Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 3 Review: ‘Monsters’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead 
Season 8, Episode 3 

Two weeks into its eighth season, and The Walking Dead has a ratings problemEven though it still led the way as the highest viewed show on cable last Sunday (Talking Dead was the second highest)episode two viewership fell about twenty percent from the premiere, and represented the show’s lowest ratings since 2012. Again, The Walking Dead is still a ratings darling, especially in that sweet, sweet “Men, age 18-49” demographic that advertisers crave so much (guys, please note that once you hit age 50, your tastes in media are no longer relevant). And, you could also argue that going up against Sunday Night Football and Game 5 of the World Series, one of the best in baseball history, means that brighter days are ahead for AMC’s flagship program. But, I wouldn’t be too sure. 

Walking Dead ratings have been in a steady decline since the controversial premiere of season seven, and the overly convoluted first two episodes of season eight, haven’t done much to win back viewers. It’s pretty obvious that the ratings glory days of seasons four, five, and six are gone. If things can hold steady where they are, then we can probably expect to enjoy more zombie carnage and “The World is Ours” speeches, for the foreseeable future. But, a 2.5 million drop in viewership is significant, and in the past season, there hasn’t been a ton to convince me that The Walking Dead can avoid this kind of ratings volatility indefinitely.  
(Photo Credit: AMC)
With that being said, this week’s episode, “Monsters,” is quite enjoyable, and definitely a step up from the first two episodes of the season. The pacing feels quick, but not rushed, and the action sequences are novel and compelling. There’s still a lot of jumping around between the different groups, but the plot is much easier to follow compared to the previous two episodes, especially as the season premiere's multi-layered plan finally starts winding down to a tangible conclusion. Despite the continued scattering of our main characters, it’s been interesting to see them tackle challenges on their own, with each group going up against a unique problem. The character pairings within these different groups are unique, as well, which brings a fresh dynamic to a show that can sometimes feel stagnant with how it allots its screen time. 

Hardcore Walking Dead fans enjoyed a bit of a treat last week, when Morales made his triumphant return after a seven-season absence- the longest amount of time between character appearances in show historyFret not, if you didn’t immediately (or ever) recognize him, though. Morales was an incredibly minor character from season one, who parted ways with Rick’s group after only a few episodes. However, despite this short-lived run, Morales is unique, in that he’s one of the few characters who left the show without dying. This dangling loose end of a character departure led many of those lurking in the deepest, darkest corners of Walking Dead internet fandom, to wonder when, not if, Morales would grace our screens, once again.  
(Photo Credit: AMC)
Still, it’s pretty surprising that Morales ended up returning, at all. And, not just because of how long he’s been absent from the showIn general, The Walking Dead has made a point of distancing itself from its season one days, a choice made mostly because of the toxic firing of its creator and original showrunner, Frank Darabont. In a way, you could argue that, without Frank Darabont, The Walking Dead would never exist as it does today. Darabont fought hard to bring the show to life, pitching the project to multiple networks, like HBO and NBC, before finally finding a home with AMC, who some argue green lit the project just on the strength of Darabont’s involvement, alone. Darabont, of course, is most widely known for directing Best Picture nominees, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. 

However, after stepping down as showrunner halfway through the production of season two, rumors started to circulate regarding Darabont’s souring relationship with AMC executivesincluding his unhappiness with the slashed budget and higher episode count, for season two, as well as his alleged inability to adapt to the more rapid production schedule of a tv series. In the years since, Darabont has been quite vocal about his distaste for AMC, filing a lawsuit against the network in 2013claiming he was denied “tens of millions of dollars of profits.” The lawsuit came to a head in 2017, when, as part of the proceedings, AMC released scathing, violent emails that Darabont had sent to production staff during the filming of season two.  
(Photo Credit: AMC)
Meanwhile, on-screenThe Walking Dead spent most of the past five seasons slowly excising the Frank Darabont elements from itself. Characters, like Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Andrea (Laurie Holden), played by actors known for their recurring roles in Darabont’s projects, were swiftly killed off much, much earlier than their comic book counterparts. And, the short-lived CDC storyline from the season one finale, which explored the global impact of the zombie apocalypse, as well as its possible cause, has been completely ignored by the writers, despite being important world-building information. 

So, all things considered, it’s even more surprising that The Walking Dead decided to acknowledge season one, by bringing back a bit character, like Morales (who also just so happens to be played by another Darabont actor, Juan Gabriel Pareja). But, I’m glad that they did because I think his stand-off with Rick represents a very interesting question that our characters will grapple with for the rest of the season- is Rick’s group really any better than the Saviors? The easy, and mostly correct, answer is yes. None of our heroes have ever smashed someone’s head in with a barbed wire-covered baseball bat. And, on a more macro-level, they don’t really operate as “the conquerors,” like the Saviors do, rather any acts of violence they commit have been out of self-defense, albeit sometimes extremely premeditated self-defense. 
(Photo Credit: AMC)
But, maybe that’s not enough of a difference? Maybe the fact that Rick's group shares, at least, some similarities with Negan and the Saviors, is just too damning of a comparison? I think as The Walking Dead marches through the rest of season eight, a handful of our survivors will start to question just how far they're willing to go in their war against the Saviors, and whether the ends truly justify the means. We're already starting to see these doubts take shape in this episode, as Jesus, Maggie, and even Rick, attempt to show mercy to those they, not all that long ago, wouldn't have. While this new desire for peaceful solutions seems inconsistent for a group of people who just unleashed a herd of walkers onto the unsuspecting citizens of the Sanctuary, I'm willing to overlook this sloppy-ish character development, in the hopes of some interesting intra-group conflict between characters like Jesus and Tara, as well as Rick and Daryl.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...