Monday, December 3, 2012

TV Review: 'The Walking Dead'-3.08-"Made To Suffer"

Many of us spent last season desperately waiting for something, anything to happen on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. With the exception of last week’s episode, season three has done a fine job rectifying this situation. The mid-season finale, “Made to Suffer”, delivers more of the same.

Spoilers are waiting to tear into flesh, so tread lightly, lest you have your little mind blown.

The wall-to-wall action of “Made to Suffer” is both a blessing and a curse. It makes the episode a blast to watch, but there’s also so much going on that after a while it’s all a blur, and everything winds up a jumble. You get a bunch of little threads, a bunch of bits and pieces, but you never go into any depth with any of them. The result is a fractured, though damn entertaining, slice of the world of “The Walking Dead”.

There are some badass moments, like when Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) fashion shanks out of zombie bone. The running shootout in the streets of Woodbury is also pretty damn sweet. As much as I love the zombie action, the people-on-people conflict has always been the most interesting and exciting part of “The Walking Dead”.

“Made to Suffer” tries to do two main things: bring story lines together, while introducing new elements to the narrative. The two groups of survivors—those led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and the Governor’s (David Morrissey) posse at Woodbury—finally come together in a big, violent spectacle. We also got our first glimpse at a new addition to the show, comic book favorite Tyreese (Chad Coleman, Cutty from “The Wire”).

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: for all of the shows faults, “The Walking Dead” certainly knows how to end an episode. Cliffhangers are nothing new, and moving forward, there are a ton of questions left hanging. How will Tryeese and his crew fit in at the prison? What will become of the brother’s Dixon, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Merle (Michael Rooker)? Now that the Governor is super pissed about what happened to him at the hands of Michonne (Danai Gurira), how brutal will his thirst for revenge get? Hopefully this pushes his character more towards what he’s like in Robert Kirkman’s comics. Thus far in the season, he’s been a watered-down version of his funny book namesake, and I want to see him get nasty.

Because “Made to Suffer” is a finale, of sorts (not a fan of this mid-season finale nonsense that’s so prevalent these days), it’s a good time to look back on season three of “The Walking Dead” and see where we’re at. There are still problems, but by and large, this season has fixed many of the large-scale structural issues that plagued the first two years. Week-to-week it is much more consistent, and is finally becoming the adaptation that fans of the comics hoped for.

Here are some of the things that have struck me so far:

I’m definitely digging how grim and grizzled Carl (Chandler Riggs) is becoming. From having to shoot his mom in the head to prevent her from becoming a zombie, to basically being abandoned by his father for extended periods, the kid’s had a rough go so far. Just the fact that he steps up and rescues Tyreese and company, shows how far he’s come from the whiney, obnoxious brat he used to be. Now he’s becoming a man, willing to do what needs to be done.

Similarly, Glenn is also coming along as tough-as-shit apocalypse survivor. Gone are his previous passive ways, and, especially over the last two episodes, he’s shown that he’s tough, resourceful, and brave.

My biggest gripe about season three is how they’ve screwed up two great characters from the comics. On the show neither Andrea (Laurie Holden) nor Michonne hold a candle to who they are in the source material. Instead of becoming a badass sniper who uses her skills to pick of enemies and keep the group safe, she’s an idiot, blinded by her desire to hump the Governor’s brains out. Seriously, an aquarium wall full of severed heads and a zombie daughter chained up in a closet don’t raise a single red flag? What the hell is wrong with her?

And then there’s Michonne. The way the story for season three is set up has been like a mix-and-match bag from the comics. They’ve taken pieces that occur at drastically different times and stuck them together in ways that don’t always fit. For the most part, this collage approach works okay, and you can see why it was employed. Setting up Woodbury and the Prison simultaneously allows “The Walking Dead” to save time, and create a great deal of tension by positioning these two groups for an inevitable collision.

The primary casualty of this approach is the character of Michonne. I really want to like her, because having read the comics, I know how awesome she could be. But she sucks in this incarnation, and exists solely to be bullheaded and contrary in all situations. There’s nothing more to her personality than that. In the show she’s just thrown into the mix, and winds up at Woodbury, glossing over the parts of the narrative that provide all of her characterization. In the comic, by the time she encounters the Governor, you’ve already been through a couple of story arcs with the character, and you know her personality. There’s none of that in the show.

In the comics when she sits down to wait for the Governor, there’s a reason. She’s been repeatedly tortured, raped, and brutalized by him, and she has a score to settle. The way this scenario plays out in the show, there’s no deeper motivation for her ambush than she thinks he’s creepy and doesn’t like him. Other than a few minor transgressions and suspicions, she doesn’t know anything about him; she doesn’t know he’s a mass-murdering psychopath. Watching that scene, a friend who hasn’t read the comics was confused until I explained how what went down in the source material. Then it made much more sense. As it is, it makes Michonne the crazy one.

Like with Andrea, Michonne has been one of the major disappointments of the season. They’re both models of strong, badass survivors, willing to do whatever necessary to survive, but so far, that hasn’t translated to the show. That’s one of my main hopes for the second half of season three, that those two become even a shadow of what they can be.

So that’s enough ranting from me for today. What about you guys? What did you think of “Made to Suffer”? What are your thoughts and opinions on season three of “The Walking Dead” so far? Let’s hear your voice in the comments section.

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