Walking Dead: “Nebraska”

Posted on February 18, 2012

“Oh.”

That was our voiced response when this episode opened at exactly the point the last one ended. It wasn’t a happy sound.  Considering our complaints about the first half of the season – that too much time was spent on that damn farm, standing around talking – there was no way we were going to be happy to find out that absolutely no time has passed since the events of the mid-season finale. Was it a requirement for us that time pass between episodes? No, but we think the story might have been the better for it.

The thing about this show is that it’s determined to depict the moment-to-moment lives of people living in the apocalypse. Moment. To. Moment. And if that means 35 minutes of storytime spent on burying the dead and having discussions about the State of Things, then so be it. If that means we spend a chunk of time rescuing an old, grieving man in shock from having a drink, then by God, we’ll do just that. We suppose that for some, this is a good thing, and we have to admit that on paper, it sounds great: a human drama set against an inhuman world. But these people are so goddamn stupid and unlikeable half the time that we honestly don’t care. Seriously, we’re not without empathy, even for our fictional characters, but we’re so fed up with this group – even now, after a long break – that when the pregnant woman flipped her car over, the only thing we said out loud was, “Ohhhhhh, you fucking IDIOT!”

We’ve thought about this; really we have. And while we agree that none of us here would likely act perfectly in a post-apocalyptic situation at all times, we just can’t abide these characters acting stupidly ALL THE TIME, after apparently MONTHS of living this way. What does it say about the rest of the group that the only two people who make any sense are the violent, repressed, angry men? We never want to do anything but punch Shane in the face, but when Darryl went off on Lori for asking him to rescue Rick, we wanted to cheer. What is WRONG with all these people that, hours after they had to SHOOT A LITTLE GIRL IN THE HEAD because she wandered off from the group and got attacked, THEY’RE ALL FUCKING WANDERING OFF IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS?!?!?

Did Lori even TELL anyone that she’d left?

We’ve been so busy this week and we’ve got so much to catch up on that we have absolutely no idea what the critical reactionwas to this episode. All we know is, we haven’t seen one thing to make us think the second half of the series will be any better than the first. It’s not that we want something action-packed (although a little more of that would go a hell of a long way); we just want whatever human drama they insist on injecting into the story to at least be interesting. “This was Sophia,” says Glen to Maggie, as if the death of this mostly unremarked-upon character who had no more than a line or two is supposed to devastate us as much as it’s apparently devastated the group. Classic bad writing; telling us instead of showing us that this character meant something to these people. You can’t fall back on the idea of shocking the audience by shooting a little girl in the head. Not when you already did that in the first 2 minutes of the pilot episode.  The fact of the matter is, Sophia was a non-entity, even moreso than her weepy, laundry-folding mother. Hanging SO MUCH of the season 2 storyline on the actions and final fate of this character was an incredibly bad idea, we have to say. We’ve said this before, but try to mentally substitute Carl for Sophia in the story. Carl wanders off, the group goes frantic trying to look for him, he wanders out of the barn and Rick has to shoot him in the head. Look how well that all works from a dramatic perspective  when it happens to characters who actually have some character to them. Carol’s a nobody and Sophia was little more than an extra. All of this drama feel unearned and emotionally separate from the audience; to the point where characters have to tell us why they’re upset about her death.

And this doesn’t seem to be a problem that’s ended with Sophia’s death. Suddenly, vague background people are very sick and need Herschel’s help. Who is she? Shrug. Someone on the farm. She had a line or two earlier, right? Maybe she’s Otis’ wife or something? Or a step daughter of Herschel’s? The point is, the writers want you to WORRY about the fate of this character you probably never paid much attention to before. Again.

We hate to say it, but they need to start killing of some of the main characters in order to make this story engrossing again. Shoving red shirts into the story to provide drama is lame and the audience won’t stand for it for much longer, we think.

However, in what is becoming a distressingly bad habit for the show, the last 5 minutes or so were engrossing. We can’t quite decide if it was engrossing because everyone in the scene did a great job and the underlying conflict was gripping, or if it was just because there were new people on the scene and we were desperate to listen to anyone speak other than Rick, Lori, Shane or Herschel. Still, there was nicely subtle building tension to the scene and Rick’s final actions were shocking to us – or they would have been if they hadn’t stuck in a Greedo-esque (look it up, non-nerds) moment by having the guy reach for his gun at the last second. We’re thinking that scene would have been much more shocking if Rick killed them in cold blood.

We honestly didn’t want to write such a negative review, but there you have it. Since this second half of the season was presumably the beneficiary of the extra time needed to retool things after show runner Frank Darabont’s firing, we don’t have much hope going forward that it’s going to make us happy. This is apparently the plan for the show: characters are going to stand around having long conversations about other characters we don’t know that well, then suddenly one or two characters will run off and do something really stupid. It’s sad that show’s gotten formulaic so early in its run, but it’s even sadder that the formula they’ve settled on is so un-entertaining.

 

 

[Photo Credit: AMC]

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