This past weekend was The Walking Dead mid-season premiere, pitting Rick, his crew and the citizens of Alexandria against the encroaching zombie hoard, while simultaneously giving us the resolution to the standoff between Daryl, Abraham and Sasha and the Saviors.
Now if you have been listening to the podcast, you’ll know that Steven is usually the one who has the unpopular opinions, but today, its Bawbshway’s turn to have one: I did not like this episode. Moreover, I going to make and unpopular assertion: Next season should be the last. Now let me explain why.
The Walking Dead at its core, especially the first three seasons, was about unpredictability and taking risks. But as the show has grown in popularity, and its characters have become so greatly entrenched in pop culture, and as it has diverged more and more from the comic, it has lost its connection to those two tenants. Though nothing about this episode had been spoiled for me going in, I pretty much knew exactly what would happen: that the rocket launcher and heavy weapons that Daryl acquired would be a deus ex machina for Alexandria and that no one of consequence would die. The only people that die now are the ones that keep the main crew suffering in exactly the same way they were before. Rick has now lost a second love interest and potential family, thus solidifying his suffering in the same way. It doesn’t change him, just reaffirms his character.
Now as for Carl, if they had killed him off, then it would have been an interesting change for Rick, catastrophic loss that would alter him fundamentally. But instead the writers and producers fearfully pulled the punch and just took his eye (though they did it in a cool way, and his new look hearkens back to the Governor). I think this will enhance the strength of Carl’s character, which I hope pays off later in the season). Killing Carl would have been an interesting risk and interesting change, but it didn’t happen.
And yet again Glenn is put in mortal danger, but fearfully, the writers and producers fail to kill him to change or intensify Maggie or the others with his death. Quit the death teasing! The bullet storm that saves him from the convenient arrival of Daryl and the others is almost too perfect, and Daryl with the rocket launcher and the lake of fire is cool-looking but too fan-servicey, nonsensical and plays almost like a Jean Claude Van Damme action scene.
They won’t take risks with the lives of any of the main characters to further the characters of the others, nor can they make the zombie fighting much more interesting without military grade deus ex machinas. The Walking Dead is lumbering toward its end. It needs to end while its still somewhat interesting.
I did like the change of character of the Alpha Wolf, who softened before his death for Denise, and the priest, who hardened finally, to defend what he thought was only able to be defended through passivity when he was given charge over Rick’s daughter. These I found to be the most interesting changes and plot lines in this episode and I hope that more changes of this nature are evoked through the remainder of the season.
But the main problems persist. Risk taking and keeping the source material fresh. Teases of death and change can only satisfy for so long before the audience desensitizes and loses interest. Escalation of violence only works to hold the audience’s interest for so long before the audience desensitizes once again. I’m fully adapted to the Walking Dead’s tricks and becoming desensitized, despite the awesome production values and solid performances, which can only hold up stagnant plot and characters for so long. Walking Dead, it’s time to kill off some big names to change the others, and begin to move towards a resolution to the violence with the zombies. Start thinking about how to bring the curtain down, before the audience brings it down for you.