TV

'The Walking Dead: S6' Shows You Have More to Fear From Other Humans Than From Zombies

Since no one ever says the word "zombie", it's easy to assume such a thing doesn't exist in this world. This has allowed the characters to be unsure of what's happening to them.


The Walking Dead

Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reeds, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Guirra, Melissa McBride, Michael Cudlitz, Lennie James, Sonequa Martin-Green
US release date: 2016-08-23
Amazon

Come for the zombies, stay for the characters. That could certainly be the tagline for The Walking Dead, which has managed to break beyond its horror genre beginnings and become a show that simply asks this question: "If the world goes to hell tomorrow and everything breaks down, how will you behave?"

From the beginning, the series has explored various answers to that question, as a ragtag group of survivors led by former sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes tries to find a place they can call home. They've lived in the woods, a prison, a suburban housing tract, and anywhere else they can find that will give them some respite from the hordes of undead, or what they call "walkers". (Since no one ever says the word "zombie", it's easy to assume such a thing doesn't exist in their world, which has allowed the characters to be unsure of what's happening to them. After all, they don't have Night of the Living Dead and a ton of other zombie movies, novels, and comic books to rely on as guides.)

As in Game of Thrones, most of the characters on The Walking Dead could die at any moment, save a handful who have been around since the first season. Many characters have joined Rick's group only to die in a multitude of ways. Many of those deaths have been heartbreakingly tragic, and some have been brutally gut-wrenching, such as when domestic-violence-victim-turned-tough-as-nails-survivor Carol kills a young girl who is deemed too dangerous to keep around. That was the kind of scene the show is famous for, one that asks viewers to accept the reality that such actions might be necessary, should civilization collapse.

The sixth season opened with Rick and his group finding shelter in a walled suburban housing tract in Alexandria, Virginia. Of course, like every safe place the group finds on the show, the enclave soon came under attack by outside aggressors, and it was beset by conflict from within. They overcome those threats, albeit with the loss of a few more characters along the way, and they make contact with another seemingly benign community that is willing to trade with them.

As the season came to an end, though, Rick and his group had set out to finally wipe out a group known as the saviors by killing their leader, Negan, but he finds himself outwitted and he and his friends are captured. Negan, who had been discussed but not seen for much of the sixth season, finally emerges with a barbed wire covered baseball bat he calls "Lucille", and he proceeds to attack a member of Rick's group with it after a lengthy monologue that can be boiled down to, "I'm a bad ass and you're going to do what I say." Negan's victim was left a mystery, though, to be cleared up at the beginning of the seventh season.

The series has a large fan base, and its creators have said that the comic books on which it's based have given them enough material to keep going for several more years, but it will be interesting to see if the momentum eventually fades. Already the show has lapsed into a "wash, rinse, repeat" cycle in which the characters face a threat, see a few of their group die, and end up on the brink of losing all hope before rallying and emerging triumphant. Then they get a short break before the cycle repeats itself.

It would be preferable to see the series begin to set up its narrative end game sooner rather than later, so it can go out on top, much like such acclaimed series as Battlestar Galactica and The Sopranos did. (Admittedly, Battlestar Galactica came in for a rough landing.) It would be better for the show to determine its fate than to have the AMC network make that decision and leave the writers and producers scrambling to come up with a satisfying conclusion.

In the meantime, fans of the show have this five-disc Blu-ray set of the sixth season to tide them over. All of the episodes are presented here, including an extended version of the final one of the season, "Last Day on Earth". The main difference between this version and the televised one is Negan's liberal use of the "f-bomb", along with some extra dialogue from him about his new world order. One gets the sense that actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan had a great time playing the role -- there must have been much laughter on the set to release the tension from filming the scene.

This set also has some extra footage in the form of about nine minutes of deleted scenes from four episodes of the season. None of them reveal anything interesting, but they're nice character moments that fans will appreciate.

Seven of the episodes, including "Last Day on Earth", have audio commentaries from various writers, producers, directors, and actors on the show. Fans who are seeking every nugget of information they can uncover will want to pore through them. (Nope, no one reveals who Negan kills, but that cliffhanger is compared to the "Who shot JR?" phenomenon from Dallas, which, along with the final episode of MASH, was a cultural event that will never be repeated in today's increasingly fractured pop culture landscape.)

The fifth disc in this set also contains a series of featurettes, starting with The Making of The Walking Dead, which is a series of short two-to-five-minute behind-the-scenes clips for all 16 episodes. Another featurette that lasts almost eight minutes takes a closer look at the season's premiere episode, "Out of the Quarry", and "Negan: Someone to Fear" features a discussion of the new heavy from the final episode.

In Memoriam, which lasts about ten minutes, takes a look at the characters who died during the season, and one of them, Nicholas, gets his own five-minute featurette too. It's an interesting decision, but it seems that it was likely made because that character went on a journey from someone who didn't know how to cope in the outside world when dealing with walkers to a guy who decided to finally be a hero, with tragic results.

The final two featurettes are "Strength in Bonds", which talks about why Rick's group continues to stay together through so many ups and downs, and "The Face of Death: Iconic Walkers of the Season", which details the different types of walkers, such as the "Wrightson walker". Comic book fans will immediately understand that reference.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image