I remember when I used to be excited for each Sunday, anxiously awaiting the next episode of The Walking Dead. However, with the show now in its eighth season, I’ve found myself far less interested and less invested in the plot and the show’s many characters. My interest in The Walking Dead has waned to the point where I debate whether I should even watch it all any more. With the show’s viewership declining, it’s time to ask what’s gone wrong and why our favourite zombie show isn’t as good as it used to be.
Much of the reason for the show’s decline in recent years are the characters. Many of the characters that made the show interesting, be they good or evil, are now dead. Characters like Shane, Hershel, Tyreese, Beth, The Governor, and, of course, Glenn are gone. Now, some of these characters did have to die for the show to keep its momentum, but none of the new ones that have been brought in to replace them have been very interesting or likeable.
Characters like Jesus, Father Gabriel, Gregory, Rosita, Eugene, and Tara, while they have their useful moments and engaging bits of story, are often focused on far too much. For many people, myself included, The Walking Dead is about our core group of survivors, namely Rick, Daryl, and Maggie, (and, formerly, Glenn). In fact, honestly, if an episode airs now that doesn’t feature Rick, I’m not all that interested.
A few times a season now, The Walking Dead has episodes that focus entirely on one or several previously under-developed characters in an attempt to make us care about and understand this character. I understand why the showrunners do this, but these episodes so often feel out of place and dull and only act to disrupt the momentum of the season. Also, I find that the characters focused on in these episodes almost always die within the same season, making the whole thing feel kind of pointless.
Over the last season or so, The Walking Dead has also had another problem in terms of its characters: they don’t feel like real people. King Ezekial is just plain silly and, frankly, an annoying presence on the show. Similarly, the big bad of the last few seasons, Negan, feels more like a caricature than a character. It’s like he stepped right out of the comic book and onto the screen. While I’m sure there are some people that love this, it just doesn’t feel real. There’s nothing human about him and he’s not really complex or interesting. Negan is so over-the-top and almost cartoonish that his part feels out of place in the show, regardless of how close he resembles the Negan from the comics.
In the past, The Walking Dead has done a great job with crafting compelling, human villains. Shane’s arc over seasons one and two and the slowly-mounting friction between him and Rick was probably the show at its best. In seasons three and four, The Governor was similarly well-done. His past was explored with enough depth for us to understand his motivations and we learned more about who he was before he became The Governor. Although he was a murderous sociopath, he was given brief moments of humanity that made him feel real. Even Gareth and the cannibalistic Termites in season five were shown to be somewhat normal before the horrors of the apocalypse changed them.
It’s not just the characters, though, that has made The Walking Dead feel a little tired lately, it’s the entire plot as a whole. The formulaic approach that’s been developed at this point in the show where the group finds safety, a villain threatens this safety, and the group defeats the villain, doesn’t really feel fresh any more. Even with the villains getting more evil and the threats becoming greater, it’s still starting to become a little predictable.
All of this plays out in an environment with very little hope and no apparent end point. The journeys of all of these characters feel pointless if there’s no hope for a cure or some clear objective to work towards. Sure, you could say their main objective is “survive,” but I’m not sure if this is enough to carry the show any more.
The Walking Dead is now in its eighth season and showing no signs of coming to an end. The showrunners have gone on record saying that the show will likely continue for many years to come. With the way things have been going, though, I would say that The Walking Dead should begin setting up its end game. No longer at the height of its popularity, the annoying secondary characters, recycled plots, and just general zombie-fatigue hint that maybe it’s time for The Walking Dead to die.
Do you think it’s time for The Walking Dead to end? Be sure to let me know in the comment section below.