The Walking Dead: Start to Finish

Posted on November 30, 2015

Thewalkingdeadstarttofinish

It’s hard to write a review as relentlessly negative as this one’s about to be (fair warning) without people mistakenly believing that you’re angry instead of simply disappointed. It’s going to be harder still to convince you of that once you read the next sentence.

The Walking Dead is a show that deserves to lose at least half its audience.

We say this not because we want to punish the show but because we strongly believe it needs to be shocked out of its complacency, which has become all too evident this season as we spent EIGHT+ HOURS of story time depicting a 36-hour span of time in which absolutely nothing new or interesting occurred, nor were any new themes developed. Eight episodes rehashing the exact same beats, themes and motivations the show has always traded in. Eight episodes watching Rick’s terrible plan collapse while everyone tells him what a great leader he is.

Sure, you could take the charitable view and laud the creators for keeping things consistent, but by the sixth season of a drama like this one, it’s not unreasonable to want to see some sort of evolution or growth, if not in the characters than at least in the storytelling. And besides, the worst sin here is not that that nothing new was said or that things haven’t evolved enough; it’s that the show has gotten so lazy and complacent by adhering to such a rote consistency. Why is Rick the best leader? He just is. Because everyone says so. The story no longer has to work to show you why. Why is it bad to trust people? It just is, because everyone sucks – but also, everyone who survives does so because they have to have one entire episode devoted to them pondering the choice between despair and hope. Everyone who thrives has hope. For … something. Why do hardened survivors of an extinction-level event continue to do really dumb and reckless things years into their survival? Because they just do. But don’t worry, because as we learned this season, the main cast of characters have superpowers and can survive anything at this point. Meanwhile, here are a bunch of new characters. Ooops! All the new characters died. Because they didn’t have Rick as their leader. Or enough hope.

We sound bitter, we know. But so much of this crap has stacked up this season that it’s kind of hard not to be. The writing all season has been lazy and unresolved, but it reached epidemic levels with this episode.

A starving, feverish, mortally wounded man with a knife faces off against two skilled shooters with guns (and one relatively useless person with a machete) and they all instantly hand their weapons over to him with only the slightest prompting. Then, while this wounded, weak man bends over to pick them up, everyone patiently stands around watching him do so, including the person he’s ostensibly using as a hostage, who could have disarmed him with one kick. We can’t anymore. And look, we get that sometimes criticism of this show amounts to “Why isn’t everyone a total bad ass all the time?” That’s not it. Scenes like this one don’t require outrageous badassery in order for the protagonists to triumph because they’re so badly written from the start. Both of those women are excellent shots, as evidenced by the dozens of times we’ve seen them shoot walkers in the head in all kinds of combat situations. Standing in a basement three feet from a sweating, dying man with a knife does not reasonably pose either of those characters any kind of thread. Once again, the show is so married to its themes – in this case, the tiresome one of whether or not to kill bad people – that it can’t be bothered to illustrate them in ways that make sense or resonate.

And if you want to keep setting up these philosophical debates, try not to stack the deck so much. Carol faces off against Morgan while the wolf he’s trying to save is sitting right there, taunting everyone about how he’s going to kill them. All this does is make Morgan look like a total idiot, even before the guy breaks free.

Also: why does the zombie-gut magical armor only get used once every couple of years? You’d think an entire fashion industry of the latest in walker viscera would’ve sprung up by this point. People should be selling Walker Wear in roadside stands by now.

But the lapses in logic are only a symptom of a larger problem in the writing. They clearly have no idea where they’re taking this story. The plan seems to be to just slavishly recreate the storylines of an ongoing comic with no end game in sight. That served the show well through most of its early seasons but after five years, the lack of a point becomes not just more obvious, but a serious detriment to the storytelling. When Deanna asked Michonne what she wanted out of her life she was unable to answer the question. We suppose that counts as some sort of character moment, but it all it managed to do was illustrate just how undefined even the central characters are. Shouldn’t we, as the long-time viewers of this drama, have some idea of what the characters want for themselves? Shouldn’t the characters, after five years, be something more than invulnerable ciphers?

Snap out of it, TWD. You’ve had more than enough time to figure out what you want to be.

 
 

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