“The Walking Dead” has transcended the small screen and turned a counterculture concept into a mainstream infatuation in the eight years since AMC’s television version was created. Its apex in fandom has come and gone with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” filling its place in pop culture. It’s still one of the few shows networks can count on to pull in a relatively high rating. However, “The Walking Dead’s”consistent viewership may not reflect the level of quality AMC is putting out.
There isn’t much growth within the show. The characters have been to different places, they’ve met a lot of new people and found themselves in some sticky situations. After it all, I’m not sure anything has actually happened. Since season three, they’ve been running in circles around plot lines that they’ve already done.
As Rick’s character becomes a more unreliable decision maker, it seems his group trusts him more than ever. Through season seven and the latter half of season six, Negan (the antagonist) is objectively more well-rounded than any of his peers in the show. The only character who has the same organic appeal is Tara, who hopes to seek revenge against her deceased girlfriend’s killer Dwight, Negan’s apprentice. Supporting characters Eugene, Carl and Spencer had their most emotional and well-written scenes with Negan, but this serves as a grander issue among the overall cast. The problem may be more than just the quality but rather the quantity.
A “Simpsons” level cast of characters forces writers to rush relationships into an episode instead of building them organically. For example, there is the stark contrast with how the relationship between Glenn and Maggie formed versus Sasha and Abraham.
The show spent an entire season planting the seeds of a fruitful relationship, establishing a connection between the two. To write a compelling story, it needs fluidity and an ounce of reality. For example, if Tara is being attacked by several “walkers,” she can’t have a conversation with another character and then come out of it without a scratch.
“The Walking Dead” hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy award in over five seasons and there is a reason for that. Since promoting Greg Nicotero to showrunner, “The Walking Dead” has evolved into something with the same amount of nuance as “Chicago Fire” or a run-of-the-mill medical drama. The unique subplots and the minuscule details that help build characters have, for the most part, been absent.
If the characters have to discuss their actions with an excess of exposition and then re-explain their thoughts, there’s likely an issue in the writing room. When the audience can already infer what is happening from the activities of the characters on screen, there’s a problem. Showing, and not telling, the audience is vital for intelligent television. It’s something “The Walking Dead” has increasingly neglected with each passing season.
Just a simple uptick in conversation about things other than the characters’ plan or going on a run would make for compelling interaction. Even in unfortunate situations, like the apocalypse, there’s still comedy. There’s more than just surviving. Viewers are led to believe the Kingdom and Alexandria are hospitable communities, but they wouldn’t know it because light moments receive the b-roll treatment.
Rick’s group has been on so many “runs” and there have been so many conversations on random experiences before the apocalypse. At some point, the tone needs to change for more than a scene of eating food rations. I would want to learn how to farm in the modern apocalypse. What crops grow best? Give a backstory as to where everyone is getting gas from. It’s been years since the crumbling of civilization; I don’t think BP is still sending over petroleum.
With “The Walking Dead” it’s not the fight for survival that concerns me. I’ve already seen that more times than I can count. I’m concerned about the little things because that’s what turns a good show into a great show. The show hooks viewers with tremendous suspense and drama in every season by introducing new, more prominent antagonists and problems. However, the repetitive nature of putting too much information in each moment of every season isn’t as compelling as the show could be.
Not to say “The Walking Dead” is a bad show, but it could be better.