“ The world we know is gone. But keeping our humanity? That’s a choice.”
The opening twenty minutes of Walking Dead’s Season Finale was one of the most exciting sequences I’ve seen on TV in a long time. Maybe ever. I loved that the gore was not so over the top that I was able to watch every second of the non-stop action. That’s not always the case for me with this show. And when the characters you’ve grown to care about are under siege by hundreds, if not thousands of ferocious zombies, you want to look. You have to look.
A lot of fans complained over the course of the season that the episodes were laden down with too much drama and not enough zombie action. Some called it a soap opera. My partner, who only watches when she happens to be in the room while I’m watching it, was actually impressed with the depth of character development and the intrigue of the various subplots. She commented one night, “I think the zombies are only a gimmick to get people to watch really good drama.” And then she changed the channel to Downton Abbey.
For me, it was the care the writers took with the interpersonal relationships that kept me on the edge of my couch cushion. I was invested in these people and didn’t want to see any of my favorites end up between the molars of a hungry zombie. Thankfully, none of them did, but in the aftermath of the dramatic demises of Dale and Shane, I took nothing for granted.
Which brings me to my one gripe about the episode. Once everyone had either made their escape from Hershel’s farm or bought it, and we had our last glimpse of the barn of the dead going up in flames, we returned from the commercial break to find the sun had risen and the survivors were on the road. Or trying to get there.
We see Maggie hysterical behind the wheel of an SUV with Glen literally riding shot gun. I’d been saying for a half hour, ”She’s too distraught to be driving”, so I was relieved when Glen tells her to stop the car so that he can take over the wheel. At least I was until he got out of the car, and Director Ernest Dickerson’s tight shot from the back seat makes it seem as though Glen will never make it to the driver’s side. The camera doesn’t want me to know what’s waiting just outside frame. Could be an empty meadow. Could be a big tree with a zombie or two behind it.
After a few anxious seconds, Glen does make it safely into the car. He even closes the door after he gets in. Doesn’t lock it. Do I ask too much? The static two shot and close up reverse angles continue to reveal very little outside the vehicle. Tension mounts. We’ve been following the blossoming romance between these two likeable characters all season. The emotions between them are intense and deeply felt. I want to hear what Glen is going to say to her, but I can’t take it. I have to fast forward to the end of the scene to make sure a pair of motley gray hands doesn’t come crashing through the car window.
Once I’m sure they both survive the scene, I rewind. Now I can watch the story unfold and hear Glen proclaim his love to Maggie. It’s important. When one of them eventually eats or gets eaten, I’m going to care that much more.
My point is, while I enjoy a juicy, action-packed zombie feeding frenzy that’s visually restrained enough that I can keep my eyes glued to the screen, I also enjoy a sequence in a horror/thriller where I can relax for a moment and watch the characters interacting without worrying that it’s going to turn into an action-packed zombie feeding frenzy. I would have shot the scene of Glen and Maggie with a wider angle so that the audience can see they are not in immediate danger. Just like Rick, I need some down time where I can hunker down and get myself together. Just because the characters in the story all have PTSD, that doesn’t mean I want it too.
Having gotten only half way through book one of the comic series, I’ve yet to meet Michonne other than her mysterious and timely reveal at the end of the episode. From what I’ve heard in interviews her arrival promises a wealth of sword on zombie action in season 3.
Laurie Holden seems to be an actor pleased with this development. Her employment was pretty much dependent on it. She’s already described Michonne as Andrea’s new BFF for saving her life. Of course, that doesn’t mean Michonne won’t kill Andrea before the opening credits of the season 3 premiere. But if she doesn’t, and the two women do develop a relationship, if there is ever a moment in the story when they look into each others’ eyes and exchange meaningful dialogue, if the characters feel and know that they are safe enough to have such a moment, I hope the director will let us have it too. I’m not asking for Downton Abbey with Zombies. I just like a story with a little heart…before it gets ripped out of an open chest wound.