Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: “How It’s Gotta Be”

In which The Walking Dead finale is the Cleveland Browns.

Shawn: I’m not going to lie – I’m just going to put out some observations and let you tie them all together with an amazing conclusion to this piece. I’m still processing some of the events and what they mean for the long term story of the show.

How It’s Gotta Be. Carl has to die. Not that he had to die before the episode started but they’ve painted themselves into that corner now. If you save him, then every time someone got barely scratched on the arm or leg and turned would be meaningless and no one ever would have to die again. It was unbelievable the back bends they had to do for Glenn after his first “death”. I don’t think you can come out of this and show us that it was a shaving accident earlier that day that he forgot to mention. He was never an “untouchable”. I think the only character that can’t die during this series anymore is Rick. So now you have to let him die as a way to do what? Motivate Rick? I think he was already pretty motivated after the Glenn death. So why waste Carl now other than external real-life reasons to get rid of the actor? You’ve painted this plot into the corner and this is how it’s gotta be.

Night. I still feel like this half season all took place in one day. Did we have another night? I don’t remember another night this season. It seems like I would not have to be distracted by things like this. Setting this episode in the dark was probably symbolic of how most of us viewers have felt all season. It’s a way to spend less money on sets, extras, and makeup. I already struggle to figure out where scenes take place. These areas are not distinct enough in the light, let alone in the dark. I was spending the episode looking for clues to the location. It is telling that I’m distracted by not knowing how many days have passed, why there aren’t seasons, and the geography of the area. I wouldn’t mind a Game of Thrones-style map at the beginning of the episode to give me some grounding as to how far we are traipsing across the Virginia countryside.

Departure. The loyalty to the comics for the first couple seasons was what helped generate the street cred for this show. It brought in a built-in fandom that was already reading the book. But as popularity grew, the writers took the story where the TV show needed it to go. This is a show that plays out weekly in two groups of eight weeks through the year. It’s not a 23-page monthly serial. There are different needs each hour episode that aren’t reflected in a comic book. So why the gut reaction of readers when something doesn’t go as it did in the comics? These folks have never read a Harry Potter book or Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones? Different medium, different expectations. As a fan of comic books, I’m disappointed in my brethren. This has happened forever and if they want to argue a point go back to my first one that this wasn’t the point that this was needed.

CHUDs. If there are going to be Cannablistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, maybe we should have had even a single mention of something like “Hey, who’s going to clean the huge sewers?” in a previous episode. The plot around Carl’s most amazingly terrific great day is thin at best. So, in a move like the policeman who has to keep the bad guy on the phone long enough to trace the call, Carl has to keep Negan talking long enough for the convoy to reach town. That’s not the most difficult task – have you noticed the amount of lines this man gets in the average episode? When he’s not talking, he’s whistling. Then he leads everyone to these huge sewer tunnels that had anyone thought to tell us about them would have been the very obvious first choice of places to hide. Other than the possibility of CHUDs.

Flash forward. Flash backwards. I’ve been so bored most of the season that I’ve forgotten exactly what Rick was talking about in that flash forward in the first episode. It bore so little importance because it wasn’t referred to again after that brief moment. Did it have something to do with Carl’s impending death? Wasn’t Carl there? Was it Heaven or something? There was a bit of “been there, done that” to the episode. The only thing missing for a character death was Carl putting on some headphones to listen to some hip soul music. Maybe his iPod got blown up last week, but this felt like a similar structure to the deaths of Tyreese or Sasha.

Structure. Sitting here and thinking about the events of the season and it’s not as bad as it played out. In the span of a day or two days, most of the characters faced possible death and changed some of their philosophies. It was the way it played out. Never has this show felt so disjointed. That continued into this week with seemingly 45 seconds per story before switching locations. Here’s Maggie, here’s Negan, and whoops, we’re back to Carl. It was a jumbled mess throughout. Don’t let the structure of the story become the story. It was too easy to get confused. Tell the story as the plot unfolds and I think we would all feel better about how we arrived with a bite on Carl’s little chest. It came with no emotion. Love him or hate him, Carl has been around since the start and I wanted to feel some more emotion when we felt his death was coming. Maybe we’re all just Negan and too cold inside to care.

Kim: I’m going to take a deep breath and let out a huge sigh. Then, I might just write out one huge run-on sentence that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, which is pretty much just a metaphor for this show. Where do I even begin? Even listening to Christmas carols isn’t helping lighten my mood when I think about this mid-season finale. You know what it reminds me of? That one firework show we’ve all been to, where the grand finale is flat and half of the fireworks are duds. You aren’t sure at the end if it truly was the end, or if you should just sit a little bit longer. I mean maybe they just had a technical malfunction and in two minutes, they’ll return to knock your socks off. Then you realize it’s truly over and you realize you just wasted a whole lot of time for absolutely nothing.

Like you, I don’t think there’s a way for Carl to live. I mean, chopping off Herschel’s leg was one thing – I’m not sure you can cut a giant chunk out of Carl’s side and expect him to live. Plus, and this is important to me, didn’t he say that he got bit bringing that outside dude there? I mean, he said I brought him, and that’s how this happened, and opened up to show the big reveal. So, if that’s the case, it’d be far too late to do anything about it, aside from a miracle cure. Maybe they’ve got some essential oils or something and a combination of lavender, tea tree oil, and tumeric will negate zombie spittle. I will go on record right now and tell you that if they somehow write Carl out of this one, I will not watch another single episode.

But there’s an even bigger problem with this mid-season finale than that. It’s bigger than the fact that I don’t even care about most of these people anymore. The thing is that the people I do give a shit about (pretty much just Carol, Daryl, and Jerry) weren’t even a part of the show, other than to show their faces driving cars, and Jerry’s unknown fate after the Survivors stop Maggie and crew. So, what happened to them in this cluster fuck of an episode? Thanks for showing me their very serious faces for five seconds each. It really added nothing to the episode, the season, or the show as a hole. [slow clap]

Now, as a Mom, I have a serious problem with something else. If you’ve ever tried to get a husband, a 6-year-old, and a 14-year-old to get their shit together in order to get to your mom’s house for Sunday dinner on time, you’ll know that in the time span we’ve been given, there should be no way in hell for the Saviors to:

1.) eradicate all of the walkers from inside the Sanctuary

2.) get rid of all of them from the outside

3.) get whatever guns and ammo you have left together and organize your people extremely quickly and efficiently in order to:

A.) Chop down a tree

B.) Locate Maggie and crew and know exactly where to place that tree

C.) Send whats-his-name to The Kingdom

D.) Take Negan and a huge group of people to Alexandria

E.) Know where Jerry is, capture him, and bring him with you to stop Maggie

And yet, they magically got that many people together, figured out exactly when to be where, and came up with a great plan to capture and destroy. I’m sorry. This is terrible. This is lazy. This is writing a show as quickly and as horribly as you can because, “hey, we’ve got a huge fan base and it’s not like they’re going to stop watching.”

I have done some thinking on where this show went so wrong, and I think I’ve come up with it. It’s pretty simple, actually. There are too many characters to keep track of. It’s not possible to show even the majority of the people, as we’ve got six different locations or so. You can’t have Alexandria, Hilltop, Trashopolis, Kingdom, Oceanside, Sanctuary, four or so outposts. You just can’t. What you wind up with is a bunch of half-assed stories going on at one time and it’s hard to be invested in anyone anymore. Now, I know that the producers aren’t just putting together a show for me, but if you take some time and read people’s reactions to what’s been going on, you’ll see that I’m in the majority here. The people you hear being all positive and invested in the show are people on Twitter, hoping to have a great tweet that gets mentioned on Talking Dead, or noticed by one of the actors, or whatever. Behind the scenes, those people are likely just as disappointed as the rest of us. As a result, we don’t know where Jerry is. Or Carol. Or Daryl. What’s up with Aaron and Enid? How did Morgan end up at the Kingdom? Why did Michonne just suddenly go ape shit? Why is Rosita still on the show? More importantly, does anyone truly care anymore?

Of course, everyone is a critic. Arm-chair quarterbacks are a real thing, even with AMC dramas. I’m going to sum up by saying this show is the 2017-18 Green Bay Packer season, but it is headed to a much darker place. You’ve got a guy (Scott Gimple – Mike McCarthy) calling plays that are questionable, at best. Kind of like he doesn’t even really care about the show because he’s making bank, so why not just roll with it? You’re left questioning “why would you do that?” at the end of nearly every play. You’ve got your superstars (Norman Reedus or Melissa McBride – Aaron Rodgers and half of the Offensive and Defensive lines at any given time) seemingly out for the majority of the season. You’ve got your backups in there (Jesus, Ezekiel, and yes, your beloved Maggie – Brett Hundley and whoever that guy is that no one has ever heard of who keeps blowing coverage) and while they are capable of carrying the whole team, you’re really not making them sympathetic characters at all. You’re not giving them the help they need to get the job done, because you’re still calling shitty plays that only Aaron Rodgers can pull off. And sure, he may be back at this week, but you’re really in a bind right now and he might not be able to pull it off. Of course, the last time he was out for much of the season, he came back right before the playoffs and marched them all the way to being division champs. I mean, that was 2013, but history could repeat itself, right? I still tune in and watch every single game and I’m not about to stop. But, Scott Gimple, et al: You left your Aarons on the sidelines for too long. You’ll likely end up losing them to free agency. I did not grow up watching The Walking Dead. I wasn’t born in a state where The Walking Dead is simply a way of life and you stand behind it no matter what. I grew up watching Happy Days and remembering when they ruined that show when Fonzie jumped over the shark and forever spawned a catch phrase that would indicate when people generally feel a TV show has run its course and is now just a joke.

There isn’t going to be a fourth-quarter comeback. There isn’t going to be an interception in overtime that propels your team to victory. There’s just going to be this growing discontent that it’s never going to get better, and all of your first-round draft picks (Jeffrey Dean Morgan – Tim Tebow) aren’t going to be enough to pull you out of the hole you’ve gotten into. Instead, you’ll just keep adding more and more people who do absolutely nothing valuable for your show. You’ll keep trying to find that spark that you lost, because if the Packers can do it, then damn it, we can too! But in the end, you know what you are? The Cleveland Browns. Four wins over the last three seasons. Good luck in the next draft.

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Shawn Bourdo

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