“The Walking Dead” is a source of great revenue for AMC, and the popularity of the television series (following Robert Kirkman’s ongoing collection of graphic novels), has led to more than one game and the suggestion of a future spin-off series. Furthermore, the renewal of “The Walking Dead” has already been announced, with a sixth season in the works before the fifth has even begun to air! With that kind of popularity and commercial success you would think that this show would have to be a bona fide masterpiece, with amazing writing, stunning performances, and fantastic special effects. However, in actual fact “The Walking Dead” is so successful because it capitalises on the fact that currently the world is obsessed with the possibility of a zombie apocalypse, with “The Last of Us”, “Warm Bodies”, “State of Decay”, “Dead Island” and many more titles, being released recently in order to profit from the genre.
I don’t feel that this series contains any noteworthy acting performances or unpredictable story-arcs, and the characters don’t interact with each other in organic or meaningful ways, they just bicker and moan, as if human interaction is one big hardship now that the world has effectively ended. The characters themselves don’t have any depth, and after four seasons they still aren’t properly developed; I know nothing about their pasts or who they truly are, all I know is that they are survivors, and they all have a pretty good aim. Each time I watch “The Walking Dead” I am acutely aware that I am watching actors attempting to play their roles, and so I am never genuinely immersed by the action happening on screen. Nevertheless, I’m still watching the show, which may seem surprising given the criticisms, so it’s only right that I explain why that is the case.
Firstly, I started watching “The Walking Dead” while I was still in school, so for at least a couple of seasons it gave me something to talk about with my friends beyond the generic, ‘how are you?’ of everyday conversation. Once that routine starts it’s hard to break out of, and I am guilty of watching far too many shows simply out of habit, and the urge to know how the whole thing will end. Without seeing the final ending of a series, the last episode there will ever be, how can you really decide whether or not you enjoyed it?
“The Walking Dead” has also had, and does have, its moments. In each season the show is able to deliver in about four of its episodes, and I stick around for those episodes because they provide a sense of satisfaction, as you see something finally get resolved between the group, or a hated villain meeting his grizzly end. I don’t really have an issue with watching bad television, but from what I’ve just said, it would seem that the past three seasons of “The Walking Dead” have only been interesting for about a quarter of the time, with plenty of time reserved for filler.
The good episodes of this show are usually the ones which the series has been leading up to for the last eight hours of the season, and tend to give you about twenty minutes of action as a reward for sticking around. Strictly speaking these moments aren’t even worth the wait, but I’m a sucker for punishment and I have really enjoyed at least some of the more thrilling moments in this largely dreary show’s lifetime. As Shane (Jon Bernthal) was finally done away with, and it was revealed that everyone, yes everyone, becomes a walker upon death, I couldn’t help but enjoy what I was seeing. I had read the first couple of comics by that time and was aware of Shane’s fate, but I still enjoyed the tension of Rick and Shane’s final showdown.
The first season was a much shorter series than its successors, and as a result it was very enjoyable, because the cast weren’t standing around, twiddling their thumbs, for the majority of the run time. In season one the tone was a lot darker, and the series felt as though it was going in an interesting direction, focusing more on how people would react to the end of the world, rather than on brutal zombie violence. However, the tone of that season has been lost in recent times, as the increase in episodes has lead to a soap-opera like television show, polluted by generic female characters who are given no real substance, and a frustrating amount of squabbling between the group. The show is still about the characters but it isn’t actually about fleshing them out or giving them interesting personalities, it’s about where they are going to go next and how life is so unfair to them, despite the fact that they are still alive in a world which is largely owned by the dead (talk about ungrateful).
“The Walking Dead” would benefit from the kind of flash-backs we have seen in great shows such as “Lost”, because we know nothing about this show’s characters other than how we have seen them react to situations relating to a zombie apocalypse. In “Lost” we saw how the group handled a dire situation on the island, and then we also saw the contrast in their attitudes and characters during their lives before the crash of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, usually gaining genuinely interesting insight into who they were as people and how that has led them to their current situation. We are teased with minute details about certain people’s pasts in “The Walking Dead”, but we never actually gain any knowledge as to who they really are as people, meaning that we can’t form any meaningful connections with them. I would love to get to know a bit more about the characters lives before the outbreak, and I would also really appreciate some kind of explanation as to why walkers came to exist in the first place. It’s amazing how little this lack of clarity is highlighted in the media or by fans!
The writers of “The Walking Dead” seem completely determined to have the characters stay in one place for the majority of each season, presumably in an effort to save money on building sets. In doing this, each episode can become incredibly boring, as we watch each member of the group go about their daily routine, and hear all about their insignificant worries and complaints. Why not use the time you are wasting to actually develop your characters? I hope this is not something which continues in season five, and from what I’ve seen I may be in luck, as I believe that for at least the first eight episodes of the season the group will be attempting to make their way to Washington, along with their captors from Terminus.
There are multiple other aspects of “The Walking Dead” which can make it extremely tedious:
1) Carl (Chandler Riggs) is possibly the most insufferable character in television history. He is a bratty little twerp and adds nothing to the show, his only purpose is to be a pesky plot-device, getting Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the others into sticky situations.
2) Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) relationship is one of the most lacklustre love affairs of all time, and their feelings for each other often seem incredibly forced and completely unnatural, given the short length of their relationship.
3) The fact that the entire group manage to shoot the walkers in the head every time they fire their guns can be extremely annoying, especially considering the fact that they have a seemingly unlimited supply of ammo.
4) We never see any damn zombies!!! When we do they don’t actually pose a threat to any of the important characters, because those characters are seemingly impervious to damage, or possibly because no one would stick around to watch just Glenn and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) meander through the desolate zombie wasteland alone. Even Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) didn’t succumb to a walker, she went down to child birth (two seasons too late!). I hope that this is another thing which season five will rectify, because on the trailer we do see a lot of walkers, and this suggests that at least some of them will get their fill of human flesh in the episodes to come.
Having said all this, what are my expectations for season five? Do I think that the show will suddenly become worthy of its success? Or will it stick to the tried and trusted formula that the show runners love so much? Well, the first thing I’m predicting for season five, perhaps just because I want it to happen so badly, is the death of one of the main cast. I’ve been waiting four seasons for “The Walking Dead” to actually take itself seriously and show some respect to its audience, because when I say main cast I mean Rick or Daryl (Norman Reedus), not Lori and Hershel (Scott Wilson)!
Nobody significant has ever been killed off on this show and it’s just ridiculous; Lori is probably the most high-profile character to have died so far, but she was just a plot device around which Rick’s character could be built, just like Carl is now, and once Shane was out of the picture there was no need to keep her around. I want to see my favourite characters facing real trouble, fighting for their lives in situations which I believe are genuinely life-threatening, but that can only happen once one of the leading characters is viciously and unexpectedly ripped apart by a hoard of angry walkers. If it was me I’d kill Carl off right now and save the hassle, he’s a poor child actor who is no longer a child, and it’s time to give Rick a new dimension and shake the monkey off his back.
Nonetheless, I think the much more likely death, given what I’ve heard through the grapevine, (SPOILER ALERT), is Glenn. I’d welcome a “Walking Dead” without him in it, and I think it would be a good way to spice things up a little. No enjoyment comes from watching Glenn and Maggie’s schoolyard love affair, and if he was to die we may finally see Maggie’s character become at least somewhat interesting, as she tries to overcome the pain of her beloved’s death. Despite this, I feel that even if “The Walking Dead” did lose Glenn, or Maggie for that matter, they would be replaced by another equally frustrating character, and the love story element of the series would most likely be passed on to a different set of characters.
Finally, I expect Beth (Emily Kinney) to get a lot more screen time in season five, which I would welcome because too many of the supporting cast are neglected by the writers, particularly the female characters, and I don’t see why the show runners would go to the effort of giving Beth a separate storyline just to have that particular segment cut down to five minutes per week. I don’t expect that what she goes through will be a highlight of the season, in fact I will predict right now that it will be one of the more trying aspects of season five, however, at least it will be something fresh and could potentially introduce one or two interesting new characters to the series.
The trailer for this season is largely uneventful, and it doesn’t get me excited for what is to come. The explosion in which walkers are sent flying into the air looks to be quite low-budget, especially for a television series which makes as much money as “The Walking Dead” does. The action showcased in the trailer features Rick Grimes looking awfully distressed, holding a rifle as several walkers surround him. As this ‘action’ unfolds we hear Gareth (Andrew J. West), the leader of Terminus, telling the group that he will allow them to be escorted to Washington in order to reverse the effects of the zombie outbreak and give the world back to the living. It’s a very noble pursuit and one clearly worth trying, but why the folks at Terminus would agree to escort the group to Washington is beyond me. They all seem to be having a pretty good time and have a reasonably safe home, with all the human meat they’ll need to keep them going for quite a while, so why make a change? If the world of walkers, cannibalism, and anarchy suits you, why change it?
If I had to grade this season of television purely based on what I’ve heard will be involved, the trailer, and my past experience of the show, I would probably give it 6/10, as again I believe that it will have its moments but bore for large periods of time. I have neither seen nor heard anything relating to this season which leads me to believe that wholesale changes will suddenly be made to a financially beneficial formula, and although I want to be wrong, I don’t expect this season to be the revival of “The Walking Dead” as a genuinely impressive television show. All will be revealed in just a few days, as the first episode entitled “No Sanctuary” hits our screens, hopefully with a bang.