Skip to main content

Only one way to keep you alive.


The Walking Dead 
3.1 Seed

One of the big problems I have apocalypse scenarios, where survivors eke out a back-to-basics lifestyle choice, is that writers are forced into selectivity regarding the practicalities of the situation. Most of the time the immediate threat is the one that brought about the end of the world. So, in a zombie apocalypse, you’re likely to be pretty much fine as long as you can avoid the hordes of the undead shuffling (or sprinting) about the place.

Scant regard is usually paid to the probability that most of the unzombified would succumb to radiation sickness in the months following the outbreak (or, even if there aren’t any zombies, would those in Survivors or Revolution have more than medium-term chances?) The answer, clearly, is to present a period movie zombie apocalypse. Either that or rely on friendly E.T.s to neutralise the radioactivity.

I’ve raised my doubts about the viability of the scenario (assuming zombies are viable, and we all know they are a very real threat, right?) before and have been confidently regaled concerning reactors’ automatic shutdown processes. But with no staff and the need for the cooling process to be maintained, not to mention that of the spent fuel pools, I’m less than reassured. Apparently there are more than 900 nuclear reactors across the world, of which more than 400 are power plants. It would be surprising if this weren’t as imminent a threat as being chowed down on by a deceased neighbour. Zombiepedia certainly seem to thinks so 

But Where the Wind Blows of the Dead probably wouldn’t be much fun. In it’s favour, it would probably all be over for us much more quickly than in Where the Wind Blows. A blessed relief as if you weren’t feeling suicidal before watching it, you soon would have topped yourself. The Walking Dead understandably eschews a rigorous depiction of what happens when the scientific age stops working. Instead it opts for a less expansive Ray Mears’ World of Survival, with substantially less knowledge of flora and fauna. The insight from this week’s episode; owls aren’t very filling.

The Waltons with Zombies of Season Two has been banished from the (ever-changing) producers’ minds, if the opener is anything to go by. The series still flounders on its soapy elements, since it’s difficult to care about characters’ conflicts when they’re walking clichés. It’s an appropriate irony that the dead are more interesting. Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes is the only character that the writers approach with any aspirations towards complexity and to his credit Lincoln has banished all memories of his former life in This Life.

But last season the OTT machinations of Shane were only digestible because of the gusto Jon Berthal brought to the character. Poor Sarah Wayne Callies seems to be afflicted by a string of unsympathetic wife/girlfriend parts, first with Prison Break and now here. Only Daryl (Norman Reedus) gets a free pass, because it’s difficult to go to far wrong with a self-serving anti-hero (with a heart of gold).

The Walking Deadis so robust in the face of predictable writing (Season Two, at least) that it may be closest thing there is to an unbreakable formula. All you need to do is stage an attack or skirmish at some point every episode and the pervading tension will do the rest of the work for you. The characters could spend an entire 42 minutes playing charades and we’d still watch for that moment where one of the undead interrupts what the second syllable sounds like.

I know the prison setting of the third season evolves from the comic book, but there’s a two-way logic in seeing it as a safe haven. It’s right there in the name. However much it may keep the enemy out, when the tables are turned there couldn’t be a more escape-countering scenario. So that’s one to look forward to, then. The first episode makes the most of the possibilities for tension, particular as the motley band ventures into the recesses of the prison. Quite why they take old coot Hershel on their zombie hunt is beyond me, particularly as he ends up semi-legless. I’d hoped David Morrisey would show up, but it looks as if I’ll have to wait another couple of weeks; still the reveal of the non-transformed prisoners makes a good end of episode.

They’re very, very dirty are Rick’s band. Grimes-y, even. It set me wondering about the issue of hygiene and infection. Since everyone seems concerned only about bites and scratches, one must assume that, however illogical, being covered in zombie blood and then getting it on with your beloved (Glenn and Maggie) poses no threat.

Season One’s revelation regarding everyone being infected came back into focus at the end of the second run. It’s a cheerfully nihilistic idea, I’ll give them that. But it also serves to complicate the hows and whys of infection in a way that, with the shuffling production personnel and variable quality on display, you just know is going to be seriously messed up at some point (if it hasn’t been already, with amputations proving surprisingly effective, given how fast blood circulates, and Daryl putting dirty arrows in his mouth). The unbitten come back as zombies when they expire and, if bitten, either the nasties of decaying disease kill them and reanimate them or the dormant virus is activated by the rampantly active infectious agent? I don’t really know. It matters to an extent, because there need to be clear rules and consistency, but the series isn’t really preoccupied with smart, cerebral concepts and plotting.

But it’s addictive, even in its weakest state (most of Season Two was like Kim and the cougar in24). At least, unlike Lost or Battlestar Galactica, it doesn’t offer the ever-distant hope of satisfying answers. The flipside is that it meanders on as a more visceral version of The Littlest Hobo for another four or five seasons, which could become a bit tiring.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

Hey, my friend smells amazing!

Luca (2021) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s first gay movie ? Not according to director Enrico Cassarosa (“ This was really never in our plans. This was really about their friendship in that kind of pre-puberty world ”). Perhaps it should have been, as that might have been an excuse – any excuse is worth a shot at this point – for Luca being so insipid and bereft of spark. You know, the way Soul could at least claim it was about something deep and meaningful as a defence for being entirely lacking as a distinctive and creatively engaging story in its own right.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli