Monday, March 19, 2012

Walking Dead Season 2 Finale: A-mah-zing!

Last night was the Season 2 of AMC's The Walking Dead and it did not disappoint. The producers had been leading up to the final episode by killing off major characters in the last two episodes so that the audience was primed for a wholesale massacre of their favorites who have so far survived two season of living in a post-zombie apocalypse America. The producers have made it clear that basically every character in the show can potentially be killed (except for the main star) Rick Grimes played by handsome English actor Andrew Lincoln.

According to Nikke Finke's Deadline Hollywood TV the ratings for the finale were excellent:
Last night’s Season 2 finale of the zombie drama posted 9 million viewers and 6 million adults 18-49, hitting series highs in total viewers and all key demo categories. Vs. the Season 1 finale, The Walking Dead was up a big 51% in total viewers, 50% in adults 18-49 and 50% in adults 25-54 (5.3 million). The series  eclipsed its previous highs, 8.1 million total viewers, 5.4 million in 18-49 and 4.4 million in 25-54 logged by the second season premiere. Those 18-49 and 25-54 deliveries were the highest ever for a basic cable drama series. Now they will be replaced in the record book by last night’s deliveries. The Walking Dead ranks as the No.1 drama series in basic cable history in such key demos as Adults and Men 18-34, Adults and Men 18-49, and Adults and Men 25-54. For season 2, the series averaged 6.9 million viewers, up 32% vs. season one, 4.6 million in adults 18-49 (up 32%) and 4 million in 25-54 (up 32%). 
Creatively, the series also went to new heights, and many fans were thrilled with the introduction of the Michonne character, a samurai-sword-wielding Black female who has two armless zombies attached to her by chains as an undead retinue.

The main tension of the show is in the depiction of a group of people would manage the day-to-day details, travails and decisions of living in a post-apocalyptic world where basically all technology is non-functional, you are surrounded by flesh-eating zombies and it appears as if 99.99% of civilization is dead and gone. (The "walking dead" in the series title refers to the surviving humans, not the shaking, stumbling zombies.) Rick was a sheriff deputy (before the zombie apocalypse arrived) and is a strong alpha-male kind of guy so the group has generally gone with his decisions as Rick has tried to maintain a semblance of humanity and democracy. However, in last night's finale Rick revealed that he had killed someone (another one of the major characters) and that he no longer felt that the group should be run as a democracy, and whoever didn't like that siutation could leave.

It will be interesting to see how the group dynamics develop in Season 3, where apparently we will be introduced to not only the very strong Michonne character, but also one of "the most intimidating villains in recent pop culture history" in The Governor.

I am happy that the producers have not killed off the one Black character in the sea of milky whiteness (Glenn the nerdy Asian guy is hardly a deviation from the decidedly Republican demographic that is over-represented in the cast). It would be great if T-Dog outlived everyone, even Rick.

One quibble I do have with the series, and it's a relatively big one is that the producers are shockingly inconsistent in depicting the physical abilities of the zombies "walkers." Generally, they show most walkers not posing a real physical threat because they basically shamble along at a very slow pace, reacting to the stimulus of sound or light as a potential source of live flesh which presumably is their only source of nourishment. So, most humans can generally out-run and really even out-walk most walkers. But every now and then the producers will show a sudden lightning-quick attack by a walker, usually burying their teeth into the soft flesh of a living character, dispatching them to a horrible death and their undead career.

I understand the tension the producers have, they need to make the walkers threatening enough so that the characters are in constant danger from the walkers, but they can't make the walkers powerful enough so that any close encounter between a live human and a dead walker results in two dead walkers. My main problem is with the unfortunate inconsistency in the portrayal; it comes across as unfair and arbitrary instead of scary and threatening.

With that one caveat, I would still have to say that I am very impressed with  The Walking Dead and I am in no way shape or form a horror fan, I like the show for its depiction of an alternative reality and its focus on the characters and their motivations and interactions.

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