What happened to The Walking Dead I loved?
What happened to The Walking Dead I loved?
Ever since the inception of Night Gathers, I’ve written about two shows regularly; The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. After season seven of The Walking Dead, I felt like I needed to take a break from weekly episodic reviews. This was both for my own mental well being and from a quality of content point of view for Night Gathers.
Week after week, all I was feeling was disappointment and frustration towards a show that I once loved, slowing succumbing to it’s own zombie infection. With every episode I found myself hate-watching Rick and friends as they bumbled through a plot line that once kept me on the edge of my seat and fearful for where the story would lead next. As each episode would go by the thought of writing about it almost made me detest the show even further. I had to stop. I desperately wanted to find my love for The Walking Dead again...
Fast forward to Season 8 and for the first time ever I’m not even mildly excited about the start of a new season, and I’m only half aware the show is even returning to air. This time though I’m coming at it fresh. I’m not worrying about writing reviews. I’m just watching it. I’m just going with the story. I’m watching it as a fan. I’m trying to love again.
Although you know what...it’s worse than ever.
Even as a long-term fan I just can’t sit by anymore and take it. I don’t know what’s going on in that writers room, but it’s not working. And if you’re losing me, a day one fan, you’re definitely losing others. I really didn’t want it to end this way. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still hope, but much like Hershel’s zombie-infected leg, we need to sever it and quickly move on with our lives.
Just to add a little context to my Walking Dead fandom, I’m about 10 comics away from being up-to-date. I’ve re-watched the first 5 seasons of The Walking Dead twice and in 2016 I picked The Walking Dead as my favourite show of all time in a Night Gathers article, above Game of Thrones! Today, it would struggle to make it into my top 25 shows.
So where and why is it all going to so wrong?
I’m so fatigued with the constantly conflicted characters. Every time the story gets going a character all of a sudden has a change of heart and morality shift. Case in point, Rosita recently wanted to kill every last Saviour. This week, she’s with half of the wider squad at the Saviour compound ready to make an aggressive, albeit ridiculous attack, and then she decides it’s not the right approach and leaves everyone to execute the attack without her. Her whole character arc has been about rage, payback and retribution. And don’t even get me started on Rick and Daryl having a school yard punch-up about another sudden change of heart. You can also add Morgan and Jesus to that list of flip-floppy-flops. I’m honestly just waiting each episode now to see who's going to change their mind next. It’s a tired story arc that has been fatiguing and over used.
This entire season has been about people shooting at each other and you know what, I care about none of them. They’re all extras and I literally feel like I have no skin in the game. This is made even worse by the fact that any fear of losing a ‘main player’ is long gone. I never fear for Rick, Daryl, Michonne, Maggie and Carl’s safety. They’re all safe. They’re running around Georgia with ‘god-mode’ switched on. It’s countless extra’s firing guns, getting bitten, doing stupid things. And none of it matters. I’ve got no rapport with any of them.
We’ve already spent the best part of season seven trying to get all the groups together and now we’re back to being spread-out and broken. With drip-feed stories about characters I no longer feel any connection with, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, The Walking Dead doesn’t know how to build a sense of community. They should stop. This story needs to centralise and get back to what it's good at.
Why is Rick dealing with the Trash people. Kill them and kill that story! They were horrible to have to watch last season, they’ve already betrayed Rick once and now he’s back trying to make a partnership with them. The real Rick Grimes wouldn’t tolerate this and as a viewer I feel like I couldn’t care less about a group of survivors if I tried. I couldn’t think of a writer made-up group of survivors that would resonate less with The Walking Dead community.
Last season we had way too much Negan, this season we don’t have enough.
And on the note of Negan, I actually care more about Negan, Dwight and Simon than our core group of ‘heroes’. I don’t even think that should be possible. They’re meant to be the villains but at this point I would rather watch a show about Negan and friends ran-sacking America. At least it’s a centralised story about the characters I believe in for better or worse.
The writers are literally working off a brilliant comic book blueprint and it’s still terrible! I think it’s time to either sever the tie and go in a different direction or seriously think about introducing some new talent to the writers room.
Who even cares when it's on
And finally, I’m so checked out, I don’t even care if I don’t watch an episode when it releases. I can wait weeks to catch up. I just don’t care. The sense of urgency to be part of a conversation with friends and online communities has long gone and that was something I lived for in the early days of The Walking Dead, in fact all the way up until the end of season six.
I realise, this is very ranty and probably harks back to my reviews of season seven, but I don’t think it’s unsolvable.
We’re clearly heading towards a time jump, It’s the perfect time to reset the rules of engagement and wider universe. If I was AMC, Robert Kirkman or anyone else with some influence on The Walking Dead, here’s what I would consider doing:
- Make the call, are you sticking with the comic book story or you going rogue?
- Bring in a fresh writing team to support the chosen direction.
- Tighten up the number of core characters. Yes, that means killing some off.
- Start developing plot lines that people can resonate with, focused on the characters people are already invested in.
- Bring back the mystery and fear of living in a post-apocalyptic world. No one should be truly safe.
- Don’t be afraid to head towards a conclusion. Make me scared for every character's life when they step outside of the gates.
In hind-sight I almost wonder if The Walking Dead should have ended with Rick and friends in a half-circle on their knees around Negan - that would have been perfect. Sure, we would never have known who Negan chose to kill, but the circle-of-life nature of the scene would have been a bittersweet ending to the Rick Grimes story. As Qui-Gon once said "There's always a bigger fish".
What about everyone else? How's The Walking Dead sitting with you this season? You know the drill, sound off in the comments below.