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Like the flesh-hungry, shambling walkers that populate the series, The Walking Dead (TWD) cannot rest in peace. It doesn’t matter how many missteps they take or what narrative nadir the series meets, it will shuffle on in one iteration or another until it completely falls apart.

Initially the series was the perfect blend of horror and action, and its concept meant it would be able to tell different types of stories with interesting characters whenever things needed to be spiced up, but that’s not what happened.

Around Season 2, the series became a source of constant frustration for TWD fans. As the show meandered and lurched on with no sense of an endgame the stories became dull, characters were sidelined, and new production teams rotated in again and again. In short, TWD turned into a real drag.

Even though the series has managed to include some interesting moments in its later seasons it feels like the creators can’t help but shoot themselves in the foot every few episodes. Even if you still enjoy the show, you have to admit some of the creators’ decisions are really bad. Obviously, spoilers about TWD are to follow.

 

AMC Announcing The Departure Of Andrew Lincoln

Photo: AMC

When Andrew Lincoln (who plays Rick Grimes) announced he was leaving TWD during Season 9 AMC couldn’t keep quiet about it. Instead, they reminded fans over and over Rick would be leaving the show forever. Obviously they were trying to drum up viewers, but rather than leave anything up to surprise they announced the episode in which Grimes would supposedly expire prior to its air date.

While this may have spiked ratings for the episode, it also completely wrecked any sense of tension  regular viewers may have had. Immediately following “The Obliged,” the episode where Rick falls onto a piece of rebar and impales himself, AMC ran a trailer for the final episode of TWD to feature Rick. Why even try to have a cliffhanger if you’re just going to let everyone know what happens?

Killing Carl

Photo: AMC

It could have been a good move to finish off Carl. This could have been a moment where the show’s creators brought back the idea that anything can happen – especially with Rick Grimes going out the door a season later. But that’s not they were doing.

Instead, the loss of Carl is just another shocky twist meant to give the audience a taste of the forbidden. Even if they needed to elliminate Carl, they could have at least sent him out with a narratively satisfying ending. Instead, he’s randomly bitten by a walker and then spends an hour dying.

Carl’s end should have mattered. The audience should have been rocked by the fact that one of the main characters had just been dispatched by a cruel world. In the end it just felt like business as usual.

Letting Maggie Flounder

Photo: AMC

After Glenn kicks the bucket Maggie has everything she needs to embark on a major character arc. In the comics the loss of Glenn inspires Maggie to question the leadership of Rick and lash out at the rest of the characters before coming into her own as the commander of the Hilltop group. The showrunners for TWD didn’t do any of that.

Instead, they put all Maggie’s character work aside and did nothing with her until Lauren Cohan (the actress who plays Maggie) bounced from the show midway through Season 9. For whatever reason, Cohan didn’t feel the need to stick with the character she’d played for eight seasons, which suggests Maggie’s story wasn’t about to pan out.

Firing Frank Darabont

Photo:  AMC

It’s safe to say TWD wouldn’t exist on television if it weren’t for Frank Darabont, the director behind The MistThe Shawshank Redemption, and a ton of horror cult classics.

The show’s first season is arguably the strongest of the first nine, but AMC cut the budget in half for Season 2 and commanded Darabont turn in all of his scripts before going into production, a move Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan said was “unheard of.”
After arguing back and forth via email AMC abruptly fired Darabont from the series and replaced him with Glen Mazzara (The ShieldDamien). By most accounts Darabont was hard to work with, but even his replacement said  the director worked constantly to make sure the show was as good as possible – even on episodes produced after he was fired.

By ousting Darabont AMC made it clear they ran the show, not the actual showrunner. Unfortunately, Darabont’s vision was a major factor that fueled the earliest episodes. Without it, TWD often feels like it’s just spinning its wheels.

Cutting Characters Off At The Knees

Photo: AMC

One thing TWD has become adept in is building characters up, giving them interesting storylines, then ripping that all away and turning them into one-dimensional caricatures . Most notably this happens to Carol after she builds herself into a supreme renegade over the course of five seasons.

After infiltrating an enemy group and becoming one of the most nuanced and violent characters  Carol’s given a love story that quickly dissipates into narrative vapor. She was easily the most fun character on the show until her non-love story and she’s never the same afterwards.

The creators have done the same thing with so many characters: Maggie is sidelined after Glenn’s abrupt exit, Negan is made out to be a big bad but also a nice guy, and Morgan has more mental breakdowns than a character in a Virginia Woolf novel.

The Pointless Search For Beth

Photo: AMC

If you think back to Season 5 of the series you’ll remember Daryl spends an inordinate amount of screen time searching for Maggie’s sister Beth. He finds her in a hospital in Atlanta where she’s being held captive by an  unhinged police officer.

After an intense rescue operation that involves Carol getting hit by a car and the group having their stuff stolen, they finally save Beth. Or they almost do. She’s fatally shot by the cop who’s subsequently dispatched by Daryl before a standoff can break out. The entire plotline was a waste of time, as the characters end up exactly where they started.

Glenn’s Fake Out Death In Season 6

Photo:  AMC

One of the early hallmarks of TWD was the possibility that anyone could meet their end at any time. That faded away as the series went on and actors signed onto the show with lengthy contracts. However, when Season 6 started up the question of whether Glenn would meet the same grim fate he does in the comics was on everyone’s minds, and the series producers didn’t handle it well.

In the middle of Season 6 Glenn is stuck on top of a dumpster in a sea of zombies with some Red Shirt who shoots himself in the head rather than be eaten alive. He falls into the zombie horde, taking Glenn with him. The final shot is of Glen screaming while zombies pull at a pile of guts. RIP Glenn.

The producers removed Yeun’s name from the opening credits and they were mum on the whole thing. But then it turns out he (rather improbably) survives the the un-survivable situation (he makes it under the dumpster). Fans rejoiced, as they had Glen back and he was immortal. Then he expires the same way as he does in the comics. This kind of misdirect suggests the creators were more concerned with gimmicky swerves than honest to goodness storytelling.

 

The Negan Cliffhanger

Photo: AMC

After teasing Negan out for an entire season, the show finally introduces its most famous villain at the end of Season 6. All the heroes are on their knees waiting for their collective end while the big bag chooses who to dispatch with his spiked baseball bat.

Fans expected the season would end with the loss of Glenn, one of the most shocking twists in the comics both because of its intensity and unexpectedness. Glenn’s out of nowhere conclusion also dovetails his return from the other side earlier in the season, emotionally undercutting his reunion with Maggie and setting up a storyline for her.

Instead of offing Glenn and getting it over with, the creators showed Negan beating an anonymous character and spent the summer teasing out the cliffhanger. When Season 7 premiered the creators spent the entire first episode dragging out the cliffhanger until, yeah, Negan wrecks Glenn just like everyone thought he would.

The Rick Grimes Death Fake Out

Photo: AMC

When it came time for Andrew Lincoln to depart the show after nine seasons, AMC shouted from the rooftops that Rick Grimes’s end was near. There were trailers for his final episode, as well as articles and op-eds suggesting Rick was going to be long gone.

In “What Happens After” Rick finds himself mortally wounded with a piece of rebar and a bunch of zombies closing in on him. With is final moments, he blows up a bridge to save his loved ones and destroy a horde of zombies. It’s a great final send off for TWD’s hero, except it wasn’t a real send off.

In the final moments of the episode Anne/Jadis find Rick in a ravine, who gets him in a helicopter, and tells them he’s an “A,” when he’s actually a “B.” While Rick may be gone from the show for the remainder of Season 9, it seems like  AMC is afraid to really let him go.

The Series Makes Up Its Walker Rules As It Goes Along

Photo: AMC

It’s ridiculous to hold a long-running horror franchise to a strict set of rules, especially over something like turning into a zombie. The malleability needs to exist in order to squeeze tension out of each episode, but Season 8’s “Do Not Send Us Astray” doesn’t even pretend to have internal logic.

In this episode Tobin is infected and it takes him an hour to turn into a zombie, which is fine. In doing this the show is saying these things take time. However, all of that goes out the window when survivors are shot with arrows that have been covered in infected blood. Those survivors turn almost instantly, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

There should be a time limit on these things and the show should stick to it. If not for narrative reasons then to keep its audience sane.

Keeping Rick At The Forefront Of The Show

Photo: AMC

A major problem for every season beyond the first is Rick Grimes is front and center for the majority of episodes. In the first season he’s an interesting, realistically flawed character, but as the series wore on he became a volatile and altogether ineffective leader who tends to get more people in trouble than saved.

For instance, Rick lets the Governor go, only to have him reform another group, destroy the heroes’ prison fortress, and finish off most of the survivors.

If that weren’t bad enough, Rick has three moods: he broods, he gets cry-angry, and he delivers huge speeches meant to rally support from people who stopped believing in him. How many times can an audience watch that and enjoy themselves?

The Creation Of ‘The Talking Dead’

Photo:  AMC

There’s nothing inherently wrong with making a show about a show. If people want to talk about zombies and AMC can make money off that dialogue while giving people jobs, great. But the way the show has become a pulpit for the writers, actors, and producers to explain away inconsistencies has had a negative impact on the writing of the series.

One of the most important lessons in screenwriting is “show don’t tell,” and by having a series where executive producer Robert Kirkman can show up and explain why Negan sticks around feels lazy and takes the whole point away from making a show in the first place. Why even pay for a series when Kirkman could just sit on a couch and tell Chris Hardwick about his ideas for a zombie tv show?

The Talking Dead began with good intentions, but like everything that has to do with TWD it quickly rotted and fell apart.

 

 

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