In the case of AMC’s The Walking Dead spin-off – Tales Of The Walking Dead – I was doubly unsure of what to expect. There wasn’t an awful lot of pre-release chatter online or in the entertainment trades other than the announcement here and there that the property would seek to tell stand-alone stories within the wider universe created by the original program. Some of these promised to tie to established characters, and some were intended as more standalone trips set in familiar locales but involving new places and names. Perhaps playing their cards close to their chest, Tales’ showrunners hoped to use ‘the element of surprise’ more than anything else and let the chips fall where they may when these new mini-movies were screened for the public on the cable network.
For what that was worth, I thought it all sounded promising, especially since I soured on Fear The Walking Dead after two seasons of meandering for a collective point and didn’t much care for The Walking Dead: Worlds Beyond even in the slightest. (I did make it through that show’s first season but only hung on for two episodes in its second and final series.) Maybe – just maybe – these showrunners could turn some all-new stones in these Tales. Maybe they could wash the stink of death from the undead (pun intended), and they could show us the same zest to rush headfirst into danger like The Walking Dead in early trips into the Apocalypse. Certainly, the format alone offered up a bit of hope knowing that single-hour-outings might very well push these storytellers to new, unsung heights.
We’re five episodes in, and I’m considerably underwhelmed, to say the least. This show has hardly brought new life to rotting corpses. Hell, even its corpses aren’t that much rot.
Now, in fairness, it isn’t as if all of these stories have been a waste of their hour-plus run-time.
They’ve delivered a few laughs in a few places, and they even hinted at ‘End Times’ romance being possible in interesting ways. Heck, the fourth episode even toyed with the idea that perhaps even zombies are a species requiring further legitimate scientific inquiry; accept that premise or not, it’s still something we hadn’t quite seen before from this franchise. While it’s understandably challenging to hit home runs right out of the gate, by the fifth episode in (out of a paltry six comprising a whole “season”) I think the audiences have a right to expect some measure of quality. But “Davon,” the title of said installment, felt like some community college effort crafted by a bunch of film students who were inspired by The Walking Dead to try and do their own on a community college budget … and that’s downright insulting.
Well, for starters, there really aren’t any Dead in it.
Even worse: it doesn’t even need to be set in TWD universe!
Though we do catch sight of a walker here and there (up until the mystery’s big reveal in the final moments, in which we get a pair of fresh ones), I was unsure of what to make of them because the story is woven through the eyes of our narrator, Davon, who’s admittedly suffering a pretty massive head wound. Furthermore, he admits that his memories come-and-go (likely tied to said wound), and this clearly establishes him as a dubious source of information. In other words, he may not be deliberately dishonest with what he tells us; rather, he may be confused and completely misremembering these events, all with some narrative attempt to keep us focused away from the story’s central mystery … which might be one, two, or a whole series of murders … it just is never clear …
… which is the result of – ahem – bad writing.
(Sorry, folks, but sometimes you have to call a strike “a strike,” and this was damn near a strike-out.)
IMDB.com attributes to script to Channing Powell, a name that should be familiar both to viewers as well as the breadth of this television universe. Indeed, he’s crafted a few dozen scripts across both The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead as well as serving as a producer on both. Given those credentials I think it’s fair to have expected something a bit less muddled than what “Davon” is, so I’m chalking up this definitive misfire to the fact that the director and crew wanted to mirror their lead’s cognitive dissonance stylistically. It’s an arthouse attempt to deliver something different. Either that, or I’ve absolutely no idea why anyone thought this particular work was N-E-C-E-S-S-A-R-Y at this juncture within the wider TWD universe. It serves no purpose other than to fill out a commitment, making it filler.
Because there was so very little focus on these zombies (“but why?), I can’t help but wonder if “Davon” may’ve been a rejected screenplay someone pulled out of a drawer, dusted it off, stuck in a few of the TWD’s usual suspects (i.e. walkers) and proclaimed, “Here, let’s film this!” Some of its creative choices felt less like they were part of a truly original story but more like an attempt to put a facelift on the drafted elements (i.e. the setting being a French-speaking community in Maine … again “but why?”) in hopes that audiences might not notice the seams. Absolutely nothing about this chapter felt understandably organic to TWD’s universe as established – much less as we’ve come to know it after ten seasons on-air – and I’m absolutely gobsmacked how anyone involved in the production of this show might have concluded “Davon” was a good idea.
Different for different's sake isn't a foundation upon which to build any show, especially when the script ignores almost entirely that fact that folks are drawn to the property for your corpses. Davon felt more like a cop-out ... as I hate chalking up every detriment up to a singularly bad idea.
Congratulations, Tales Of The Walking Dead! You’ve hit a new low.