This is a post that’s been a long time coming. I would say that as much as Breaking Bad, Fargo, and Game of Thrones inspired a love for story-telling within me, so too did The Walking Dead. However, unfortunately it was mostly for the opposite reasons…
Don’t get me wrong, The Walking Dead as a concept is brilliant. A TV series is, in my opinion, a much better fit to capture the extended sequence of events that would play out in a zombie apocalypse than a movie. On top of that, the first couple seasons of the show/comic book had some fantastic themes that I loved.
- Waking up to the end of the world – the thought of being in a coma or some other form of unconsciousness while everything you once knew is changing around you is terrifying and is what immediately drew me in to the story. Not only that, but the marital complications between Rick, his wife, and his fellow-officer best friend, are what make for drama at its finest. Now this was all in the comic book, so no credit to the show for trailblazing, but I will say that I actually preferred the mirrored version of this concept in Fear the Walking Dead. In that series, the character instead wakes up from a heroine binge. To me that managed to make for an even more intriguing start–and that’s before you consider its incredible portrayal by actor Frank Dillane.
- Group conflict and the question of trust – this point should be mentioned with an asterisk because it’s also one of the downfalls of the show. Initially though, the idea of factions is a really cool one. It may or may not be popular opinion, but I thought the Governor’s conflict especially was very well done. To me he was a very real character, who contrasted Rick but only enough to clarify a protagonist. At times, this struggle blurred the line between man v. man and man v. himself as Rick desperately tried to maintain the humanity the Governor lost. There are other examples of course, but this was the one I thought the most well done.
- “I know the solution” *fingers crossed behind back* – another point I’m up and down about, but in terms of character motivation it’s cool to see characters who lie about having information on the source-of or solution-to the outbreak. It seems a realistic concern and the series did a good job of developing the situations where this issue arose.
- Ragtag group of diverse allies – the fact that people from all different walks of life and with different skill-sets are forced to come together is definitely a strong point of the show. The bonding between them is what makes it run, especially for the characters who have been there from the beginning.
Okay, now that I’ve pleased the people who’ve managed to remain rabid fans of this downhill mess of a show, it’s time to tear it to shreds. Sorry that I’m not sorry ahead of time . . .
- The writers think kids are idiots – the children in both TWD and FtWD make decisions that are unfathomable in many instances. At times it really seemed like the characters’ intent to screw their own people over just because they were going through puberty was even greater than the writers’ intent to create drama in the plot. And I understand they are young and would make mistakes, but in an apocalypse those mistakes should be more out of fear than being spoiled brats.
- Endless groups of “main” antagonists – in terms of the comic book, this is understandable and fine. The comic can go on for hundreds of issues and different types of groups makes sense. That being said, for the TV show I’m just lost as to why I should still be investing in someone like Neagan this late in the series. Not only does this clown lose an entire dimension of his character without the R-rated language of the comics, but it just doesn’t feel different enough from the Governor, or as emotional… more on why that is in my final point.
- The zombies are not a really significant threat – they just aren’t on the show. It’s way too easy to kill them for these people and their close calls seem mostly forced.
- There is no real backstory on the breakout – to me a zombie story needs a “how did this start” and “how will this be cured.” Over 8 seasons there’s been zero hint of either. While I do like that their are liars who pretend to know the answers, there needs to also be more to explain why this is happening. Also, a tremendous downfall of this writing is how many holes there are in the outbreak science. Here’s a tip people: you already discovered that wearing blood hides you from the walkers, SO WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU ALWAYS WEARING BLOOD?!? Because it would be the end of the series? Then don’t introduce the concept at all!! >:( Also, Michonne’s original plan seemed to solve that issue too, but somehow no one thinks to take advantage of that kind of knowledge?
- Dale – every interaction attempted-old-sage, actual-drama-queen Dale has ever had: “Character X, what’s your plan?” … *ridiculous uncertain face* … next scene with character Y, in confidence … “Hey Character Y, did you hear Character X’s plan? What are they thinking? They clearly are out of their mind.” … *ridiculous worried face, same as ridiculous uncertain face* … “Oh, do I have a plan you ask? Uh, no.” … next scene with character Z, in confidence … “Hey Character Z, isn’t character Y out of their mind?”
- Last but actually the most significant, poorly executed cliffhangers – cliffhangers–when done right–can be the focal point of a show. The Neagan bat scene cliffhanger was the worst execution of this concept I think I’ve ever seen. I won’t even go into all that was wrong with it because it’d take an entire separate post. Nevertheless, this was an atrocious slap in the face to fans and I haven’t seen an episode since.
So like I said, this show is a big reason I got into writing. The reason being that I looked at all these things that bothered me about it and said to myself, “who the hell am I to criticize without coming up with some kind of better solution?” Well, the following is my solution. Keep in mind while reading, I am mostly saying that this is the direction I believe the show should have gone around the time of season 5/6 and it is based on where the writers had taken it to that point. If you don’t like it, that’s fair and if you’d like, feel free to question my judgement endlessly like that piece of shit Dale.
How The Walking Dead SHOULD End…
Since the zombies are no real threat and it feels like their importance decreases more and more as the show goes on (issue #3), this should be made into an advantage. Starting with season 5 or 6, the zombies should decrease in airtime until they are nowhere to be found in the final war between Rick and Neagan.
Because TWD has taken the stance that the biggest threat to humanity is humanity itself (issue #2). This a great theme, but it needs to end somewhere to avoid the repetition the show now suffers from. So end it with the biggest, baddest villain of them all–we’ll keep it as Neagan for the sake of it–facing off with a man who has by now become something he never wanted to become in Rick. This will allow us to actually understand more of why the villains do what they do, by blurring the line of compare/contrast with Rick.
Side note: also, don’t waste an entire season (looking at you, season 6 writers) building up to a memorable scene from the comics that you don’t even show (issue #6). Did I mention how infuriated that made me? -_-
Okay so Rick and Neagan have made it all about killing each other and there are no zombies . . . now what?
Now they fight to the death like everyone wants, especially the show’s writers because that’d be, “totally epic and cyoo.” (Eric Cartman voice) And it would be, except the war to end all wars should result in the deaths of everyone around them–except the two of them. There needs to be consequences for the fact that neither of these leaders can be competent or reasonable enough to work out some kind of mutual deal to survive the zombie apocalypse. Especially since they are too blind to see how little of a threat the zombies even are (and if I had it my way, not a threat at all).
So they all just . . . die?
Yes, they all die and Rick/Neagan will have to live with that. The twist will be that when the fighting ends and the two realize what they’ve done, the U.S. military will be sweeping the area. The commanding officer will be as shocked by the carnage as the two culprits are to see a functioning military unit. When Rick tries to get some kind of explanation, he will be told of the discovered origin of the virus, along with the revelation that the last traces of said virus were wiped out over a year ago (issue #4). To me, this would be a shocking, yet satisfying ending which would make sense with the direction previously established by the series.
Also, the good news is Dale was already dead (issue #5) and so too would be the dumb kids already written (issue #1), so there would still be a glint of hope for this new world with likable people and more intelligent children.
This has been my light-hearted, though also honest opinion on The Walking Dead and how I believe it should end. Overall TWD is one of the most popular shows of all time and I know there are dedicated fans of the comics and show who would defend the story to their grave (which they likely hope to one day rise from). The good thing about art is that it’s fair to interpret it from a subjective lens so thanks ahead of time for respecting my opinion as much as I respect yours if you disagree.
I appreciate the read and hope you’re enjoying the Civilands series! 🙂