I used to go hard for TheWalking Dead. I joined the party in early Season 2 after binge watching all of Season 1 on a rainy weekend. I was obsessed. Not only did I buy Season 1 almost immediately, I demanded everyone I know and love watch it too. It was that good. Sure. It was a show about the zombie apocalypse, but as any true die hard fan will tell you, it was about so much more. The characters were human and complex. They were struggling to maintain some semblance of morality while the whole world plunged off the deep end. Along with the rest of the world, I laughed every time Carl got lost, cried when zombie Sophia wandered out of the barn, secretly rooted for Shane, and suffered PTSD after Hershel lost his leg… and head. Each week was an event. Texts sent. Tweets shared. Merriment abound. Then, a dumpster in Season 6 ruined it all.
Here is my take on how AMC ruined America’s number one cable show (in 5 simple steps):
- Cheap Plot Devices: Glenn and the Dumpster.
Let’s talk about the dumpster. In Season 5, The Walking Dead introduced Nicholas (Michael Traynor), an Alexandrian supply runner who we quickly learn is a sucky human who sacrifices fellow Alexandrians when confronted with danger. He did it to countless unnamed Alexandrians and later, when trapped in a four-compartment glass revolving door, he deliberately pushes Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Noah (Tyler James Williams) in the direction of walkers so he can escape. While Glenn survives, Noah is murdered by walkers in one of the show’s goriest deaths to date. However, despite Nicholas’s scheming and more attempts on Glenn’s life, Glenn forgives Nicholas and tries to encourage him to be a better human. In Season 6, Episode 3, after being cornered by walkers on top of a dumpster after a supply run, Nicholas repays Glenn by shooting himself causing he and Glenn to fall into a hoard of blood-thirsty walkers. The episode, titled “Thank You” after Nicholas’s last words to Glenn, ends with Glenn appearing to be eaten alive by walkers.
But alas, in the first few minutes of Episode 7 of Season 6, we learn Glenn was able to slide from beneath Nicholas’s corpse and crawl underneath the dumpster to avoid being eaten by walkers. While we should have been rejoicing at the safety of Glenn, I found myself giving the show my first serious side eye. First, unless Glenn had a collapsible skeleton and a bite-proof face, there is no way that man could have a.) slipped under that dumpster and b.) not have been bitten. Second, disbelief aside, why even resort to such a cheap cliffhanger when you know you are going to kill his character less than a season later? For those of us familiar with the comics, we already had an idea of Glenn’s fate. Rather than waste time creating fake tension, time would have been better spent developing Glenn’s character in anticipation of his death.
- Unnecessary Ninety-Minute Episodes.
When The Walking Dead first started teasing it’s ninety-minute episodes, it was a treat. The extra time allowed for the show to delve deeper into it’s more complex storylines — particularly at the start and finish of a stellar season. It created a movie-like experience for viewers which added to the overall experience of the show. Perfect example: Season 6’s “Here Not Here”, the classic Morgan back-story episode that remains one of my favorites. As time passed, however, it became clear the ninety-minute episodes were just a ploy to add more commercials.
To date, Seasons 7 and 8 have had the most extended episodes. If extended episodes were intended to create a more enriching experience, these seasons should be the best yet. Spoiler Alert: They aren’t. Spending extra time on nonsense storylines that are constantly broken up by commercials further distances the audience from the world The Walking Dead wants to create.
- Father Gabriel is still alive. Carl isn’t.
Season 8’s “Meh” Finale was made more “Meh” by the fact that NO ONE died. It was a war and NO ONE (but Saviors) died. I’m not here for gratuitous death. That’s why Carl’s unceremonious, ill-planned, unnecessary death makes no sense to me (more on that later). However, why is Father Gabriel still alive? Aside from Seth Gilliam being amazing, we have watched Father Gabriel say some variation of the same six sentences since he arrived in Season 5: 1) “I’m a coward,” 2) “God loves us,” 3) “Help, I’ve been captured,” 4) “I’ll watch Judith,” 5) “You can trust me, Rick,” and 6) “Oh no, my eyes.” Unless he is going to undergo a major arc where he is The Walking Dead’s “Eli”, he has outstayed his welcome, serves no purpose and needs to go.
…and while he is going, he needs to hold the door for Tara, the remaining dumpster Vulcan, Aaron, Rosita, Jesus (the character) and Darryl (yeah, I said it). The show has done nothing to enhance these characters and at this point, they just take up space and stand in the way of any meaningful plot-lines with the other characters.
Look at the flowers, folks.
As for Carl, WTF? From the beginning, Carl has been the sole motivating force for Rick Grimes’ survival. Not Lori, not Shane’s kid, not Michonne… Carl. Rick’s sole objective after leaving the hospital in Season 1 and riding horseback to Atlanta was to reunite with and care for his son. We watched Rick move mountains to save Carl after he was shot twice and almost kidnapped. For Rick to even want to get out of bed the day after Carl died, let alone continue a war with the Saviors seems totally disingenuous and inconsistent with what we have learned of his character. Which brings me to…
- Plot Holes.
Remember when Rick went crazy after Lori died, talked to dead people and wanted to be a farmer? Remember when Morgan thought that all life was precious? Remember when Carol didn’t? Remember Heath? Remember Darryl? Remember when Maggie was pregnant? Remember when Judith was a baby? Remember when Negan mercilessly beat the sh#t (and eyeballs) out of Glenn Rhee with a bat? Remember when Rosita had a disfiguring scar?
Now, Judith is 21 yet Maggie is still in her first trimester, and it feels like Rick gave more time to mourning his Season 1 horse than his own son. What time is it? What day is it? How long has it been? I have SO many questions. It feels like we have been watching the characters run in circles through the woods so much no one has stopped to have a conversation.
Look, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is gold. No one can rock a smile, bat, penis metaphor or pimp lean like that man. However, he has consistently been given trash to work with since he arrived to play Negan. It’s like the writers can’t decide whether they want him to be a villain or a hero. Reminder: We met him beating the sh#t out of TWD’s most beloved character (and Abraham) with a barbed wired bat. He is a villain. Don’t tell me he named his bat after his dead wife and expect me to have sympathy for him. I don’t believe he cared about Sasha. I don’t believe he cared about Carl. I don’t believe he was moved by Rick’s finale speech right before Rick fake-slit his throat. Stop trying to make us like him. Just make him complex.
Remember the Governor? That dude was evil. He decapitated an old man, assaulted Maggie, and kept disembodied heads like souvenirs. However, the show took its time developing him. Ultimately, he was a mourning father and dictator-like leader of Woodbury with a foundation-sized screw loose. We didn’t have to like him. We didn’t even have to understand him. We were just challenged to think about him, which made his whole evolution insanely dope. With Negan, we get witty one-liners with absolutely no depth. Was he a serial killer before the apocalypse? Gang leader? Was his wife a gang leader? Was he a baseball player? Was his wife a baseball player? Were her dying words “find my old bat, wrap it in barb wire and kill people with it?” The point is, we have zero context for how he arrived at the point where he chooses to terrorize people rather than rebuild.
The thing is, I may not be ready to completely stop watching. I still tune in every Sunday hoping to be pulled back in. I’m just not sitting in front of my television in eager anticipation like I used to. I’m more doing laundry and walking in and out of the room to check on my Prime packages. The Walking Dead is like that boyfriend that gained 10lbs of beer in the gut, won’t open his mail, and got lazy in bed. I’m still holding out hope he can hit the gym, start adulting and resume ‘effin me like he used to. You know, for old times sake.