The Walking Dead Sucks And You Know It

I realize The Walking Dead is the most massively popular TV show in the world at the moment, but it's time to face facts and acknowledge reality: The Waking Dead sucks and you know it.

Full disclosure: I used to love The Walking Dead. Even fuller disclosure: I stopped watching during the second half of last season due to the reasons you will read below, but caught up on it when I first got to Nashville and had nothing better to do, and I've continued watching the new episodes this season. Why? Well, I guess I'm just waiting around for it to get good again. Every week I tune in hoping that my loyalty will be rewarded with an exciting, compelling, fulfilling, satisfying episode, and every week I am disappointed. And be honest - you are, too.

Like many others I discovered and binge watched the first two seasons on Netflix, and season 2 especially had me hooked with what seemed like one "HOLY SHIT!" moment after another ending each episode: Carl getting shot, the search for Sophia, the conflict with Shane, the internal power struggles within the group. Sure, some people didn't like that they were at the farmhouse the whole season, but that didn't bother me. Honestly, I felt like the attachment to the farm was an important part in making the burning of it in the season finale so powerful and emotional. And then a lot of season 3 with the Governor, Woodbury, the return and final fate of Merle, and of course bidding farewell to Lori? Perfect.

But something started to go wrong. Things were starting to have a tendency to get...well, boring. I'm sure lots of people would point to the revolving door of showrunners that TWD has had as to why this monotony began to creep in, and I'd be willing to bet that that fact ties directly into what I think is the show's biggest problem: trying to stretch the plot arcs into too many episodes, most likely to milk as much out of the surprising mega-hit franchise. Remember the season 3 episode when Rick and the Governor sit down face to face to talk about their conflict? It was called "Arrow on the Doorpost." It should've been called "Filler." My favorite show of all time is The West Wing (specifically seasons 1-4), and it basically consists of what that episode was: people talking in a room. But in The West Wing at least things happened. Plots were developed. Characters were fleshed out. In season 3 of TWD we knew that a huge confrontation was coming between the residents of the prison and the residents of Woodbury, and as a result everything up until that moment became just a way to draw out the process and produce more episodes. Would the meeting between the two of them change that inevitable fate? No, so let's get to it.

Then we get to season 4, and I found myself watching episodes while thinking more and more, "What does this matter?" and "Why do I care?" So many original characters had been killed off in an attempt to keep the viewers wondering who would be next to bite it (Amy, Jim, Sophia, Dale, Shane, Lori, T-Dog, Andrea) that the show began to suffer from a real and continuing problem: a lack of connection to the current characters. Who are these new people? Why am I supposed to care about them? Because I don't. I really didn't care who got the flu and who died. Glenn survived! But honestly if he hadn't I may have been too jaded at that point to even let it bother me. Plus the whole flu plot was just another way to do what? That's right - to stretch the money machine out. We were all waiting for the Governor to return, and everything until then just wasn't important. But then he did return, and TWD started doing the one thing that has really brought the plot and the excitement of the show to a screeching halt: they began producing whole episodes revolving around one, two, or three characters.

When the Governor finally came back into the picture, we were treated to two glorious episodes of...well, just him. Following him around in a protracted attempt to show a defeated, multilayered human being building himself back up and back into a controlling madman. All the excitement that had been amassed waiting for his return quickly turned into a collective groan when we all realized it would be more than two episodes before it would at all, and this painful production tactic continues to this day. And with the death of the Governor and Hershel we were further disconnected from the characters, which exacerbated the problem I mentioned above.

The second half of season 4 is dedicated to everyone's trek to Terminus (i.e. let's all just walk around for eight episodes), and it was here that the producers perfected their "let's make everyone suffer through the boring and the pointless in order to reach the last two minutes that contain the only significant event" approach to each episode. Carl eats pudding until Michonne shows up. Maggie gets all Rambo-ed up in the search for Glenn until she finds him. Daryl and Beth hang out in a funeral home until Beth is taken. Abraham wants to get to D.C. Carol tells a girl to "look at the flowers" (something I often wish someone would tell me to do while I'm suffering through an episode). I realize many would argue that those eight episodes were all about "character development" or something like that, but let's get real - that's just someone's way of trying to sound more sophisticated by saying they're "get it." They don't "get it." No one "gets it."

And then when the group finally gets to Terminus - oops, guess what?! It falls within the first episode of season 5, and all that build-up - half a season! - was all just a waste of our time and the producers jerking us around. Are you surprised? You shouldn't be at this point. So far this season we've dealt with a random priest with a past; Bob inconsequentially getting his leg cut off and eaten even though he was already going to die; Daryl coming out of the woods with an undisclosed friend that we had to wait three episodes to discover the identity of; Beth killing time in a tyrannical hospital until Carol is wheeled in on a stretcher; and Daryl and Carol walking through Atlanta until Carol gets hit by a car. I'm not going to lie and say that Beth's death in the mid-season finale didn't affect me - it did. It was unexpected, shocking, and she was a sweet, innocent character that we first connected with when the show was good. But setting aside the fact that it's basically her own fault she was killed, it's important to see that her death and the way the series led up to it is the only play that the current producers seem to know how to make: a tiresome, tedious, drawn-out building toward one seemingly important event that as a whole is neither entertaining nor satisfying. It's a formula that they've used within episodes and over multiple episodes, but in the long run it's causing the show to lose the fire, energy, and excitement that we all got into it for in the first place.

The beauty of the title of the show is it's double meaning - referring not only to the zombies themselves but also to the living who are left dead inside by the terrible things they've had to do and endure in order to survive. But in truth it really refers to the viewer who mindlessly and numbingly keeps watching a show that has stopped being enjoyable. And that would be all of us. I'm sure the ratings will be high when it returns in February, but when that happens I urge you to not delude yourself into thinking you keep watching because it's good. You're really tuning in with a futile hope that one day it might be good again. And because truthfully you've got nothing better to do on a Sunday night.

Because The Walking Dead sucks and you know it.

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ