This isn’t film related, but it’s not very far off, and this is the only blog I have. I want to talk about The Walking Dead, specifically my problem with it and why this most recent episode rectified that problem – at least for one episode. I don’t plan to get very specific, but if you’re worried about spoilers, I wouldn’t read this until after watching the November 17 episode Live Bait.
I’ve actually been enjoying The Walking Dead more than I have since the first season, but when you really like something its problems become that much more apparent and that much clearer. The Walking Dead needs to stop killing people, at least for a while. I don’t mean a few episodes, either. I understand why The Walking Dead kills characters off so frequently. This is the zombie apocalypse, things are bleak, they “are the walking dead!” and so on and so forth. That’s a line from the comic book, which a frustrated Rick yells “Don’t you get it?! We are the walking dead!” I don’t remember if he says it in the show or not. The point I’m making is that I certainly understand the need for a body count. At this point, however, the nonstop slaughter is hurting the suspense.
I’ve been sick of the massacre for quite a while now, but it took last night’s episode with the Governor to make me realize what a problem it’s become. Last night’s episode was fantastic. Regardless of what you think of the Governor, and I’m probably in the group that thinks the Woodbury storyline lasted too long, I was happy to see his return if only because it’s given us a brief respite from the morbidity of the prison. The characters introduced in Live Bait were all likable in their own way, but I was cautious getting attached to any of them because of the show’s drastically low survival rate. That’s a problem. When the episode ended without any of them getting killed, I was much more relieved than I expected to be.
You need viewers to connect with your characters. Characters are why we keep watching shows. A connection to the characters is why I slogged through ten brutal years of Smallville. I cared about the characters. Of course I hate it when a character is more or less immortal due to him or her being integral to the plot. No matter what seemingly helpless situation I found Jack Bauer in, I knew he wasn’t going to die. That certainly doesn’t generate suspense. However, 24 did a good job of killing off major characters in intervals that were timed out enough to let you become attached and yet frequent enough to remind you that death is always a possibility.
Killing off characters, major characters, is definitely an effective storytelling device but The Walking Dead has taken this concept too far and I now view the entire cast as nothing more than expendable. You could argue that there’s a difference between the survivability of the main cast – Rick, Darryl, Glen, etc – and the supporting cast, but there shouldn’t be. The term “redshirt” comes from people making fun of Star Trek for having supporting characters who were clearly nothing more than cannon fodder.
I don’t wake up and brace myself for the fact that any of my friends could die that day. I’m certainly aware that it’s a possibility, but I’m confident that it’s not going to happen. I don’t feel that way about The Walking Dead anymore. If Rick or Glen gets killed, I won’t be shocked. Maybe surprised, but not shocked, because I watch every episode anticipating death and there’s absolutely zero suspense in that. You need to be aware that they can die, but sure that they won’t. That’s how it works.
Stop killing people, at least for a while.