Last week I promised a comparison between The Walking Dead and LOST.
Now there are a lot of aspects of each story that we could compare, but I am going to stick with the title of this blog post. Order vs. chaos.
I talked about seeing The Maze Runner a few weeks ago. I did a mini rage session on how confusing the story was, and how the characters had no idea what was going on. Neither does the audience. As my husband and I were driving home we talked about this. Why does it bother me so much?
I watched every last episode of LOST. The first season or two were especially interesting, mostly because of the character flashbacks. Getting to know the characters in a story is really important. For most audiences, it is the most important aspect of a story. (Not everyone, and not every story, but a vast majority.) Once the extremely confusing and non-winnable people vs. the island story took over LOST, I got less interested. I do admit that the writers did a pretty good job through a bunch of real life crap to keep the show going. And I loved the end of the series…because the characters I had invested so much time into were happy. I still don’t have a clear picture of what exactly LOST was about—there are plenty of speculations, and most of them lead in the same direction, but it never gelled for me.
Even though the show ended with a lovely sense of peace, I still get irritable when I try to figure out what in the Sam hill was going on. The characters I learned to love/hate/love, were constantly put into situations where no matter what they did, it was the wrong thing. Because they had no way to know what would actually help (push the button, don’t push the button…). As a reader/watcher this is insanely frustrating.
Now don’t get me wrong, a measure of mystery is good for a story, but (in my opinion) answers shouldn’t always lead to dead ends with a whole slew of new questions that don’t relate to the first set, and at the end of the season none of the first, second or third questions have really been answered, because the whole show is really about LEGOS. Maybe. As a reader I need some closure. A bunch of kids jumping into a bus or helicopter at the end of the movie thinking they’re safe but not actually being safe is annoying. Especially since some of them died getting those that got out, out. Like I said, mystery is good, befuddlement is angertating.
Now, for The Walking Dead. Also great characters—some of them good guys, some of them bad guys, some of them smart, some of them downright stupid, all of them trapped in the world that is now full of zombies.
These guys know what they’re up against. Near the beginning, the writers did put in the discovery that there isn’t a cure for the zombie disease, and that everyone has it. When you die, you’re going to try to eat your friends. And unless you destroy the zombie’s brain, it will never give up trying to gnaw on whatever living thing gets too close.
This is a clear-cut, straight-forward problem. The characters in The Walking Dead know what they’re up against. The audience knows what they’re up against. And it is still a great story. The mystery is in how the characters will react as well as what the other still alive humans are going to try to do to our characters. But the show didn’t go for five seasons before revealing that there are zombies in the world, and they do indeed want to kill you. They can’t be turned back into people and the whole cast isn’t in some twisted version of The Truman Show. I hope.
The thought of 95% of the people in the world being zombies and wanting to kill you is pretty daunting. That alone is enough to ratchet up the tension to the point of yelling in frustration each time an episode ends. I’m perfectly okay knowing what the characters are up against. I’m okay with them knowing what they’re up against. For me, this kind of a story is more engaging than the super-powered-nothing-is-what-it-seems mysteries that have become so popular.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good twist in a story. Those are awesome. It’s when the story spirals everywhere and nowhere at once that I get annoyed, then bored, then I walk away.
What about you? What kind of a story to you prefer?