Whats Wrong with The Walking Dead

 

I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since it debuted on AMC in 2010, or more accurately, what’s starting to feel like sometime late last century.

Overall, it has been a fun series to watch, and, like its core group of survivors, the show itself has proven to be a survivor. Chewing through major characters as well as showrunners (TWD is currently on its third) like one of the “walkers” shambling through the world of Rick Grimes and Co., the series has been resilient in keeping its core audience watching. There has been some fluctuation in numbers of viewers between the season premiers and cliffhangers, but so far there hasn’t been a fatal dip in the ratings. In fact, most shows would kill for the weakest numbers The Walking Dead has put up this season.

After the brief six-episode first season, the series expanded to thirteen episodes, then sixteen by Season Three, split into two, eight-episode runs with a hiatus of a couple of months in between.

For me, this is where the problems began to arise.

This is where the “filler” episodes began to crop up, along with the current formula consisting of exciting season debut, a whole lotta not much, then a (usually) exciting “mini-cliffhanger,” hiatus, exciting first episode return, and so on.

Not that I demand non-stop action in every episode. Frankly, if the show were as simple and straightforward as the series of graphic novels it’s based on, it wouldn’t make for very good television.

I also enjoy good, dramatic acting, so watching the performances by the stellar cast in the quiet moments is just fine. The problem, especially in regard to the recently-concluded Season 7, is taking these interesting characters and sending them on either moronic missions that go nowhere or wasting more than half of an episode while they wring their hands over moral dilemmas. This is tolerable in smaller doses, but week after week it makes for a tedious and frustrating viewing experience.

****SPOILERS AHEAD****

Negan, the iconic, bat-wielding villain from the graphic novels is portrayed in the series by veteran character actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and he does a phenomenal job chewing up the scenery with a gleeful balance of wit and menace. No wonder he’s given pages of dialogue in several episodes!

That’s also one of the problems with Season 7.

Too much of a good thing.

By the time the showdown between Rick and Negan comes at the end of Season 7, Negan feels less menacing, and his jokes have gotten stale. And what’s with all the respect for members of Rick’s group? Negan respecting Carl made sense. Respecting Daryl made sense. The scenes where Daryl is locked in a room while the song “Easy Street” blares twenty-four seven in an effort to “break” him and convert him to Negan’s crew were effective.

But by the time we get to Sasha’s storyline (inane and senseless as it was in this season) and her entirely unnecessary decision to follow Rosita’s lead in taking out Negan, only to have their plan fail (predictable) and then sacrifice herself for nothing and for virtually no advantage to Rick’s group was the clearest example yet of the damage these filler story arcs can do.

We should’ve seen the problems with Season 7 coming.

In Season 6’s climax, we see the major players of Rick’s group on their knees before Negan, with one of them waiting to meet their fate at the business end of Lucille, the villain’s barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. We never get to see who the victim is. What we get instead is a Negan monologue that drags on WAY too long before, from the unidentified victim’s point-of-view, we see Lucille arcing down as the episode fades to black with dopey, animated blood dripping down the screen.

Too much hype. Zero payoff.

The producers of the show obviously heard outcry from enraged fans and over-corrected by showing EVERYTHING in the Season 7 opener, in which we see Abraham meeting Lucille in grim fashion before Daryl punches Negan in the face, thereby sealing the fate of the beloved Glenn Rhee. The scene is delivered with such savage brutality that you could almost hear the collective gasp worldwide as it happened.

I had no problem with the brutality, and was looking forward to what was setting up to be an exciting – albeit extraordinarily dark – season. Flash forward to last Sunday’s season finale, which featured some fun moments – Shiva the tiger devouring the face of an unlucky Savior, the “filthy garbage people” double-crossing Rick, Rick staring down Negan, defiantly informing the leather-jacketed villain that he’s “already dead.” But those moments were weighed down by the tedious, flashback-laden Sasha storyline that, again, was ill-conceived and ultimately meant nothing.

While many fans were happy with the finale, I found the battle sequence less than impressive. I was hoping it would feel as epic as the Season 2 finale, or even the Season 4 finale with the fall of The Governor, but this one fell short. At least the stage is set for all-out war between Rick’s group and Negan’s Saviors, but I fear more of the same filler in store for next season.

Season 7 could’ve been wrapped up in eight episodes instead of sixteen, though I doubt AMC will shorten the seasons any time soon. I understand wanting to keep Negan around for two seasons, but at what cost? Having to sit through pointless filler only to see a few cool tidbits is getting pretty damn old.

The Walking Dead still feels like a zombie epic, but that epic is feeling like it’s made up of mostly the deleted scenes at this point.

The fans deserve better, AMC.

Thanks for reading, (Walking) Deadies!

Feel free to share your thoughts on this piece by posting a comment below!

 

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Comments

  1. Dave Robertson

    I was startled to read this because you’re saying many of the things I’ve already thought. I’ve railed at my TV over the contrived stupidity that repeatedly puts the core group in unnecessary danger just to create drama for an episode that’s basically filler while they stall us waiting for the inevitable cliff-hanger season finale. Rick’s repeatedly moronic decisions, again due to ill-conceived storylines for “filler” episodes, has made me wonder why on earth anyone would follow him. He once was one of my favorite characters but now it seems absurd that he is still considered a leader on any level. As a long-time viewer, I find it very frustrating.

    I totally agree with your comments on the awkward pacing of the seasons now and the “filler arcs”. I also felt Sasha’s storyline was mostly unnecessary. Good article, and not just because you’ve said what I was thinking..

    1. Dale Elster

      Glad to know I’m not alone in my point-of-view.
      Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to share your thoughts, Dave!

  2. Philip

    For me it is simple exhaustion.

    I have spent 7 years watching characters that I care about go through proceedingly worse situations.

    At first the focus was on how they were going to survive in a world overrun by zombies trying to eat them at every turn of the corner. They figured that out.

    Then they ran into a maniac in the Governor. He was real bad and killed several characters that we cared about, and life for the surviving characters got worse.

    Then…….They ran into Terminous and had to fight a bunch of crazy cannibals that were meaner then the Governor and life got worse for the surviving characters.

    Then….They ran into the Wolves who were meaner meaner than the governor, and they had to fight them and life got worse for the surviving characters.

    Then….They ran into the Saviors who were meaner meaner meaner than the governor and life got worse for the surviving characters.

    Then….They fought Saviors and got betrayed by the trash people, and life got worse for the surviving characters.

    Then….From having a nodding acquaintance with the comic books, the characters are going to fight meaner meaner meaner meaner people than the governor and their lives are going to get even worse.

    The problem with this show is that they created characters that I care about, and because I care about them, it is hard to watch terrible things continuously happen to them. They have long since passed the threshold where any real human being would have just realized that a world that shitty is not worth living in and would have killed themselves.

    I am getting to a point where I can’t watch life get worse for them. Its not dramatic anymore. Its not exciting anymore. Its just getting pointlessly cruel, and I want them to just be put out of their misery. But that isn’t going to happen. They are going to have to keep fighting progressively meaner enemies and suffer even more, and at some point I am probably just going to have to bail.

    1. Dale Elster

      Thanks for the comment!
      I feel your pain.
      I can handle these characters fighting all these villains and experiencing loss and heartbreak along the way – as long as it leads to something. I really hope there is a story arc in development that will bring about the conclusion of the series.
      SOON.
      It’s time.
      Otherwise, I’ll have to join you in bailing – hopefully before Zombie Fonzie jumps the zombie shark! 😀

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