‘The Walking Dead’s’ formulaic approach becomes show’s greatest shortcoming

AMC’s long running series suffers from slow pacing, controversial narrative changes, dull characters

February 28, 2017

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” recently premiered its 6th season’s part 2. This show that has been running since 2010 has had its ups and downs, but the downs have become the most glaring as of late. Though the show has many likable characters, villains, and ideas, these are overshadowed by behind the scenes changes, unsatisfying resolutions, and the show’s overall slow and stretched out pacing.

The show follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), as he and his group tries to survive in a world infested with the reanimated dead, called “Walkers.” The core group of survivors are Rick, his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), and Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan). These are the current surviving characters that have been around since season 2, since the series has fluctuated with characters dying. But therein lies one of the divisive issues with the series: the show has strayed far from its graphic novel roots, and has been trying to fill in those changes ever since.

Characters who died much earlier in the graphic novels are still around in the latest season, and other characters have been killed off in the show, where they are still alive in the comics. Some characters have been altered to fill in those empty roles, despite their lacking personalities.

The character Michonne (Danai Gurira) is bland, no matter how much the show tries to portray them otherwise. The character Carol, however, who was quiet and depressed in the graphic novels, has become a dangerous and effective character in the television adaptation. The character Daryl is a brand new character who exists in the show exclusively. Though these characters, along with the main character, Rick, remain intriguing, it is the show’s formula that has held the show back from great potential.

The show has entered a predictable cycle since season 3, where it would have a first and second half with typically 8 episodes each, and the halves would be separated by roughly 3 months. The divisive issue lies in how the show’s quality seems to suffer for viewers. The formula is that the show will begin its new arc, with subtle changes to the original story, be moving at a glacial pace in terms of exciting events, then end with a sort of “part 1 finale,” where the intriguing story and action ramp up. The 3 month wait occurs, then it is the second half that is far more jam-packed and consistent with its pacing.

Season 6 was the worst casualty of this, where the group has settled down in their new home “Sanctuary,” with Rick taking more of a charge over the town after the last season ended with him proving to the town’s leader, Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh), that they need to be prepared for any threat that comes their way. The first half deals with multiple threads the previous season left open, but they all end abruptly.

There is a threat of some psychotic survivors called “the Wolves” who have various traps and ways of sabotaging settlements so that more of the living can join the dead. But these “Wolves” soon attack the town, and are then quickly disposed of. The group clears the town of the Walker “herd” that had infested the town, and even though there were some losses, the emotional attachment audiences had toward these characters varied from minimal to non-existent.

There was one character in particular, Sam (Major Dodson), who was an innocent kid who had to witness some gruesome deaths of many people around him. Sam shuts down or talks too much when he is scared, but this led to him becoming nearly insufferable with how much of a detriment he was.

If a character is defenseless but still has redeemable characteristics, then they are deserving of sympathy from the audience. But if a character is bordering on useless and only annoys the audience every time they open their mouths, then the viewers are quick to call for their demise. This dissonance is very specific to forms of fiction. Since the audience knows the story isn’t real, seeing irredeemable, unbearable characters whom the show wants people to root for, becomes impossible to do.

“The Walking Dead” has many issues, but still remains a pretty enjoyable show. If it can break free from its slow first-half, great second-half cycle, this otherwise fascinating series can continue to thrive in the seasons to come.

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