My Thoughts on The Walking Dead

About 2 years ago I could not wait for The Walking Dead. My anticipation was through the roof. I truly believed the show would be great. Why did I believe that?

    1. Frank Darabont: The show was going to be run by a great filmmaker. I love the majority of Darabont’s films. Shawshank Redemption is universally praised and The Green Mile kills me every time. If anyone could play in the over used zombie genre and come out with something great I thought it’d be him. What made Shawshank and The Green Mile so great were the characters. I cared so much about for them and assumed this was something Darabont would bring to The Walking Dead. I never believed zombie attacks would keep me watching every week. I had to care if the characters survived. I also loved the idea of getting something truly cinematic on television. The show was going to be shot on Super 16mm, by an actual filmmaker. Most shows on TV feel like television. The lighting is flat. The compositions are boring or rushed. The direction can be very questionable. But finally we’d have another rare cinematic show (to go with Breaking Bad).
    2. AMC: Two years ago I believed AMC could do no wrong. They had taken chances on Breaking Bad and Mad Men, two of the best shows on television. I believed their willingness to allow creativity in television wouldn’t hold Darabont back. He’d get to do whatever he wanted (which I believed would be a good thing). Little did I know, AMC is actually kind of lucky and don’t know how to handle the amazing shows they stumbled onto.
    3. Zombies getting taken seriously: I’m a genre nerd, and I love zombies. I was frustrated by the way zombies had become such a huge part of our culture. Not because I don’t want things to become popular. If something is good I want as many people as possible to see it. I was frustrated because the social critique behind zombies had been lost. Now they were just scary monsters. Zombie movies weren’t that good anymore. Of course Shaun of the Dead is a huge exception, but it’s a comedy (an actual good zombie movie). I wanted zombies to be taken seriously. I wanted them to have their own Let the Right One In. Like I said before I believed Darabont would do this.
    4. The Make Up: When pictures started coming out the zombies looked incredible.
    5. The Hype: Oh my god. The internet was telling us this show will be great, and it would not stop. Every movie site I read was frequently talking about The Walking Dead. They thought it was going to be great and they wanted as many people as possible to watch it.
So, what happened? I enjoyed the pilot. I thought it was a strong premiere. It felt like zombies were going to be taken seriously. There was a serious character moment I hadn’t seen tackled that often (Killing a family member) and it was done very well. I felt something.

But then the other characters were introduced. With it came ridiculous stereotypes, names like T-dog, insanely on the nose/cringe worthy depictions of racism. The characters felt like cartoons, and the show seemed sexist and not in a critiquing sexism kind of way but I don’t like women or just have no idea how to write a woman so I fall back on a bitch stereotype kind of way (to be honest I should have seen this coming. I loved The Mist, but looking back on it the characters were stereotypical and very preachy/frustrating. I almost think Darabont lost hope in the world and with it his characters). I was quickly brought out of the reality of the story. I actually didn’t get past the third episode of the first season. I simply lost interest.

But a lot of other people kept watching. The show got great ratings. Fellow film students talked about it constantly, but I never felt the urge to start watching it again. When Darabont got fired I really didn’t care. I realized the reputation I believed AMC deserved should be in question (read more about AMC here). I didn’t think I’d ever watch the show, but something happened.

AMC did a great job marketing the show. The new trailers made the second season look good. Sites that had seen the new episodes seemed happy. They believed the show had turned around. The first six episodes were probably a fluke. It’s hard to create a consistent season of television when you only had 6 episodes to do it. I was brought back in. I had to watch the first season in time to start the second. As I started watching I thought, “Maybe this is getting better.” The massive zombie attack on the camp grounds was pretty thrilling/intense. I was beginning to be turned around. I really didn’t like the season finale, but I was willing to jumo into the second season. I was actually pretty excited.

The beginning of that 90 minute episode made me think watching the show was worth it. The zombie horde passing the group as they hid under cars was really intense and pretty well done, but then something happened. The rest of the episode only existed because characters made dumb decision after dumb decision. I usually don’t get into question character decisions in this way but they came so often I couldn’t help it. Yes, lets get out from under the car even though a zombie passed seconds earlier. Yes, lets dissapear from the place someone saved my live is telling me to stay so the entire group can’t fine me for 3 days. Yes, let’s have a kid steal a bunch of weapons from a dead guy who could be a zombie because it’s “suspenseful.”

This specific example is manipulating the audience at it’s finest. It’s artificial tension. Place a kid in a dangerous situation and we’re going to get scared because we care about kids, but when the situation comes from such stupidity I no longer care. And why the hell is that kid walking around those cars all by himself anyways. And why the hell do you let a kid walk up to a wild deer. That deer could have killed that kid himself. Instead, hey lets shoot him and create more suspense. My frustration with the episode made me realize the problems I have with The Walking Dead.

  1. The Characters: I don’t like any of them. I could honestly care less. Eventually someone is going to die it’s not going to have any weight because I’ll probably be happy I don’t have to deal with them anymore. And like I said, they are so stupid. How am I supposed to believe any of them made it this far.

  2. Lori Grimes
    : Who likes this characters? She’s insufferable. How could two guys fall in love with her? But her character reveals a lot about what I don’t like about the show beyond her character. She reveals the writers on this show don’t understand women or possibly don’t like them. To them it’s more important hide infidelity from Rick then create a real woman. In the beginning, Rick’s whole purpose was to find her and his son, but guess what. She sleeps with another guy immediately after you supposedly died! She’s so bad! In my opinion, this isn’t done to reveal anything about her character. We don’t get any insight into what she was feeling. We simply imprint our own misogynistic feelings on to her. If she had died I think a vast majority of the audience would have been ok with Rick looking for someone else. The women on this show constantly rely on the men to do everything for them. You can argue, “but it’s a critique!” and I can see where you’re coming from, but it’s poorly done and when you don’t have real women in these roles your critique is worthless. “But Andrea kills zombies! She’s a strong woman!” But without a man saving her she’s a crazy woman who wanted to die.
  3. CG Blood: I hate CG blood. Do it practically please. It looks so much better. It makes these scenes ridiculous.
  4. Zombie Attacks: Wait, how can I dislike zombie attacks? I’ve seen tons and tons of zombie attacks in my time. I want interaction between characters. The zombie attacks in this show seem to be there because it’s a “zombie show.” The audience wants it. Don’t give me zombie attacks until they mean something. Which leads to…
The crazy part. I actually don’t have that many problems with the show. I’m still going to watch it because I think these things can be turned around. If The Walking Dead begins having real, intelligent characters I honestly believe it can be great. But it all starts with the characters. Why is Breaking Bad so good? Because we care. All those intense situations and holy shit moments would be worthless if the characters weren’t good, but they’re great so those situations and moments become brilliant. The Walking Dead can’t have brilliant moments until I care. I hope this happens.

About Sean Temple

Filmmaker, Progressive, Feminist, Emerson MFA Student, Director of HUNT. I use film to critique our society and reveal the struggles real people deal with every day. View all posts by Sean Temple

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