Yup, that’s pretty much it.
A few years ago I wrote a post criticizing the Walking Dead (http://jeroljohnson.org/2012/03/29/i-got-99-problems-but-carl-aint-one/). It was during the wretched season two and I predicted that the show would tank unless they fixed their writing problems. Well, I was wrong. The damn show is more successful than ever and yet they have fixed very little. AMC continues to rake in the cash and we continue to watch this dreary, poorly written, nonsensical polished turd.
It’s partly the characters. Some of them are great. Daryl, Carol, Rick, Michone…and um, well it’s a pretty steep dropoff after that. My wife has a button that says “If Daryl Dies…We Riot.” She also has a bigass Daryl Dixon action figure. Oh yeah, she loves her redneck archer. I do too. He’s an intriguing character. Too bad he’s stuck with indifferent unimaginative writers who wouldn’t make the cut on a CW series. Oh that’s right, I went there.
The trouble is twofold. One, too often the plot only moves forward when someone does something stupid. Incredibly stupid. Siskel and Ebert used to call that the idiot plot. It’s a plot where if one person does not act like an idiot, the whole movie would just end. In the Walking Dead, it’s like that every episode. Tyreese walks by a room that clearly has a zombie in it. Does he, a character that has stayed alive through all kinds of terrible situations, off the zombie? Or does he just walk into an adjoining room to get distracted and not even check if that zombie could enter said room? That’s right, he picks the dumber option. And the entire episode hinges on a stupid decision. Episode after episode hinges and swings on someone being a complete brainless twit. It got old in season two and it’s even more ancient now.
Problem two is the fundamental lack of imagination or insight. I get that Kirkman and the rest kind of view this as an existential exploration into how we try to keep our humanity in the face of unrelenting horror. The trouble is the writing here is nowhere near up to that task. Instead you get clunkers like Rick invoking that wretched “We are…(duh dah dah dum)…the Walking Dead” line last Sunday. Um, we get that. It’s in the title. In fact, not invoking that for a few seasons but have been the most subtle thing these writers have done. But seriously, no one involved in this show is Cormac McCarthy and it shows far too often. You’re a zombie show. Stick to that.
But the lack of imagination is not limited to just the subtext. Even the day-to-day existence of Rick’s little group is stunted with people not thinking things through. Last episode had them stumbling along the road, out of food and water. Hello, you all had vehicles and were well-provisioned an episode ago. They showed them abandoning a van but we were never given much of a reason why. If I or anyone else with a modicum of intelligence were in this situation, I would think we’d do better. They’ve moved from Georgia (thank god, circling around the same terrain for five seasons had become old) to Virginia (hey, it looks like Georgia) without looting every town they’ve come across. You’ve got enough well-armed fighters to do that but nope, we’re out of food and water. And how do they keep that goddamn baby alive? Why aren’t they thinking about where they are going? How about some place that would be easier to defend, with a water supply that they could grow food in?
But that brings us back to the theme of the show. Doing something that makes sense would end the endless cycle of tedium punctuated by a great episode now and then. If we’re sticking to a theme of holding on to your humanity in the face of endless horror, you’re stuck just wandering around instead of doing something that makes sense, some sort of resolution and redemption would have to happen. Remember why Gilligan’s Island got so irritating when we were kids? It was because even a kid knew that these morons would never get off the stupid island and it got old fast. The Walking Dead believes it can only function if we stay on Gilligan’s Island, recycling plots and killing semi-important (but never the crucial) characters. You think they’d kill their lead, like George RR Martin did in Game of Thrones? Oh not on your life. Here’s Tyreese. You people like him. We’ll off him and act like we’re getting gritty. Bye-bye Beth. We’ll act like you matter even though your own sister didn’t mention her for months. It’s getting old. Either escalate the horror or start working your way off the island.
Sadly, I will continue watching this. My wife is too attached to the characters to give up. I had hopes when the first couple episodes of this season frankly kicked ass but then we went straight back into the same-old same-old. If I had my druthers I’d just walk away. There’s so much great television out there that is far more worth my time. Instead I stagger to the TV every Sunday night. I am…the Walking Dead.