Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Once Bitten—How I Came to Appreciate the Walking Dead

True confession time: when The Walking Dead first debuted, I gave it a fair shake.  After three episodes, fully half the inaugural season, I gave up.

Between the (over)use of every zombie movie trope from Night of the Living Dead to 28 Days Later and the glacial plot laden with illogical actions and some wooden performances from much of the cast, I could take no more.

Honestly, not one of your better ideas…

But that doesn’t mean I ignored it.

I listened to the praises from the media, read all the status updates on my Facebook feed, watched the previews when they came on and, still, I was so burned by the first few episodes that my desire to give it another shot was pretty much like a politician’s desire to tell the truth—it just wasn’t happening.

Then a funny thing happened back in August.

After a long week at work and a day of watching a very cranky and active three year old while my wife had to attend to some work on a Saturday, I retreated to the local Best Buy with the intent of finding something new and mindless to distract myself and I came across a display for The Walking Dead staring at me in the face.

Well, as much as a zombie with one eye can stare, anyway.

She had me at, “Ahhhhhhrhhghehghrrhjfehhplkahh.”

They were running a sale and including a gift card if you bought both seasons on Blu-ray.  The price was right, I was bored, and I figured worst case scenario was I’d eat a few bucks and give them to a friend.  So I gave in and made the purchase.

Surprisingly, Melony decided to join me in watching it once Ana was asleep and after I got through the first three episodes again, I found something out—I was starting to get into the show after all.  And so was she.

It wasn’t perfect, things like how Rick survived in the hospital with no sort of life support and little side effects made no sense, the characters still did things that made me cheer for the zombies, and the pace didn’t exactly move along at breakneck speeds, but it became more entertaining as it headed to the finale.

This is normal after being a coma, right?

Perhaps the best thing for me now was that I didn’t have to wait week to week.  I had both seasons at my disposal and the cliffhanger of season one was able to be resolved immediately with the change of a disk, not the passage of agonizing months.

And season two is where it got a lot better.

The pace was still a bit uneven, but the characters began to be fleshed out more, and the change in how zombies are made was a powerful moment as a betrayal that had been building since the beginning came to a head…shot…and the dynamic of the show changed for the better.

Zombie Shane and Real Shane had very little difference.

Of course, there were still some of the pitfalls from earlier in the show, such as Lori being a whiny mess as well as candidate for the Dina Lohan Mother of the Year Award—seriously, put a bell on Carl if you can’t keep that kid in the goddamn house for more than ten minutes—but I started feeling more attached to the some of the cast, especially Darryl.

And, honestly, if you’d told me going into the show that my favorite character would wind up being a redneck bigot, I’d have bitten you myself, and only partly because I’m kinky like that.

The entire fall of Hershell’s farm, the sheer scope of it all and the philosophical questions that arose throughout made the second season feel so much more powerful and seeing so many of the characters undergo such drastic changes as a result gave it a sort of gravitas that I found missing in those first episodes.

No.  No, he’s not.  Ever.

But the kicker was the finale, and the first appearance of a character I’d been waiting for, Michonne.

We never saw the face that first time, but when a woman walks around with a ninja sword and two armless zombies chained to her, she’s got my attention.  And now that I’ve seen the actress who plays her?  Wow.  Attention, squared.

As Michonne stood tall in the woods, and the rest of the cast found themselves on the outskirts of the infamous prison I’d known about only in status updates and whispers by the water cooler before picking up the books myself in recent weeks, I knew I had to tune in regularly from here on in.

And so far, The Walking Dead is off to a running start and I’m officially a convert, having been bitten only a short while ago, but infected nonetheless.

Seriously, how HOT is she?!

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