A Couple Of Venus de Milos: The Racialicious Roundtable For The Walking Dead 3.1

Hosted By Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joe Lamour

Danai Gurira as Michonne on “The Walking Dead.” All photos via AMC.

A few weeks ago, I was wasting time on Facebook (as we do) and I scrolled to a post from the official page for The Walking Dead heralding the arrival of one of the most beloved characters on the series, Michonne.

As we all know, it’s really unusual for any television show to celebrate the arrival of a character of color. But, for Michonne–who she is, how she kills zombies (with her trusty razor-sharp katana), how she acts, and who she keeps in her company at all times (a topic we will be discussing in detail this season), is beloved so much by the fans of the book that the powers-that-be have actually been leading with her.

So for this new Walking Dead Roundtable, I gathered a group of Racialicious readers and close buddies: Jeannie Chan, Carly Neely, Kenneth Hwynn, and Elizabeth Smith  to discuss the upcoming season with me. And boy, is there a lot to discuss already.

Warning: Episode spoilers and icky zombie pictures under the cut.

8 minutes Of Silence

Joe: Season 3: And we’re back. Together again, for the very first time!

Carly: Yay for a new roundtable!

Joe: I had completely forgotten Rick went a little nutso with power at the end of last season. Also, children being able to perform a kill shot like that would probably disconcert me at least as much as zombies would.

Jeannie: When Carl made that kill shot, I still wasn’t completely sure that it was Carl. This kid looks so much more grown! I think that if he had been just as young now, or at least looked as young as he did at the end of Season 2, I would have found it much more appalling to see him kill. But things are different now. Even if he isn’t that much older, this is a whole new world they’re living in. They no longer have the luxury of protecting young children from this. Thinking that they did when they were living on Hershel’s farm was a fantasy. I’m thinking about what a huge fuss Lori (ugh, Lori) made last season when Carl wanted to participate in target practice and she said, “I’m not comfortable with the idea of him handling guns.” I was like, “You’re not comfortable?” I bet that word isn’t in her vocabulary now…

Carly: Since I did my homework (meaning I crammed all the episodes of last season into the past 24hrs), the very opening of this episode brings me to my first social question: for people who have watched before, you’ll recall the issue of whether or not to kill Randall. This season starts with Carl ready and willing to eat dog food. In both cases though, Rick makes the decision for the group that they are “better than that,” per se.

Joe: Seriously. I know there are bone fragments and pink slime (a real dog food ingredient) in dog food, but I think I’d rather watch my kid eat that than starve to death.

Ken: Brings a whole new meaning to “eating your own dog food.” Carl is finally manning up, although he still looks uber-silly galavanting around with with that sheriff’s hat.

Chandler Riggs as Carl.

Jeannie: Is it just me or is Carl looking a little bit like Zac Efron?

Joe: It’s not just you. Fathers: hide your daughters…or your sons. We don’t judge here on the R.

Carly: I’m starting to wonder, are Rick’s decisions now choices of convenience that the group no longer has the option to make? Compare this to the way some may push veganism on the world, disregarding environments that just could not grow and provide the volume of food and supplements needed to make that kind of diet sustainable. Or the issue of wartime killings to protect one’s own. People who have food and peace (and no zombie apocalypse) can choose any diet or moral high ground they please!

Joe: I can eat an owl if I want to!

Jeannie: I didn’t really see it as Rick making that call for the whole group (maybe I was only selectively paying attention) but more like that was him drawing the line of how far beyond the scope of healthy and normal he will make his child live?

Carly: I like this toeing the line with that needs hierarchy…when does starving conquer putting on airs? Or the life or death of others vs the pursuit of the ideal of civility?

Joe: Seriously. I wonder what would have happened if someone just walked over and started eating the other can of dog food. Would Rick have pistol-whipped them or something? Or are they so scared of him now they just don’t?

Ken: Can someone remind Daryl that chopper-riding makes everyone at home extremely nervous? Also, Carl ripping into zombies with his revolver from 80 yards away…yeah…not quite believable yet, kid.

Jeannie: Can I just say that the silence that pervaded these first 8 minutes was super intense? Granted, nobody’s going to be chatting up a storm while they patrol but, given how tense things were at the end of the last season, I couldn’t help but feel the whole weight of that carry over from the “Previously.” And I’m sure we’re meant to. But seriously. The silence is a very effective tool for making viewers think about the relationships and the tone of the show. The show has used silence pretty effectively before and I like that they’ve kept it up. (I may or may not also enjoy looking at the ways in which silence is used… )

Joe: The first eight minutes were definitely improved by Lori not saying anything. That’s what I think.

At Least Casting Is Up On The Atlanta Prison Census

Joe: “He couldn’t even stay alive after I shot him in the face to be here for you and that baby!” I think that he meant he didn’t brand her a brazen hussy or high-tailed it outta there.

Carly: Joe and I were talking before the show, and he mentioned this version of Atlanta had so few people of color in the past seasons we could count them on two hands… looks like they’re definitely adding a high representation here in the prison…

Joe: Yeah, I meant important characters, but this is now extending to extras as well. I definitely started writing down “Where are all the black people in this Atlanta prison? Is this a 1920s jail for horse and buggy cri–” and deleted it when I found all the actors of color there in the killing field. While on the killing-field subject, it looks like some of these guys are starting to enjoy the impaling now. The only person who didn’t seem at all giddy to me was Lori. It might be that her feet are tired though…

Jeannie: Haha, yeah, this is what my wise-cracking brain said when we first see the prison again – “Given the disproportionate incarceration rate of people in color, where are all the young black zombies? God, can’t the casting director get anything righ– Oh, there they are. Well, isn’t that interesting.”

Joe: LOL

Jeannie: Also, Darryl and Carol? Not digging this vibe.

Ken: Carol, getting saucy with Darryl, indeed…somewhat cringeworthy, but hey in a zombie apocalypse single moms and crossbow donning country folk need lovin’, too.

Jeannie: I’m just going to leave this right here …

Joe: How does that gross me out and turn me on at the same time, Jeannie? I guess I was the only one who got that vibe last season when he was all white knight-looking for her daughter. Come on, people, let Carol and Daryl (OMG best couple name-pairing ever) get some. I mean, it’s the apocalypse.

Carly: Is it weird that the vibe I was getting last season was like a mother-son vibe…that is now getting incestuous? Maybe I’ve been reading too much Game of Thrones and watching too much Dexter 

Jeannie: Carly, yes! Exactly! I think I’ve been reading/watching too much GoT as well…

Joe: Those actors are like…the same age…Also, I don’t recall Carol breastfeeding Sophia at any point in the last two seasons. Mind out of the gutter, ladies!

Glenn Is Given Something To Say This Episode…No Luck For T-Dog

Carly: Yeah, I guess Glenn is all good with his freezing-up issue now.

Jeannie: Oh, Glenn. I really, really, really hope Glenn is given the opportunity to become a fully developed character. His freezing up in action after two seasons of being the errand boy really did not sit well with me.

Ken:But, Glenn probably hit the jackpot on the show with Maggie…wild eyes and all:

(L-R) Lauren Cohan as Maggie and Steven Yeun as Glenn.

Joe: Michoooooooone! Danai Guirra should now add “beheadings” to her list of actors skills. I kind of want to have a Michonne beheading count for each episode. You know, what the hell. I’m doing it.

Zombies Of A Different Flavor

 

Joe: I guess the good thing about the guard zombies is they wouldn’t really be able to chew with those masks on..also, thank you, Rick, for taking that mask off for this episode’s major gross-out.

Ken: SWAT team zombies takes the zombie scare factor to a new level. It’s like the writers decided to add +25 defensive points to zombie hit points. The group must upgrade melee level or weapons grades to keep up (gaming nerds will understand).

Joe: Sadly, I got all of that.

Jeannie: Ha, I had in my notes: Pretty awesome zombie action! For someone as squeamish and averse to horror movies as I am, I thought there was a major lack of zombie carnage last season.

Carly:I’m giving that skin removal my ‘too much’ vote for this week. Not that I want them to stop–there should always be a too much moment on this show.

Ken: Gotta go against the popular consensus and say I’m loving the gore factor this week. Making up for the lackluster “emo”-con at the end of last season, for sure.

Two Black Men With Missing Limbs in Chains Isn’t At All Racist…Right?

Joe: Wow, we’re going to have to look at those two bizarro Venus de Milos every week?

Jeannie: Took me a second, but I just understood your reference! Haha, gross.

Joe: Eugh. Like … I know who they are (I won’t spoil it for those who don’t know,) and I know that it makes sense to use chain to keep them secure, but…you know? If there was ever a loaded image, it would be the jump cuts of those two jawless, armless black zombies, looking like a file photo from the end of the Civil War. It’s a lot different seeing this in real-person form rather than a comic book drawing. It doesn’t bother me that much, but it takes a lot more pointed forms of racist imagery to do so. However, no matter what is in the comic books, or the fact that a black woman has (owns?) them, I’m finding myself narrowing my eyes a bit. I’m pretty sure there are going to be quite a few offended by it.

Jeannie: I also have been reading the comics and did not think anything of it when they appeared on paper. But last night, I was definitely making my trademark skeptical face.

Liz: Umm…yeah her own zombie slaves? Have we figured out why she has them in the first place? Trophies? Accessories? Gross. Oh, and weird, too.

Carly: I know nothing about the comic books or any outside info, so all I can say is I definitely gave my husband the side-eye about the whole set up. I’ll be interested to see where it goes. And also it is so nice to see Andrea. And to have someone else who would also look at Lori like she was a fool for suggesting she’s behind on her laundry duties.

Joe: I wonder what Andrea is sick with, if not zombie fever. I guess you never think all that other sickness stuff still exists in zombieland. Michonne is taking such tender care of Andrea. They…seem…close…

Ken: That prison bunk scene between Carl and Beth was an interesting bit of foreshadowing…will Carl remain a virgin this season?? Only time will tell…

Top: Emily Greene as Beth.

Joe: Is it just me, or does Beth look adult-aged, while Carl looks like a little boy? All I was thinking during that scene was that she was 17 and he was 12.

Everyone Still Hates Lori

Joe: I’m thinking a zombie stillborn baby eating itself out of you probably tops “most depressing and also horrifying deaths” list. As much as I (everyone) dislikes Lori, that seems like a horrible way to die. (Cue everyone else hoping it’ll happen by the end of the episode.)

Carly: {Raises hand} I’m in favor!

Jeannie:I know! I hadn’t even thought about that possibility! I didn’t think I could be horrified by this show anymore…

Ken: Zombie baby womb escape…just a tease for possibly the most EPIC scene in zombie genre history!?

Joe: Oh sweet fancy Moses, please let there be a warning if that happens. I still am recovering from the well zombie scene.

And You Thought A Zombie Chewing On Your Achilles Tendon Was Bad …

Joe: Grampa, why! They’re gonna have to cut off Herschel’s leg now. These zombies are starting to use trickery!

Ken: If I could “like” your post Joe, I would give your post at least 10 thumbs up :) Sneaky zombies …

Joe: Haha, Ken. But seriously! That zombie was pretending to be asleep. Or something.

Jeannie: Speaking of zombie fever, I still don’t understand the science behind the infection. What is it about dying that activates the dormant zombie gene? When did everyone become infected? Surely the dead bodies that we saw back in Season 1 didn’t all become zombies … right?

Joe: Oh God, I was right. I’m not sure if I want to cover my ears or close my eyes. This poor man led such a Werther’s Originals life, but here he is now getting his leg hacked off with an axe…that’s really just wrong.

Jeannie: Also, Rick is hacking away at a limb with a dirty axe (that probably has zombie blood on it anyway) in completely unsanitary conditions. They haven’t found the infirmary yet…Hershel’s probably not going to live much longer anyway. :(

Ken: Herschel is like the show’s punching bag. First, he gets his farm overrun by this merry band of miscreants. Second, his “awakening” moment last season was when the gang rips into his secret barn and takes out the remaining zombified family. Third, he loses the majority of his non-zombified family during the escape. Now he loses his one leg to a zombie “playing dead” and Rick get’s to hack it off with this old rusty mini hatchet (which probably didn’t feel good)?? SMH…

Carly: Well … on the bright side they aren’t on the run?

Post-(Un)Mortem

Joe: LOL. That was a lot to take in. Things happening left and right…heads flying to and fro…speaking of, our Michonne Beheading Count for the premiere is 3. I look forward to many, many more.

Ken: I admired Michonne’s little ballet-like back arch pose she does while beheading hapless walkers. Clearly she has style AND substance.

Jeannie: Seriously. Damn, gurl. What an entrance!

Jeannie: One last thing. T-Dog still has not said a single word yet, right? Grunting and whatever exclamations he made whilst zombie killing does not count. Whistling to alert the others of incoming zombies does not count.

Joe: He actually said “Woo!,” so he said a word that is in the dictionary. “That counts, right?” said the writers. Actually, when they were showing people going into their jail-cell rooms, did they even show who he was bunking with? How much do you want to bet they would have put Glenn and him together if Glenn didn’t have a lady friend?

Liz: Joe, I was thinking the same thing. Counting them out as they were finding bunks…okay, those are the kids, the ladies, Daryl, Glenn, etc…but where the hell did T-dog go? Aaand then he appears again once they are running away from zombies again.

Ken: T-Dog has been a silent and unwilling participant in this fantasy world, methinks. (Seriously, getting beat up by Merle, of all people?) I know a bit about the comic so I won’t ruin it, but there are better and more distinct African-American characters on the show. Hope we get introduced to them soon.

Liz: Why has there been no explanation of the random appearance of Swoop-in-out-of-the-blue-and-save-the-day Michonne? Okay, I know I should maybe read the graphic novel…

Joe: I doubt they’ll ever explain that. I think we’re probably supposed to just assume she happened to be walking in the middle of the forest for no reason that day and happened to save Andrea in the nick of time. Also, there shouldn’t be required reading for television! LOL. Plus…comic (for me) = spoilers. I want to be shocked when I see Rick hacking off Herschel’s leg. And I was, so mission accomplished.

Liz: But, at least half of us viewers haven’t read it…

Joe: …but we want to be in the know.

Liz: Yes.

Joe: I would actually like to know some more about Glenn’s family, T-Dog’s past, Andrea’s life before all of this. A lot of stuff. No one cares about Lori’s past, writers. I’m sorry. This show needs to consult the greatness of the flashbacks in Lost. Everyone got a backstory!

Liz: Yes. So could the writers throw us a bone, maybe?

  • Pingback: The Walking Dead: “Woo” (Roundtable Prologue) | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  • Dee

    I don’t really get the slavery comparison’s with Michonne’s zombie companions. They are zombies, and that is really the only safe way to keep them. I don’t know if this is a spoiler or not but they are people that she formerly cared about, and also the smell of them helps her to cover her tracks. Remember the zombies smell as camouflage aspect from before? Plus, they can carry backpacks and things, and that helps her since she was travelling alone, and she needs supplies. It is an odd imagery, granted…but I don’t really think in this instance I am reading it in the same way.

    • KateyKat

      This is definitely a spoiler, although I was kind of surprised by that description (having a familiarity with the character).

    • KateyKat

      This is definitely a spoiler, although I was kind of surprised by that description (having a familiarity with the character).

  • Anonymous

    Daryll has taken on the role of Tyreese. that scene with Carol is another Tyreese moment. i’m hoping they won’t also give him the Tyreese/Michonne moment from the books.

    • Pinolera

      Possible spoilers- Talking about events in the comics:

      OMG I didn’t see that about Daryll/Tyrese until you mentioned it, but it totally makes sense. I also hope they do not follow that line from the book. Maybe Daryll and Carol could have a successful romance? I know a zombie apocalypse show should include people going mad from the stress, but Carol was such a sad sack in the comics and I’m really enjoying her coming into herself on the show. I cheered when Rick said she was getting to be a pretty good shot.

      I’ve been hoping Tyrese will feature in this season; I figure he will show up since Kirkman has stated that he likes the character so much. Daryll and Rick are developing a friendship, but Daryll seems so young and a bit of an outsider- not as good a fit for a close friend to Rick. Tyrese and Rick were both family men, for example. In the comics, Tyrese was a check when Rick made bad decisions. So far in the show, it doesn’t seem like we have that check on Rick “this is not a democracy” Grimes.

    • Pinolera

      Possible spoilers- Talking about events in the comics:

      OMG I didn’t see that about Daryll/Tyrese until you mentioned it, but it totally makes sense. I also hope they do not follow that line from the book. Maybe Daryll and Carol could have a successful romance? I know a zombie apocalypse show should include people going mad from the stress, but Carol was such a sad sack in the comics and I’m really enjoying her coming into herself on the show. I cheered when Rick said she was getting to be a pretty good shot.

      I’ve been hoping Tyrese will feature in this season; I figure he will show up since Kirkman has stated that he likes the character so much. Daryll and Rick are developing a friendship, but Daryll seems so young and a bit of an outsider- not as good a fit for a close friend to Rick. Tyrese and Rick were both family men, for example. In the comics, Tyrese was a check when Rick made bad decisions. So far in the show, it doesn’t seem like we have that check on Rick “this is not a democracy” Grimes.

    • KateyKat

      Actually, I think T-dog is supposed to be Tyreese (just judging by the weapons that T-dogg was using in the last ep). I’m hoping he gets to be as badass as Tyreese in upcoming eps.

    • KateyKat

      Actually, I think T-dog is supposed to be Tyreese (just judging by the weapons that T-dogg was using in the last ep). I’m hoping he gets to be as badass as Tyreese in upcoming eps.

  • buryinglamps

    Great roundtable and great show! As someone who reads the graphic novels re: the venus de milos (spoiler alert!) –> it is the fiancé and brother of Michonne. Keeping them around somehow prevents other zombies picking up her human scent.

  • Anonymous

    You guys might have missed some of T-Dog’s input. For one he was talking about acquiring fresh water for the group. He also said some stuff when they were on the move. Not a whole lot but he wasn’t completely silent. He probably said nothing or much less during the prison search scene. He was just doing a lot of grunt work, not really interacting with people just to relax/destress.

    I was a little bored, especially since I finished gameplay videos of the 4th episode of the video game.

    • Jeannie

      I think it’s interesting to track T-Dog’s dialogue throughout the series. You’re right in that he’s not completely silent but I think it’s debatable whether or not his input really adds dimensionality to the show. I think it will be hard for T-Dog to have memorable lines or meaningful interaction until the writers develop some sort of connection between him and another character. Obviously there’s just simply no way that a character can be fleshed out on his own.

      • Todd

        $20 says T-Dog doesn’t survive this season. In today’s pop culture climate, it’s no longer acceptable to kill off the sole black character (though it is acceptable to refuse to explore his or her past and/or motives with any degree of depth). However, it is totally acceptable to kill off your token if another black hits the scene… Womp womp. Poor T-Dog.

        • Eugene Blackman

          I’m afraid you maybe right Todd and this is pretty the standard in today’s horror genre

      • keeks

        Of course it doesn’t add much. He’s kind of like Bonnie from TVD, though Bonnie gets a lot more development (though not that much compared to other characters within TVD). He’s treated as a background character and the remaining survivors are much more relateable than he is. They wasted an opportunity with him. He’s been on the show for three seasons and we know jack shit about him. As a black person watching the show I just end up paying attention to him more b/c otherwise who else is there aside from Glenn (and now Michonne)?