Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seeking Democracy in the End Times of "The Walking Dead"

TV: Tony Nunes reviews the season finale of AMC's "The Walking Dead"

“This is not a democracy anymore.” So proclaimed Rick Grimes on Sunday’s season finale of “The Walking Dead” on AMC, an hour of compelling suspense that teased at not one, but two reveals fans of the comics have been eagerly awaiting. 

The finale began with the biggest action sequence of the series thus far, as literal hordes of the walking dead overtook Hershel’s farm. Hundreds upon hundreds of zombies funneled onto the property, surrounding the group of survivors who fought back with the exact and realistic methods any levelheaded person would have. This is one of the strengths I’ve found with “The Walking Dead” series, a survivalist construct that is both well thought out and convincingly executed. 

It’s refreshing to see horror in long form. The slow-burner aesthetic of “The Walking Dead” has really come into its own over the last half of this second season. I struggled with the pacing and dramatics of the pilot season, but it seems like Kirkman and crew finally have a grasp on what fans want from the show. As a Frank Darabont fan I hate to say this, but his exit from the series, a series he brought to TV in the first place, seems to have breathed much needed new life into the show. 

We learned in the previous week’s episode that everyone is infected with the zombie virus. It doesn’t take a chomp from a zed to turn; it simply takes death by any means. With that news I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if Lori’s baby was stillborn. Would it turn and eat her from the inside out? 

Rick knew the condemning truth about the infection since the end of season one, but when he finally revealed it to the group during the finale they felt betrayed by his decision to conceal it for so long. This was the breaking point of the group, a point at which I could really feel Rick’s frustration. Rick is a rare hero of the genre, a loyal, honest and righteous character far from the antihero conflicts of most horror protagonists. Andrew Lincoln plays Rick brilliantly, with a thin underlying layer of doubt you can feel gnawing at his righteousness. From the time Dale announced that the group was broken, “The Walking Dead” has really focused on developing a conflict between its core group of survivors. That conflict has finally come to a head. 

The two big hints of what’s to come on season three are sure to create even further conflict. First off, fans of Kirkman’s comics were elated at the arrival of that hooded, samurai sword wielding mystery girl with the two armless, jawless zombies in tow. This is Michonne, a badass survivor and fan favorite who is sure to bring some comic-book, antihero edginess to season three. The second hint of what’s to come was the shot of a prison at the end of the finale. I’ve read some of the Walking Dead comics, up to but not beyond where the television series is right now. I’ve heard that once the survivors take up residence in the prison, things really take a turn for the grim. So grim in fact is the prison arc that some people stopped reading the comics all together at a certain point down this road. Some felt the arc towed the line of being too grim. When Rick proclaimed “this is not a democracy anymore,” he was unknowingly foreshadowing their darkest chapter yet. With this in mind, I can’t wait for season three of “The Walking Dead.”

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