The Walking Dead has gone out of its way to be extra exciting this year with a non-stop array of gunfights and explosions, starting in the season 8 premiere and continuing week to week, living up to the “All Out War” name of this current comic storyline.
This week produced the best episode of the season to date, and honestly, probably one of the best episodes in the past year or two, a story that focused on the slow breakdown of Ezekiel after he survives a Savior ambush. It was a fantastic episode and I highly recommend you watch it even if you’ve been disappointed with the show as of late.
But there were other aspects of the episode that were…less good. Specifically, this episode highlighted something that the show has struggled with for years, but last night it actively made some would-be badass scenes worse.
I’m talking about how The Walking Dead seems to have very little idea how guns actually work.
Now, I’m no gun person. While I’ve shot some on the range, I don’t own any nor possess an encyclopedic knowledge of firearms.
But I have watched thousands of hours of action movies and TV shows, and The Walking Dead is one of the only times that how poor the gunplay looks, sounds and feels really stands out to me. Even if the way The Walking Dead uses guns isn’t realistic, to me, it’s not even “movie/TV realistic” either.
I can remember as far back as season 3 when the gang got their hands on automatic rifles for the first time. There were these scenes where they were fighting off walkers or invaders, but their guns had literally no recoil. They were just standing there, pretending to fire, and later the CGI team was adding in muzzle flashes and sound was putting in gunfire effects. It all felt so horribly…fake.
That continues to this day, to some extent. While rifles and pistols and SMGs exhibit a little more recoil than they did a few years ago, something is just off with the visuals and sound effects of firing. It feels noticeably fake in way that most other shows and movies don’t.
Weirdly, some scenes are okay, like when Carol shredded a group of Saviors by shooting through the ceiling, or when Morgan went full John Wick in a hallway a week ago. But other times? It’s horrendous.
The scene I’m referring to in this week’s episode was the Rick/Daryl motorcycle/jeep chase. It should have been one of the most badass action sequences the show has done to date, but instead it just felt stupidly goofy. As the two pursue the truck loaded with the heavy guns, one of the Saviors pops one out of its crate and starts opening fire on their vehicles.
This is not a peashooter. This is a .50 caliber machine gun that is designed to shred vehicles, and those in them.
The problem? The Walking Dead treated the gun like it was lobbing paintballs at Rick’s car. We see these little spatters of CGI light on the metal and Rick swerves around like this is some kind of movie from the ‘50s, and it’s just so bizarre. This gun should be carving up Rick’s Jeep. If you want the engine to survive so the car can keep going, fine. If you want Rick to survive because he’s a lucky SOB, fine. But at least pretend you know what a gun like this can do to a car like that. Show giant holes being blown in the metal, shatter the windshield, anything. Make it feel powerful. Instead, it barely felt like a threat at all, and it totally killed the scene for me.
This seems like a budget problem, but I don’t know why it needs to be. This is one of the most popular shows on cable and if it can spend a zillion dollars on ridiculously elaborate zombie make-up and cast salaries every week, it should be able to increase its practical and digital effects budget to make these gunfights feel more convincing. Particularly when this entire season is based around non-stop gunfights. If Game of Thrones can convince me an army is fighting a real-life dragon, The Walking Dead should be able to give us believable gunfights, at the very least.
There are other issues, major and minor. The Walking Dead does not respect the concept of limited ammo in the least, and even if America is loaded with guns, ammo really needs to be treated like the scarce resource it is, and not be used to do incredibly stupid things like waste thousands of rounds to shoot out the windows of a building. There are smaller issues too, like how Ezekiel’s captor already had the trigger of his Glock pulled, and had to pull the slide back to chamber another round in order to fire (someone on Twitter told me this, as I missed it). Minor, but an indicator no one is there to tell them these things on set.
Simply put, the guns need to feel more real when they’re firing and hitting things. It seems like a minor issue, but it’s something that has bothered me about The Walking Dead for years, and it distracted me from an otherwise great episode this week.
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