Like everybody else in the world, I watch The Walking Dead but my relationship with the show has often been troubled. It’s like a friend who did something unforgiveable only to apologize and make up for it a few years later. I may accept him as my friend again, but I’ll always watch him with a wary eye. See, I was burned hard by Season 2’s misadventures on the farm. It was painfully boring, contrived, and every character became so annoying they should have renamed the show The Whining Living. Then Season 3 came along and fixed most of the show’s problems by killing off the characters we hated (bye bye Laurie!), moving the plot in interesting directions (Woodbury!) and providing a great villain in The Governor (Morissey rules). Things have been pretty solid since then with a few missteps and dull spots here and there. Considering the shake ups they’ve had behind the scenes, it’s impressive that the show has been able to stay consistent at all. But we gotta keep an eye on The Walking Dead. Things could go south any moment and a few episodes last season came dangerously close to being flat out terrible.
With all that said, HOLY HELL THAT PREMIERE WAS FUCKING INCREDIBLE!!! I mean, GODDAMN, HOW FRIGGIN INTENSE AND ACTION PACKED WAS THAT?!! CAROL RULES! RICK IS A BADASS! THERE WERE FUCKING FLAMING ZOMBIES EATING PEOPLE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! It was easily the best premiere episode of the entire series. The only question it raises that could be troublesome is, where do we go from here? Most of us thought Terminus would be a 3-4 episode arc but they decided to burn it down within a half an hour. Now I assume our main focus for the season is going to be getting Eugene to Washington and that could be a problematic arc for a couple of reasons: (1). We all know Eugene is a filthy liar and this mission is fruitless and (2). It’s a LOOOONNNGGGG way to Washington. I get very annoyed when the show just has people walk down a road for episodes on end. So, here are a few pieces of unsolicited advice from a pompous dickhead on how the The Walking Dead can maintain its level of quality.
Tighten Up The Character Based Episodes
The Walking Dead’s finest episode (Season 3’s Clear)was entirely about Rick, CORALLLL, and Michonne. It was a devastating and revealing hour of TV that showed us new facets of each character while also deepening their understanding of each other and the world they live in. Since writer Scott Gimple officially took over as showrunner, many episodes have tried to copy that model with varying degrees of success. The show’s heart is always in the right place when it focuses on one or two characters and tries to get into what makes them tick but the execution is frequently off. Did the Governor really need TWO whole episodes about him trying to become a good man only to revert back to his old self? That could have easily been handled in one hour. And did we really need to spend an hour with Beth and Daryl in a cabin while they drank moonshine and chatted about life? If you’re going to do a character based episode, make sure it has a point. Make sure it either tells us something new about them or changes their outlook on the world. Last season’s The Grove, where Carol was forced to murder a little girl is a perfect example of how to do that. It darkened Carol’s worldview even further, made Tyrese understand and forgive her for murdering his friends, and brought them closer together as human beings. If Gimple and his writers want to do character episodes, Clear and The Grove should be used as the models.
Give Us A New Governor
Almost every zombie story agrees on one thing: it’s the other humans not the zombies who are the real threat. This is due partly to the fact that most zombie stories serves as metaphors for how quickly people resort to savagery when their livelihood is threatened but it’s mostly due to the fact that zombies just aren’t that hard to kill or avoid. Hell, in the premiere, Carol and Tyrese saw a herd coming at them and just hid in a ditch. Then Carol got past them simply by covering herself in blood and gore. They’re not the brightest antagonists in the world and they don’t have much personality. Which is why it’s crucial to give evil a face and a name. The Governor served that purpose for a little too long but when he first showed up, he raised the stakes tremendously. Here was an intelligent, quick moving villain who could think and plan. He also served nicely as a mirror image of what Rick could become if he goes down the wrong path. And now that The Governor is toast, we need a new Big Bad. This Gareth guy who was running Terminus ain’t gonna cut it. He doesn’t have any of The Governor’s charisma and his reasons for resorting to cannibalism are a little too broad. “You’re either the butcher or the cattle” is a fine lesson to learn in this universe but he didn’t have to take it literally. It’s a good sign that he’s been laid low so quickly. This suggests that he’ll function as a minor antagonist until a more interesting one comes along. Fans of the comics (unread by me) have been telling me about a fellow named Negan for years. A quick look at his Wikipedia page suggests he’d fill the role nicely. I’m fine with the series departing from the comics though. They don’t have to give us Negan but they do have to give us someone.
For God’s Sake, Figure Out What The Hell To Do With Beth.
For the longest time, I had no idea what Beth’s name was. I simply referred to her as ‘Herschel’s Other Daughter’ or ‘Blonde Girl’ or ‘Singing Person’ or ‘Who?’. She didn’t leave much of an impression on me or anyone else that I’m aware of. Has you ever heard anyone say that Beth is their favorite character? Yeah, didn’t think so. The problem with Beth is not Emily Kinney; it’s the writers who have never really known what to do with her. She was on a farm and then she wasn’t, She had a boyfriend and then she didn’t, she sang a song to make everybody feel better, she cried and fired a gun badly when her father died, she travelled with Daryl, got drunk, helped him burn down a cabin, and then she got kidnapped. That’s one hell of a messy, confused arc. So when we find out where she is and who kidnapped her, the writers need to decide what her place and purpose is in The Walking Dead. And if they can’t figure that out, they need to kill her off. Sorry to be harsh but there’s no room for dead weight on a show with so many other more interesting characters.
More Carol and Tyrese
And speaking of more interesting characters, Carol and Tyrese owned the Season 5 premiere. Carol provided most of the wall to wall action while Tyrese served as the moral anchor of the episode. It was the perfect way to make use of two criminally underused characters. Right now, Carol is the biggest badass on TV and her journey from battered wife to ultimate hero has been incredible. Tyrese has gone through a lot too; from blind rage to tortured acceptance and now we’re watching him change into a man struggling to hang onto his morals. These are two characters with terrific arcs and Melissa McBride and Chad L. Coleman are giving Emmy worthy performances. So please, Walking Dead writers, don’t take these two away from us for a long time. Don’t let Carol get banished again (that was some serious bullshit) and don’t keep Tyrese on the sidelines.
Keep It Moving!
One of the best aspects of the premiere was how fast it moved. No time was wasted at all and everything happened so quickly it was hard to keep up. That was some real ‘edge-of-your-seat-television’. Now, it’s time to see if the writers can keep it up. My big worry is that we’re headed into an arc where the group walks through the woods, hides from zombies, and argues about going to Washington. Rinse and repeat. That’ll get real old real fast. The Walking Dead is getting close to using up all its metaphors about man’s inhumanity to man so the best way to keep us invested is to keep up the forward momentum. This show is not a meditation on us as a society but a violent, action oriented piece of genre entertainment. You want to explore the characters? Fine, just do it right and don’t get bogged down in boring conversations meant to be profound. And above all: move the plot forward. Every episode should be as intense as the premiere. People ain’t gonna stick around if your premieres and your finales are the only exciting hours.
Look folks, it’s a zombie show. People gotta die. The only major character to go last season (besides the long overdue Governor) was Herschel and his shelf life expired two seasons ago. Killing off side characters isn’t going to get the job done either. I don’t think too many people will be devastated if Bob the Alcoholic bites the dust. No, The Walking Dead needs to start offing its main players. And anyone, including Rick, Carol, Daryl, Tyrese, Carl, Glenn, and Maggie, needs to be fair game. It’s the only way to keep the stakes high. If there are certain characters who we know are safe, then suspense is going to go right out the window. My vote? I say kill Glenn or Maggie. Their romance has overstayed its welcome and the death of one of them would cause the survivor to become much more interesting. Sorry to be the cruel asshole but if this show wants to go on for many more years, the writers need to let us know that no one is ever safe.