There was a time when “The Walking Dead” was my favorite show on TV. Conceptually it was fantastic. The characters were dynamic and while not all likable were still compelling. The narrative was in constant movement and evolution and didn’t just use characters as plot devices. It was never a perfect show, but all of it’s good greatly outweighed its flaws. It was diverse in character archetypes and for the first several seasons was really just a glorified survival show. After a time, the zombies were very little more than mere obstacles to overcome. The nature of man and greater questions about morality in the new world while balancing the world before were displayed again and again, and almost always stayed not only riveting but nail-biting tense.
“Words can be meager things. Sometimes they fall short.”
Over the many seasons the brutal world that our main characters were forced to exist in resulted in the death of many. As an audience we have watched many of our favorite characters die in ways that were not only horrific but disturbing. Sometimes to the point of impacting you for days and weeks. It wasn’t because of how they were killed, it was because you cared so much about these people. Then had to watch them suffer and die in ways that could make your stomach curdle.
The gore and violence was always a part of the show, but they weren’t the centerpiece or focus. It was part of the story and part of lessons our characters had to learn. The violence was a reflection of the new world, the perversion of man, and what lengths people would go to survive. Eventually it became what some would do without the constraints of laws and morality.
The characters were all deeply flawed, and often those flaws would result in their death or the deaths of others, but sometimes it would be their salvation. Evolutions of characters like Carol, Eugene, and Morgan were some of the high points of the series. Watching the “Governor” come back from the “dead” was probably one of the most interesting arcs. The character study that was “The Walking Dead” had real people making good and bad choices, and they had to answer for them. There were logic and a world full of real consequences for choices and actions.
“People In Hell Want Slurpee’s.”
When the prison fell and everyone had split up and was in search of Terminus the show returned to it’s roots. The goal was merely to survive and those six episodes were the highlight of the entire series. It was simple storytelling and allowing the actors to do what they do best. In simple story telling character development manifested organically. The quiet moments were the best, getting to know everyone on a deeper level felt meaningful, and suddenly when these people were eventually in peril again we cared. It touched us, it burned us, and it shocked us.
By the time the crew (or what was left) had made it to Alexandria I was excited because I’d read the graphic novels and knew we were getting close to Negan. Unfortunately, this is where the show started to lose me…..and clearly, I wasn’t the only one. It was the end of season 6 when Rick, Maggie, and the whole group was making decisions they’d never make, sacrifices they never would, and acting out as plot devices to bring us to the big, scary cliffhanger ending that had very little impact on me because of the manipulative way we got there.
“I’m not the good guy anymore.”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan was everything and more I could have ever hoped for an actor playing Negan. He fully embodied the wicked, the terrifying, the strangely calm and methodical method to his actions and pulled it off in a charmingly sadistic way. Immediately I loved him and the show kept me under its thumb for another season, but that’s all I could manage.
Rick was no longer Rick and save Michonne and a few other characters everyone else had left the building along with logic. All that existed was wars, “shocking” death scenes, betrayal every five minutes……what had once been a beautiful character piece of survival and the essence of humanity was now a nighttime soap opera that zombies happened to be a part of.
The show literally fell apart and I began to hate everyone. I think I stopped watching after Carl died. Rick and Carl were the heart of the show and even though I went back and forth on hating Carl he at least was a real person. Everyone’s personal agendas became the forefront for things to fall apart. By the time they started building the Negan arc (which how as viewers could you not watch the show and NOT understand that Negan is Rick and Rick is Negan?) it was too late. They had hammered the villain in too hard. Such a great performance wasted. But at this point, there was no logic left anymore.
“Ain’t nothing sadder than an outdoor cat that thinks he’s an indoor cat.”
So I left. I haven’t looked back since. I’ve dabbled in “Fear The Walking Dead”, which goes back and forth between good and bad, and also struggles with exploitative drama. It brought be back into the mix with Morgan joining the cast and Garrett Dillahunt joining the cast. When people complain about how Game of Thrones fell apart my first reaction is, “Did you watch The Walking Dead?” because there’s no dynasty that I’ve ever seen fall this hard on their face, and I don’t know why. Did they dumb it down for the mass audiences? Did they feel the pressure to keep upping the violence, the drama, the chaos? Either way, it’s tragic. I can’t even watch the first six seasons right now, which is usually my favorite thing to do starting in September. Now I’m bitter and I’ll pass.