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Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Walking Dead: I Ain't a Judas

Spoilers, etc.

Post-apocalyptic stories often deal with wonkish logistical realities: where to get water and food, how to protect your body, how to skin a rabbit. This can be done well, like in Mike Mullin's Ashfall, which tackles the physical realities of volcanic annihilation with tense, realistic detail. Or it can be done badly, like in the Autumn series by David Moody, which has a very serious "going to the bathroom" problem. Seriously, stop talking about searching the desks! Stop doing all that Mordorian walking! Gah. Now, I think one of the stupidest criticisms of any television program is "when do the characters go to the bathroom??" but I think post-apocalyptic settings almost beg the question. Hell, this is played for gags in Zombieland, what with Mark Zuckerberg's whole quest to see a man about a horse without getting et.

It's a Maslow's triangle of needs brought down to the most bodily immediacy, and Walking Dead so far has made what I felt was reasonable gestures to the scrabbling hardship of securing basic needs, from making runs for formula to huntin' and fishin'. More enterprising folk than I have put together google maps of the locations on Walking Dead, you know, with the usual caveats that many of these places are fictional to start. Sure, there's been the usual "in all the crappy zombie-infested strip malls in Georgia, Merle finds Glenn and Maggie in this one??" but I respect that stuff has to happen, and too much logistical blather can get to the bathroom problem. But good golly, I Ain't a Judas pretty much poops on logistics. And it does it with fucking Andrea, which, barf.

Andrea has been bugging the shit out me since her sojourn in Mayberry, although if I'm being fair, my irritation with her wide-eyed blonde routine is in some ways an outgrowth of my irritation with Mayberry. Because Mayberry has the opposite of a "going to the bathroom" problem; that place and its people make zero logistical sense. What are you eating?? Why doesn't everyone get there are zombies everywhere?? Why does Milton (and, sidebar, is this an awful literary reference or not?) goggle when the Governor growls that "adolescence is a 20th century concept"? I mean, sure, I get that I'm supposed to think, OMG THE GUV IS EVIL TEH ASTHMATIC CHILDREN, and then have the revelation that Carl's been gun-having for nearly two seasons ZOMG, etc. Which I'm going to resent, thank you.

Anyway, back to Andrea, and how much I hate her character. I guess since the writers offed Lori in a big gender specific gross out, they needed another girl to be ridiculously inconsistent and horrible. They've done such a crap job of differentiating the townspeople that I can't even credit Andrea's shouting about how there are "innocent people(!)" in Mayberry. Come on. (Also, what is up with Carol's "bang and kill him" advice? Bad, bad writing.) In all the dumb shit she says, she does hit the occasional truth on the nose, like why are they trusting Merle with a gun? Seriously, good question.

But really, my biggest problem with this episode was the blithe treatment of the landscape here, certainly done so Andrea could play ambassador to the two groups, there and back again, jiggidy jig, but it's sloppy and poor, and makes me nit-pick. Why aren't the Rickocrats just clearing the walkers crashed into the yard? They took down the lot of them in an afternoon when they took the prison in the first place. I see that Tyreese is now hanging with the Governor, but, um, did we see them leave the prison? How far away are these places? Are there still herds? How many walkers are there? WHAT IS GOING ON?

The whole thing just frustrates me, and it frustrates me more because the writers have been setting up the parallels between Mayberry and the Prison (OH DO YOU SEE?) with such a sledge-hammer that they are smashing both logistical sense and the character kind. I'm half of a mind to be Team Governor at this point, because Rick is an autocratic jerk (and also bananas with grief) who is only the hero because we know he's the lead and unlikely to die. Frankly, I think it only makes sense for Mayberry to take the Rickocrats out at this point, regardless of who started what with whom. Even though Andrea's naivete is hard to stomach - seriously, women, you were abandoned by your friends and on the run for months - I almost appreciate her eye bugging about how hard the Rickocrats have become.

If this show isn't going to become an endless horrible slog - and likely for many folk, it already hit that second season - there's going to have to be more beautiful life gestures, which I Ain't a Judas managed to hit with the absolutely sublime Tom Waits fade-out started by that blonde girl who is totally going to die soon with her high clear voice, and then fading into Waits's gin-soaked rumble. More of that, writers, and less of the wandering in the woods, transported by the magical tesseract of plot expedience. I get there is ground to cover here, but put your damn feet on it.

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