The Walking Dead: Season 4 - 4.12 Still / 4.13 Alone
Spoilers and complaining about The Walking Dead ahead.
To paraphrase a recent movie, we need to talk about The Walking Dead. There are some concerns to address, and unfortunately for the creative team they’re legitimate concerns. After two episodes of very slow character development and zero plot development patience is wearing thin.
First though let’s summarize episode twelve, ‘Still’. Beth and Daryl find a house, sit around being sad and drinking, then burn it down. AND THAT’S IT. If you haven’t watched it I’ve just saved an hour of your life. You can see what the team are trying to do here, a quiet episode all about a fan favourite (Daryl), but actually there’s no character development, we learn nothing new, and absolutely nothing happens.
Episode thirteen, ‘Alone’, is a bit better but again the plot goes nowhere. There’s a bit more of Beth and Daryl and their relationship growing, before she’s spirited away in a car and he links up with Joe and his gang (from ep. 11 ‘Claimed’). Bob gets some backstory, kind of, and he and Sasha grow closer through Maggie’s search for Glenn. But again, nothing really happens. The show seems to be slowly – very slowly in fact – pushing the characters towards Terminus. So far just Daryl and Beth haven’t seen the signs and they’re on very different paths.
So the concerns… well it’s incredibly slow paced, a more accurate word is boring. A show like True Detective has a snails pacing too but at least the writing is good, the characters interesting, the plot moves on, and it keeps you watching. Since the midseason break The Walking Dead has had two very good episodes followed by three rubbish ones, not a good ratio. New characters have been dropped in, and then left with nothing to do, old characters have been focussed on, and given nothing to do. Which leads to concern two, when the potential is so immense there’s something terribly depressing about the reality of the show. Think about all the possibilities of a post-apocalyptic world with Walkers and then think for a minute what you would do with that. Would you hole characters up in a house for an hour? Or would you make them walk along railway lines, talking, for three weeks? No you wouldn’t. Would you make all your groups of characters basically inhabit the same space (the woods or the road) thereby restricting the dynamics and variation of the scene and those characters? No.
Concern three, the implausible actions of the characters. Over the four seasons so far we’ve learnt a bit about the world of The Walking Dead, in fact we (the audience) have probably learnt more than the people that live in that world. If Walker blood covers the scent of humans, as Michonne – yeah you remember her don’t you? - has demonstrated then why doesn’t anyone use that to their advantage? Also, why would Sasha leave Bob to go into a deserted building to live on her own? Not forgetting the fact that her brother might still be alive and at the place they’re heading for. Was that all about getting Maggie, Bob, and Sasha back together? Well why split them up in the first place, it wasted a good twenty minutes of the episode and got no-one anywhere. Why would Daryl go to the door unarmed when it was obvious Walkers would be there? And why would he run into the basement? Why would he and Beth relax in a house that’s so obviously occupied or set up as a trap? Who knows the answer to any of these questions, not even the writers could answer convincingly. The problem is that these inherently stupid and unrealistic actions are all done do set up something that usually has no consequence, or isn’t remembered five minutes later.
The other ‘biggest show on television’ Game Of Thrones is a great example of the possibilities offered by a large cast and excellent source material. But does any of this matter for the biggest show in the world? In the US viewers continue to switch on and there is very little sign of the allure of the show fading. Whether it’s complacency or not something is addling the creativity of the show, and it needs fixing fast. The show has so much potential and currently that’s being wasted.