Further ruminations on The Walking Dead episode three

I really like Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. I wasn’t sure if I would at first, but three episodes in I’m quite satisfied. It has a cinematic feel, the acting is pretty good, and the casting isn’t all that bad (except Andrea, who looks about 35 instead of around 25 like in the comics). Last night’s episode, “Tell it to the Frogs,” was by far the least action packed episode yet, but it was still good. As I sat at my laptop with the replay running in the background I had a few complaints that I brought up in my first post, primarily involving Rick’s reunion with his family. I felt the scene was over the top, melodramatic, and the score was cheap and contrived – bringing to mind the sounds of a Hallmark commercial. The only thing missing was a singing card congratulating Rick and company on surviving the zombie apocalypse. This overtly saccharine moment, albeit necessary, is clichéd – lowering the standards set in the first two episodes and appealing to the lowest common denominator. Rick’s emotional outburst and Morgan’s tearful reluctance in the pilot episode were about as sappy, yet the score (reminding me of Apollo era Brian Eno) bridged together Morgan and Rick’s scene; it was the glue holding together a histrionic moment and plucking it out of the mundane. The reunion from last night’s episode missed the mark due to inept scoring, which can sometimes make or break a scene. In this instance it didn’t work.

Today a co-worker, who also follows both the show and the comic series, brought up last night’s episode, critiquing the final scene where Rick and company find Merle missing and an empty pair of handcuffs and a hand left behind. His appraisal involves the absurdity of Merle’s actions and his observations aren’t without merit. Since the door was chained the zombies didn’t enter and removing his hand wasn’t necessary. I argued it was for dramatic effect – a stance I believe completely accurate – and he agreed. However, if Darabont’s trying to capture realism with his new series, wouldn’t Merle have cut the handcuffs instead? I know people do stupid things when placed in intense situations, but it’s not like Merle didn’t have time on his hands. Obviously the zombies weren’t a real threat, otherwise cutting the lock wouldn’t have been necessary. Merle’s represented as a dumb redneck, but I fail to believe he’s completely stupid; he isn’t book smart but he’s probably street smart and his continued survival during the zombie epidemic confirms this. I understand paying homage to Mad Max is at play here (along with foreshadowing, since a major character loses a hand later on in the comics), but Merle’s actions reduce the show’s quality. It allows in simple exploitation in lieu of consistency.

This is such a minor plot point and I’m certain readers will dismiss my judgments, yet I’m not certain whether such dismissals are warranted. Remember, television is probably the lowest intellectual medium in our culture, hosting everything from highbrow art shows to Battle of the Bods – a reality show where complete tools evaluate women’s physical attributes for money. Television is also a cheap medium, accessible to most people for either free or cheap, and the advent of the internet allows a wider audience admission into the cultural wasteland it is. Without sounding pretentious, everybody from acclaimed thinkers to sub moronic wasteoids can access this passive medium. With that in mind, I’m certain this necessitates a filtering down of the product, sometimes reducing it to bland symbolism and hooks, essential to bringing in a diverse audience. This doesn’t negate The Walking Dead’s quality, but it doesn’t explain any pandering the show contains.

Other than these two observations, I really enjoyed this week’s episode. It put the action and physical violence on the back burner in favor of character development – a necessity when making a character driven series. I’m looking forward to next week’s episode – penned by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman – which looks promising from the asinine previews following the show. Personally I hate these previews (for any television series) since they don’t actually say anything about the upcoming episode but just give a bunch of scenes out of context. Yet knowing the general storyline from the comic books I’m certain it’ll spell the end for their makeshift camp, setting up for a new batch of characters.

4 responses to “Further ruminations on The Walking Dead episode three

  1. Encrazed Crafts

    You cannot cut through handcuffs with a saw like that. Maaaaybe a table saw, or more than likely a blow torch (good luck not getting scorched!) but a handsaw’s teeth would easily chip and/or fray from use on handcuffs like that. Older, like 50’s-ish models maybe that would work because of the materials used, but these are very strong. BUT! The misses did point out an excellent fact when I told her the same thing as above: “Mmm kay, if he can’t saw the cuffs, what about that thin rusty thing the handcuffs were attached to?”

    And she was right.

    That looked more like a screw than a pipe, it was fairly thin already, and it was quite weathered so that it should have been an easy sawing process, at least until he got under the oxidation. But at that point it might be thin enough to jar open with brute force.

    And yet again you best me with the musical bits of the show! I didn’t even hear the music, or if I did it was way in the background during that scene. What really touched me and probably blocked out my ears was my eyes response to the actor playing Rick do that nose flare and mouth curl thing people due when they are about to cry, or trying to to. It was done very well, and at least from the standpoint of his acting finesse, I think he did an excellent job in the scene.

    Sadly it caused me to miss the talents of the guy mixing the music, but from what you said it wasn’t that big of a deal anyway! Huzzah!

    Oh, and I plan on soon doing a post about music in video games, which was entirely spawned from our first conversation dealing with soundtracks and the like. I was super busy this weekend so I didn’t pull it off in time, and I want to find the specific tracks I really like so I gotta listen to em all from this one specific game I had in mind till I find the right ones. I fully intend to redeem my ways in terms of soundtracks by presenting that post to you! (Though I was planning on linking to you as “AFA” if you don’t mind? I am trying to keep the blog on par with ‘general viewing’ and saying “Hey guys, this Abortions For All dude is reeeeally great!” might peeve off someone of the faint of heart and I’d rather not even get involved with soccer moms with an agenda >.<)

  2. Thanks for the link offer, although I know the name is a little offensive. It’s from an old episode of The Simpsons (a show that’s really fallen into mediocrity, especially since the movie came out) but I’m sure it’s esoteric enough for the average American to miss the reference. Andrew Lincoln is a great actor and another example of AMC scoring big with a leading man (Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad and Jon Hamm from Mad Men already on the roster). It’s not his performance I take issue with but the overdramatic representations on screen. Alone the reunion is heartfelt but when mixed with the score and the lighting (a summer dusk, a perfect time for reunion with lost loves, frolicking in the fields or drinking a glass of homemade lemonade with your grandma) it comes across as manufactured (which it is, but the sense of realism is lost in a sappy commercial cliché).

    Regarding Merle’s hand loss, I have to admit I’m not too familiar with any tools above hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and power drill. I never took shop and don’t have much experience working on things (aside from basic electrical work on amps and various electronics). Although my assessment may not work, I believe your girlfriend’s does and kudos to her for finding this minor plot foible. That little pipe he’s connected to is far less durable than the handcuffs – even a home repair neophyte like me sees that once it’s pointed out. I still believe Merle sans hand is for dramatic effect and possibly foreshadowing.

    I look forward to your post on video game music. Although I don’t really play video games anymore – aside from the occasional pinball or arcade game and FreeCell – I enjoy the medium and even miss it sometimes. Unfortunately I can’t commit enough time for the games out now, which normally take hundreds of hours I don’t have. Nonetheless, I’m still fascinated by scores, especially their ability to sometimes make or break a piece. Sometimes they make a good movie great and sometimes they make a mediocre movie horrible. Think about a film like Hitchcock’s Psycho, which only utilizes strings; it uses their timbre to enhance the viewer’s anxiety and terror. Another Hitchcock film that actually features a lack of score – which works in its favor – is The Birds. The absence of an exterior musical soundtrack allows the natural sounds, especially those of the birds, to act as a score. It elevates the apprehension and fear of the characters and brings the audience a bit closer to the events. When I saw this in the theater the bird shrieks were deafening and actually made me anxious. Then again, Hitchcock was one of a kind, utilizing every available tool at his disposal. My point is that music enhances a multi sensory experience like a film, television show, or video game, adding to the viewer’s subjective experience.

    Thanks again and take care. I await your next post. =)

  3. Encrazed Crafts

    Oh geese, man. You didn’t have to change your name! (Admittedly I didn’t know it was from Simpsons, but I did think it was a funny name :))

    I originally was going to do a broad, almost beginner’s look at how (some) games fully utilize their audio department and help raise their game up a peg or two as the music adds intensity to action sequences and set the stage during the slower periods of the game, aiming it at people such as yourself who are familiar with games and like music, but might not know just how high quality some game developers are making their soundtracks nowadays.

    After spending most of my time on just a single game (it has quite an expansive track list) I think I’m going to change my initial idea and instead focus on one game at a time per post, making it a sort of mini-series, instead of watering down all the tracks selected across multiple games. (If a game is mediocre, but has an excellent song here and there I’ll probably split the post between a game or three, etc.) Sound good? Do you have any preferences of music, by the way? I could make the first post featuring something similar to that genre.

  4. It’s your post and your concept; you should do what you think is right. By stretching it out over multiple posts you can devote more attention to a single game at a time, delving further into singular ideas. I remember liking the music I heard on one of the Kingdom Hearts commercials. I thought it was very dynamic and full, sounding high budget. Then again, I don’t really play video games at home anymore, so I’m not up to date. I did like the music for Katamari Damacy, which is a fun game.

    The only reason I changed my name is because I figured out how to. It’s just a pseudonym – taken from my youngest cat – but I like it (I have a thing for usurping my cat’s identities). The blog’s name is from a Treehouse of Horror episode where aliens assume the forms of Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. The show sucks now, but it used to be great.

    I’ll check in for your posts. I’m really curious – I’m interested in what you come up with. Video games aren’t exactly new but their role in contemporary popular culture has grown over the years. They haven’t replaced film or television yet but I’m sure they will in the near future. They’ve pushed books down to a much lower tier, which I personally find depressing, but I can’t deny their popularity and influence.
    Take care. =)

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