BURLESQUE Chers long-awaited return to the big screen!
  • BURLESQUE Cher's long-awaited return to the big screen!

The six-episode-long first season of The Walking Dead wrapped up last night, and though I've been watching the show since it started, I'll be damned if I gave a shit. Spoilers—for both the show and the comic it's based on—after the jump.

Okay, first: I'm not just some grumpy fanboy who's angry the show deviated from the comic. The Walking Dead comic, while definitely solid, is hardly great. But while The Walking Dead's TV pilot was focused, engaging, and dark, and improved on the comics quite a bit—fleshing out the book's often-thin characters, having those characters talk like real people talk, and crafting some truly creepy zombie effects and some genuinely chilling situations—I think the series lost a huge amount of steam as it continued week to week. I suspect I might be in the minority on this, though.

While I'm glad the show started veering off in different directions from the comics, I do wish the directions they'd gone in were... well, better. If nothing else, I find it confusing why show-runner Frank Darabont was unable or unwilling to stick to the core of what makes the comic successful: survival, on weekly, daily, hourly basis. Whether they're bumping along back roads in a reeking RV or holed up in a prison, the survivors in Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore, and Cliff Rathburn's comic more or less live each day like it's their last, 'cause it might very well be. There's a single-minded determination running through the series, kept on track by the grim knowledge that no character is safe from death or, at the very least, grievous bodily harm, whether it's caused by a zombie bite or another survivor. (On the extreme side of this, there's some ugly, brutal rape shit in the comics that raises my hackles for any number of reasons; even on a somewhat "lighter" side of wacky apocalyptic shenanigans, Rick, the main character of both the book and the show, still gets his hand chopped off and his pregnant wife killed in front of him.) The Walking Dead, as a comic, is too stylized to ever feel "real," but it still feels dire, and while it certainly stumbles (god, it gets boring sometimes, and it's sometimes such a challenge to keep the book's characters separate that, for a while, Kirkman et al. included a yearbook-like roster in the book to help readers in their attempts to keep the characters straight), it has it where it counts: It's a no-holds-barred piece of survival fiction where some of the characters' obstacles happen to be reanimated corpses.

Much of that was in the pilot. From episode two on, though, we got:

• cartoony racist Southerner being cartoonishly racist
• gangsters who at first seem all scary and mean and ethnic but are really sweeties who have hearts of gold and enjoy playing pinochle with the helpless, doomed elderly
• sisterly discussions about fishing that thuddingly foreshadow one fishin' sister dying 20 minutes later
• displays of spousal abuse that thuddingly foreshadow an abusive spouse dying 20 minutes later
• being expected to abruptly give a shit about people we've been hastily introduced five minutes prior by some character reading lines carefully crafted by the Expositron 5000
• more mopey sentimentality than an Elliot Smith memorial concert
• for no discernible reason, zombies being called "geeks"
• "Son, I know all I've been saying over and over is how I just wanted to find you and save you and your mother and be together as a family in the apocalypse—believe you me, I know that's my character's sole motivation, here—and while I want you to know that you are, no doubt about it, the single most important thing to me in this whole wide zombie-filled world, well, I also need to let you know that there's this cartoony racist Southerner I barely know, you see, who's probably dead back in Atlanta, where we left him to die, but, you see, even if he's somehow survived, he's totally going to become a major villain in season two, so—while I'd like to reiterate how very important you are to me—I'm really going to need to go risk my life by venturing once again into the most dangerous place I can think of in order to check up on this guy, you see, and, if at all possible, set him free."
• 47 hours of buildup re: an incredibly boring extramarital affair that didn't even end with a little kid shooting the dude who slept with his mom while said kid's dad was in a coma
• a PowerPoint seminar that attempted to answer a question no one asked re: how zombieism works (presumably followed by a thrilling lecture about midichlorians)
the ship from the end of Close Encounters doubling as the set for the CDC
• for no discernible reason, the CDC exploding

Phew. What say you, Walking Dead viewers? Am I nitpicking things to death, or was The Walking Dead's first season really that mediocre?