Fans, Trust, & What The Walking Dead 1/2 Season Finale Got Wrong (SPOILERS)

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Watching the end of ‘Coda,’ my daughter and I were pretty much traumatized, like so many other WD fans pouring out their ‘NOOOOOS!” on Twitter. During the Talking Dead, we were pretty much silent, with small outbursts as to how unfair, and how unexpected, and how if someone had to die, there were a number of other characters who seemed to be much more logically set-up to exit in that finale episode. Gabriel seemed to be heading towards a self-sacrifice that would give him some redemption as a character. There were so many other potential story lines the lost character had yet to play out.

To get straight to the point and to borrow from Daniel Libeskind, ‘great art communicates spirit,’ and that’s exactly what the writers’ room decision to arbitrarily kill off a character who was just beginning to come into her own failed to do. Robert Kirkman, the comic book artist who created the original Walking Dead comic and who is Executive Producer / writer on the tv adaptation, explained the death on a shell-shocked post-episode Talking Dead as reflective of the reality of what would happen in a zombie apocalypse. Some people are just going to die.*

That’s true. That’s exactly what life does. That’s not what art has to do. To quote Libeskind again, ‘great art communicates spirit.’ The writers, producers, directors and actors have absolutely communicated the moral core of The Walking Dead. Through all of the great moments in the show, the emotional resonance of the show springs from the question of survival at what cost. Cannibalism is the final expression of that, the step beyond or outside of humanity. Art gives us a medium of expression where we as immersed viewers can defy existentialism after a century of great crises that have justified for many a loss of faith in humanity, in God or whatever spiritual beliefs you might follow.

We’ve had over a century now of art rendering the existentialist’s dilemma (Kafka, Sartre, Beckett…). The Walking Dead series has repeatedly reached the level of great art by taking us back to the moral core of humanity and fans now have an expectation & trust in the writers’ ability to create great moments. The emotional and moral resonance of the long arc to season 4’s loss of Hershel and the aftermath. And for horror, the soul-jerking reveal of Gareth eating Bob while chatting with him by fire light, which reaches and maybe, maybe, surpasses Dante’s Ugolino, condemned to the final circle of hell for eating his children while locked in a tower for treachery.

The outpouring of grief for Beth is, I would argue, a response to what we all know, that her death was without meaning. It did not change anything. It did not alter or restore a balance. It reinforces existentialism in a world where existentialism may be the pragmatic reality yet it also functions as a choice. To eat. Not to eat. Humanity at what cost. The real challenge is in finding and asserting meaning in contexts where that has been lost.

Strangely, the last few episodes have increasingly brought religious symbolism back into the show. Gabriel’s church, the Madonna statue on the van dashboard in Daryl and Carol’s escape. Why bother with all that layering of meaning and loss of meaning, of faith and loss of faith, if the world the Walking Dead is now one that the writers room will treat as an arbitrary killing field? That’s not why I turn to art or what I expect from great art.

(yes. there is a petition to bring Beth back. but they can’t. cuz she’s dead.

(*Note: seems that Robert Kirkman took to Twitter to say:

Robert Kirkman @RobertKirkman · Dec 3

Please wish my friend @R0BTRAIN a happy birthday. Also, it was his idea to kill Beth. I was against it. He’s a jerk.)

(image credit:,manual,manual,manual)

You have to Love Lionsgate’s Commitment to the Dark Side: Catching Fire’s Misfired Marketing…

With November 22 now 2 months & 22 days away, you have to love Lionsgate’s commitment to marketing the vacuous superficial lifestyle of the Capitol Panem, which if you’ve read The Hunger Games Trilogy, you know is functionally a hyped up runway version of the Death Star.

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Cover Girl’s commercial above proclaims: ’12 districts . 12 looks. 1 collection’ – Hurray! no mention of brutality & deaths here!

Check out the Capitol Couture Tumblr page which has just launched its fall fashion issue, glamourizing the first of many could-be or soon-to-be-dead ‘stars’ of the games.

If you know Johanna’s story, you know that because of her choices (won’t say what), her loved ones are killed in retaliation.  And that she is tortured at a later point… won’t go into details.

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Yet meanwhile over on Capitol Couture we have this fashion mag blurb. The last line seems pointedly weird given that Collins’ makes the lack of agency and control the Tributes have over their bodies such a key theme of the series: ‘During make up, Mason doesn’t fidget as her artist adheres three-inch eyelashes to her lower…’

In The Hunger Games, Cinna warns Katniss not to resist & to do everything that her stylists want her to do. The implication is pretty clear that to resist is to risk extreme punishment or death, perhaps not one’s own death, but one’s loved ones potentially.

Check out the glamourized pic of Mags below & the accompanying text which also misreads the works, as Collins via Katniss is explicit in her presentation of Panem as a society that eschews aging, preferring extreme plastic surgery and thinness in a rejection of ‘aging with dignity and grace.’

That we have a ratings score on pout is a bit of an obscenity, to be blunt.

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I continue to be mystified by Lionsgate’s focus on the Capitol in promoting the film. In the lead up to the launch of The Hunger Games, Lionsgate & China Glaze teamed up with the Capitol Colours, with a line of 12 colours, one for each district and fantastic polish names like Foie Gras, Agro, Smoke and Ashes…

Capture nail polish

One blogger posted a breakdown of the colours in the spirit of Capitol Couture here with enticing yet paradoxical descriptions such as:

‘Smoke & Ashes (District 12- Mining): Even though I’m not typically drawn to black nail polishes, I had to have this one (the fact that it is district 12’s color and I may or may not be in love with 2 of district 12’s leading men may have something to do with this).  The finely milled glitter flecks found in Smoke & Ashes are a mixture of blue, green, silver and purple, making this polish resemble the night sky – OBSESSED!’

Yes, indeed, paradoxical as the smoke and ashes are  increasingly unpleasant  as the series continues. The decision to market cosmetics to promote the film was fabulously expressed by Tim Palen, Lionsgate’s chief marketing officer, who said:

“Having a nail polish for the rabid young girl fan base to relate to our movie on a personal level feels smart.”

Monica Corcoran Harel quoted Palen in a biting article in NY Times in March 2012, ‘Forget the Plot. What Nail Polish Is She Wearing?‘ and her criticism is just as valid in the push to the second film as it was in the first:

“…[because] the film’s characters are too busy murdering each other to get manicures, the nail polishes are sold as products worn by the extras…”

Fans over at The Hunger But Mostly Death Games, thankfully, parodied the marketing campaign, launching their own line of nail polish, with colours replicating the pus oozing tracker jacker stings that kill Glimmer and numerous other brutal details of Collins’ series.


So here we go again, now with major ads out in Vogue & other magazines, this time with Cover Girl partnering. Now you have to admire an ad that so blatantly promotes the Capitol in Cover Girl’s enthusiastic endorsement of Panem: ‘Coming to the Capitol this Fall’!

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So in the fictional world of The Hunger Games, Cover Girl is then the make-up of choice of the stylists who handle the body modifications & glamourizing of those 24 Tributes, 23 of whom will die? Surely, someone in house has read the book or has a son or daughter who has read the series!

“Capitol Fashionistas have a very big reason to look forward to autumn. Just announced, a premiere line of beauty products brought to you by the perennial COVERGIRL — The Capitol Collection — will soon arrive to glam the glamorous. This Collection promises to inspire a new era of expressive beauty through make-up.  Keep tabs on Capitol Couture for exclusive reveals and get ready to discover a new ‘you’ this fall.”

What oh what will this marketing campaign do next? It’s very deja vu to revisit my case study on the campaign for the first film, here, and see exactly the same problematic choices being replayed. Given how dark this series is, you really don’t want to be on the Dark Side. And the Dark Side doesn’t fare well in the end either.

The comments on Cover Girl’s commercial are predominantly critical:

‘any one feel a little bit scared out now’

‘To agree with them others: When this came on TV… I nearly shat nightlock’

‘Btw I’ve got nothing against people who like/use lots of makeup – but to do a promotion around this?!? *shakes head*’

Even the raves show tinges of guilt at buying in to the commercial sell:

‘Does it make me a crazy district 1 person if I am like.. super excited to waste my money and buy all of it? Because.. I am.’

So…. yet again, I’m hanging in to see how long it’s going to take for Lionsgate to shift the focus from the unequivocally evil Panem to the counter forces that Katniss represents. Seriously. What is Lionsgate going to do for The Mockingjay??? Promote a make-up line for civil war? for terrorism? Seriously.