Wednesday, 26 October 2016

All of your happy belongs to Negan

Spoilers for the latest Walking Dead and the last but one Ash Vs Evil Dead follow. I'm only comparing them because I watched them both last night.

God that was bleak. Even by the increasingly grim standards of The Walking Dead. The show runners now seem to be on a mission to suck all of the joy out of their vast army of viewers, leaving shambling, desiccated husks who can only scowl and buy merchandise.

And the violence. Hoo boy the violence! People beaten to a bloody pulp with a barbed wire wrapped baseball bat! Some severe hatchet work! A young boy nearly getting his arm cut off by his dad! And you just thought Negan was going to talk everyone to death the way he was incessantly prattling on for two hours (which is quite a feat during 45 minutes of television).

But no. First Red Haired Army Man (I rarely remember the names of TWD characters, there's little point and they're basically cardboard cut outs) went out telling Negan to “suck his nuts”, which was bad ass in a juvenile sort of way. It took bloody long enough to get to this point, the show holding off from resolving the cliffhanger as long as possible. Red getting it elicited little more than a roll of the eyes, given that he'd done nothing but mope around for at least half a season by now.

But then out of nowhere Glen gets it as well. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting it and this feels like a death that means a tiny bit something to the show going forward. For one, he's one of the handful of characters whose name I remember, meaning that he at least had a character. For seconds, how much more shit are they going to heap on poor Maggie (hey, that's two!)?

Thing is though, it doesn't mean enough, not any more. Even the characters with names only seem significant now because they've stuck around for a while. I'm not expecting a ton of thematic depth or sweeping character arcs from TWD, but when the death of someone who's been around since the begin only elicits a second a shock then a bit of a shrug, something has gone a bit awry.

TWD has fallen into a massive rut and has gone back to it's usual two wells for drama: a “shock” character death and a new villain. But shock character deaths are no longer remotely shocking on this show, like at all. If Rick (3!) or Carl (4!) had died then maybe that would've been something, but mostly it's just meh-time now.

As for Negan, he's probably the most annoying in an expanding list of irritating TWD villians. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is clearly having a blast, but is ill served by a script which mistakes endless yammering for threatening.

The combination of wearying, cynical, anyone can die nihilism and nerve grating new big bad means that TWD is no longer anything remotely approaching fun to watch for me. I think I'm going to part ways with it here and maybe just read other people's hate-watch commentary. Go me!

By contrast, Ash vs Evil Dead is ridiculously fun to watch. It exists on a plane of berserk hyper-kinetic ultraviolence; a profane, blood spattered cartoon which only slows down for a few seconds before the next slapstick horror routine. It also has a kick ass soundtrack. While the latest episode I saw didn't match the last week's jaw-dropping morgue shenanigans (both one of the funniest and most disgusting things I've ever seen on television), it was still a riotous half hour.

AvED's characters are necessarily broadly drawn, but they still have more depth than TWDs moping identikit cast. Ash's dad has only been in 3 episodes (up to now, this show being what it is), but his death at the end of the episode felt more meaningful than whole cemetery full from the other show.

It even outdoes the other show in terms of villains. As funny and fun as AvED is, I've had a nightmare about the Deadites every single night I've watched an episode. They're fucking awful things, indiscriminately possessing, slaughtering, maiming and torturing their way through whole swathes of complete innocents, cackling gleefully all the while. The utter bastards even laugh while getting carved up or boomsticked to death.

I'm not going to make a case for AvED being horror's Breaking Bad or anything. It is still basically a live action cartoon, one where our hero gets pulled through a corpse's arsehole or a jock get his cock bitten off. Golden Age of TV it ain't. But it is one of the most ridiculously joyful things on tv at the moment, and I'll take that over the moping dead right now.

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