So today I had a piece of toast and went outside for a bit. I talked with some friends. Went shopping. Had another piece of toast. Played some video games. Went dancing. And then I came home.
And then I had another piece of toast.
That, what I just did up there, is called burying the lead. How many of you gave even the slightest inkling of a care about anything I wrote up there? None of it is relevant to this blog post (most of it isn’t even true, I hate toast), and you didn’t need to read it to get anything out of this post. That’s what “burying the lead” means, slowing down the pacing of your story beneath a bunch of pointless irrelevancies. It was originally a phrase in journalism; if you were a reporter that had a juicy story about a president eating his vice president alive, you don’t start your article with a history about the president’s childhood or how he got elected. Do that later, if you have to, but for God’s sake your opening sentence better start off with:
“PRESIDENT ARACHNOID BITES HEAD OFF VP, SERVES BODY TO CHILDREN.”
The Walking Dead is a show that I hate-watch. Every week it does something to infuriate me, makes rookie mistakes in its writing, and every episode I swear is the last one. And yet I’m always back for the next one. It’s strangely compelling, and unlike it’s spin-off, there’s still enough interesting about the show to make it worth watching. Even if I hate it.
Last week Rick made the mindbogglingly stupid decision to unleash a horde of thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of zombies and herd them away from their town like the world’s most boring parade. The episode ended with a horn going off from their town, sending the entire zombie horde slowly shambling towards the noise. For those who saw the Hardhome episode of Game of Thrones, it was basically that (only not nearly as exciting or well made), it was sudden spike in the stakes of the show and a great lead-in for the next episode.
So how did last night’s episode start? With an army of walkers pounding on the gates of their city? With a panicked Rick and company desperately weaving through the horde, trying to get home before the zombies do and warn their loved ones?
No, it started with this.
A girl we don’t know and don’t care about lost in the woods. Jesus Christ, AMC you buried the lead so deep I’m surprised ExxonMobile didn’t try drilling for oil.
Context for those who haven’t seen the show: the girl in the picture is the love interest for Carl.
Carl: the kid on the show who, for the first three or four seasons, everyone wanted to see eaten alive because at least that would shut him up.
Carl: the kid who is literally so god damn annoying he managed to annoy a zombie into eating one of his costars.
Mother. Fucking. Carl.
And for the first five minutes of this episode, the episode I remind you that is the follow-up to an impending zombie invasion, we watch Carl’s future girlfriend’s backstory. It’s not even a good backstory, all they show is her wandering around looking sad and afraid. And then she eats a turtle.
You want to waste five minutes of my time watching a girl whose name I can’t even remember eat a turtle? Okay.
You want to waste the momentum (which by the way, you badly needed) from your last episode on setting up the girl’s J.S.S. initials as some kind of future plot contrivance? Fine. You could have stuck that backstory anywhere, but hey, you’ve been doing this for six seasons, you must know what you’re doing.
You want to establish that this girl is traumatized in a world populated by flesh-eating monsters where that fact is already safely assumed by every audience member about every character we meet? Terrific.
Just promise me that now we get to see the zombie invasion! Keep me interested, Walking Dead. I’m rooting for you!
Is…is this real? Is AMC’s Walking Dead just trolling me now? There’s no way anyone actually thought this was a good idea right? Right?
For five molasses covered minutes, we watch as Carol and a group of housewives that, again, we don’t know and don’t care about, giggle over recipes. First of all, this is incredibly sexist. Like, just incredibly. That’s usually not a problem for the Walking Dead, with Carol being it’s resident badass, but, really? All the men-folk are out on a cattle/zombie-drive and the ladies are back home cooking supper? Really?
Okay maybe the Desperate Housewives of Zombie Village aren’t ready for zombie murdering, and Carol is staying an undercover badass for reasons I still don’t understand, but what about Maggie? She can handle herself, but is she out there? Nope. She’s back home too, getting ready for planting season.
I’m sorry, I thought this was The Walking Dead but somehow I started watching Little Home on the Prairie instead.
Only after fifteen solid minutes of watching the citizens of Alexandria milling around, and talking about their personal problems that we don’t care about, does something actually happen.
Alexandria is attacked by…yet another gang of mindless, bloodthirsty humans because people in this show only have 2 settings: helpless or cannibal rapist. What I found odd is how different “The Wolves”, their name apparently, are compared to last season. Last season Morgan and Daryl almost got eaten when they fell into an elaborate trap set by the wolves. They seemed organized and intelligent. But here they’re just a pack of wild animals.
But that’s another blog post altogether.
Overall once the episode actually starts, it’s not bad television. Too bad it doesn’t start until 15 minutes in. That, combined with the 18 minutes of commercials mean we really only had a 27 minute episode.
So keep this in mind for your next episode AMC, you have something interesting going on in your story now, don’t bury it under useless backstories and unneeded characterization for people who die five minutes later. Next episode I better see that zombie horde.
Stop burying the lead.