It’s that time of year again: winter is wilting away, birds are chirping in the morning and The Walking Dead has concluded its season with another obnoxious cliff-hanger.
I followed the show back when it first started airing under the helm of Frank Darabont, and thought that the first season was a welcome addition to AMC’s stellar drama line-up of Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The second season meandered and lost my interest a little but, but in retrospect, I would kill to be back on that farm, because the show has been going intensely downhill almost every episode ever since.
Even as they have source material to adapt, it seems like the writers have no clear idea what they’re doing. Characters die because that’s what happens in a zombie apocalypse, not because it serves any purpose to anybody’s arc or development. Complications occur because the show is about zombies, and a show about zombies obviously needs to have the same scene about a crowd of them potentially eating somebody in every single episode. The group finds a new settlement, stays there for a little while, has some drama, gets slaughtered, then leaves. And then they find a new settlement again, and the cast gets bigger for a few episodes before some are thinned out. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I might be a little harsh on the show, but it’s hard to defend it after the finale that just aired, “Last Day on Earth.” In the episode, Rick and co. are trying to get Maggie medical attention, and so they drive in an RV until they reach a roadblock. And then they take a different route, and drive around until they reach a different roadblock. Rick stares at some things for a while. They drive yet another route and come to yet another roadblock. (There’s a b-story with Carol, but it really only exists to pad out the episode to an hour and a half so AMC can get those big ad bucks.) How’s that for story economy?
By the time you come to the episode’s conclusion, which the show has been building up to all season, if you’re like me you can’t even force yourself to care. Negan is not a surprise because we’ve been hearing about him all episode. Somebody dying is not a surprise because the name of the episode is literally “Last Day on Earth.” What is a surprise is that they don’t show you who Negan kills at the end, instead going to a first-person POV shot so that they can reveal it next season. Not at the beginning, mind you — there will be at least one episode of meandering and talking about “what happened” before we have a concrete idea of who bit it. I doubt I’ll be able to bring myself to care.
Don’t get me wrong. I really do want to like this show. It hasn’t been consistently good for about two years, but there are occasional brilliant moments and episodes. The problem is that they are a shelter from the storm. For the most part, The Walking Dead just shambles along, impressing neither the die-hard fans of the original comics nor the people who don’t have any idea what happens next (and almost certainly no idea who all these interchangeable white people they introduce twice a season to only get killed a little while later are). While it will undoubtedly keep on shambling mindlessly in the same direction it always has, putting it out of its misery will probably be the best for everybody.