The Walking Dead ‘Chupacabra’: The Decisions We Make

If there is one thing The Walking Dead is good at (besides zombies, of course), it’s their willingness to occasionally point out how mindless some of their plots are. The biggest issue I’ve had since day one with Dead is the short-sightedness of every character on the show, and ‘Chupacabra’ had a number of moments which felt almost self-referential at times. There were tons of examples in an episode where every character was questioning each other. I’m not saying it was a good episode – there is still way too much formulaic convention at the heart of the plot, and even the few strong moments are followed up by the usual ignorant self-absorbed reaction that is all too common from this band of dysfunctional survivors.

The most obvious example of characters being ‘called out’ for past decisions in this episode is Rick, which is the normal trend. As a leader in a stressful world like this, it is expected, but ‘Chupacabra’ did a much better job of putting Rick’s actions into context. As Shane points out to them in the woods – after this week’s ‘reminiscing of simpler times’ conversation about who-banged-who in high school – every decision Rick’s made since they left the CDC has only made their situation worse. After making the ridiculous heroic promise to ‘keep Sophia safe’ and losing her, Rick’s been hell-bent on finding Sophia – which leads to his son getting shot, which leads to Otis being left as bait by Shane when getting medical supplies, and so on and so forth. Herschel echoes these points both to Rick’s face and behind it, trying to establish ‘boundaries’ between the camps, and pointing out more flaws in Rick’s selfish quest for redemption.

Now, a good show would take these moments, and use them to add layer to Rick’s character. Is there something driving him more than a need to feel like a hero? Or is he just that selfish, and is reckless enough to sacrifice anything to appease his conscience and/or ego? Dead stops way short of exploring any of this, instead letting Andrew Lincoln stare sheepishly at whoever is reaming him out at the time. Then, he spits out some combination of the phrases “for my family”, “doing the right thing”, or “I failed him/her/them/us.” The other person gives him an angry look, and then its onto the next scene, where everyone is ready to listen to what Rick’s next plan is.

It’s yet another sign Dead knows how to do nothing but the flashy and synthetic, and Daryl’s scene alone was another example. Every week, the show takes a main cast member (who again I will remind you, ARE ALL UNDER CONTRACT FOR MULTIPLE SEASONS) and places them in a somewhat dangerous situation, usually involving a semi-serious bodily injury (but not always). Episode 1: T-Dog. 2: Carl. 3: Shane. 4: Glen. Last night it was Daryl’s turn, when he semi-impaled himself on an arrow after falling off Nervous Nellie. After a few hallucinations with good ol’ Merle (two-handed), Daryl makes it home safe, only to be grazed by Andrea’s attempt at a zombie head shot (which she thought was a zombie… of course one of the girls would mess up using the gun). His story was just littered with poorly-written, thinly-veield red herrings: Merle’s speech about ‘Rick not caring about Daryl’ might be true, but what the hell does Daryl care? For God’s sake, he doesn’t even pair up when he goes on the Sophia hunt, because he’s just too cool and resourceful (like every redneck, didnt’cha know?). Another 10 minutes of episode wasted on this week’s spin of the “Who is Serious, but not Serious Danger This Week?” wheel.

Couple other thoughts on last night’s episode:

– Other characters being called out for actions: every single female character on the show. Can we stop with the girl hating? First, it’s Mackey (Mackie? Macky?) who everybody somehow suspects is getting herself a little Glen action. Then it’s another reckless Andrea moment. Then, it’s Lori being condemned by Glen for not telling anyone she’s pregnant. The list goes on and on… and then Glen even spouts the old ‘girls who spend time together have the same period’ line for no apparent reason whatsoever except to remind us that women are careless, crazy, and delirious from hormones.

– can we stop with the whole gun responsibility idiocy? It’s the goddamn apocolypse, not an advertisement for Safe Gun Hour. Yes, this show will have a younger audience then say, Mad Men, but at some point, all the angry “HEY, ARE YOU TRAINED TO USE THAT!!!!!” comments toward every new character gets real annoying.

– two words: zombie farms. Reminds me of the fantastic Canadian zombie movie Fido. If you haven’t seen it and want to see a weirdly funny movie, definitely check it out.

– with the reduced budget, I think I’ve figured out the zombie formula: one or two up close interactions, plus one scene with a horde. Last night, it took almost sixteen minutes for a zombie appearance.

– Did anybody catch reality czar Dave Jacoby’s conversation about The Walking Dead with Grantland’s Bill Simmons? While I agree the show doesn’t need to be a parallel of societal values and/or human interaction, the show obviously needs to find a direction and develop a core philosophy for each character, and more importantly, for the possible outcomes of the show’s plot. It is too obvious the show works with a barebones season arc, and it spends much of its time with unnecessary scenes, or pointless monologues that only glorify the past, instead of intelligently reflect upon it. However, the defense that it kills zombies, and does a good job, is not a good enough reason to have an hour-long, expensive dramatic series. And if the last two episodes are any example, we’re going to be having a lot more awkward, poorly written dialogues then well-orchestrated zombie scenes (although it will ALWAYS have its one or two signature ‘cool kills’, which I’m always OK with).

Next week, we’ll find out more about the surprise in the hayloft, and I’m sure some nice “who’s the baby?” scenes with Rick, Lori and Shane (complete with new ‘I have no feeling in my heart’ dead eyes). What did you think of ‘Chupacabra’?

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