I have a love/hate relationship with The Walking Dead. For a long time it was like a bad relationship that I couldn’t give up on. I’d watch an episode and marvel at the inadequacy of the pacing or the characterization. Then, next week, I’d come crawling back, hoping for the fun that I;m sure was there, deep down.
It was like AMC was trying to perfect the best formula with which to let down an audience. This went on for the better part of the six episode first season and the all-the-time part of the thirteen episode second season.
And then the third season happened, and it was like I was watching an entirely different show. A show that was tired of simply teasing me with the title of The Walking Dead.
Anyone who knows the production history of The Walking Dead knows that the writing team has been switched out like ice packs on the side of the Human Torch. If you watch an episode of The Walking Dead, odds are that the script changed hands about ten times by the time you got to the end. That accounts for the rapidly changing characteristics of the cast. If one person thought that Rick was a level-headed, responsible leader at the start of an episode, then the next guy would surely portray him and damn idiot, before the third person decided to make him a little more likable again.
It didn’t help matters that The Walking Dead seemed content with stranding people in the most boring locations possible. From places like “the top of some hill” to “farm”, it never failed to be a static choice. Creating the setting for a Walking Dead episode requires two specific criteria to be met:
A) Where is there nothing going on at?
B) Is it easy to lock people there for a stupid long amount of time?
If you trap people in a room for a seemingly indefinite period, they will go nuts. If you trap schizophrenically written characters in a room for an indefinite period, the opposite will happen, in which their ever changing personalities will clash so much that it loops back around into boredom. I know that I’m supposed to care about a wife and child, but, for a while, The Walking Dead seemed to promote the positive qualities of stringent bachelorhood. If you have any emotional attachments, they will inevitably fuck you over, not because they’re totally bad people, but because they’re bad people at random intervals.
I also am very aware that The Walking Dead is meant to showcase the human drama as equal to the zombie drama. They did a great job at this, so much so that they often forgot about the zombie part. Sure, they’d shoot a crossbow through an undead skull intermittently to keep you interested, but usually you’d have a greater chance of seeing zombie action on an episode of Nashville. Instead, you’d tune into another thrilling installment of Who’s Going To Be Unpleasant Today? Oh. Everyone.
And then they got to the prison and things, logically, should have gone downhill. Prison’s are notoriously hard to escape from, which means that the cast of The Walking Dead should have snarled at each other and been stagnant there for another two decades. They’d spent a whole season at the farm, where there was an unlimited amount of everything else around them to explore. They didn’t stand a chance at making a prison interesting.
And then they did. The characters have stayed fairly consistent throughout the first four episodes that have aired in Season 3. There’s been a greater amount of suspense and thus it’s become a much more tense show. Walking Dead has taken a lot of risks with its characters by killing off what was maybe the second or third most important one, considering how much maternal instinct you have. Plus, they’ve introduced the town of Woodbury and the Governor, giving the show what seems to be an actual villain, rather than “Aw, Shane loved her.”
And Merle Dixon has a robot hand! A robot hand!
The Walking Dead seems to be taking a step in the right direction. It’s heading into that dreaded mid-season territory, where everyone seems to sit around and talk about how much they kind of hate the people missing from the room. Legitimate TV writers often refer to this, especially in genre shows, as something like a chess game, but I think of it more as four or five episodes when everyone just kind of mutters under their breath. However, if they can keep up the excitement generated by the beginning of the season, then they might renew my faith in the show as a whole.
See, everyone. Hope does exist. You just have to give it a chance, and a robot hand wouldn’t hurt either.