Why I’m watching… The Walking Dead season 6
by Thom Yee
If I’m right, and I usually am when it comes to prognosticating on a TV show that I’ve already read well ahead of in its counterpart/inspiration comicbook series, then this might be the last season of The Walking Dead that’s… like… this. Alexandria may have been a big shift for Rick and co., offering the first real, lasting, modern-living respite our characters have ever had, but the long-term story implications of this safe-zone are only starting to be felt if our heroes wind up staying here on the TV show as long they do in the comic. In addition to the internal strife that will probably be forming between Rick and Morgan, it looks like we’re also on a collision course with the mysterious Wolves that have been skulking around the edges of this series all last season, something that may lead to our heroes confronting the biggest big bad in series history. Think the Governor, only bigger, meaner, with almost no sense of morality, and directly responsible for the brutal, sadistic death of a beloved long-time character.
So that’s coming. And like I pointed out in my coverage of Fear the Walking Dead, what else do I really have to do on a Sunday night? Certainly not something productive.
3. “Thank You”
7. “Heads Up”
9. “No Way Out”
10. “The Next World”
11. “Knots Untie”
13. “The Same Boat”
14. “Twice as Far”
Why I’m watching… The Walking Dead season 5
So in a lot of ways, The Walking Dead has gotten progressively worse since its six-episode launch, all the way back in 2010. Beginning with a strikingly shot, strongly paced and compelling first episode before settling into a tight, dramatic and fairly realistic overall arc (except for that one episode… you know the one), in many ways that first season was the high watermark for the entire series.
Now, when people tell you what’s good about The Walking Dead — that it’s exciting, that the action is well done, that nobody’s safe — they’re not entirely wrong. On a technical level, the show does look like a post-apocalypse zombie world and all of the maiming and killing and set pieces look fully realized — the execution of the good parts is all very strong. It’s just the storytelling that doesn’t add up. We spend too long in places (the farm) and it really slows everything down, things are drawn out for way too long (letting the Governor live beyond the natural conclusion of his seasonal arc), we’re introduced to incorporeal threat (the virus), and we see characters hang around for three seasons without ever being fleshed out (T-Dog).
On the other hand, The Walking Dead is a show you just kind of don’t stop watching. Yeah, everywhere you look the characters are making dumb decisions that only serve to further the plot, yeah, the show’s themes are delivered with all the subtlety of a hammer (or knife or bat or board with nail) into a walker skull, yeah, the comic’s still ten times better, and yeah, zombies are slowly shambling their way out of the most populated parts of the popular culture, but if you’ve stayed with the show for this long, it’s probably too late. You, me… we’re all infected.
5. “Self Help”
11. “The Distance”
Why I’m watching… The Walking Dead season 4
Everybody’s watching The Walking Dead. It’s a cultural phenomenon, one so strong that it’s actually managed to draw bring regular people into comicbook stores. And that’s an incredibly rare thing. What creator Robert Kirkman has managed to do is create a perfect storm of commercial success, with massive viewerships, over and above usual cable network metrics, and rapid sellouts of print material available in all fine comic and book stores. If you want to watch The Walking Dead, there’s Sunday nights on AMC. If you want to talk The Walking Dead, Talking Dead, a show built entirely around fan discussions follows right after (and gets better ratings than many of its timeslot competitors). If you want to read The Walking Dead, there’s 118 issues (and counting) of comicbook. If you want to gift The Walking Dead, the comics are conveniently reprinted in collected edition trade paperbacks and massive prestige-format hardcover collections. And there’s just enough difference in these formats that people are compelled to watch and read all of it. I’ve been reading the comicbook almost since the beginning (this month is the comics’ 10th anniversary), and it’s remained consistently surprising, consistently inventive, and consistently compelling.
But the show is kind of a crapfest.
By virtue of what it is — a zombie show with no set ending and enough natural momentum for big changes to come about relatively quickly — it is entertaining, and that’s enough to get a certain amount of attention. But it spends too long on boring story elements, its themes are heavy-handed and handled inelegantly, and it suffers from the cardinal sin of dramatic storytelling: characters acting stupidly and irrationally simply to serve the plot. In this regard, The Walking Dead is almost Heroes-bad. But it’s still worth keeping an eye on. And it always seems just a few choices away from being better. So I’m in. At least for one more season.
6. “Live Bait”
14. “The Grove”