Let me preface this by saying that at one point and time, I was a fan of the Walking Dead. But that was back in Season 5 before things fell off the wheels and the cyclical nature of the series reared its head. What’s crazy about the Walking Dead is that it can literally go on forever. Characters rotate regularly as do the villains. The dangers of the world are ever present, so you can always create new and interesting conflicts for the reader or viewer to explore. So why in the hell does it all feel so stale?
There are multitude of answers, but the easiest and obvious one to point out is that it’s lazy writing. The formula for the past 8 seasons is a simple one. Rick and company scavenge in the post-apocalyptic landscape, find a new place to live, meet a new villain, rinse and repeat. Throw in a few main character deaths every now and then and you have the Walking Dead. Shows can only go on for so long before the creativity dies, which is why you see so many limited series end around Season 5. Breaking Bad is an example of a show that went out on a high note as it ended at the right time and it always felt like the show was building toward something. Dexter on the other hand was a show that hung around for far too long, like three seasons long, and ended up with a mess of a final season. The Walking Dead is starting to dangerously wade into Dexter territory.
For shows that run as long as The Walking Dead, you need great characters to make up for lack of narrative creativity. Sadly, this is an area where the show falls short. There are great characters, such as Michonne or Carol as they have seen incredible development. But there are far too many characters, Rick being the largest offender, where their motivations shift in a cyclical nature. Rick literally goes from timid too aggressive at least once per season and it’s always because he makes a stupid decision that gets his own people killed. Same with Daryl, a massive fan favorite who literally was on a good character arc and now he’s just a cold blooded killer. The show can’t seem to get out of its own way especially with the plethora of characters it has on its show.
Antagonists of the show aren’t faring well either. You go from Shane, who was fantastic for his short run, to the Governor, who was uneven for his run, and finally you’re on the big bad for the recent story arc Negan. I was really looking forward to Negan because he’s fantastic in the graphic novel. While he isn’t portrayed terribly on the show, in fact Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal is excellent, but the whole thing is uneven and far too melodramatic. It’s a shame that the show tries to make every villain sympathetic and then makes them irredeemable with their actions. If they kill Negan, then the show will go back into its cycle. Let’s be clear, this should not happen, having Negan survive would throw an interesting wrench into the show’s dynamic. Imagine him and Rick working side by side to take on new threats, the chaos alone would be worth a watch.
The Walking Dead desperately needs to reinvent its formula. The ratings are on the decline because they are trying to get away with shock value. It’s obvious that this isn’t working because while there is a small spike in viewership, it is only temporary high before the fall.
Until this happens Don’t Open Dead Inside has never been more true.