The Television Event of The Year

 

To be honest, my expectations weren’t very high. The Walking Dead has been mundane all season. Game of Thrones is A Song of Ice and Fire for dummies. How could the season finale of one and the season premier of another be a five star night of television? I will explain, because it was a five star night of television. The Walking Dead was a slow burning build to a… not quite a climax but a resolution. Game of Thrones was a catch-up, how are you doing episode. 

Season 3’s are normally the high point of any television series. Season 3 is when programs hit their stride, their prime, they fire on all cylinders. For example- The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Office, Seinfeld, Scrubs, Breaking Bad, The Cosby Show… the list goes on and on. Of course, I don’t remember the third season of The Cosby Show but I’m sure it was great. 

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The first half of Season 3 of The Walking Dead was must-see, addictive, gripping story-telling. It was heart-wrenching and exciting. It was pulsating, non-stop action with twists and turns. The second half was a lot of build. It dragged, to be sure. Rick’s mental breakdown was overdue. Carl’s development to adulthood was interesting enough. Andrea’s ultimate demise was heart-wrenching… though I have never liked Andrea, it is very difficult to see anymore principle characters die off. Even Merle’s death was tough to swallow. But the main thrust this year was not the body count… though near half the main cast of the first season was killed off. No, the main conflict and the hook of season 3 was the duel of ideologies between Rick and The Governor. 

When Tyreese and his friends arrive at the prison, Carl does exactly what his father would have wanted him to- locking them up for their own safety, meanwhile securing the prison from them. Rick’s mental breakdown drives them from the prison to Woodbury and into The Governor’s open arms. Unlike the mental crisis that Rick is going through, The Governor has already accepted the world around him. He has already adapted to life in a zombie apocalypse and has learned to use the world to his advantage… and he will use Tyreese and his friends to his advantage (Hell, in a zombie apocalypse, who wouldn’t want Cutty in their corner?). 

While Rick and the group debate how to handle the threat of Woodbury, The Governor debates how to take over the prison. The Governor functions as an imperialistic and aggressive nation, using the guise of protection to invade, conquer and exploit. Rick can’t seem to come to grips in a world without Laurie and a world in which he is responsible for not just the group that is falling apart, but a new-born daughter… the future. 

The Governor, feeling the defiance of the prison as a threat to the power he has obtained, goes into panic mode, conscripting an army together to attack the prison. Rick is still trying to figure out the meaning of his lot. Afraid to confront Woodbury, he even considers delivering one of the group over to torture just to avoid the coming battle. 

When Woodbury attacks, the prison is ready. The civilian military aren’t killers and don’t attack the prison as killers but as frightened civilians forced into war. Meanwhile, Rick and the group are survivors and have been through this before. They’ve sacrificed for each other, they’ve trusted each other and they won’t give up what they have given up so much to have. The prison bands together to survive. Woodbury flees in failure, against The Governor’s wishes.

After the attack, Rick goes to Woodbury to finish it, only to discover along the way what The Governor has finally become. The Governor has realized that protecting these people is a waste of his time. He is the top of the food chain and the people hold him down. He has spent too much time and energy protecting them and providing some semblance of a normal life. So, he decides to kill them. Martinez watches at first in horror, but even he realizes that The Governor is relieving them of all the dead weight they have been carrying.

Rick comes to a conclusion at Woodbury. He finds its people unprotected, their protectors having gone out to murder and destroy instead of remaining to protect and thrive. He brings the people of Woodbury back to the prison.

Carl isn’t so happy about the decision. Maybe Carl is more The Governor than Rick at this point? Maybe The Governor, like Shane, has a better shot at surviving in this new world? Maybe Carl will cross paths with The Governor down the road?  

But Rick is now the Governor by default. Rick gets a shot at not just surviving but possibly thriving as not a group of survivors but a community in a new world. Maybe the prison will become greater than Woodbury? Maybe Herschel will finally grow the tomato plants he wanted to? 

Season 4 will show Rick as a political leader instead of a military one. Without a doubt, The Governor will return. He will seek to destroy whatever community Rick will build. He will be a force of evil, free from the burdens of being a political figure. I’m excited, to be sure. I like the direction that the program is going in. I was surprised that The Governor lived, but to be honest, he is probably the coolest television villain since Tom Zarek. 

The Walking Dead Season 3 Finale- Four Stars out of Five.. 

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We catch up with all the principle characters in Game of Thrones… except well… Arya, Theon, Jaime, Brienne, The Hound, Bran, Rickon and Hodor. Oh, and Hot Pie. But we do catch up with Robb, Catelyn, Jon Snow, Sansa, Cersei, Joffrey, Tyrion, Tywin, Samwell, Daenerys, Jorah, Bronn, Littlefinger, Stannis, Melisandre, Davos… oh and Barristan the Fucking Bold (so different from the book, but how cool was that?). And of course, Roz…. ugh.

This is the problem with Game of Thrones… and I didn’t realize it until now. There are too many characters. I got angry the first two seasons at the absence or the erasing of some characters. It is a lot easier to write about hundreds of character than it is to get television audiences to care about hundreds of characters. I finally truly understand the absence and the changing. 

As much as I want to see all of these characters from these books that I’ve read twice and listened to the audio CD of thrice, it is IMPOSSIBLE. The episodes have been stretched an extra five minutes each and at the end of the season, that will be an entire extra episode. It still isn’t enough time. Or at least, after the season premier, it doesn’t seem like it will be enough time. But, I am confident. 

First off, NICE SAVE BY GHOST!!!!! Kanteen was going nuts when he saw that!! But I really wanted to see the slaughter on The Fist of The First Men. I guess there is only so much money that HBO can give the producers. It would have been a scene on par with the Blackwater. Oh Well…

Robb has ended up at Harrenhal. He is angry at the slaughter by Gregor Clegane done there. He is also pretending to be angry at his mother in front of his bannermen. Roose Bolton and Rickard Karstark see through it. 

Jon Snow meets the King Beyond the Wall. Mance Rayder seems like an amiable fellow. He will fight The Others while Jeor Mormont lets Craster give his sons to them. Regardless, Jon Snow convinces Mance that he wants to be free. We also see a giant. Way cool. 

Sansa is hanging with Shae. I despise book Shae and truly despise television Shae. Littlefinger comes to talk to her about escaping from King’s Landing. Roz and Shae have a conversation that used time that could have been given to characters I care about. 

Daenarys reaches Astapor. She is interested in buying an army. The Unsullied are eunuchs that feel no pain, are loyal to the bone, and cost a ton of gold. Dany hates how they are brought up and trained. Jorah tells her that she needs an army. The Undying are still after her and send a creepy little girl assasin to get her stung by a manticore. Luckily, Barristan the Fucking Bold saves her and pledges her his sword… which he threw at Joffrey’s feet. So he pledges her his dagger. 

Tyrion is paranoid. Especially of his sister. Cersei is paranoid that Tyrion will tell Tywin something bad that she has done. They have a conversation of mutual contempt. When Tyrion goes to see Tywin, he learns that his father truly hates him. Tyrion wants Casterly Rock. Tywin says “Hellllll no. Never. You killed your mother and you are a drunk, womanizing little pervert.” Thanks Dad. As usual, great great acting by Peter Dinklage. 

Margery Tyrell visits some orphans that lost their fathers during the Battle on the Blackwater. She wants to win the people’s love and is well on her way to doing it. At dinner with Joffrey and Cersei and her gay brother, Joffrey seems more human than he has ever seemed. He is enamored and almost intimidated by Lady Margery. Cersei is threatened by the future Queen. It is early for A Feast For Crows but the battle lines are being drawn. 

So the story develops, pushes forward and we catch up with nearly everybody. But it is difficult to follow for the non-reader. It truly is. I know what is going on and I know what is being changed. But does Joe Schmo know? No, Joe Schmo does not know. Or maybe he does. But it is getting confusing. 

I’m sure that the following episodes will scale down the characters per episode. And if they can, A Storm of Swords has the greatest arcs of the series, and we will see some amazing television. But the showrunners are walking on rotten ice. 

A Game of Thrones Season 3 Premier- 3 Stars out of 5. 

Ghost Lori? Or Divine Zombie Presence??

The Walking Dead - Season 3 - Poster Art - Frank Ockenfels/AMC

I finally was able to watch the Season 3-B premiere of The Walking Dead. It can be summed up in two words: “cold shower.” That’s okay, though. I shelved the show 3 episodes into season 2 because it seemed stuck… though I admit, a big reason I shelved it was also my gf’s complete disinterest in the program… combine that with my hectic work schedule and non-existent down-time and it all equals out to Netflix binge down the road.

Well… I binged and crammed a rewatch of season 1, then a first viewing of season 2, then I figured out a way to watch season 3 (as it is not yet available on Netflix). Mayhaps this series works better as binge viewing. The commercial breaks and the week of waiting to see what happens makes me feel like I am watching Lost… and I despise Lost. For every really sick, 5 star episode of The Walking Dead, there are 2 somewhat lame, sluggish episodes. Don’t misunderstand me, the 5 star episodes make up ten-fold for the sluggers and I cannot wait to watch the remainder of this season. I am stating that this series works best without commercials, one after the other (unlike Lost, which is actually worse without commercials and back to back to back so on and so forth).

So, after the emotional high of watching over twenty episodes of Rick and Glen and Maggie and Daryl and Lori and all the rest, I was salivating to get to my DVR and see if Daryl and Merle survive, if the Governor gets his, if Andrea gets back with her friends, if Cutty from The Wire is able to convince the gang to let he and his friends stay in the safety of the prison, and if Michonne puts a few sentences together. The payoff wasn’t there. Sure, some cliffhangers were settled, but not really… and more knots were tied… and characters ended up in frustrating places that I don’t want to see them in.

Rick and Cutty (for those of you who have never watched The Wire, please stop reading and go and watch all five seasons before you look at yourself in the mirror again) didn’t form an alliance like I was hoping they would. Merle is still alive and will cause more trouble. The Governor is going to cause more trouble. Andrea… I don’t know exactly what she is looking for… maybe she doesn’t either. She is safe where she is, this much is true. She can’t exactly go running off to be with her friends but it is frustrating that she is sticking with Woodbury.

What was most frustrating in this premiere episode was Ghost Lori… who I didn’t even know was Lori until I saw the first few minutes of The Talking Dead and Chris Hardwick said it was Ghost Lori. (NOTE: I only watched the first five minutes that my DVR had recorded. SECOND NOTE: Chris Hardwick is a very inspirational person.) I felt that Rick had settled himself with Lori’s death on the Ghost Phone. I guess not… so now we have Ghost Lori. To be honest though, when I first saw the strange specter, half its face hidden in shadow, its hair all done up and wearing a beautiful white dress, I kinda was thinking of a divine presence. As much as I don’t want to see Rick lose his mind, it was intriguing to think of the possibilities of a god… for the zombies? For the survivors? For the new world that these characters have finally accepted completely? Whatever it is, sign me up.

What is the End Game for this program? Do they just press on year after year, killing off characters and bringing new ones aboard? Great shows last 5 good seasons or thereabouts. And even then, there is filler. Homeland may be the greatest television program ever… and I wish that this past season had been its last…. although I wish more that Shotime proves me wrong. The Wire was 5 seasons… perfect. Some say the 4th season was thumbs down as well as the 5th. I say those people are insane.

My point is that the narrative of a group of people surviving a zombie apocalypse is great, but there needs to be somewhere that they are all heading… an ultimate goal… a final confrontation… a mountain that these characters know that once they climb, they can let out a sigh of relief and simply live a somewhat normal life off screen. Where is this series headed? Obviously, The Governor and Woodbury will attack the Prison and there will be a battle and obviously, Rick will somehow survive. Carl will somehow survive. Glen… Idk about Glen… Daryl will obviously give in to his older woman fetish and get with Carol. Merle will get what’s coming to him. I applaud the regular deaths of characters and the feeling that nobody is safe that the show gives, but that can only go so far. What is the End Game?

I’ve read spoilers in the comic book series and I don’t really like the direction that goes in, but this is a television show and it can’t go on and on like a comic book, forever. This will get old and the show will lose viewers and at some point, it will be announced that this upcoming season of The Walking Dead will be the Final Season. What will happen then? What is the End Game?

Ghost Lori? Or Zombie Goddess? I think Zombie Goddess is cooler. And if She looks like Lori, that’s all good. But give me something more than these people running around in circles and trying to survive. Let me know there is an end in sight and it will raise the stakes and it will keep my DVR tuned into AMC every Sunday night. Sure! Let Rick be some kind of Messiah for this new world. Fine! Make Carl the Messiah. Whatever! Maybe there has to be some pilgrimage to some holy place and once the gang gets there, they will start a new world. I don’t know. I’m not writing the show. I’m just watching it. But I can only watch something for so long if there isn’t an end in sight.