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'The Walking Dead' Review: Killing Them Softly

Thompson on Hollywood By Terry Curtis Fox | Thompson on Hollywood March 12, 2012 at 1:00AM

Ever since the decision was made to keep him alive in the "Walking Dead" (rather than allow Carl to kill him as he did in the first volume of the comic), the question the writers never seemed to answer was, “What can we do with Shane?”
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"The Walking Dead"
"The Walking Dead"

[Beware, major spoilers ahead]

Ever since the decision was made to keep him alive in "The Walking Dead" (rather than allow Carl to kill him as he did in the first volume of the comic), the question the writers never seemed to answer was, “What can we do with Shane?”

Then, in the current run, the writers seemed to finally have the right answer: in this world, Shane’s brutalist outlook was far more suitable than Rick’s. What’s more, Rick’s continuing tendency to run off actually gave credence to Shane’s avowal that he was far more concerned about Lori and Carl than Rick.

It had all the makings of a great triangle – especially when Lori was unable to answer the question of her fetus’ paternity.

But just as they found it, they lost it again. First Lori declared Shane a threat, then Rick made up with Shane, and now, well … Shane is gone from the show, killed as a human by Rick and (in a clear nod to the source material) dispatched as a zombie by Carl.

It’s as if the threat to the sanctity of marriage was greater than the threat of walkers. Killing off regulars is, of course, one way to reduce costs. With Dale gone after last week’s show, there’s been considerable budget reduction. (Dramatically, trading the humanist Dale for the fundamentalist Herschel is not a good exchange: Dale’s moral voice was far more supple and complex. "Walking Dead" is quickly becoming as much a Southern as a horror show.)

I shed no tears when Frank Darabont was dismissed as show runner, another cost-cutting move. Darabont himself had fired the first season’s writing staff, an egregious way to treat those who had made the show a success.

But it’s become clear that the show is suffering from the double loss. There’s something timid in its approach. In the course of five episodes, it’s gone from something that was almost the definition of a show that could only be shown on cable to something that would be at home on any broadcast network.

It’s not the zombies that drew us to "Walking Dead." It was the writing. Let’s hope the current staff regains its balance and isn’t decimated again.

This article is related to: Television, TV, AMC, Reviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.