The Walking Dead Just Went Pointlessly Artsy

Sunday, 11 October 2015 - 10:03PM
Zombies
The Walking Dead
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Sunday, 11 October 2015 - 10:03PM
The Walking Dead Just Went Pointlessly Artsy
The Walking Dead producers have promised two things for this season: to experiment with their storytelling and aesthetics, and to give us more zombies than ever before. Tonight's sixth season premiere, "First Time Again," delivered on both in spades, but the newfound artsiness felt distinctly like an exercise in pointlessness. The episode had all of the superficial hallmarks of ambitious, prestige television, without much of the substance. 

"First Time Again" jumped between the present and the past, showing flashbacks in pretty black and white. From the format, you would think that the flashbacks were illuminating aspects of the present, or that they were filling in blanks from a huge time jump. But instead, it was employing the same device used by every other action television show (and plenty of other episodes of Walking Dead, for that matter): showing an action-packed clip without context and then spending the rest of the episode showing how the characters got there. With a few exceptions, the flashbacks weren't illuminating character moments, or filling in blanks on important relationship developments, they were simply showing a relatively routine Walking Dead scheme to corral some walkers. Underneath the artsy trappings, it was an utterly conventional episode, more so, in fact, since they delivered on more walkers, spilling zombie brains, and gruesome deaths. 

This is not to say that The Walking Dead should never aspire to be high art, or that it can't be satisfying as a zombie show and a prestige show at the same time. I'd say the first and second seasons often handled this balance beautifully (although most people were bored to tears by the second season, so what do I know). But this episode was essentially all about the walkers, and if Walking Dead is going to employ these signifiers of artsiness, it should have some character development and cohesive thematic content to back it up.
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