It’s back to horse-and-buggy days for Michonne (Danai Gurira, center) and the other survivors of All-Out War on the first episode of Season 9 of The Walking Dead.
Andrew A. Smith
Tribune Content Agency
Happy The Walking Dead Day!
Seriously, someone at Image Comics has designated Saturday, Oct. 13, as “The Walking Dead Day” to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the first issue of The Walking Dead. An Image press release says it’s “an exciting, all-day, globally celebrated event,” with buttons, postcards, bookmarks, posters, bandana masks and giveaway comics at participating locations.
Is it really global? Well, technically – the official list of participating comics shops at Skybound.com includes 20 that aren’t in the U.S. Fortunately for us ‘Mercans, the list includes more than 13 dozen shops in the U.S., and even if there’s not one near you, go to comicshoplocator.com, find the closest shops and bug them to swing some swag for you.
But if, for some reason, you don’t feel like celebrating the emergence of shambling, brain-eating, undead hordes, there’s still a lot about Walking Dead to discuss. And, unlike Chris Hardwick, I’m as apt to talk about what’s wrong as what’s right.
John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) and June (Jenna Elfman) suffer the consequences of forgetting the rules to “Stranger Danger” on the last fourth season episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD
FTWD, which closed its fourth season Sept. 30, has improved greatly since its first three seasons, thanks to a change in showrunners. A slew of new, more interesting characters has been added, replacing those that had become tedious (Frank), superfluous (Ofelia), irritating (Chris) and one-note (Madison). But even as we undead viewers raise our palsied hands in applause, we have to note a few painful growing pains that made even our clouded eyes roll painfully back into our decaying heads.
SOP VIOLATIONS: It didn’t take long for the characters on The Walking Dead to devise some best practices while wandering the apocalyptic terrain. Things like banging on the doors of unexplored buildings, to draw walkers out into the sun where they are easy to see, and into the open where they are easy to fight.
But FTWD is a bit more blasé about such precautions. Take Alicia in episode 10, for example, who takes shelter in an abandoned house from a hurricane. Instead of exercising any caution whatsoever, she strolls into the pitch-black house as if her life wasn’t in any danger from both nature and gnoshers.
And in the final episode, everyone drinks from water bottles whose seals have been broken. Nobody recoils in alarm, or refrains from drinking, or notices an odd taste – even though they should be on the alert about Martha, a demented survivor determined to turn everyone into walkers, and who is listening in on their walkie-talkies. Nobody pauses before slurping down the water, which is – surprise! – dosed with anti-freeze. Look, that would be idiotic even if it weren’t the apocalypse, and a stone-cold sociopath wasn’t trying to kill you. Fortunately, Morgan was able to essentially walk from Texas to Mississippi on a bum leg to save them.
GEOGRAPHY FAIL: I can hear readers in flyover country moaning in pain at the last sentence. Yes, it’s true: People in Hollywood have no idea just how vast distances are in flyover country.
In FTWD’s fourth season, various characters flit back and forth from Austin, Texas (as evidenced by “Travis County” emblazoned on emergency vehicles), to the Flip-Flop Truck Stop somewhere in Mississippi.
Hogwash. Folks, it’s a six-hour drive from Austin to the eastern Texas border. Then there’s another state to cross – Louisiana – before you get to Mississippi, and somewhere along the way you’ll have to cross the third largest river in the world. Austin to Jackson, Mississippi, is a day’s drive on the best of days, and it’s not the best of days when the highways might be blocked by wrecked vehicles, fallen bridges and/or hordes of zombies, and where fuel – you will need a lot of it – has to be scavenged. And we’re talking diesel, not gasoline, because these folks are driving semis!
Not to mention that the cast keeps getting split up and then finding each other in Texas – the largest state in the contiguous United States. “We have to find Al!” shouts Morgan, with absolutely no idea where to look in a state that covers 268,581 square miles. But sure, they find her easily.
DEATH WISH: I’ve already mentioned the water with the anti-freeze seasoning, but it’s not the only act of stunning stupidity by our heroes.
There’s the time Alicia barricaded herself in the house with zombies at the window – and didn’t bother to draw the shades. She sits right in front of walkers, working them into a frenzy. And when they do eventually crash their way in (as they always do in the third act), she opts against running out the back door, opening the sliding door to the back yard, scampering up the barricade-able stairwell or throwing a chair through the plate-glass window … and instead hides in the cellar, which a previous inspection already told her was flooding.
Or there’s Morgan going back to Austin to rescue the lunatic who has been trying to kill them. Dude, I’m as sympathetic as the next guy, but put some distance between you and Auntie Freeze while you can!
Here’s the thing: People can and do stupid and life-threatening stunts sometimes, and probably do them a lot more often in the zombie apocalypse. But a good writer will show us the necessity of such actions, by demonstrating beforehand that no other options are available. When it’s obvious a character is acting stupidly so as to create drama, our suspension of disbelief pops like cheap tires on a semi.
And lastly, just for me: Tell the dirty woman in the baseball cap who thinks “Let’s stir some beef” is a cool, quirky battle cry … it’s not.
But, OK, even with those complaints (and there are more – trust me, there are more), Fear the Walking Dead is a lot better than it used to be. And it should still be worth watching when it returns for Season 5 next spring or summer. But what of the Mother Ship?
Series star Andrew Lincoln may be leaving The Walking Dead, but Daryl (Norman Reedus) is still around to growl and mumble incoherently at the other characters.
THE WALKING DEAD
TWD fans have probably already lapped up all in the available information about Season 9. So we have a pretty good idea what we’re getting into when the show returns Oct. 7.
Comics fans have a good idea, too, because what’s coming on the screen is much the same thing that occurred on the printed page after the “All-Out War” with Negan. There’s a time jump of a year or so, where Alexandria, Hilltop, The Kingdom and Sanctuary all increase their connections, safety precautions and, well, civilization. It’s almost by necessity, as nature is reclaiming the 21st century – building are collapsing, foraging runs don’t turn up much, horses and lances are replacing cars and guns.
On the horizon is a threat called The Whisperers. These are the creepiest – and most dangerous – group our gang has tangled with yet. The Whisperers wear dead-skin suits and hide among the zombie hordes, guiding them toward their enemies and scavenging the remains. I don’t want to say too much more, but they should unsettle even the most jaded viewer.
What you won’t see is the stuff from the comics that isn’t possible any more, giving the culling of major characters like Carl, Maggie and Rick. Such as:
There’s more, but let’s assume that all those story beats will be handled by whoever’s left. Maybe it’s Daryl who who will his virginity to The Whisperer’s daughter.
Or son. It’s The Walking Dead – don’t rule anything out!
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