group for the last after his failed attempt trying to convince the lynch mob,he knew that things were only going to get worse from now on. His demise, while tragic, was maybe his peace.

However, if they do kill off too many characters, I suspect alienation by fans. People are drawn to not only the story but also to characters and historically, shows that have gotten rid of major characters ended up alienating the fan base, eventually facing cancellation. Dale’s death is demoralizing and it seems like AMC is hard set to kill this show, one character a time.

I conclude this by wishing Jeffrey DeMunn, a warm goodbye. I loved his character.

Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn): Final show

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Review: The Walking Dead – Season 2, Episode 10: “18 Miles Out”

Shane: "Look Rick, I know the world has come to an end and all, but I still feel the need to kill you over a woman". Rick: "Well, that's no good"

There are only three more episodes left on the second season and it has all pretty much taken place on the Farm of Their Discontent and been about Rick, Shane and Lori. That’s pretty bad. I have said this several times with my reviews and I think it is finally dawning on people that this show really is no longer what it started out to be. Gone are the excitement, urgency and somber mood of the first season. Gone is the terrifying setting, the struggle to survive, to find answers, to dig deeper into questions about the human soul and the consequences of days gone by in the zombie apocalypse. The zombies and the apocalypse as such are just purely incidental at this point; a diorama, a facade, a backdrop. They had a perfect angle at the CDC and with Dr. Jenner and they crapped all over it with taking the show in this direction.

The characters have all been facing a slow death, just as the show itself. T-Dog, Daryl, Dale, Carol and Glenn don’t even appear on this episode anymore (that is half the principal cast) which I think is symbolic, more than anything else, as these characters have pretty much stopped mattering a long time ago vis a vis the petty, Lifetime Television for Women problems of the other three. The show has become all about Rick, Shane and Lori and that stagy, soapy love triangle between them.

Rick: "Shane we are not killing him. Let me think about it and we can always execute him later."

Lori: "Andrea, why aren't you doing dishes like the rest of us.", Andrea: "Because I am out there protecting the farm against Walkers...?" Lori: "That's so useless. We don't need that. We got big, strong men for that. A cozy bed your man can come home to is much more important. Isn't it a wonderful world. I get laid on a regular basis and if you did you'd feel as good as me." Andrea: "Um, Lori, you DO realize that the world has come to an end right?" Lori: "I can't think about that right now Andrea; I have several sandwiches to make"

Rick and Shane – in a scene that reeked of Old Spice and balls – pull over on a deserted road 18 miles out (why 18?) where they get to – in a very testosterone loaded way no less – man it up and talk about their feelings and ownership claims over Lori; Lori – an unlikable, selfish and moronic character with no redeeming qualities and someone who has been the cause and source of a lot of misery and grief for a lot of people in this group – especially between Rick and Shane who are willing to kill each other over her. Kill each other.

Rick: "Too bad it isn't Shane lying on top of me. I could totally shoot his brains out from this angle. What's the world come to that two best friends can't even kill each other in peace anymore"

 

In fact, watching these two beat the living hell out of each other 18 miles outside of the farm in some random location ravaged by the APOCALYPSE, as in END OF THE WORLD, over a woman, made me seriously question whether they both still deserve to live. That and the fact that Rick is actually seriously considering whether he should murder the boy. At this point it wouldn’t of course be murder, but an execution. At least when Shane killed Otis, it was on a whim and not because he planned it, like Rick.

Back at the good old homestead, where women know their place in the kitchen, Lori and Andrea have a profound conversation; the kind of conversation misogynist men imagine women should have with one another in an ideal world, which for the writers of this show seems to be the post apocalypse. That entire conversation Lori and Andrea had in the kitchen was cringe worthy and insulting.

It was like two 8th graders had written that lame, ineffective dialogue. It had no power and did not make any point or evoke any kind of intelligent thought. In fact, it made Andrea look bad, which is ridiculous, and from the way they have portrayed her all throughout the show – you know, as a screw up and rebel – we were apparently to side with that idiot Lori. I couldn’t believe Lori, as a woman of the 21st century, was giving Andrea a hard time for not sticking around the house washing clothes and cooking and thus basically for possessing insufficient skills to be dude property.

And I couldnt believe that the writers had seriously nothing better to write about than reciting outdated, Victorian notions about how as a woman Andrea should basically know her place and let the big, strong MEN take care of the important stuff while she devotes her time to knitting and making a comfortable home for said protectors. Really? I mean no…REALLY? R.E.A.L.L.Y??

With the way these people behave, let’s face it, they are unworthy of being the last survivors and pretty much represent the worst of human kind and – along with the writers – deserve to be gutted already and put out of their misery.

It also seems like they are artificially extending the whole “Shane is the villain” story arc to make up for a lack of direction and originality that’s been plaguing the show since the beginning of season 2.

The world has come to an end and Shane and Rick have nothing better to do than drive to an abandoned warehouse, beat the shit out of each other over a woman and draw attention to themselves. I guess they are the reason this extinction event took place

Firing Frank Darabont was a huge mistake. A Hollywood Reporter article was talking about huge budget cuts imposed on the show and how the network repeatedly dumped all over Darabont’s creative vision by imposing things like 50% of the shots occurring outdoors and 50% indoors (indoors being cheaper to film) and another note asked whether or not the audience had to always see the zombies – couldn’t they simply hear them sometimes. It’s been said that Darabont was involved in constant battles with the network to maintain the creative vision that drew so many fans to the series in the first place and that those fights eventually led to him being fired altogether.

Cast members, who were not happy by Darabont’s departure, and especially outraged at the network’s calculated move to fire him right after Comic-con, were also reportedly harassed and warned about making any public comments on this. Afraid to be killed off the show and also pink slipped, they all obliged.

All this would explain why the entire season has taken place on one farm instead of them moving and why there have been a minimal number of new characters – all of which would have greatly contributed to the quality of the show.

Rick "Shane, get out of the bus. I know you tried to kill me just now and want to replace me, but I can't tell the difference between right or wrong anymore and I am totally willing to take you into my warm bosom of brotherly love, until you try to kill me again (why again are we going extinct?)"

Darabont had managed to perfectly convey the mood of a world post apocalypse. The world he imagined, in conjunction with the interesting characters he created and developed, further aided in making that vision a reality, ultimately creating an exciting and thought provoking show. Not so much this season which, for the reasons mentioned, leaves much to be desired.

This season just gives the whole show a bad name, which is a shame because Darabont did an amazing job introducing us into the zombie apocalypse and these characters who were all multidimensional and caught in bad situations when their journey began.

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