Yeah, I know I’m way behind, but so it goes. Don’t spoiler me, people.
Enjoyed this quite a lot, actually, though not without its weaknesses. I’d heard it was rather a limited/small scale/disappointing season and, yeah, they did use smaller locations and tread water quite a bit, but it still delivered on the basic premise – people adapting to immense pressures, struggling with the apocalypse, and occasionally being torn apart by zombies. As basic premises go, it’s a goddamn winner, with tension inherent in every empty building, abandoned car, stretch of woodland, and one area they never really compromise on are the zombies themselves, which have rarely looked better (or worse).
Writing’s really rather uneven, though. There’s a fair bit of drama squeezed from sulking and arguing over personal minutiae that surely would be a little bit moot at the end of the world. Then there’s a lot, and I mean a LOT, of that hoary old horror standby: characters doing really ridiculous shit in order to create situations that need to be solved, usually involving wandering off on their own for reasons that seem absolutely incomprehensible/no real reason at all, even though character X previously got ripped apart by zombies doing exactly that and afterwards there was a big meeting in which everyone said ‘let’s never wander off on our own for really ridiculous reasons, eh?’ This is somewhat eye-rolling of itself, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of undermining your sympathy and, indeed, belief in the characters too. I HAVE NO PATIENCE WITH PEOPLE WHO BEHAVE LIKE THIS. Not helping either is that generally these moments of plot-specific stupidity are inflicted by the women and children, which tends to create a rather unhelpful vibe of tetchy, inconsistent, emotional and useless women and children of the group producing noble/ignoble/incompetent reactions in the heroic/villainous/incompetent men of the group.
Quality of acting is pretty patchy as well, with characters feeling like they wandered out of a range of different TV programmes and were arbitrarily combined in this one. Gravitas, weight and believability from the likes of old timer Scott Wilson. From some of the younger cast . . . less. The realities of the zombie-plague and state of the world are best not considered in too much depth either – huge swarms in one spot but a couple of miles away they haven’t even had to board up their windows? Desperate conservation of ammunition one moment, popping off practice rounds like there’s no tomorrow the next? Scavenging out a bleak existence near the city with every can of beans or drop of petrol like gold, a few miles further on, meat on the hoof and lights running as normal? But, as with Battlestar Galactica, the premise works best when you don’t think too closely, and concentrate on the reaction of the people to it. And that reaction is, at times, splendidly ruthless, vile, and unsentimental. I’m the type of guy who always found Saruman more interesting than Gandalf, Boromir more interesting than Aragorn, and it’s the conflicted, mixed, suspect characters here that become the most interesting.
Sure, creeping around in woods and bludgeoning zombies’ skulls in can be entertaining, but whether people can retain their humanity in a world where moment to moment survival is a desperate struggle is really the central question of the show, and it’s when it tackles that question that it’s most powerful. Similar ground to that which the Last of Us covered so effectively, and the Walking Dead manages some powerful and shocking moments of its own. I can’t think of many shows that succeed for me so well despite being so mixed as far as my liking for the characters and the writing goes. But then I can forgive a lot in something with such a bold and ruthless lack of sentiment. And zombies.