After writing my previous article about zombies, I made a harsh comment regarding The Walking Dead based on only having viewed one season of it. I decided to rewatch it from the beginning and catch up to the present day so that my criticism could be justified. And for the most part, I was proven even more right than I thought I was.
I discovered the comic series in 2007 and became an avid fan. I was overjoyed when I discovered that it was getting adapted for TV, but was disappointed just from the pilot. I struggled through season 1 and then gave up. Over the last week and a bit, I’ve watched everything up to 4×11. My first comments will be based on the first 3 series and I’m going to review season 4 separately.
Note: Spoilers will include spoilers from the comic AND series up until episode 4×11.
The Melodramatic Dead and The Walking Cliches
The amount of sappiness in the show is ridiculous. The entire format of every episode is a mindless action scene (normally zombie related, but sometimes human) followed by a superficially melodramatic scene. Rinse and repeat. Oh and everybody can shoot a zombie in the head on the first shot (sometimes the second) even after only a month or two after the apocalypse. Every time a major character dies, or a child dies/is a zombie, it’s a long drawn out scene with lots of tears and sad faces and a sappy score. I want it to be gritty and realistic, not Grey’s Anatomy. It makes it very difficult to care about what’s happening when it’s so obviously trying to make you care instead of genuinely being an emotional event. For example, these deaths:
Basically, superficial is the best way to sum up the first three seasons. Zombies and post-apocalyptia are supposed to be ugly and harsh and violent, yet The Walking Dead romanticizes it to a sickening degree. Everyone is ‘pretty’ and perfectly made up (ok, I know it’s TV but still), the famous mowed lawns, everything looks like the apocalypse happened yesterday. It never feels like there is any real danger or that the world has crumbled (and still crumbling). Although it does kill a few major characters off, it plays it very safe and doesn’t really make any controversial decisions.
No fleshed out characters (heh, flesh)
Absolutely appalling lack of character development. In the comics, even characters that I hate are hateable for a reason (though some are just boring). In the show, the characters merely exist as puppets to tell a story. They are there for things to happen to, but nothing they do really matters – to them, their world or anything other than the immediate story the writers are telling us.
One aspect I really liked about the comic was the relationship between Rick and Carl. I didn’t really like either character, but their relationship felt real and it focused heavily on Rick trying to take care of his son whilst also having to help him mature to be able to survive in the new world. In the show, there is really little focus on them. Rick is constantly screaming out Carl’s name, but it feels more like he’s just desperate to have something instead of genuinely caring for it. Carl’s character is poorly dealt with and a lot of subplots he had in the comic which helped develop him are thrown away in the show. The actor is also not strong enough to really portray the kind of depth that is needed.
Another big insult was the change to Andrea. I don’t like her much in the comic, but she’s strong and useful and her character evolved realistically. She lost her lover and became focused on her shooting skills. In the show, she sleeps with anything that moves and is the most self-absorbed, useless character I’ve ever seen. Her toughness is not believable at all, perhaps also due to the acting, but it feels like they stole that aspect from the comic just to give her something to do.
The Governor in the comic was a great villain. He was a total douche; killing and raping and you wanted him to die. Governor in the show was not a villain. He was just slightly douchey. He was played too typical and obvious and made him too much of a nice guy. The actor was too much of a pretty boy and lacked that strong powerful presence that he should have. When he stopped putting on his happy face, it was just so comical, I really found it hard to take him seriously. They did, however, up the ante a bit in season 4 where I actually thought he was pretty good.
They are a few of the big ones, I’m not going to go into detail about all of them. But none of them feel like people. None of them have real motivations or fears. They are just stereotypically defined and again, superficial.
Audiences love explosions and blood right?
Apparently so, as this is the shows main selling point apparently. The show revolves around excuses to show off the awful CGI and explode some stuff, behead and stab a few zombies, have a few people ripped apart by zombies. The afore-mentioned melodrama is inserted in between these scenes to pretend that it’s not really trying to do that. Now I appreciate all of the above as much as the next guy, but I don’t need to be bombarded with it. I’d rather one zombie beheading and cheering at it, than seeing 50 beheadings and shrugging. Likewise, people getting eaten by zombies is fun, but after 300 of them it kind of loses the effect. Caring about a character who is getting munched on also helps.
After 3 seasons of rolling my eyes, suddenly season 4 comes out of nowhere. It’s far from amazing, but was a significant improvement. It started focusing on the characters and the people and takes the focus off the zombies – which is how it should be. Actions that characters made now had consequences – yay! It was also at the point where they’ve adapted to living in this environment and shows their life at the prison and having a community that works fairly well. The episode with the illness in the prison, for example, was a really interesting idea. And aside from the obvious melodrama and things like only the unimportant characters actually dying, it was a good episode. I wasn’t initially a fan of splitting the characters up, but somehow it’s working well. Some more focus on Rick and Carl, as well as developing some of the other characters a little more seems to be more effective in this format. I only really started enjoying the show during this season.
In summary, the show is a big audience pleaser. It makes a few ‘shocking’, yet uncontroversial moves but fails to genuinely shock or emotionally involve. Compare to something like Game of Thrones which doesn’t give a feck about the audience, it just does what makes sense in the story and for those characters.
Top 10 Worst Characters
Since I don’t like any of the characters enough to have favourites, I decided to finish off this rant with a list of the worst characters.
10. Dale Horvath
It’s not that I necessarily dislike Dale, but I hate how his character was handled. I like DeMunn, but he didn’t really give the character any life or depth. He often just made crazy-eyed stares, instead of showing any actual emotion and he was ridiculously inconsistent and annoying.
9. Carl Grimes
I don’t really hate Carl, but he lacks depth. This is partly due to poor writing and partly due to poor acting. It would be a very tough character to get right in even one of those aspects, but failing in both leads to a kid who does little more than be bratty and broody.
8. Carol Peletier
Spoilers for the comic: she goes insane and kills herself in front of everyone, including Sophia. She was kind of the opposite in the show. Starting off insane and then suddenly becoming ‘tough’. I find her dull and she doesn’t really offer anything aside from being able to kill and having some strange relationship with Daryl?
6. Shane Walsh
5. Maggie Greene
Glenn is my favourite character in the comic and therefore I like him and Maggie – can’t stand them together in the show. Though I never liked Maggie. She was better in the comic because TV Maggie just whinges and cries or goes on about how much she loves Glenn and her father and sister. Like the others, she magically became adept at fighting overnight but I don’t consider that part of her character because I don’t believe it.
3. Those two girls
2. Beth Greene
1. Lori Grimesby