Back in 2010, fans of zombie graphic novel The Walking Dead were ecstatic to see the release of a TV series interpretation of the hard-hitting and compelling post-apocalyptic tale. Between the intriguing source material, the guidance of original creator Robert Kirkman and the influence of established filmmaker Frank Darabont, it seemed to be a match made in heaven, but what we didn’t know was how long the series would be dragged out for.
AMC’s The Walking Dead proved that zombies could dominate the small screen
As soon as you saw the first episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead, you knew it possessed everything you’d want from a horror TV series. Fronted by Love Actually heartthrob Andrew Lincoln and supported by widely-known Darabont alumni Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Sam Witwer and Melissa McBride, it didn’t take long to hear news of a second season.
The show itself focused on Rick Grimes, a policeman involved in a gunfight with criminals that awakes from a coma to realise that the world not only ended during his slumber, but that it was also overtaken by hordes of the undead. He discovers the reality of his situation as he ventures out of the hospital and into local Atlanta, where he’s met by an even more underrated British acting talent in Lenny James, who plays a troubled father who’s conflicted with the issue of having to dispose of his now-undead wife while raising his now semi-orphaned son.
Eventually, Rick find his family – wife Lori and son Carl – amongst a gang of misfits that grouped together by means of survival. Within this group is his best friend and deputy Shane who, unbeknown to him, has started a love affair with Lori in his absence. I mean, considering this is just episode one, there’s clearly a lot of questions to answer in the coming episodes. Future arrivals of plucky delivery boy Glenn, lovable hard-man T-Dog, domestically-abused but quietly ferocious Carol and morally jaded redneck brothers Merle and Daryl Dixon. Due to the differing characteristics, moral compass and mortality of the array of additional side characters, there was a lot to consider over the first few seasons, but it all changed as the show grew stale.
Simply put, the show died alongside The Governor
In the early days of The Walking Dead, each series was presented as a simple alteration of landscape. It started with the survivors hiding outside Atlanta before venturing towards a medical research facility in hope of finding a cure. Season two leads the gang to stay at the farm of Hershel Greene – a man of few words but many acres of land and oppressed daughters. During their time at the farm, Carl is shot in a hunting accident, it is revealed that Hershel was keeping zombies of past family and friends in his barn, and Rick finally learns of Lori’s affair with Shane. Although this is understandably dramatic from the offset, Rick is hesitant to murder his friend, but is eventually forced to do exactly that when Shane turns on him, leading to a two-for-one for Rick as Shane inevitable returns as a zombie. Rick also finds out that Lori is pregnant, setting a consistent theme of uncertainty over whether or not the child is in fact Rick’s.
By the time we reach season three, Rick has had to move his group to an abandoned prison. Not only is he having to completely clear out the facility in order to make it safe enough for the people he’s now leading, but he has to deal with fierce egomaniac The Governor, who leads his own colony of people but rules with an iron fist. Once again, The Governor was played by a British acting talent in David Morrissey, and his portrayal of the character was nothing short of gripping, even with the somewhat unrealistic eye patch. The Governor went on to fight with Rick for control of the prison, where he shockingly executed Hershel in front of the prison and groped Hershel’s daughter Maggie, but he met a grizzly end as he found his other eye gouged out before being stabbed through the heart by Michonne, a katana sword-swinging lunatic that acts far more deep and meaningful than she ever proves to be in future episodes.
If there wasn’t already enough going, a deadly flu – reminiscent of coronavirus (or COVID-19 if you’re that clever) – makes its way through the prison, killing many of the survivors. One of the survivors is Lori Grimes, who is barely able to give birth to her child before dying. Not only is this an extremely stressful scene, but it proves to be heartbreaking too as both Rick and Carl are left utterly devastated as they attempt to calm a new born baby that remains glazed in the blood of her dead mother. However, it is here where the quality of The Walking Dead comes to a grinding halt. After this point, the group decide to leave the prison and follow a railway line, prompting one of the most disappointing series in television history.
Terminus: where TWD terribly turned on itself and terminated
Bitter fans of The Walking Dead are likely to tell you that season four was the last time the show was truly unique. Past this point is where it started to show signs of disappointment, and I’m afraid that’s now where we find ourselves. Season five saw the remaining survivors following a train track for far too much time in search for Terminus – a place that many have hailed as being the one and only destination for genuine salvation. However, when they arrive, it turns out that it’s actually orchestrated by deluded cannibals as a plot to eat TWD’s strongest characters. Fortunately, Rick and his team escape the cannibals almost as quick as they find them, but it’s at this point that the show becomes more of an overly talkative drama than a show that has anything to do with zombies whatsoever.
In an attempt to remind viewers of his strong belief in brutal justice, Rick executes a domestically abusive husband of a woman he’s mildly attracted to at new haven Alexandria, but as he does it, Lenny James’ morally conflicted character appears to see him slaying an unarmed man in what appears to be the most disturbing Curb Your Enthusiasm scene yet. From this point on, the whole programme skips between Alexandria and the Hilltop, where many frustrating characters get in the way before inevitably dying, such as dodgy Gregory, who stays alive for ages despite blatantly being a snake in the grass.
At this point, the show is utterly based on constant bickering between different characters, both new and old. The moral compass of everyone involved changes massively, even making likeable Daryl Dixon into more of an inconvenience. Narcissistic megalomaniac Negan, played expertly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan livens up the show two series later by literally lining up the key characters and bashing two of them to a pulp with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire, but even the introduction of this charismatic and multi-layered character isn’t enough to keep our attention. Or, at least we think it isn’t after Rick eventually slits his throat, but insanely chooses to save his life in order to ‘prove a point’ to the future residents of Alexandria. That makes no sense, right? Well, despite the fact that Negan killed, raped and enslaved many people, Rick had no intention of killing him, even after he beat Glenn to death – the guy who guided Rick to safety in episode one of the entire f*cking show.
Fans of The Walking are hard to please, but they have valid reasons
By season nine, Negan is imprisoned in Alexandria, Rick is presumed dead (but actually just flown to an unknown location), and the creators of the show have become so bored to death that they’ve opted to skip six years into the future because why the hell not? At this point, you do wonder what the point of watching the show is anymore. It was always based on Rick Grimes who’s no longer in it, any characters from the start of the show are either uninteresting (Carol) or completely lacking in the character traits that previously made them likeable (Daryl), and all the new characters are just frustrating and easy to blend into the background (absolutely f*cking all of them).
As with many of the other series, the show’s creators tried to liven it up by throwing in a British actor. This time, it was Samantha Morton that attempted to put some life back in the show, playing Alpha, queen of the Whisperers – a gang of weirdos that parade in masks of undead skin in order to blend into the zombie hordes. Between her and Beta, who is portrayed like a washed up soap actor playing the leading role in a pantomime adaptation of Beauty and the Beast on Blackpool pier, the show has just become difficult to watch.
That’s not to say that these criticisms are fair though. In fact, it could be extremely harsh and the show could be enjoying its finest moments. It’s just difficult to see it that way after it strayed so far from what once was an interesting programme with plenty of contrasting characters and an unknown direction for where the plot would take us. Instead, we’re now left with a monotonous mess of shady conversations and extended shots of the landscape, but little to no substance whatsoever. Fans of the show since day one are only still watching out of loyalty, but it’s gone on far longer than it should have, and the worst thing is, it doesn’t look like stopping any time soon. If the show’s creators are capable of removing the main character and skipping six years into the future for no reason at all, it’s frightening to think how long this sh*t show will continue.