Monday, December 9, 2013

TWD: Just a horror soap opera?


"A soap opera, often referred to simply as a soap, is a serial drama, on television or radio, that features multiple related story lines dealing with the lives of multiple characters. The stories in these series typically focus heavily on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama." (Courtesy Wikipedia)

A soap opera has continuing characters that are constantly being placed into dramatic story arc regarding love, marriage, murder, comas, fights, confrontations, hard decisions, and the usual overly exaggerated daily problems that we all share. TWD has had it all from the jump: cop drama, comas, cheating, pregnancy, betrayals, murders, love blossoms with two young lovers from different backgrounds, madness, death, a bad guy, a good guy, shocking twists & turns...all of the stuff that makes a soap opera!

You know you have to admit that TWD is just a soap opera...with zombies. Now, I'm a fan, don't get me wrong, but it's true. I have to agree with George Romero with this one. The similarities are way too close to really call the difference, if you really examine the episodes of TWD objectively. The characters, with the exception of two, have all been unsympathetic in nature. You really can't get to totally like most of them before they do something that makes you like them less! 

 I  recently read an article where Gale Ann Hurd stated that she didn't want TWD to be a "Run & Gun" TV show because there are a lot of those out there already. However, the very premise that TWD sets up certainly ensures  that it will always end up being a "run & gun" due to the very environment they are in. The difference is that TWD slowly sets up to the one climatic episode that is pure "run & gun" - and those have been the best episodes! TWD is setting itself up into a corner that'll be difficult to get out of. I mean, if every single character could be killed off at any time, who'll fill the slots? Yet again, we get the "Red Shirt Syndrome"! How can the viewer relate to newly introduced characters so often and not lose interest? There has to be a focus, a central character that must remain throughout the entire run for it to even retain viewership. Hell, at least soap operas have their characters "go on trips to Europe" or "get killed in plane crashes", only to have them show back up later! Why? Because viewers can relate to loss, but the loss of main characters will alienate them- so they find ways to bring them back. Loss without loss. TWD does it too. How many times have we heard "If Daryl dies, we riot"? Heh heh- see? Viewer attachment has to be considered regarding the series longevity and, more importantly, it's ability to grow (not expand, grow! The spin-off is another whole blog!) How can the audience measure character growth without having a base-line character in which to gauge the change?

Here's the thing: TWD needs to be more "run & gun"! As I addressed last blog, the episodes of the Governor leading up to the mid-season finale (a "run & gun" episode, BTW) was really unnecessarily dramatic and did not move any part of the TWD TV Canon forward at all! Like I said, it was like someone said "I've got some good zombie gags, let's pad some shit around it!"

Although not all of his movies have been great, at least Romero tries to add some sort of commentary and metaphorical meanings to his "Dead Series". There's a good balance of drama & "run & gun" in each of the installments. That's what I like about it. 

In my opinion, TWD is absolutely a soap opera. No doubt in my mind. The difference to me and will be my main reason to watch it is that it's a soap opera with zombies! That's it. I like zombies. I like people surviving in the ZA. I never thought I'd like a soap opera until "The Walking Dead" came around!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

TWD: Mirror Universe, Alternate Historical Timeline or what?

                 "The Walking Dead" : Mirror Universe or Alternate Historical Timeline?

I've been debating with several of my friends about whether or not TWD is occurring in a  Mirror Universe or an Alternate Historical Timeline. This may seem trivial at first, but when you really delve into certain aspects of the show, it become painfully obvious that something isn't quite right. Suspension of disbelief carries a viewer a long way, if it didn't Science Fiction wouldn't have become the juggernaut that it is today.

The central point of debate began when we heard Robert Kirkman on an episode of "The Talking Dead" say that "in this world, they have no concept of zombies, of the dead coming back to life" (paraphrased). This brings up a notable fact that the characters never, ever call them 'zombies'. Not once. They're called everything else, but never 'zombie'. "Walker", "Biters", "Geeks", "Things", etc are the usual vernacular references.

Now, in our real world, we know and can conceive (however improbable) the idea of dead people returning to life. It's not a new idea, right? So, in the TWD 'world', their civilization has absolutely no preconceived ideas regarding zombies. That can only mean that their world is different from ours, as evidenced by the whole "Zed Word" avoidance.This itself brings up another question: Is the TWD world 'our Earth' but in a alternate timeline or is it an entire Mirror Universe?

If it's an alternate timeline, then it should have split off from our own timeline centuries ago when the idea of the dead returning to life was first referenced- which probably meant that other such ideas (especially Religious & Philosophical ideas) were not developed either. The entire world would have been different by the time of the TWD beginning episode- perhaps almost unrecognizable so.But this theory, as I have pointed out to my TWD debate buddies, cannot be correct due to the fact that Religion has been referenced with such specificity within the TWD TV Canon, that even Herschel quoted the Holy Bible and the fact that Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. Therefore the idea of the dead returning from the beyond was in fact an accepted concept by individuals within the TWD World- effectively putting the entire Alternate Timeline Theory into the trash bin.

However, I favor the Mirror Universe Theory. The theory is a simple one and is not new either, but it solves such problems easier that the Alternate Timeline Theory. Mirror Universes are alternate realities in which every conceivable outcome to every decision ever made has been realized. Many science fiction shows have explored this idea. "Sliders" was a great example of sci-fi TV based entirely on this concept of Parallel Universes.

I believe that since no specific historical facts have been directly referenced in TWD TV Canon in regards to past events that the writers can circumvent this issue altogether. I mean, we've seen, the Flag of the United States- (references to other states & countries) but never any specific past history to put the show into a temporal location in which to compare to ours.We hear about what characters used to do, we hear about certain instances in their lives in the past- but without any other frame of reference historically- the exact year and, more importantly, the past history cannot even be guessed at. The vehicles used in the show range from the 1960's to 2013 models, as I have noticed. Another anachronism is the tank used in the mid-season finale for Season 4. The operator clearly stated that he was serving in the modern US Army and took his tank with him when the outbreak began. So why is he operating a 43 year old tank?  So, the probability that the TWD World is a "mirror universe" outcome is more easily accepted.

The "Mirror Universe" explanation cannot however explain why the concept of "living dead" has been developed (thru religion as per Canon), but the word "zombie" has not? Is it simply that this mirror world just never came up with the word "zombie"? I find that harder to believe than the entire premise of the show!

Why avoid the use of the word "zombie" anyway? The answer may lie in the traditional concept of the "living dead" as created & put forth by George A. Romero. The word "Zombie" was only used twice in all of his "Dead" films; once in the original "Dawn of the Dead" (1979) by actor Ken Foree and the second time by Dennis Hopper in "Land of the Dead" (2005). Hell, even "Shaun of the Dead" made fun of the non-use of the word "zombie" by an entire back & forth dialogue between the main characters after one of them references the creatures as "Zombies" & is subsequently chastised to not use the "Zed word" because it's silly.

So, why are they not called "zombies"? Is the explanation as simple as what Kirkman said about it? If it is, that means a Mirror Earth. If that's true, what else could be different?

It's interesting to think about, that's for sure.

.Let me know your thoughts on the possibilities presented in this blog!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

TWD Mid-Season Finale (S4) Speculations/Opinions

Well, here we are again at the mid-point of the TWD season where we'll be left hanging until the second half airs next year.This season, thus far,has been different than the others. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it seemed to take a detour into the unnecessary back story of the Governor after his meltdown last season.

I say "unnecessary" because it really doesn't move the character forward at all. The theme seems to be "can you come back from having to do things that are against your sense of morality". As far as the Governor is concerned, the entire story of him bonding with his new "family" served no purpose except to prove that he could not "come back" from what he had done, that his nature is concrete in it's propensity for doing evil. We all knew that from the beginning. As an audience, we can't dislike him more than we already do, so why delve into a sub-plot whereas the outcome will effect nothing within the character itself?

Now, a real twist would be to show the Governor "come back", become a rational, loving human being again. Have him return to the prison because he wants to keep his "family" safe- only to be cut down by Michonne before his true intentions could be demonstrated. That would have been a true character development & a huge shocker.

As far as the "new threats" that we, the audience, had been promised has simply turned out to be a resurgence of a strain of influenza caused by the lack of medical infrastructure since the collapse of civilization. Interesting as that is, it was simply a plot device to give our heroes an excuse to get out of the prison and into trouble and to place some of our heroes in dramatic jeopardy of succumbing to the disease.
 Which, by the way, gave us our first 'money shot' of a huge undead horde (about 7,500 according to Greg Nicotero). The "new zombie threat" promised has only presented itself as zombies infected with this superflu. I'm still waiting on the original zombie threat of overwhelming numbers! I mean, we all know that zombies are easily defeated singularly, but their invincibility lies in their sheer numbers.

Yes, we still have the unsolved rat-feeder at the prison, however it may be Bob Stookey. I mean he said he was the last man standing out of the last two camps he had been a part of. Him? The last man standing? Hell, he can't pass a bottle of "Boones Farm" without putting everyone's lives in jeopardy.I think he's too self-destructive. You know, it could be someone else in the prison that believes that staying there is a bad idea so they're creating a situation as to where the group would have to leave.

Carol? Eh, who knows? Robert Kirkman has stated that he wants to introduce characters and then have them disappear, never finding out exactly what their fate was. Maybe Carol is the one. Then again, she might be the central continuing character in the proposed spin-off series of TWD. It's possible, but it's all guess work at this point until an episode airs making it official TWD Canon or an official announcement of some kind.

At mid-season, we are where we should have been at or around episode 3, with the old Governor outside the Prison with the tank bargaining with Rick using the lives of Herschel & Michonne .My guess is that Herschel is beheaded and Michonne taken prisoner so the Governor can exact his original plan of revenge upon her (which Andrea almost got in the dentist chair last season).

Hopefully, this mid-season episode will bring it all back together and give us what we want in one tight package.