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The Walking Dead Season Four Retrospective

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The week after the season five finale, I soothed my soul by rewatching the show from episode one. After the short first season, I discovered the better way to watch Season Two. As much as I feel Season Two improved on the show’s initial effort, watching Season Three all over again did nothing to change my opinion that it’s where the show really found its legs and turned into what we love today. Season four is, in many ways, a continuation of Season Three, which might be a big part of why I feel Season Three was the show’s launchpad into its current state of glory.

— I enjoyed the initial sickness threat that plagued (pun intended) the survivors at the start of the season. It was part of the logical progression of things, as anyone who’s been around an elementary school daycare or soldiers’ barracks can tell you, and it was something they hadn’t faced before–an enemy they couldn’t fight with their hands and weapons.

— Nothing really compared to the continuing threat of the Governor, though. As groan-inducing as the prior season finale was when it didn’t end with his death, as a storyteller myself and as a fan of the show and comic, I was glad they didn’t dispose of such a great character so readily. His two-episode solo arc kicked ass, leading into an outstanding (well, not for Hershel, I suppose) mid-season ending.

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— Carol’s arc this season was a complete departure from the comic storyline, and I loved it. From the season premiere she was presented as having inherited Comic Andrea’s badass crown–something the television version never had, and she’s been delivering on that promise ever since. Given the demise of her character far earlier in the comic version of the story, she’s as much of a wild card now as Daryl, a character created specifically for the show.

— Remember how I said Season Two was much better when binge-watched? The back end of Season Four is like that, too. I heard/read a good amount of complaining about the character-specific episodes after the group was scattered in the aftermath of the Governor’s attack on the prison, and it’s not nearly as vexing when you know you can watch the next episode right away. We wouldn’t have had “The Grove” (while we’re on the subject of Badass Carol) or the development of Beth into a character we cared so much about without this type of writing.

— Abraham, Eugene and Rosita’s introduction. Perfection. ‘Nuff said.

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The Walking Dead Season Three Retrospective

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So, the week after the season five finale, I started watching The Walking Dead again from episode one. Of course, season one being only seven episodes in length, I made short work of it. I then discovered that binge-watching makes Season Two much better than it was upon initial viewing.

Season three is what I was really waiting to get to, though; I have to be honest. There’s good stuff in the first two seasons, and I didn’t rush through them to “get to the good parts” or anything, but Season Three is where The Walking Dead really starts feeling like the show I watch religiously now. The characters have arrived at the second of the comic’s iconic locations, the Prison, and most of the cast has settled into their characters. More to the point, we’ve had some time to settle into them.

Of course, there were rapid-fire shakeups from the get-go, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way:

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— The season kicked off with Rick amputating Hershel’s leg. Even though something similar happened in the comic, I was completely caught off guard because in the book, it happened to Dale (who, of course, bought it last season). Ol’ Hersh ended up not only inheriting Dale’s beard and status as the group’s moral compass, but also his destiny of becoming the busiest man in an ass-kicking contest. This sort of thing happens regularly in the latter seasons of the show–Hershel takes one for Tyreese at the end of Season Four (comic fans will get the reference) and someone else gets Dale’s “Tainted Meat” subplot from the comic in Season Five.

— Hands down, one of the best scenes in the entire season happened in the second episode–Rick chopping Tomas in the dome after the convict tries to feed him to some walkers while they were cleaning out a cell block. The carefully-considered, episodes-long approach Rick took with the “Shane problem” in Season Two had it’s place, but it showed growth in his character that he wasn’t handling things the same way anymore.

— The Governor–I can’t say enough about him. David Morrissey and the writers’ take on him was plenty different from the comic version, but no less iconic, and touched on the most important parts of the source material: his affection for his dead daughter, the animosity toward Michonne and of course, the heads in the fishtanks. Dude was cray. In his first episode, the way he deals with those soldiers was diabolical, but at the end of the season, what he does to his own damn people is nothing short of insane.

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— I’m really glad they didn’t waste Merle–I mean, they did waste him in one sense, heh. But they did a good job of breathing life into someone who was pretty much a stock character in Season One. I remember all the teasing that went on in the weeks before the season aired, and I remember thinking how disappointing his return was probably going to be. It totally wasn’t. He managed to serve as both protagonist and antagonist in the same season, have a bit of a redemptive arc at the end, and of course, was the reason for Daryl Tears, something far more rare than a unicorn (at least, before the apocalypse).

— The return to Rick’s hometown–and Morgan–in the episode “Clear,” is easily one of the best episodes of the entire show so far, though Season Three made it damn hard to pick just one episode as the best of the season. The little bites we got at the beginning and end of the first half of Season Five just wouldn’t work as well if the last time we saw Morgan was in Season One.

— Finally, I’d advise  you folks to pour one out for Andrea, but really, she doesn’t deserve it. Nothing against Laurie Holden–she was a great Andrea–but I just can’t believe they wrote her character as such an idiot. She got exactly what she had coming. The first few episodes were believable enough; her getting taken in by the Governor, the schism between her and Michonne, even her sharing his bed. But everything after she had that chance to kill him while he slept, and didn’t? She asked for that shit. As annoying as Lori was, at least she went out like a champ, to ensure the survival of her child.

Next up is, of course, Season Four, which I’ve already finished as of this past weekend. I’ll try to get that and a recap of the first half of season five up before the show starts up again, but no promises.

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The Walking Dead Season Two Retrospective

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So, the week after the season five finale, I started watching The Walking Dead again from episode one. Of course, season one being only seven episodes in length, I made short work of it. And then, as fans of the show might surmise, a bit of apprehension set in. After all, many fans consider the second season to be the worst. I have to admit, I did too.

But, I’ve never binge-watched season two. There are a couple of things that haven’t gotten better with age, like the well-walker and how few lines T-Dog got (he didn’t fare too poorly in season one, all things considered, but even Patricia got better screen time than him–remember the scene where she breaks the chicken’s legs before feeding the walkers in the barn?), but overall, I think watching it straight through is a big improvement in the pacing and story development.

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— The character growth was great, especially for characters that were written in season one with no way of knowing whether there’d be another season. Shane’s growing madness and Andrea, getting over her suicidal feelings from season one and anger at Dale over his intervention to become a “tough love” example to Beth are standout examples of this, as is “Don’t Kill the Living” Rick’s understandable change of heart while plucking Hershel out of an abandoned tavern.

— It was great to see the genesis of such current show staples as the relationship between Glenn and Maggie and that between Carol and Daryl (I wish to Bob those two would just “do it,” already!). I remember how boring and drawn-out the second season seemed, with the group staying on Hershel’s farm for the entire duration–and the first half was a bit slow, but like I said before, binging it is better, and I think watching a few seasons of what comes after can give one a better appreciation for season two.

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— The first full season, of course, begins the tradition of splitting each season into two parts. Episode seven’s barn shootout, with the killer reveal at the end, had me shitting bricks the first time it aired–then I had to wait two goddamn months until episode eight aired!

— The “Mazzara Era” (see what I did there?) seems to be a good transition between the Darabont-helmed first season and the Scott Gimple-ran show we have now. That’s not to say I wouldn’t mind a trip to an alternate Earth to watch five seasons of Darabont’s Walking Dead, mind you, but I enjoy the show as it is now, and Frank’s would be different.

I’m already a few episodes into my re-watch of season three at the time of this writing–holidays and all. Aw, hell, I should just dispense with the excuses–as much as I enjoyed my return to Hershel’s Farm as a long-time fan, I just couldn’t wait to get back to the prison–that’s where the fecal matter really starts impacting the ventilation unit!

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The Walking Dead Season One Retrospective

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Last week, I was doing a bit of Christmas shopping with the family, and came across a couple gifts for myself–Walmart had huge bins of television seasons on DVD for ten dollars, and unlike the hit-or-miss bullshit in most cheap bargain bins, this was all good stuff. So, I’m watching Walking Dead again from the beginning, the week after the season five mid-season finale.

I think this is actually my first time watching season one straight through, though I watched each episode as it aired in 2010 (I’m an old-school fan of the comic, since 2003). I find myself wondering all over again why AMC let Darabont go. Season one was a great, self-contained miniseries, that would have surely become an instant classic had additional seasons never been picked up. Instead of a huge essay, I’ll offer a few quick thoughts:

— T-Dog actually had a decent part in season one, for a supporting character. It’s all relative, of course, and I’d have rather seen IronE Singleton playing a more prominent character, but he did have speaking roles in more than one episode.

— Darabont Andrea was Best Andrea. She pulled a gun on Rick the first time she met him, and again when he tried to come between her and her dead sister–a far cry from the copious mistakes she made in season three. I honestly don’t remember much of her season two arc other than her being pissed at Dale and (I think) talking Beth (!!!) out of killing herself. I do know that Season Three Andrea is not much like Comic Andrea. The promise of Comic Andrea has been pretty much fulfilled in Show Carol, though.

— I did NOT know until today that Nicotero himself actually played the zombie who bit Amy. Yay for DVD bonus features, especially for the season that didn’t have the benefit of Talking Dead.

— Darabont zombies, though…not so much. Nicotero’s effects were great, but I wasn’t really down with the fast movements, the rock-wielding or the fence climbing the dead sometimes exhibited.

— His human threats, though, were spot on. We had Merle, a hint of the Shane-issues to come, and of course, Jenner. Jenner was a great warm-up for the likes of the Governor, the Claimers, Gareth and Officer Lerner.

— It’s been great to revisit all the characters who’ve been gone for the past few seasons, and to see the bright beginnings of the wonders that are Daryl and Carol, all over again.

Now, it’s time to dig into season two. Of all the seasons, it’s the one I like the least, but I’m sure I’ll find some gems in there. Most of all, I’m looking forward to revisiting the farm, and meeting the Greene clan again.

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