Thursday 21 June 2018

Television: Walking Dead finally brings the Big Bad

* The Walking Dead, FOX
* Big Week On The Farm, RTÉ One

Bat man: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in 'The Walking Dead'.
Bat man: Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in 'The Walking Dead'.
Michael Cudllitz as Sgt Abraham Ford in 'The Walking Dead'
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

The last few years have seen the face of television change, change utterly and for the better.

Fans of Lost, for example, may remember those early seasons when viewers in Ireland were about six months behind the American broadcasts.

Back in those dim and distant days of, oh, about 2005, devotees desperately used the available technology to burn DVDs of each episode. These were then passed around with as much excitement as an older generation used to pass around Marvel comics that had been sent home from relatives in the States.

There's no need for any of that lark anymore.

Nowadays, you can see Game Of Thrones at the exact same time as it airs in America (if you're prepared to stay up until 4am, that is), and even The Walking Dead airs over here the day after it appears on American screens.

The Walking Dead is a hard show to review in the sense that, on one level, there's not a lot going on.

After all, to a non-Deadhead, the drama that just wrapped up its sixth season has been doing pretty much the same thing for most of its duration. Essentially, this means that the survivors of a zombie apocalypse run away from zombies, find shelter with other humans, discover the other humans are evil/mad/cannibal/all of the above and then run away again, dodging adversaries both alive and undead.

That sense of repetition has prompted the usual pretentious guff about the show proving that the 'humans are the real monsters'.

No, they're not. Zombies are monsters, while some people are just jerks. Murderous, cannibal jerks, for sure. But I'd rather take my chances with a bunch of psychotic hillbillies than be surrounded by a million-strong zombie horde.

Monday night's Season 6 finale was the most eagerly anticipated episode of any show since the aforementioned GofT and it was worth the wait - if only to finally meet Negan, the big bad whose name inspires fear even in the most hardened bad ass.

Was it worth the wait?

Well, let's put it this way, when you spend six months teasing the audience with the possibility of meeting the biggest bastard to have appeared in a show devoted to bastards, you better come up with the goods. It's fair to say the eventual reveal of Negan, and his trusty barbed wire baseball bat, 'Lucille', was worth the wait.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a fine actor and Negan is someone any actor would love to play.

Obviously intelligent yet clearly quite mad, it's also hard not to sympathise with him.

After all, the most interesting plot development of the entire season was how the band of survivors were gradually becoming the aggressors and their leader, Rick, was a little too eager to become a local warlord.

So while Negan didn't appreciate the killing of his men, he seemed to relish the opportunity to smash someone's head in with his beloved Lucille. In fact, the game of 'eeny, meeny, miny, moe' was perhaps the most tension drenched scene since they were lined up over a trough to have their throats cut like pigs. Yup, it's just that sort of show.

We left the final scene of this season finale on a cliffhanger, as you might expect. Negan beats someone's brains out in front of the others and we don't know who the victim is.

Cue internet fury, with 70,000 idiots, sorry, fans signing a petition and demanding answers before the show returns next autumn.

It's moments like this that remind you The Walking Dead is just a show. It's a really good show, occasionally veering into genuine greatness.

But if you freaked out as much as some of the fans did, then zombies are the least of your worries.

There are times in life when you pause and think 'did I see that, or did I dream it?' RTÉ's Big Week On The Farm has certainly provided plenty of those moments. From Mairead Ronan milking a cow (where's Rebecca Loos when you need her?) to a newly-born lamb dying on camera, this was one those edutainment shows which contained plenty of images nobody ever wanted to see.

The weird thing about Big Week On The Farm is that if it had appeared on, say, an American channel, the Irish would be outraged.

But when you're looking into a pig's vagina while she's being artificially inseminated, just after tea time on RTÉ One, you really have to shrug your shoulders and say fair play to them (hint to readers, don't Google 'pig's vagina'. Trust me, you really don't want that on your browser history).

Stripped across the schedules all week, this was something both charmingly bonkers and gratingly patronising.

For example, in the same episode where we saw the lamb dying as it was born, there soon followed an item about swans and the Children of Lir.

'Could those be the Children of Lir?' asked the presenter as a few swans bobbed past.

Um, no. No, they couldn't.

Anything to raise understanding about where our meat comes from should be encouraged, and there's no doubt we're living in an age of grand delusion about what we eat.

But there are also some serious questions to be asked about some farming techniques in this country and the whole clappy-happy vibe, while understandable, simply made the whole thing like a commercial for the agritrade. Or as the conspiracy theorists call it, Big Farmer (sorry).

Irish Independent

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