Season 2 of The Walking Dead on AMC has reached its half-way point. On November 27, 2011 the mid-season finale, "Pretty Much Dead Already" aired and its final moment provided a chilling turning point for a group still clinging to the hope of a normal life and happy future. As a writing fan, I thought it wrapped up many aspects of this season so well that I couldn't help but laud it here.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to "This Week in Google" podcast episode and heard about a new Twitter-based service that was launching a private beta. The service was finding a new way to connect people through their tweets, whether they were followers of each other or not. Most people would say "cool" and try to sign up. I said "well shit", sat down, and moped.
This past weekend we watched G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra on Netflix, a movie that started to make me feel weird, then anxious, then totally detached. Why? Because, it was popcorn action movie that I shouldn't take at all seriously? No. Because it, like several films previously, tripped my Star Wars alarm.
SPOILER ALERT: This post breaks down the events that conclude Season 2, Part 1 of “The Walking Dead”. If don’t wish to learn about these events here, please skip this post.
Season 2 of The Walking Dead on AMC has reached its half-way point. On November 27, 2011 the mid-season finale, “Pretty Much Dead Already” aired and its final moment provided a chilling turning point for a group still clinging to the hope of a normal life and happy future. As a writing fan, I thought it wrapped up so many aspects of this season so well that I couldn’t help but laud it here.
In the beginning of Season 2, under the attack of a band of zombies on the highway, 12-year-old Sophia runs into the woods to escape her attackers and gets separated from the group. The group takes shelter at a local farm, seemingly isolated from the zombie hoards outside its gates, while they search the surrounding area for the missing girl.
As the mid-season finale nears, we learn that the farm’s old barn is filled with the zombified relatives and neighbors of the landowner, Herschel. He believes them to be curable and refuses to cause them any physical harm. While Rick tries to peacefully negotiate with Herschel, in hopes that his people will be allowed to stay long term, Shane snaps at this news and decides to eliminate the zombie threat.
In the episode’s final moments, Herschel watches in horror as his undead family and friends are freed from the barn to be executed by Shane and the others. With over a dozen bodies littering the ground, a final monster emerges from the darkness: Sophia. Rick steps forward, revolver in hand, and does what no one else can bring themselves to do, delivering her fatal blow.
This was a great final moment to conclude the first half of Season 2, bringing together so many of the elements of good television writing that I admire:
The following is my evolution through the Gap from 2000 to present:
That is all.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to “This Week in Google” podcast episode and heard about a new Twitter-based service that was launching a private beta. The service was finding a new way to connect people through their tweets, whether they were followers of each other or not. Most people would say “cool” and try to sign up. I said “well shit”, sat down, and moped.
This was the exact idea I had devised and even started to prototype about two years ago (using an alternative approach to Twitter). It was the exact idea I’d then got frustrated by, got “too busy” for, then decided to safely put aside knowing that it was such a great idea it could only have ever come from my brain. And now someone else had been first to make it work.
It wasn’t the first time. One of my iPhone app ideas had been announced as a standard feature for iOS 5 months earlier. Last year, one of my screenplays-in-progress had many of its elements brought to life in a little movie that no one saw called “Inception”. It was just another in a string of my thoughts that I’d never realized, but someone else had. Mostly because I had done the worst thing possible with my good ideas: very little.
So, if you get a good idea, and care about it, do something.
Your good idea could be a new business venture, an iPhone app or website, a script idea or blog post topic. It could be the good idea to finally marry your long-time girlfriend (ahem). Good ideas can only become tangible things when they are acted on, and only if you’re very lucky will you not find your idea brought to life by someone else first if you choose to wait. Even the most original idea will occur to someone else on the planet. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Probably many people.
So when it hits you, if you care about it, give your good idea some attention.
Hypocrite note: it took me four weeks to write this post.
This past weekend we watched G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra on Netflix, a movie that started to make me feel weird, then anxious, then totally detached. Why? Because, it was popcorn action movie that I shouldn’t take at all seriously? No. Because it, like several films previously, tripped my Star Wars alarm.
What is a Star Wars alarm, you ask? It’s a flag that gets triggered when an action adventure movie borrows enough plot points or general constructs from the original Star Wars trilogy that it feels like the movie maker is trying to leverage my affection and feelings for those other films.
Now, I’ll acknowledge that Star Wars wasn’t the first to use many of these elements. But for me, they are iconically connected with those films. Integrate one of these, I might smile. Two, maybe it’s an homage. Three or more, and I’m taken out of the movie and start pacing the room. If you’re keeping score, G.I. Joe — amazingly — includes every one:
There are other aspects than these that get regularly borrowed. Any movie in which the protagonist is introduced to a force or secret society he or she was previously aware of could be included (see The Matrix). But I can forgive that one as a staple for sci-fi and fantasy.
Problem is, these things all work. So they provide a pretty tempting net to fall back on when you’re building up a third act. But when I start seeing a bunch of these aspects fall into place, I start to feel like I’ve been here before, long long ago…
Leave me a comment if there are any movie patterns that set off your alarm.
I used to drive a lot. To and from work 45 minutes and before that to and from university about the same. I didn’t mind so much, I used to do a lot of thinking while I drove and, while still being an active sketch comedy writer and performer, used to generate a lot of material.
Whole sketches, blocks of dialogue, musical numbers would be derived and iterated in my head during these commutes. I considered them fairly productive. But somewhere around 2005 — probably this time of the year, since hockey free agency kicks off July 1 and I’ve been a long time hockey fan — I started listening to sports talk radio on my daily commute.
This was a terrible decision.
First of all, I don’t think sports talk radio stations expect to have more than an hour with listeners and certainly not at multiple times throughout the day, as they did me. They re-hash the same bullet points again and again, re-air the same interview clips. It’s really not as dense you might think.
Worse for me, it wasn’t giving me any useable creative input; nothing I could parlay into sketch material or use to kick off a creative idea. It was all calories and no nutrients. And it was preventing me from using a single second of those ninety minutes each day for anything that didn’t involve plus/minuses and goals against averages.
There is a finite space for the voices in my head (you know what I mean), and my creative ones were being squeezed out.
Fast forward six years. I no longer drive, I no longer work at the same company. I no longer participate in sketch comedy, though I still try to write. I do still commute, as ever, 45 minutes. In fact, I’m doing that now. But despite recognizing how fattening talk radio had been to me, I still bombard my head with talk. No longer radio. Now it’s comedy, technology, and writing podcasts playing back to back in my iPod.
I’m a bit of a podcast junkie. Can’t miss an episode, don’t want to fall behind.
So here I am, still not giving myself mental quiet time in which to germinate new ideas. It’s been months since I put a line of dialogue on the page, months since writing “FADE IN” anywhere. And as much as I enjoy the company of these familiar voices in my earbuds, I know they’re still keeping my writing voice at a distance.
So, audio recordings, I’m thinking it’s time I heard a little less of you. Maybe once a day, not all day. Maybe fewer of you altogether. I have a couple of my own who would like to get a word in edgewise.