Why I am falling out of like with The Walking Dead (TV series)

Spoiler Warning: Consider this my Op-ed piece, and it does contain spoilers if you are not totally up to date on Season 3 of The Walking Dead TV series, or haven’t read past the prison/Woodbury in the comics.

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Season 3 cast. Photo credit: AMC

While my love for The Walking Dead show has never reached my love for the comic, I certainly had times when I have liked it, even enjoyed watching it.  But frankly, those times are becoming fewer and farther between.  For AMC, this show has been a boon.  Not that AMC is any slouch when it comes to compelling dramas (Mad Men, Breaking Bad), but The Walking Dead has shattered previous viewing records.  There is even a show that is entirely centered around fans, some affiliated with the show, some not, discussing, speculating and otherwise swooning over recent show happenings (The Talking Dead).  That said, by the time season 4 rolls around TWD will be on its third show runner, the most notable loss being Frank Darabont, whose first season run has definitely been my favorite.  Despite all this internal churn, the show remains very popular with both people who are fresh to the material and those who read the comics.  It is however, becoming less popular with me.

Enough people have complained about the first half of season 2.  You know, the season spent looking for Sophia.  Power struggles play out on Hershel’s farm largely in the form of Laurie hanging on Rick’s back whispering in his ear that he needs to “do something” about Shane….as if that’s not a monster she helped to create.  By the way, has anyone seen Carl?  Season 3 however introduces one of my favorite story arcs in the comic, The Prison and The Governor (Woodbury Settlement).  Admittedly, I may be in the minority in this choice, but having the survivors in one place gave an opportunity for both character development and repercussions of previous choices to come into play.  I was really looking forward to seeing how this would translate to the show, but instead I’m feeling like the whole spirit of these stories is being told backwards.  Things that were so powerful to me in reading have either been played down or played out too quickly, and replaced by cliché imagery and behavior.  Rather than the subtle, slower (and fairly creepy) breakdown we see in the comics, Rick instantly devolves into a trembling, raving mess, wandering outside the protective fences of the prison following an ethereal vision of bridal ghost Laurie.  Having a psychotic breakdown of this magnitude is a bit self-indulgent, and out of character for the Rick I know from the books.  His memory of an idealized Laurie seems trite and too far outside of how viewers interacted with her character.  Yeah, yeah, Rick’s wife is dead. Maybe if there was more effort to make me like Laurie before she died, I would understand this. Really, I’m just glad I don’t have to watch them argue anymore.

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Booooo! Remember when I was nice? Me neither….I mean, booooo….

I know the show has taken some liberties with characters and story-line  and that’s fine, but I would have hoped that at least some characterization would remain intact.  Female survivors Michonne and Andrea are two of the strongest characters in the comic.  Michonne is tough physically and mentally and acts as a confidant/adviser for Rick.  Her story arc with The Governor is one of the most difficult things I have ever read.  Comic-Andrea is an anchor for the group (and the best marksman). She chooses her romantic partner because he supports her, not because he offers protection.  In the show, however, the development of these two women has been fairly one-dimensional.  Michonne is so far, little more than her sword, and while we are told she took care of Andrea during a hard winter, we largely see her glowering, and beheading, glowering and beheading.

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Michonne- “I swear, in an alternate universe, I’m a boss.”

Thankfully this Sunday she got a chance to speak, putting voice to what I’ve been thinking about Andrea; Andrea whose main goal seems to be to attach herself to whichever alpha male is available.  She’s taken up with The Governor most recently and spends much of her time judging, whining and trying to have her cake and eat it too.  Her plea to Rick and his group to lay down arms and “negotiate” is a perfect illustration of the messiah complex Michonne accuses her of having.

Thank goodness for Carol.  I think it can be argued that Carol has lost the most, having to live through the loss of her child twice.  Rather than this destroying her, it’s made her stronger, and a true survivor.  She gives Andrea some real and practical advice on how she could end the conflict between Rick’s group and Woodbury.  But it’s advice that Andrea can’t follow, possibly because she’s just too comfortable.  TV-Carol is put through her paces in a way the Comic-Carol never would have survived and it’s made her more real, likable and grounded in reality. Perhaps the key to surviving an apocalypse is to have to build yourself back up from rock bottom?

This fairly cranky write up aside, there are some bright spots.  I have already mentioned Carol, whose path is much different than it was in the comics.  Rick and Laurie’s son Carl has gone from a joke to a scarily capable 12 year old.  He’s growing up in the world and adapting to it better than anyone.  I’m kinda voting for him to lead the group.  There are also some new characters, created for the TV series.  Dixon Brothers Merle and Daryl are probably the most popular.  So popular in fact that rumors are swirling that Daryl, at least, may cross over to the comic.  Merle, the rougher of the two, has recently returned to the core group after spending some time with a rival survivor group.  Calling him a jerk is kind, but he loves his brother in his own way, and doesn’t pull any punches. Maybe he’ll be the one to give Rick the Moonstruck style “snap out of it” slap in the face he so desperately needs.  The younger of the brothers, Daryl, is impossible not to love.  The writers must love him too because he’s definitely the one who has had the most interesting arc.  Daryl goes from a loner who was ignored and abandoned in his youth (including by Merle), to learning how to be part of a family who values him for the first time in his life.  These successful new characters make me wonder if the best way to handle this show would be to follow a different group of survivors all together.  Or better yet, an American Horror Story style reboot that follows a new group of survivors each season (AMC, call me).

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Daryl and Carl: TCB

I’ll keep watching, hoping the third showrunner can capture my attention back. By the way, have you played the The Walking Dead game? Now that’s good (and a different post).

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15 comments

  1. bishop375

    “Or better yet, an American Horror Story style reboot that follows a new group of survivors each season”

    This is nothing other than pure, absolute brilliance. If AMC doesn’t call you, it’s a travesty.

    • Kevin Harrington

      I totally agree! When I read that line I kept thinking “Why not? WHY NOT?” That could be really interesting, and leave things open for potentially more terrior because we just assume that certain protagonists will always survive in a story, a notion that Kirkman has at times turned on its head. It could also just give a season more of a sense of completeness if you follow one particular group. I thought they were even flirting with something like this when they introduced those webisodes, following other groups. Some of those scenarios had potential to be more interesting than what was on screen, but we not properly handled or used more like filler.

      • tinydoom

        Oh! I haven’t seen the webisodes. I’ll have to check those out. But yeah, having more freedom might make for more interesting viewing.

  2. Sal

    Seriously. Seriously. Forget Rick, Andrea, Michonne, “where is” Carl… All these characters have been written so schizophrenically it’s hard to imagine the writers from one week to the next having actually watched the same shows we have. Daryl and Carol have the start of something interesting, a deeper relationship, then it’s gone. You’re telling me after everything that’s happened that Daryl is going to abandon Carol for Merl? Really? Bull-shat. And Rick, who, you’re right, we come to care about deeply in the comic because of who we come to know at his core – has no core in the show. Public hallucinatory freak-out? Kicking Tyrese and his desperate people out of the prison? The Rick i know wouldn’t do it. The worst thing is I think they’re in the process of making the Rick in the comics more like the Rick in the show. Ugh. You’ve pegged it, girlfriend. Well done.

    • tinydoom

      Thanks Sal! This post took a lot of work, as I wanted to be objective and be sure I was leaving allowance for the show and the comic to be different. Sometimes different is good, and sometimes it’s bad. The bad in this case, is that core characters have not been changed for the better and it’s taking away the reason I love this story in the first place.

  3. bishop375

    Also, and because, let’s face it, this is *me* talking… how is it that every survivor is capable of hitting a shambling walker at 500′ with a handgun, but when faced with a stationary human target inside of 50′, using a scoped AR, they can’t hit worth a damn?

  4. Travis Trudell

    These are all good points. I could not have cared less for Lady McLauries demise. The show could turn itself around if only it could get out of it’s own way. When I talk about Zombie movies the Zombies are the least interesting parts. They represent time and eventuality. There is no cure,there is no going back. (There is no Dana. Only Zule) Its the complete and total societal breakdown and the dissolving of decency that interests me the most. The “What would you do in this situation?” always leads to some interesting subject matter to debate an discuss. They discuss it slowly but they don’t reach the depths of moral decay that I think society would actually become. I think a Lost Like “Taileys” episode in which we see the destruction of a group who chose not to uphold any of the original societal structure and their descent into bestial survival would be a nice juxtapostion for our group of Would be “Moral Orrals”.
    More importantly though one must consider the striking similarities Between “The Walking Dead” and “Downton Abbey.” Is there similarities in the theme of Eschewing the betterment of the group for causes of moral and societal correctness in the face of changing times and the eventuality of their cultures demise? The handling of characters and their compulsion to hurt one another for modest gains and turns of furtune. The dismissing of main and minor characters to the welcoming arms of death. The stagnation if being trapped in a group (or family) that can no longer accept the present dangers in not adapting. The Dowager Countess?
    Discuss

    • The Red Menace

      Travis, I’m nominating you to write a guest post on the parallels between The Walking Dead and Downton Abbey. Make it so.

      True confession time – I can’t get into the comic OR the show. I gave the comic longer, 6 or 7 issues, because I liked it at first. But it goes on. And on. And on. Some of what Travis is saying about the deeper meaning of zombie movies also depends on the movie ENDING – even if the end is that society completely collapses and everyone is dead. Even getting into the deeper relationships between characters there just comes a point when I’m tired of and bored with watching society collapse.

    • tinydoom

      Amazing Travis! And agreed, the zombies are the least interesting thing is a zombie movie. It’s the duality of man! Perhaps one could argue that Lord Grantham is this season’s Rick. They both attempt to force a changing society to (continue) to be what they want it to be and it just ends in tears. I would happily watch “The Walking Downton”.
      The Dowager Countess would take over Woodbury for sure.

      • smalerie

        Deadton Abbey? Brilliant! I’m with Erin in that the comic nor she show has really been for me. Great Op-Ed though, TD!

  5. itsthegoog

    I know I’m frustrated with the pacing, it’s been better this season, but every few episodes there’s a lot of talking, but nothing actually happens. No plot developments, very little set up for future events, just rehashing what we already know.
    I too am annoyed with how their marksmanship changes suddenly and dramatically, in the books the mostly stick to handheld weapons, hatchets, clubs, crowbars and the like, they conserve ammo because it’s a premium and only use it when absolutely necessary because it draws more walkers. There is a little bit of this in the show, but they have guns and by golly they’re going to use them! Also, why is there only one crossbow in all of Georgia? You’d think they’d have come across at least a bow and some arrows by now.

  6. Violet

    I agree with your analysis of TWD. Michonne and Andrea are the strongest and most capable in the comics. The show does not do them justice. The idea of Rick hating Michonne is weird. Andrea’s sexual exploits overshadow, her strength more than anything. This season has been extremely crazy. The fact that the group lost two characters in one episode was hard for me. I understand that most people had an issue with season two. I liked it accept for the fact that Dale died ( stupid Carl).

    Ghost Lori is a trip. It was bad enough that we had to deal with Lori before now the writers do not want to let her go just yet.

    Tame Merle is a bit spooky to me more so than that scene with him and Herschel in the jail cell.

    I hope that the rumors are not true for the rest of the season. I won’t spoil what I know for anyone though.

  7. Mike C

    HA!

    But you’re so right. I watched the 1st season on Netflix, and was bored to tears. I can’t imagine that a lot of the more powerful moments in the book (Michonne’s vengeance on the Governor, for example) would remain at all intact, and it sounds as if a lot of the complaint chickens that were hatched around the time Darabont was let go as showrrunner (AMC wants to save on budget by having lots of “kitchen table” scenes, etc) are coming home to roost.

    Here’s the thing: There’s a LOT of really compelling television out there currently being aired (House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc), some incredible watchable trash (American Horror Story), and more good television that you can being to finish on Netflix and Hulu Plus for around $15 a month. Nobody has the time for mediocrity, even if it’s temptingly spiced up with zombies.

  8. tinydoom

    Well, last night’s episode (“Clear”) was actually kinda great. When you don’ have to worry about a whole ensemble of cast, and a-feudin’ with another settlement, you can actually focus on some character development. Finally….and inkling of why people like Michonne so much! While Rick and his group still could look like “bad guys” to those they encounter (and abandon or rob), Rick, Michonne and Carl are finally humanized a bit, or in Carl’s case, we see him balancing some of his old life, with his new.
    I think this episode was written by the new show runner. A sign of better times? Or just one good episode?

  9. Pingback: Why I’m breaking up with The Walking Dead (TV series) | The Ladies of Comicazi

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