If you read my Walking Dead post-mortems, you know I’m just as interested in what goes on behind the scenes as I am in the content of the individual episodes. I’ve written quite a bit in my first three posts about the behind the scenes drama that lead to Frank Darabont being fired, and Glenn Mazzara (The Shield) being appointed as the new showrunner. I remember when I first heard about Darabont’s involvement back in 2009, and thinking: “Holy Crap! The director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile is making a television show out of one of my favorite comic books…and it’s going to be on AMC!?!” It was Darabont’s involvement with The Walking Dead that legitimized the project for both fans and for those who had yet to read the graphic novel; everyone knew the material was in good hands. Now let’s flash-forward to July 25 2011, every film and pop culture site on the internet is reporting that Darabont has been fired from the show due to battles with AMC over the show’s budget. I was shocked, pissed off, and nervous about the show’s future. Then I started to rationalize things: Robert Kirkman was still going to be heavily involved, the show had been really inconsistent during it’s first season, and this might have been due to Darabont’s relative lack of experience as a showrunner. Even though he is good director, successfully running a show requires a very different skill set. So I decided to keep on watching the show, and in the end, I’m glad I did. There have been numerous articles since then detailing what lead to Darabont’s firing, I still get the sense there was a lot more to the story we haven’t heard.
Last month, actor Sam Witwer filmed an interview for paranormal pop culture, in which he discusses an idea Frank Darabont had for an episode the actor was set to star in during season two. Witwer played the zombie solider that Rick Grimes encountered in the tank and the end of the series premiere. The proposed episode was going to focus the trials and tribulations of the solider (pre-zombification) during the period of time when Atlanta was being overrun with zombies. Also, the episode would’ve shown how he ended up in that tank with the grenade that came in handy for Rick during the CDC escape. Watch the video below:
This story has been making the rounds for a while, as has Darabont’s subsequent response to aintitcool. But I thought I might offer up a few thoughts on this subject as well. The idea of devoting an entire episode of the show to the backstory of a zombie we saw on screen for no more than a few minutes is a very audacious and creative one. This was a far more creative than anything on display in the first half of season 2. Also, I love the idea that Darabont discusses in the ainticool piece that every zombie you see on screen has a story of it’s own:
[quote] The notion was to take the “throwaway” tank zombie Rick encountered in the pilot, and tell that soldier’s story. Make him the star of his own movie, follow his journey, but don’t reveal who he is until the end. The idea being that every zombie has a story, every undead extra was once a human being with a life of his/her own…was, in a sense, the star of his own life’s movie. And we’ve followed this one particular guy and seen how his life ended; we witness his struggles, see his good intentions and his failures, and we experience his godawful death in this tank. [/quote]
The current writers need to take this concept and run with it. Out of respect for Darabont, they probably shouldn’t use this particular story idea, but the idea of telling a random zombie’s life-story in a standalone episode would be a wonderful change of pace for the series. Every now and then, the show needs to do episodes like the proposed tank zombie story that take us away from the main characters and storyline. As much as I’ve praised Glenn Mazzara’s running of the show thus far, there is no denying that Frank Darabont is a very talented guy with creativity to spare (I’d love to watch the past three episodes of the show from the alternate dimension where he is still showrunner) one can only hope that AMC will extend the olive branch someday, and that he would be willing to come back and work on the show again; even if it was only for one awesome episode.