(NB: All efforts have been made to remove spoilers)
DDo you remember when zombies weren’t cool? No, me neither.
The past few years have seen a veritable smorgasbord of rotting corpses on our screens. I would arm-wrestle my own Grandmother (don’t worry, she loves it) to defend Shaun of the Dead for absolutely nailing the Zom-Rom-Com niche, but in terms of staying-power and just good ol’ entertainment value, no-one can touch The Walking Dead.
And let’s be honest: you wouldn’t want to. Euurch!
However, not all is well in the post-apocalyptic State of Georgia…
It’s the bloody script
Having crowd-sourced at least six opinions on this (that’s statistically significant right? Oh…), there is an overwhelming consensus that—whilst the show is bloody amazing and that bloke Egg from This Life has done very well for himself (cough, showing one’s age)—The Walking Dead is somewhat cyclical in nature. Every season starts with a belter of a scene and the last two episodes have you putting the beer down and slacking one’s jaw (is that a verb? It is now!).
The problem is in between.
It’s not the cinematography, which makes Georgia look gorgeous (who ever thought tourism would increase in a place swarming with the undead – although, have you been to Florida? Kidding!). It’s definitely not the acting, as all of the main characters take whatever is thrown at them and always act their little socks off.
I hate to say it, but it’s the script. At times, the deep characterisation and self-actualisation make Dawson’s Creek look like a snappy MTV Video (hey kids, the former was a terrible 90’s show, and the latter… well… oh, never mind…).
Friends, Romans, Countrymen…
OK, so you’re sat on the sofa. You’re midway through the series. There’s been a bit of zombie knifing at the start of the episode and you’re looking forward to something awesome, like a dude in an eyepatch using a tank to blow up a prison! I mean, a tank and an eyepatch – brilliant!
But, oh no, what you’re actually confronted with is something like this (which is Maggie referring to Glenn):
“The decision was made a long time ago, before any of us knew each other, when we were all strangers who would have just passed each other on the street before the world ended. And now we mean everything to each other. You were in trouble, you were trapped. Glenn didn’t know you, but he helped you. He put himself in danger for you. And that started it all, from Atlanta, to my daddy’s farm, to the prison, to here, to this moment now, not as strangers, as family, because Glenn chose to be there for you that day a long time ago. That was the decision that changed everything. It started with both of you, and it just grew to all of us to sacrifice for each other, to suffer and stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live, to fight for each other. Glenn made the decision, Rick. I was just following his lead.”
What. The. Dickens?
And it’s guff like this that gives the series a bad name. Now, I know more than anyone how difficult it is to write good material. But honestly, they have a team of nine writers on this series – and that’s just the ones who negotiated well enough to get their names on the titles, for goodness sake!
“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”**
And that’s when it hit me. The whole programme has a certain pained literal and figurative journey to it. What does it remind me of?
A Russian novel? No, they didn’t tend to get out that much.
Irish. That’s it!
The similarity to O’Brien’s The Third Policeman is definitely there, but my money is on James Joyce’s Ulysses. I could bore you with multiple reasons why, but here’s two off the top of my head:
- The increasing tension between Rick and Shane is clearly based on Joyce’s Stephen and Mulligan and their shift from friend to enemy; and
- Stephen’s stream of consciousness ramblings form the basis of many of The Walking Dead’s speeches, especially Morgan’s ‘Clear’ mutterings.
Spot the difference
But don’t take my word for it: here are five quotes. All you have to do is guess which one is The Walking Dead and which one is Ulysses (answers at the bottom):
- “The pain doesn’t go away. You just make room for it.”
- “Love loves to love love.”
- “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.”
- “The pessimist looks down and hits his head. The optimist looks up and loses his footing. The realist looks forward and adjusts his path accordingly.”
- “To learn one must be humble. But life is the great teacher.”
- “Where there’s life, there’s possibility”
See? Told you so!
Classic Irish Zombie Author Mash-up
OK, so I’ll readily admit that if The Walking Dead is churning out quotes as good as Joyce then it’s doing something right. But everything in proportion, right?
What I’m looking for is 90% edge of seat, suspense-fest and then 10% deep, deep philosophy that I’ll remember when grabbing a coffee at work and smile.
No more speeches, Maggie. Pur-lease!
Answers: WD; U; U; WD; U; WD
* Nope. It’s definitely just you, Simon… (says Pete)
** James Joyce, Ulysses