Welcome to the third of what I’m now officially calling “Raw Story’s don’t-call-it-a-recap of popular television shows.” Recaps you can find anywhere, but only here will you be able to find the proprietor of the AV Club’s Internet Film School breaking down your favorite television shows on a weekly basis. A complete collection of this guy’s visual rhetoric pieces can be found here.
This week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Internment,” may well have been the strongest in what’s shaping up to be the strongest season to date. It was directed by David Boyd, one of the most talented men you’ve never heard of. He’s been the director of photography on such visually uninspiring fare as Firefly and Deadwood, so it should be no surprise that the composition and shot selection in “Internment” was barely this side of breathtaking.
What do I mean?
For one, Boyd’s use of close-ups in this episode weren’t used to cheaply intensify scenes whose dialogue lacked emotional impact.
Unlike, say, the opening credit sequence of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which closes in to bring the pain and reassure you that the police always have your best interest at heart, the close-ups in “Internment” function as the necessary conclusions to terrible arguments.
Consider, for example, this close-up of Rick’s gun:
It’s the culmination of the should-he-or-shouldn’t-he-pick-up-arms subplot, but instead of having Rick say something about it, Boyd just places Rick’s gun in-frame and lets it speak for itself. Note, though, that the gun’s slightly off-center, a screen-position people have been trained by Hollywood to hate.
The audience, then, is primed for something to happen — and conventionally, that “something” would be that the camera shifts to the left and “properly” frames the gun, dead-center, since it’s the most important element in the shot.
Boyd knows that’s the expectation — he knows that his audience craves symmetry in its compositions — but instead of conceding to audience expectations, he recapitulates the should-he-or-shouldn’t-he argument:
When Rick’s pea-bearing hand enters the frame, Boyd racks the focus, shifting the emphasis from the arms he just took up to the green thumbs he put them down for. In a single shot, then, Boyd’s reminded the audience of the Big Decision Rick had to make, but he did so without having to use dialogue as a crutch, as the show so often has. What could have been a tossed off transition between scenes in which characters indulge in unnecessary expository monologues is, instead, a seemingly tossed-off reminder of past soul-searching.
But I should get to what I mentioned in the title, about us all dying alone and broken curled in a corner, because Boyd felt that everyone was too together when they weren’t ever alone in “Isolation,” so he decided use close-ups as a strategic counterpoint to stacked frames in that episode. All of the people in the isolation unit — all of whom couldn’t escape sharing a frame with someone else in that episode — were suddenly and terribly alone in close-ups throughout “Internment.”
For example, when Hershel is caring for Glenn, the shots and reverses are all one-shots:
After an episode in which everyone shared a frame, this sequence of what would otherwise be comforting close-ups instead creates a virtual barrier between caretaker, above, and caretaken, below:
It’s almost as if Boyd wants the audience to recognize the danger of intimacy by refusing to let characters share the frame. I’m not saying there aren’t any two-shots in the episode, but most of them look like this:
They’re not alone, they’re talking … through a glass pane in which Hershel’s ghostly reflection is the closest thing to frame-center, creating a composition in which characters are subordinate to their second-order selves, and conversations are always mediated. Something always, and here literally, comes between these people. It’s a harrowing experience, watching as the distance between these characters eats away at them, whether it be literally, as with the glass above, or in cinematic terms, as when Rick and Carl decide a standoff is the most appropriate venue for a father-son conversation:
When Boyd’s not using close-ups to create distance between characters, he settles for actual distance, shooting somber reunions as he would a prelude to gunplay.
Why white silence is deafening — and deadly
Most white people I know believe that black lives matter. They will tell you they voted for Obama twice. They cannot stand Donald Trump. They are enraged by police brutality. These are the white people I want to speak to: Your anger and sadness about the big things are meaningless if you choose to do nothing about the small things you have control over.
‘Insanity outside the White House’: After Trump stokes tensions, fresh clashes between police and protesters
As protests against police violence and the killing of George Floyd continued in cities across the U.S. on Saturday, a massive crowd gathered outside President Donald Trump's White House as demonstrators again turned their ire and demands for justice and healing towards the nation's most powerful elected official. After tensions built, clashes erupted between law enforcement and demonstrators.
Tensions flared near the White House. Not sure what triggered it, all I saw was a blast of pepper spray and a sudden sprint backward. There’s a lot more pressure on the police cordon and they’re pulling out gas masks. pic.twitter.com/X4uCQRzPkw
Trump opened the door for the deaths we’re seeing
Years before the nation's nursing homes experienced a heavy COVID-19 death toll, the Trump administration rolled back the federal rules and regulations put in place by the Obama administration aimed at improving infection control in these kinds of facilities.
This article first appeared in Salon
In an October 2016 edition of the Federal Register, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services published rules and regulations requiring long term care facilities "to develop an Infection Prevention and Control Program that includes an Antibiotic Stewardship Program and designate at least one Infection Preventionist"