The Corner

Culture

Zombie Blogging — There’s a Fine Line Between Entertainment and Sadism

I was offline yesterday, so I’m coming late to the Walking Dead threads, but when there’s a good zombie show – and I’ve got access to a blog – then I’m going to zombie-blog. Warning: SPOILERS below:

Look, I know this is the era of “dark” television. And in general the darker the show, the better I like it. I thought Breaking Bad was extraordinary. I loved Dexter. I stayed with Game of Thrones through the Red Wedding (book and television version). I know that in the worlds of drug dealers, serial killers, and Westerosi knights that life can be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short — and I know that’s doubly true of life in the (inevitable) zombie apocalypse — but did the camera really have to linger on Glenn’s eyeball popping out of his head? Did we have to see his hands twitching next to the red mess that used to be his skull? Heck, even when the Mountain crushed Oberyn Martell’s head in Game of Thrones, the camera showed the shot for just a moment, it didn’t pan — with swelling music — across the shards of skull and slivers of brain. 

Yes, I get the point. The showrunners wanted us to see and understand exactly how one man could thoroughly and completely break Rick — after all that Rick’s endured — in just one evening. They wanted to remind us that this is the zombie apocalypse, after all, and no one is safe. But this isn’t a documentary. It’s a television show. And, at the end of the day, people do want to be entertained. I’m not sure the long-term tolerance for this type of television, especially when it’s not exactly in the service of any new plot devices. The show is in a bit of a rut, with each new season following largely the same pattern — find a safe haven, encounter the big, bad boss that ruins everything, eventually defeat him after loss and heartache, and then run to the next place of safety. 

If the show’s going to stay in the rut, it has to keep making it entertaining, and dipping deeper into the well of depravity just seems a bit tired. How much lower can they go and still remain on basic cable? I’m going to keep watching, but the thought of watching our heroes mope around under Negan’s thumb seems about as appealing as eating my vegetables. I’ll do it because I have to, but I won’t like it, and if a better source of nutrition comes along, I’ll ditch the asparagus in a heartbeat. The Grimes Gang better recover its fighting spirit soon, or Sunday nights will be for Westworld only. The clock is ticking. 

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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