As a consistent consumer of just about everything pop culture, I tend to get a little obsessed with things from time to time. Like any addiction, I may binge for days or weeks on whatever has got my attention at that particular time, whether it’s a movie, television show, music, or video game.
THE WALKING DEAD
At the risk of using a hipster catchphrase, I was into zombies before it was cool. I swear. My roommate in college was a huge gore hound and he’s the main reason that I’ve eventually followed suit. One sub-genre I keep going back to is the zombie genre. From the early Romero days of Night of the Living Dead to the send-ups of the current era, like Shaun of the Dead, not to mention the cult classic additions like Let Sleeping Corpses Lie I can’t seem to get enough Z. The second ever screenplay I wrote was called Zombies Ate My Pledge Class! Which became a finalist in a screenplay competition back in 2008.
Suffice it to say, I am The Walking Dead’s, in all its incarnations, key demographic. Back when I first heard that the comic would soon become a series on AMC (and helmed by the amazing Frank Darabont), I quickly bought up the trade paperbacks that were available at the time and consumed every page. I’m, at best, a casual comic reader, but when it comes to Robert Kirkman’s ongoing survival tome, I eagerly await every release. As each issue has gone on, the writing has gotten better and better and the things that happen to the core group always manages to top the previous crisis. But it never feels like exploitation, or gore for the sake of gore. The violence in the comic is a product of what the world has become, where in order to survive the monsters, one has to become one. It’s a chilling fact of life in a world that has lost its law and order and it has yet to be perfected the way the comics has done.
A lot can be said about the differences between the comic and the series, and frankly, I welcome the change. The heart of the story is still there, and while some aspects may come off as weaker, they improve in other ways. For one, I loved the serial’s version of Shane. Sure, the character was a prick, but he became the perfect antagonist to Rick, and while their moral compasses were vastly different, it was interesting to find out who you sided with whenever they differed. Besides Shane, I like the Daryl character a lot. Everyone has seemingly fallen head over heels with Daryl, and with good reason. He brings something fresh to the table, and as a completely original character, he is a wild card within the ongoing story arc of the group. It’ll be interesting to see where he winds up in the second half of the third season and beyond.
My one gripe about any sort of change is what the series has done with the Andrea character. In the book, she was a strong, active member of the group. She was the sharp shooter and the second strongest female after Michonne. In the show, she seems like a bit of an opportunist, cozying up to the alpha male of any group she finds herself in. Also, give any situation she finds herself in enough time, and she’ll probably become a damsel in distress. It kind of robs the viewer of just how awesome she can be.
If I didn’t end this without talking about The Walking Dead Video Game, this article would be a failure. My office closes every year for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so with a mini vacation on my hands and a great deal on Steam, I decided to download all five episodes and give it a try. Talk about a riveting game. I’ve never found myself caring so much for characters in a video game before. It speaks to the strength of the writing of the game itself. For those unfamiliar, I won’t spoil too much, but you play a character named Lee who finds himself as the caregiver of a little girl named Clementine. As the story progressed, I found myself making decisions more and more based on how it would affect Clementine. Not because that’s what the game told me to do, but because as Lee and as a gamer, I began to care what happened to her. And as the game proceeded to rip my heart out, I knew I played something special.
I’m interested to see where Kirkman takes this phenomenon he has created. It’ll be interesting to see how anything, if they ever do, come to an end. In a genre so bleak, it only seems that each character in the show, comic, or video game will meet an inevitable, gruesome end. My biggest question is with Rick. How long can he survive? And when he dies, what happens to the story?