Just when you thought “The Walking Dead” was turning a corner, here we doe again.
The premiere of Season 10 of the AMC series, “Lines We Cross,” was all about setting up the season’s impending conflict with the zombie-skin-wearing Whisperers. And if you didn’t get that there was tension between the two groups, there was a glut of Cold War references to hammer that point home, including Michonne (Danai Gurira) describing the Whisperers’ zombie herd as a “nuclear weapon” and even a USSR satellite crashing in the nearby woods and causing a fire. The episode culminates in an intense stare-down between Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Carol (Melissa McBride), signaling shiz is about to go down.
Even with all that, perhaps the most concerning (albeit unintentionally so) moment for viewers comes with the return of a character who was perhaps better left in the past: an obviously CGI deer.
The deer shows up toward the latter half of the episode when Daryl (Norman Reedus) shoots it with a crossbow. At first, it is obscured by trees and shown from a distance, so even though it looks fake, it’s mostly palatable. Then, oddly, the CGI deer is given a close-up, the camera focusing on its pained, over-the-top death just beyond the Whisperer border.
The moment was given so much attention, you half expect the deer to blurt out “rosebud” or the monologue from the end of “Blade Runner” as it goes down.
Even though the deer is just over the enemy border, Daryl says it needs to be abandoned to keep the peace. Carol gets angry because (despite it looking fairly small) she says it could’ve fed “200 people.”
The scene, which caused a ruckus on Twitter, immediately takes you out of the episode. It’s reminiscent of the last time a painfully obvious CGI deer was featured.
In Season 7, Episode 12, “Say Yes,” Rick spots an unrealistic-looking deer grazing unreasonably calmly while a herd of raging zombies is just steps away. The scene is so egregiously out of place that the major takeaway from that episode was just the memes:
Season 9 was supposed to be a turning point for “The Walking Dead.” The show has been repeatedly criticized for retreading old storylines and being a slog the past couple seasons. But with the departure of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the arrival of an assortment of new characters, Season 9 was consistently praised as “genuinely,” “actually” “good again.”
“The Walking Dead” is known for creating convincing zombies, and the premiere showed off that technical skill once again with a number of nightmarish, waterlogged beach zombies. But unnecessary CGI like this just cheapens everything else.
Daryl didn’t need to see the animal die. He and Carol could have discovered it post-mortem and nothing else would have changed.
Instead, the death of the fake deer is accidentally funny, beyond confusing, and, in the midst of what’s supposed to be a new era for the show, an old mistake that’s genuinely, actually troubling.
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