If you somehow can't carve five minutes out of your day to watch the whole thing, at least skip to Andrea crying at 1:05. And Carl dreeting at 2:30. And, oh, sweet baby Judith, there's the musical number. Just make the time. Nothing else you accomplish today will be as important. Trust us.
You can watch most episodes of The Walking Dead in 16x fast-forward on your DVR without missing a single plot point. Try it with the finale; I watched the whole episode in about eight minutes while eating breakfast cereal. So, after speed-watching The Walking Dead and listening to Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan sigh wearily before pelting the show with shade, I began to consider my own disappointment with The Highest-Rated Show on Cable. All good postapocalyptic/dystopian fiction takes some basic building block of society, puts it into something akin to a snow globe, and shakes. The creator applies his or her core fictional conceit — zombies, nuclear war, environmental collapse, bird flu, whatever — to some societal dynamic, and imagines what would happen to that dynamic under the stress of the end of the world as we know it. Stephen King's The Stand is about the way groups choose to govern themselves. Children of Men is about how central reproduction is to a civilization’s ability to maintain control. The Handmaid’s Tale is about society’s governing of the female body.
All of the societal themes that The Walking Dead could and should explore are given short shrift: The show only acknowledges race through Merle, who is basically a caricature of a virulent racist with no shades of gray whatsoever, yet the show is set in the rural South. Among our survivors are three sets of parents and children, yet we get very little feel for what it would be like to raise a child under the constant threat of the undead and the Governor’s depravity. The search for baby formula for Rick’s newborn child existed solely as a mechanism for Maggie and Glenn to be captured by Merle. You can count the number of times Rick has held his baby daughter, or even inquired about her well-being, on one hand. The Woodbury community’s allegiance to the Governor is an excellent opportunity to explore themes of freedom versus security. Instead, the way he’s portrayed — combined with the fact that people regularly walk alone from Woodbury to the prison — makes you wonder why anyone would ever stay there.
In our real lives Chris Ryan and I like to talk about all sorts of things: movies, the weather, how Domonic Brown is going to win the Triple Crown this season. But when it came time to record this week, the only topic worth discussing was one dear to my professional heart: television. This is one of the busiest and best weeks I can remember on the small screen, filled with the return of old favorites, the escalation of new flings, and the arrival of one very intriguing surprise. But first I had to give Chris the rundown of my time with the FX network last week. In town to announce its cellular split into three distinct networks, the channel gathered all of its stars — and its stars' interesting hair — in a Manhattan bowling alley to celebrate.
Winter is coming! But, you know, not for another week. So while our hearts yearn for Westeros, Chris and I are stuck in rural Georgia with the rest of the Mensa candidates fighting zombies on The Walking Dead (8:25). It was interesting to hear how Chris, normally a defender of all things violent and brainless, has turned on the stumbling biters. I'd give him a thumbs-up, but the Governor just bit mine clean off. Besides, I was too busy crying my emo eyes out over the dissolution of My Chemical Romance (21:30), one of the best rock bands of the last decade. It's tough out there for any band, but particularly so one as ambitious as MCR, a group never afraid to play make-believe or with makeup.
My son and I play a game called "Zombie." Basically, I chase him around while pretending to be a zombie and making those hungry/throaty zombie noises, then I finally catch him and pretend to gnaw on his arm or leg. He giggles the whole time. Little kids love zombies. You know who else loves them? Adults! The Walking Dead is hotter than ever; it's drawing higher ratings for AMC than NBC's top three shows combined. With another Dead season wrapping next week, it's important to remember the five ground rules we established in Season 3.
Ground Rule No. 1: Zombies Will Die
Every Sunday night, no matter what, you're gonna get to see zombies die. Would you like to see someone shoot a zombie in the head so their zombie brains splatter everywhere? What about multiple zombies getting decapitated by a samurai sword? Any interest in an arrow zipping through a zombie skull, or maybe even a butcher's knife getting rammed through a zombie eyeball? You're getting these things. In spades. Every week. Count on it.
If, like me, you’ve watched your share of traffic-accident-bad Lifetime movies, then I bet you too have longed for a wandering zombie to spice up those hackneyed SWF plots and excessive use of Aaron Spelling children. Well, this week’s Walking Dead episode "Prey," a.k.a. Mother, Why Did I Sleep With Danger?" was the answer to those childhood prayers. But be careful what you wish for because the TWD writing staff threw my last recap’s final words back at me. I asked for Andrea, and boy, I got her.
The show was pretty much All About Andrea, the show’s hardy ex-ACLU lawyer who gets as much love from Walking Dead fans as a real ACLU lawyer does at a Southern Sheriff’s conference. No character since Dale has seemed a choicer morsel of corpse kibble, with that golden hair the waxen color of zombie floss, and credulous eyes shooting skyward whenever a hunky psychopath tells her gullible is written in the clouds. It’s not just that her taste in men is worse than a small town beauty queen’s, from her suicide pact with Jenner in Season 1 to bedding Shane the instant he went Lord of the Flies to sticking it out with the world’s worst OkCupid match, the Governor. It’s that Andrea, in all her eye-rolling, zombie-filleting, needy-sarcasm glory, is the most frustrating character on TWD. She has such potential: She’s exactly the smug yuppie anyone would love to watch get fire-baptized by the Libertarian wet dream that is post-zombie Georgia. She’s become a card-carrying NRA member, made besties with everyone’s favorite katana artist, Michonne. And yet somehow, time after time, that exasperating eyebrow arch of hers makes me cringe.
Hey guys, are those a bunch of nails on your floor, or are you just happy to see us? On this week's pod, Andy and I discussed the most recent, very provocative episode of Girls (1:15), and that show's blindingly good, digressive, weird second season. We then moved on to the Best New Show on Television, The Americans (15:35), with a little chatter about Justified's subtly strong fourth season. We also talked a bit about how every great show needs an "Oh shit!" moment that makes you realize you are cooking with some high heat.
We bring things down to a simmer with a discussion of The Walking Dead (32:45), wherein we celebrate what was possibly the show's greatest episode ("Clear") and bemoan its return to regularly scheduled programming. Come on and join us. Q-tips are totally optional.
Before I begin this week’s recap, pardon me, merciful readers, if I flash my TWD creds in the hope that slathering myself with zombie bona fides will let me pass (relatively) unscathed through the hordes of Walking Dead fanatics and Grantland commentators. Yes, I have seen the show, all of it. In fact, I just spent the better part of a road trip with my girlfriend binge-viewing Season 3, the upshot of which is we both agree she would survive the zombie apocalypse and I wouldn’t, based solely on my need for copious pee-breaks and her steadfast refusal to allow them. Further, I share everyone’s agonized memories of the mind-numbing yoga betrayal retreat that was Season 2, as well as despair at Season 1, Ep. 4, “Lowrider Rest Home Cholos.”
So, I’ve watched the show since it was the little phenomenon that could and Daryl accessorized solely with Squirrelly Couture. And while it might not always drive me to the same dramaturgical despair as Andy Greenwald — I think Season 3 has, overall, shown geometric improvement — I retain both a healthy dose of skepticism and an appreciation for a re-animated corpse creatively de-animated. For me, The Walking Dead is most like that smoking-hot-if-slightly-dim cheerleader/quarterback you can’t help fantasizing about even though he/she thinks Africa is a country.
[Note: Finally, my time to shine. A chance to write about the television phenomenon The Walking Dead. It's truly an honor. Let's do this.]
We first see our heroes, White Guy, Young White Kid With Cowboy Hat, and Black Lady With Nice Shoulders, cruising down the street in a very fuel-efficient car. They must be headed somewhere in a hurry, because a hitchhiker is begging to be picked up, and they do have an extra seat in the car, but they just blow past him. Pretty rude if you ask me.
Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle got together at the Comedy Cellar, texted Jay-Z, and left late-night voice mails for Lenny Kravitz and Arsenio Hall. They also discussed — joked? After midnight it's anybody's guess — touring together. RumorWatch continues with another drip from the Celebrity Survivor faucet. THIS IS PROBST'S LAST ATTEMPT. Jeff Bridges, come on, man. Haven't you always wanted to try your hand at puzzles? I think you could win this thing. Twelve more celebrities and we might have a green light.
The nature of television is less casual than it used to be, with media requiring more and more of a commitment from viewers, as well as offering more opportunities to indulge in meta-programming and shield themselves with spoiler-protection masks, reinforcing the bonds between audience and serial. It’s immensely gratifying, but it can also be daunting for an outsider. I hadn't seen an episode of The Walking Dead until last night, at which point I decided that I’d gone on for too long bluffing that I’d seen it when people asked me at parties, too daunted by the backlog to start from square one. I jumped in, Googling only to get the character names I couldn’t catch (baby Judith, I heard your name as “Sudoku”), without prejudice or the knowledge of how so many people lost eyes and limbs. It was disorienting, especially considering that Walking Dead fans are a pretty enthusiastic bunch and that even if you commit yourself to watching every episode, there’s still a comic book to tackle. Starting with Episode 30 felt a little like breaking the rules, but it reminded me of the experience of stumbling into something without expectations, without the queue and the space on the sofa meticulously cleared for a very long sit. It was refreshing, like a mutual and pure no-strings-attached fling: If it works out, it works out. If you hate these zombies, hey, man, no sweat.
Last week, Grantland contributor and longtime The Walking Dead recapper Andy Greenwald finally lopped off the head of his tenure as Senior Zombie Correspondent in order to better focus his energies on television shows with "plot development" and "three-dimensional characters." While we wholeheartedly support Andy's decision, we here at the Hollywood Prospectus decided we could not let a single skull crunch go undocumented, and will be featuring a rotating series of recappers to chronicle the rest of this season of The Walking Dead. First up: David Jacoby.
Take your brain out. To appreciate the televised zombie apocalypse, you must first make a zombie of yourself. You can’t be like Andy Greenwald; you can’t think about story development, character, continuity, performances, showrunners, sets, logic you can’t think at all. This show isn’t about thought, this show is about bullet holes in zombie faces, samurai swords in zombie skulls, gore, violence, and general badassery. Last night’s The Walking Dead was not unlike last night’s All-Star Game; there was no discernible strategy at play, there were long lulls between short bursts of captivating action, and there was no soul — but both televised events were thoroughly entertaining. Let’s recap this shit.
I knew Chris Ryan was trouble the minute he put a dubstep drop into his breakup song about Jake Gyllenhaal. Or am I confusing him with someone else? Either way, on this week's show we sank our dancing bunny fangs into the 2013 Grammy awards. Is Jay-Z the new Frank Sinatra? Is Justin Timberlake the new Michael Jackson? Are the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons old-timey nonsense? (That last one is easy.) Besides, the most interesting award winner was one who didn't even perform: Drake, who dropped a goofy, hilarious video for his new song right around the time Jack White was onstage fiddling with his dobro. Finally, a narrative about a humble night manager we can get behind.