It doesn’t feel all that long ago that The Walking Dead wore well a penchant for stretching its leads and inevitable confrontations far beyond their elasticity. Admittedly, I didn’t have much faith in the show when Tyreese discovered the charcoaled remains of his love, Karen, and David. Yet the subsequent two episodes respectively dealt with the immediate pair of questions: who, and what would happen to that person. Well, Carol didn’t lie to Rick when he asked her, firmness of suspicion toning his voice, and she didn’t fight him much when he banished her. Never mind that the real psychopath is still in the camp’s midst. But the rats are a secondary order. People are sick. Where there are sick people, there will soon be dead people.
Author Kyle Burton
In a 2009 Wall Street Journal interview, the famously reticent Cormac McCarthy offered an aghast opinion of the collaborative process of filmmaking, saying of his time on movie sets, “This is just hell. Who would do this?…it would compel you to avoid it at all costs.” With previous adaptions of his work, McCarthy did just that. He rarely if ever visited sets, and he remained detached from the scripting.
It’s a much different story this time around. McCarthy, additionally credited as an executive producer, maintained a contributing presence throughout production. This is not the most surprising thing about The Counselor. No, it’s that the very thing that ruins this project is McCarthy’s script.
Pragmatism and the necessity of hope perpetually clash on The Walking Dead. It’s part of the post-apocalyptic world’s identity crisis. What are people to live for? What sort of values are they supposed to hang on to or develop? Over the course of its run, survival in the arms of stoic pragmatism has often appeared to be the dominant morality. Shane often seemed more right than Dale, the series’s patent optimist, and it frustrated Dale to no end (until, well). And though no good deed can go unpunished here, the vessel’s which have advocated for survival, survival, survival also happen to be the characters who harbor the most psychological instability or are deemed disposable.
That is perhaps the most memorable passage from perhaps the twentieth century’s most memorable novel. Blood Meridian, with its epic scope, simultaneously ethereal and exact violence, and vivid, ominously intuitive prose, encapsulates each of McCarthy’s authorial signatures at their heights. There’s a reason the novel’s widely touted as his masterpiece and a major achievement in American literature. In equal measure with those oft-lavished praises, McCarthy’s visions are endlessly cinematic. Strange, then, that his attachment to a film hasn’t necessarily uncowled masterclasses similar to his literature.
It’s no secret Julian Assange and crew dislike The Fifth Estate. Though they have legitimate bones to pick, what ultimately seems to be striking the most sensitive nerve is a sort of offense on par with the one Bill O’Reilly takes to Stephen Colbert. Bill Condon’s filmmaking approach, which has recently materialized the final two Twilight installments, cannot be mistaken for nuanced. But The Fifth Estate pulls a somewhat tricky maneuver.
The Walking Dead has been overstuffed with people from the beginning. In its more uninspired moments, the abundance of characters has weakened the presences of their counterparts. There are so many people for whom we’re supposed to care deeply, as they’re ever a wrong door or inattentive turn around a corner from catering themselves to zombies. After settling into this dilemma in season one, the show used the following two seasons to exhibition possible solutions.
From the start NBC’s new ratings hit, The Blacklist, has put on display week in and out the fundamental flaw in its very conception. This is procedural. Each week, Red and Liz take down one of the dubious criminals until then invisible to any branch of law enforcement. Spliced in have been fragments of season-long arcs—wisps of complexity and character that frustrated more than teased. The Blacklist felt as purposefully withheld as Red, leaving us feeling toyed with. The problem with that is we love to be duped, but only when we have no idea we’re being pointed down the wrong path. That’s the thrill. In hindsight, we see the signposts we first missed, the landmarks as they lied on the map. That’s the satisfaction.
For a show whose concept and production are this audacious for television, The Walking Dead has a strange way of easing up. Sometimes it works—the close of last season’s “I Ain’t a Judas”—but more often than not it imbues the show with an unnecessary and repetitive sense of inertia. ‘What’s the point’ is a fundamental question undergirding the series, and it’s one that many shows pose. The Walking Dead does it differently in that it has tethered that question to its most fragile, desperate thread. These characters carry on their shoulders the fate of humanity, in the multitude of meanings, and worse yet: there is no path to victory. Survival is the closest thing you get. At times, the show’s even warned us to not take that for granted. One moment, survival is all we can think or plan for. The next, it only seems a slow bullet.
Three episodes in, we finally got an answer from Red. After a few weeks of waiting, recapping, waiting, lamenting, the writers opened up The Blacklist’s big bag-o-secrets and dangled in front of us something tasty enough to entice us back for, now, another nineteen weeks of waiting, recapping…
On July 24 this past summer, a Spanish train crashed at speeds over twice the railway speed limit. Seventy-nine people died, some 170 were wounded. It was one of Spain’s gravest disasters. It dominated the news cycle for several days, then faded, as stories do. But it remained in the conscious of the media and the population, even overseas here in the states. It was tragic. It deserved attention, empathy, solace. So what happens on NBC’s ratings newborn when sixty people die in a similar incident? We cut to break and move on from the teaser. The disaster’s reduced to kickstarter. It allows Red pulpiteer the reputation of another prolific terrorist hitherto entirely invisible to the FBI. Red points to patterns like a junior high teacher introducing the class to Punnett’s Squares. It’s a device.