Back For Seconds: The Walking Dead

The main theme in season 2 of The Walking Dead is dissent from within. The first season explored the walkers as the antagonist, but they are always going to do the same thing: try to eat people. It gets old after a while. Or 6 episodes. Season 2 is what happens when two sides have fundamental differences about how to survive, represented by a hero and villain, Rick and Shane.

From the first episode of the second season to the last, Shane is the thorn in Rick’s side. Here’s how the season plays out.

1. Lose Sophia -> Go to search -> Carl is shot while searching

2. Carl needs a respirator -> Rick can’t leave -> Shane must step up

3. Shane saves Carl -> At the cost of Otis

4. Hershel wants them to leave once they find Sophia -> Need supplies -> Lori is pregnant

5. Daryl is injured while searching and then shot by Andrea -> Glenn finds the barn

6. Dale pleads with Hershel to stay to no avail -> Lori realizes they’re not safe -> She tries to kill the baby and Rick finds out

7. The group learns that they are not safe because of the barn -> Shane loses it -> Barn emptied -> Sophia is there

8. Hershel gets drunk and disappears right when Beth gets sick -> Glenn and Rick get him -> Kill strangers to protect barn

9. Strangers friends attack -> Randall injured and left behind -> They save Randall, Shane is mad -> Lori warns of Shane

10. Rick asserts himself over Shane -> Shane fights back -> Rick wins the battle, not the war

11. Must decide Randall’s fate -> Carl spares a walker -> Randall must die -> Can’t kill him in front of Carl -> Dale dies

12. Shane decides to take out Rick -> Rick takes out Shane

13. Regroup -> Rick re-exerts his leadership

Positives:

  • Shane always has a point – Despite the fact that he’s wrong, Shane is presented as a legitimate counterpoint to Rick. He is always looking out for safety, even if that means losing humanity.
  • Second Half – The opening of the barn is a great catalyst for the back half of the season, just as leaving Merle was for season 1. The consequences force Hershel to the bar, where they get Randall, who becomes a huge piece in the Rick/Shane fight. The story rises in intensity with each episode and culminates with a fantastic, although greatly overdue, climax: Rick ending Shane.
  • Shane dies – Once Shane killed Otis, you knew he needed to go. It takes forever, but the dude was no good.

Negatives:

  • Slow pace – The first couple episodes are alright. Sophia is the catalyst that led to Carl getting shot, which leads to the farm and problems there. The problem is that everything stops there. Things happen, but it all seems like treading water, as Sophia is not closer to being found and Lori’s pregnancy is not urgent.
  • Filler – The Glenn and Maggie story and the Andrea and Dale story are cool and all, but they really feel like digressions. Glenn and Maggie happens way too quickly and without context, while Andrea and Dale are just posturing about issues of free choice. It’s highly passive, instead of active.
  • No results – Sophia is lost in episode 1 and found in episode 7. The thought of trying to maintain interest in that is daunting. How many ways can you spin it before it’s stale. The answer is clearly not 6. Other issues are just the amount of time until issues are resolved. We know Lori is pregnant in episode 4. The first thing we want to see is a confrontation with her and Shane/Rick. That stays buried until 6. Don’t tease me like that.
  • One note – If the season is Shane v. Rick, you have to understand that the root of the problem is Lori and Carl. Every fight becomes a reflection of each man trying to be the father and husband, but it’s the same fight over and over. Nobody will change, so watching it repeat is boring. That’s why I wanted Shane dead much earlier.
  • Romance – Glenn and Maggie are meant for each other right when they meet. It’s pretty sweet. Unfortunately, it’s not due to the writing. They get a couple of scenes together, but the heavy lifting is done by furtive glances and clever editing. I guess you don’t NEED to see them fall in love. Although, it feels pretty important.

Lessons:

  • Actions Have Consequences – This is just always true. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Finding a way to chain these makes for interesting story.
  • Say It, Do It – If you present something interesting, you better give it what it deserves. Don’t tell me Lori is pregnant and then run away.
  • Urgency – Problems don’t seem so bad if you don’t have to deal with them today. I like to procrastinate. So do characters.
  • Escalate – The back half shows a great escalation of Rick and Shane’s tension. Hershel’s barn and Randall’s life are two major conflict points that ramp up the relationship to the point where someone had to die.
  • Wrap It Up – Don’t leave an open story like missing Sophia. It doesn’t take long for it to not be interesting. I was with Shane. Give up on the girl. She was gone.
  • Things Have To Happen – You’d think that wouldn’t need to be said.

Arc Theory:

Farm Arc – 7 episodes

Randall Arc – 6 episodes

A Messy Analogy That Explains It All:

Imagine Season 2 Shane is Robin Thicke. He came out with “Blurred Lines” and it was valuable to music (episode 1). You wanted to listen to the acoustic cover (episode 2). You needed to listen to it again (episode 3). You listen to the remix (episode 4). Then, he’s still pushing it and you realize it’s actually a pretty offensive song (episodes 5 and 6). Finally, he goes head to head with “Get Lucky” for the Grammy (episode 7). “Get Lucky” wins, so Robin pulls a Kanye and storms the stage to say that “Blurred Lines” is way better than “Get Lucky”. Most people agree, but it was still a dick move to steal the mic from T-Swift, who was accepting the award on Pharrell’s behalf.

So then “Blurred Lines” tries to make a comeback tour. Robin still thinks it’s a better song (8-11). Finally, he tries to get you on board with a big live performance, but you don’t buy a ticket because you’re done with it. You have to kill it. And then Weird Carl shoots it in the head to make sure it never comes back.

Advertisements

Starting: The Walking Dead

The first season of The Walking Dead is a delightfully compact story that flows perfectly and does great work to kick off the series. Unlike most American seasons, it is only 6 episodes long. This gives a lot of advantages to the writers, which they used. 6-8 episodes seems to be the length that audiences can stand a singular arc. I’ll explore this hypothesis more in future posts.

The theme of season 1 is safety through togetherness. It’s all about finding family, which can be both literal and figurative. Here’s a simplified look at the story of season 1:

1. Rick wakes up alone -> Family and safety might be in Atlanta -> They most certainly aren’t

2. Rick and gang need to get out of Atlanta at any cost -> The cost is Merle

3. Daryl wants to go back for Merle -> Probably a bad idea to send protectors back -> Guns could help -> Go to find Merle, but he’s gone

4. At least there are still guns -> But the guns aren’t coming easily -> Well… they actually are -> But the bad idea bites them in the ass

5. Regroup and come up with Plan B/CDC -> Argue over Plan B/CDC -> Go with Plan B/CDC

6. CDC may be hope -> It is not, there is no hope -> Life is hope

Positives:

  • Nothing comes easy – The biggest example that comes to mind is the guns. When Rick and gang go for the guns that they left in the street, you’re thinking that they’re going to face walkers to get them. Then, the Vatos show up. It’s unexpected and a big problem right away. The excitement is exactly what you want.
  • Pilot – Ooh baby this is a fun one. The intro is pretty much just Rick for 20 minutes, but it’s riveting. Information is introduced as needed, which allows the show to stay active.
  • Flow – Each episode builds off the one before it. The consequences of a solution become the conflict of the next episode. Leaving Merle on the roof becomes the catalyst for a wild journey. They are forced to leave the camp, which is a planted problem, to go back. Of course there are new problems there to get through. And once you get back, you have to deal with the shit that you set yourself up for, which is an attack on an unprotected camp. The attack spurs finding help for Jim and the rest, which leads to the CDC for the finale.
  • Nobody is safe – The body count is much higher here, likely because they don’t have to pay much for anyone on a 6 episode season. Even a strong supporting character in the group could be offed at a lower rate than in future seasons. The original group obviously needed to be shrunk to establish both the danger and the core cast that we care about.
  • Movement – This is a bit redundant, but the short season allows for constant movement. Things progress quickly and don’t need to be drawn out. It makes the pace of the season more to my liking.

Negatives:

  • Episode 5 – This is really the only thing I could think of that I really didn’t like. It’s an episode where the movement kind of stops. There is a lot of recovering from the events of the previous episode and it hurts the push. The CDC conflict is presented, but the argument is all talk. Without action, it becomes boring.

Lessons:

  • ABC (Always Be Conflicting) – Whenever somebody needs something, put something in the way of them getting it. And then another thing. And make those things seem impossible to overcome until the hero overcomes them.
  • Fake Left, Drive Right – When you hint at a problem, the audience will pick up on it. Use that to your advantage. The gun bag was surrounded by walkers, so the easy story is that they have to face walkers to get the guns. It’s definitely a conflict, but it’s expected. Instead, the Vatos show up. Who saw that coming? Nobody. That’s who.
  • Lick Your Wounds – Don’t dwell on the aftermath of an event unless you’re showing what conflicts the aftermath caused.

A Bad Haiku:

Rick and the walkers

Sitting in a tree. K-I-

L-L-I-N-G