Of Life and "Walking Dead"
SPOILERS (for both the show and comic) AHOY MATEYS
There is no more polarizing show on television right now than The Walking Dead. For proof, simply log onto Twitter at 10:02 p.m. any Sunday night after the latest episode airs. You’ll see everything from “great episode” to “something finally happened” to “when the $%@$ are they going to get off the farm”. While the farm argument is valid, it’s strange to me how we feel towards the show. In fact, nerds’ feelings toward the television adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s ongoing zombie epic is a prime example of a trap that nerds constantly find themselves struggling with: What do we do when something we love is adapted for a new medium, and more importantly, a wider audience? Why is it that some changes we love (The Joker wearing face paint in The Dark Knight) and some we hate (Cloud Galactus in Rise Of the Silver Surfer….okay that one I get)? For better or worse, The Walking Dead is forcing fans of the source material to consider just what it is that they like about this series, and how willing to accept changes to it to have it fit in the television medium.
The sudden passing of Dale came as a shock not only to average viewers of the show, but more so to fans who have read the comic series. We all know that Dale does eventually die in the comic, but it’s not until much, much later in the series, and long after Dale has become a beloved member of Rick’s crew. His relationship with Andrea in the series is one of the best things about it, and seeing her deal with his death was extremely heartbreaking. Perhaps that’s what is such a gut punch for fans of the comic. The show never allowed Dale to grow as a character, and we were always left wondering if the TV versions of Dale and Andrea would follow their comic book originals and hook up.
The Walking Dead now exists in a strange parallel universe of the original series. in a lot of ways, it’s kind of like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. Whereas that film showed us how different that universe would be if Kirk’s father died when he was an infant, creating a new timeline, one could argue that The Walking Dead television show shows us how differently events unfold with Shane not dying (just yet), or had the survivors not known about the CDC in Atlanta, or had a character as badass as Daryl Dixon around.
|Star Trek did it first|
The Walking Dead can now be split into two different timelines: one which the comic book follows, and another, different take that the television show follows, in which Shane’s still alive, Sophia and Dale are not, and anyone is up for grabs. In fact, I would say that Dale’s death drives Kirkman’s point even more home about no one being safe, especially those that comic fans know will survive longer than others. There’s a real danger to the character’s fates now, which I find to be interesting. Just because we know Carl is alive in the comics doesn’t necessarily mean we should believe that he is safe. In fact, after his actions in the previous episode, some believe he should be the next to go. I can’t imagine the pressure of having something I created be turned into a hit television show, and trying to create new ways to keep people who already know the story interested.
Dale never really got a fair shake on the show. Sure he was the voice of reason, but a lot of the time that just meant he looked at someone with his eyebrows cocked, almost like an elderly Rock. For my money, Jeffrey DeMunn’s portrayal of Dale was note perfect with the one on the show, and I will definitely miss seeing a character walk off the page and into real life like that. However, there were rumblings that a member of the cast was very displeased with Frank Darabont’s firing last year, and had asked to be killed off on the show. Since Jeffrey DeMunn has appeared in many of Darabont’s films in the past, I think it’s safe to assume that that was the real reason why Dale met his end.
Whatever your thoughts on The Walking Dead this season, just remember that we still have the comic as well. Much like the news of the Watchmen prequels, if you don’t like it, just ignore it. Just like those prequels will not impact the quality of the original work, will the Walking Dead show really taint your view on the comic series? I’m not saying to embrace changes wholeheartedly, but keep in mind that just because something plays out differently than you wanted on the show, that doesn’t mean that it effects the story from the comic book.