The Walking Dead

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is now well into its second season, and being a fan of all things zombie, I’m late in giving a review.   Warning: contains middlin’ spoilers.

Zombie movies hold a particular place in the pantheon of horror movies, for various reasons.  Those people who get involved in horror movies because they like doing the makeup and effects are usually zombie fans, for example.  If you watched “Face Off“, you noticed how much fun all of the contestants had doing zombies.  (tangent: if you didn’t watch Face Off, and you have any sort of inkling to silly countdown reality shows and/or horror movies, you should watch it in reruns and watch the second season when it launches in January, it was entertaining and fun to watch just for the technical parts).

Of course, there are a *lot* of bad zombie movies.  Combine these last two elements together and it happens that people who are fans of zombie movies are usually watching really bad movies with really great effects.  This skews one’s impression of what makes a “good” zombie media event.  The presence of cool looking undead and the occasional shock outweigh silly plots and bad acting.

You savvy?

Okay.  On the grounds of the effects, the Walking Dead is really quite well done.  The makeup work is excellent.  For location/set design, they get mostly good results.  They have a good creepy vibe at least once a show that makes you wonder if, “A zombie is about to jump out right now!?!?  Or NOW???  Okay not right… holy crap!”  The acting is pretty well done, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes, and Steven Yeun as Glenn in particular I think all do quite a great job.  There’s a neat little philosophy vibe going on in the last few episodes I’ll write about some day soon, but it’s got politics so that’s front page material.  I liked Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh much better in the first season, I’m not sure if the direction is pushing him to act the way he is this season, or if the actor is just taking the character off in a direction that isn’t working for me.  Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon is becoming a much more entertaining character now that they’re giving him room to do stuff.  Is it me, or does Laurie Holden look an awful lot like Finn Carter?

So on those merits, I watch the show.  Here comes that caveat.

Like The Mentalist, Heroes, Lost (and indeed just about every drama that’s been produced in the last few years except Life), The Walking Dead does that thing wherein at least once an episode something happens that just totally ejects me from the story.  It’s jarring, every time it happens.  Something occurs on screen, and I have a gut-level visceral response, “That wouldn’t happen like that!”  This may seem like an odd objection to a serialized zombie movie, but it’s true nonetheless.  Given that Robert Kirkman has something of a background writing zombie literature, this is surprising to me.

This little group of survivors is still running around in t-shirts.  On more than one occasion, they’ve gotten involved in long bloody battles with attacking zombies, and they’re covered with scrapes and scratches and zombie blood.  Isn’t this a really bad thing?  If zombie-ification is a blood-borne disease, wouldn’t these people be freaked by exposure?  Why aren’t these people wearing any sort of protective gear?  28 Days Later got this partially right.  Hell, Zombie Apocalypse at least took a few minutes of explication to describe the amount of protective gear they were packing, and why.

Two of the main characters are peace officers, and Dale drives an RV.  He’s old enough to be a CB nerd.  Even if he wasn’t, you can pick up handheld radios at Radio Shack that have a range of a mile.  Why isn’t everyone in this merry band packing one?  They’ve spent time going into dangerous parts of town for all sorts of reasons, and they haven’t picked up some walkie-talkies yet?  Heck, everybody on the planet is dead and they can’t find a working ham radio set or three?

They currently have a missing member and they’re scouring the woods looking for her.  Wouldn’t this be a slightly easier task if everyone was carrying some sort of high-tech bread crumbs that they could use to lead rescuers to them?  Light sticks?  Say, a whistle?  I know, the zombies are attracted by sound (thus making guns tricky to use), but you would think that at this point every survivor would have at least found the same sort of contents you can find in any emergency kit you can buy at Target.

Our intrepid band is currently encamped near a farmhouse with oodles of ground-floor windows, all currently unprotected.  We know that zombies occasionally walk onto this farm from the last episode.  How is this house not hardened, at all?  There aren’t even strings set up along the perimeter with tin cans attached to them, for crying out loud?

The fact that this show is as popular as it is, and has as much critical acclaim that it does, actually worries me.  This tells me that there’s a large chunk of people out there that have literally no idea whatsoever how to prepare for even a minor emergency.


Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.


  1. This is a bit off topic, Pat, but this post makes me wonder. Have you watched American Horror Story?

    I would love to see what you made of that show in a post.

    • No, I haven’t.

      My impressions from the commercial were, “this is going to be horror porn, not horror”; I expected a lot of cheap mechanisms to spark a visceral reaction that wasn’t actually horror but just sort of a titillating rejection of something ickysexy.

      I haven’t had anyone recommend it to me yet: is it worth a go? The DVR can always catch up on the season and I can watch it later.

      • I have only seen the first two episodes. I found it similar to driving past a car wreck that you just can’t take your eyes off of. I can’t say it was good, but it was really, really… something?

        Also, in American Horror Story you got to see a creepy, naked Dylan McDermott masturbating while sobbing. You’d be surprised how few TV shows have that these days.

  2. I missed the last two episodes and plan on catching up this week.

    I totally hear you on the weird penchant the writers have for avoiding the obvious things we’d expect semi-intelligent/sane people to do. It’s driven me crazy all along. I guess like Lost, at some point I’m just invested in hearing the resolution and as much as I get annoyed watching the show, I keep letting them string me along.

  3. The blood exposure thing kinda bugs me, too, especially after the episode in season one when they made such a big deal in protecting two of their members with plastic or surgical gowns or something before coating them in zombie guts so they’d smell like the dead and could move about semi-freely. It seems they’ve left this idea behind, and maybe it’s just to give the writers more maneuvering room.

    And I agree with you about the apparent lack of survival gear and whatnot, but I do my best to actively ignore this stuff because the story is good.

    • I guess it’s actually in a way more annoying than 28 Days Later, and less at the same time.

      In 28 Days Later, you had the characters decked out in think jackets and helmets and riot gear while they were in the city, and then when they decided to leave all of a sudden the normal attire was a shirt and some jeans. “We won’t run into any zombies on the road, heaven’s no!”

      Here… I mean, come *on*. If one bite makes you come down with the creeping death, I’m making myself armor out of stuff I have around the house even before I *try* to hit the streets. Yanking out PVC piping, cutting it with a sawzall, and taping it together to make greaves. Gloves. Goggles (who knows if a blood spatter in the eye can infect you!) Something. Anything!

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