Monday, September 16, 2013

The Zombies Are the Least Scary Part of the Upcoming Walking Dead Spinoff

by Sara N.

Grab your shotgun and your bug-out bag: The Walking Dead is getting a spinoff.

AMC announced today that it's creating a "companion series" to its flagship zombie show, with comics creator Robert Kirkman and executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and Dave Alpert involved. It will reportedly be set in the Walking Dead universe but will feature a new cast and (presumably) new setting. It's set to premiere in 2015.

My reaction to this is ... mixed. On the one hand, I'm still digging the zombie genre. I know, I know. Lots of people think zombies have run (shambled?) their course and are ready for the next big monster/fantasy creature (Witches, maybe? Mermaids?) But for me, that passionless, all-consuming need to kill without concerns for resting or strategizing is still scary as hell. I'm cool with more zombies on my television.

I do have some concerns, though. To wit:

Quality control: Let's be honest. The Walking Dead: Original Recipe has been kind of a mess over the past three seasons. Its quality is all over the place. For every terrifying moment or tense morality play, there's soggy melodrama or, worse, outright boring squabbles among the survivors. Given the unevenness, I'm not eager to see the creative team's attentions divided between two shows. This can only make Original Recipe worse, and it makes the new Extra Crispy version vulnerable to the weak characterization and airless plotting that's dogged its big sister show.

Pictured: Someone not in the spinoff.
Originality: Sure, Kirkman has created a big, well-lived in world that the survivors inhabit. But the creators are going to have to do something to set Extra Crispy apart from Original Recipe. How will the stories about survivors struggling to find food and shelter while retaining their humanity differ from show to show? This new group of characters need to face challenges that couldn't necessarily befall the original group. Here's hoping the showrunners have thought of that, and they're planning to, say, set it in a radically different climate. (The Walking Dead: Saskatchewan, anyone?) Or maybe it will focus on a different type of survivor group: soldiers on a military base, or high-ranking government officials with still-functioning tech, or ... doctors? On a yacht? Traveling from port to port to help the people they find there before sailing off again? I dunno. I just know that if it's another "average joes struggling to survive in a world where everything wants to eat them," it's going to have to have an awfully compelling cast or setting to lure people to a second hour of zombie TV. (On the other hand, all of the CSI's did OK telling basically interchangeable stories in different settings, so what do I know?)

Outright delusions: "The opportunity to make a show that isn't tethered by the events of the comic book, and is a truly blank page, has set my creativity racing," Kirkman said in a statement. Um, are you freaking kidding me, Kirkman? When have you ever felt tethered by the comic book in The Walking Dead? Dead characters are alive, living characters are dead, dead characters are dead but in radically different ways than the source material, crazy bonkers storylines have been ignored, and the coolest comic book chick in the land was turned into a spineless, whiny anti-role model. Maybe Kirkman wants the freedom to tell completely new stories without any hand-wringing from fans about the original comics, and that's fine by me. But let's not pretend that Original Recipe has hewed in any real fashion to the books, hmmmmkay?

So here's my pitch, Kirkman and company: Focus on the immediate aftermath of the outbreak. Let's see the first responders realizing that this ambulance run isn't going as routinely as usual, or the police dealing with an unusually deadly domestic situation. You could wring seasons out of the collapse of society, particularly if you focus on different cast members and how their own little corners of the world started to crumble. Take us back to the beginning so we see a truly different approach to the zombie apocalypse than the one you've been giving us.

Oh, and steal Gina Torres away from Suits. Her ass-kicking potential is wasted there.

 So what are your thoughts on the Walking Dead spinoff? Good, bad or indifferent?

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1 comment:

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