My Wish List for The Walking Dead – Season 4B

I’d warn you that this post contains spoilers, but, for cryin’ out loud, you have had two flippin’ months to catch up on The Walking Dead. Do you expect the whole world to grind a halt while you shuffle around aimlessly like… well, you know… a zombie, expecting that someone will eventually traipse along to pin your eyelids open and make you watch the darn thing? Frankly, I’ve had it up to here with you and your sense of entitlement!

Right.

TV’s #1 drama without an acronym for a title returns from hiatus this Sunday, February 9 to begin the back 8 episodes of season 4. When last we left Rick and gang, their prison compound was wiped out and overrun with walkers, and the band of bloodied and broken survivors had scattered in different directions, cut off from each other and alone. The action-packed mid-season finale set up what promises to be the most harrowing circumstances the group has faced yet.

As much as I love this show, I’ve long thought it could be improved in a few areas. They did fix one problem in season four, but I’d like them to address a couple of others, all of which is handily summarized in this wish list:

walking dead 4

1. Continue structuring the story so that it sustains momentum.

The six-episode debut season of The Walking Dead was pure cinematic nihilism. We met the characters, they were swept up in a maelstrom of apocalyptic terror, and they reached their journey’s end, only to have all their destination (and accompanying hopes) go up in a massive fireball. It was relentless and epic, partly because you can be relentless and epic when you only have to sustain the story for a little over six hours.

Then they doubled the episode output for season 2 and… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Those zees are not for “zombie.” They represent snoring. You can’t have 13 episodes of unrelenting epicness because it’s unsustainable, but sticking your characters on a farm and setting up a tedious love triangle with an irritating, unlikable shrew at the center is hardly the answer. Season 2 was a study in inertia punctuated by a couple of brilliant episodes that recalled – and sometimes exceeded – the dramatic intensity of the first season. Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny the overall story arc was a letdown.

Season 3, which was about Rick’s gang vs. the Governor’s gang, was a vast improvement over 2 and far more suspenseful, but it suffered from a number of pointless episodes leading up to a pretty underwhelming climax, and a dearth of zombies.

Hooray for new Executive Producer Scott Gimple, then, who finally brought momentum back to the show in season 4A. Instead of having the characters stand around and manufacture their own problems out of stupidity, season 4 introduced external threats such as plague, a new, bigger horde of zombies, and the return of the Governor, this time with tanks. The story kept moving because choice was taken away from the characters. They had to act or die. Let’s hope the writers keep it going the rest of the way.

michonne

2. Do something with Michonne.

The Walking Dead, as most of you know, is based on a comic book, and by far the most comic book-eque character is the sword-wielding Michonne, who is a bit like a superhero compared to the rest of them. The problem is, after introducing her at the end of season 2, she has had almost nothing to do but scowl and decapitate zombies. We want to know more about her! Who is she? Where does she come from? Why is she pissed off all the time? How come she never changes her clothes? Inquiring minds, people.

Hershel

3. No more melodramatic, heroic speeches.

Between Rick and Herschel, I’ve had enough pseudo-inspirational speeches about the human spirit, representing the better part of ourselves by forsaking violence, the importance of working together, and the true meaning of leadership to last five zombie apocalypses. Whenever I see the others standing in a circle with Rick or Herschel at the center playing reluctant, yet earnest, orator, I get up for a chips-and-salsa refill. It’s like an episode of 7th Heaven with zombies instead of teen angst. I realize I’m in the tiny minority here, but… Sayonara Herschel. You sure gave a great reluctant speech. But now that you’re dead… let’s go shoot us some zombies!

 

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24 responses to “My Wish List for The Walking Dead – Season 4B

  • M. R.

    Wow, this sounds like … erhmmm … television. In fact, it sounds like utter garbage. How come there isn’t anything better for you to exercise your little grey cells on, EJ?

    • ericjbaker

      Hmmm. You wouldn’t suppose that all books are bad, or all plays are bad, or all movies are bad, so why suppose that all TV is bad (especially a show like The Walking Dead, which has won massive critical praise)? Some of the best storytelling around happens on TV these days (Breaking Bad, Sherlock, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Orphan Black, etc). I hope I don’t strike you as someone who devotes time to and is impressed by utter garbage. Semi-garbage, maybe. 😉

  • matttblack42

    As much as I’m not a fan of the long speeches, I have to say I loved Herschel’s “choose what you die for” speech. I was really upset when he died.

    • ericjbaker

      Scott Wilson was perfect casting for Herschel and provided an excellent moral center for the show, and his death was one of the most powerful moments in entire series. But I will be happy if they move away from groups and leaders and toward individual survivor stories.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Arkenaten

    As I hardly ever watch TV these days I wouldn ‘t know where to start with a comment on this post so I …..

  • Janna G. Noelle

    I’ve never seen the show. I’m not a big fan of the zombie sub-genre, although that warrior woman looks pretty badass.

    • ericjbaker

      It’s a show that needs to be seen from the beginning. Many episodes, if watched individually with no context, would seem weird and aimless, but as a whole form a nice slow burn of tension that periodically escalates into mayhem. Lots of intriguing characters, moral ambiguity, and intense action. Binge watch from the beginning and I bet you’ll be fascinated.

  • nrhatch

    If I had to decapitate zombies all day, I’d be scowling too! 😐

  • Jill Weatherholt

    I’m feeling old…I’ve never seen this show, Eric. I do remember Night of the Living Dead…oh, I just made myself feel even older. Ah, chips and salsa, my favorite!

    • ericjbaker

      Night of the Living Dead! Only in the horror genre can you make a movie for pennies that changes the world. TWD could not exist without it.

      Regardless of genre, three’s tons of great writing on TV these days and writers like us can learn a lot from studying how the characters are drawn and the stories evolve and play out. I should blog about that.

  • livelytwist

    I don’t watch the show, but had a good laugh reading your wishlist. I feel you @chips-and-salsa refill, only in my case it would be scrolling my newsfeed on Facebook or reader on WordPress. Hope the script writers grant you some of your wishes this season.

  • Dave

    Thanks to you, Eric, you guilted me into watching the last 3 episodes of season 4a. Yeah, I was one of those who procrastinated. Now, having caught up, I had a lot of fun reading your wish list. I agree with most of your assessment of the serious but you were a bit more harsh on season 2 than I would be. I was happy with the way the half-season finished up (except that I did like Herschel … I’ll miss the old guy). Looking forward to the second half.

    I’ve got to agree with you that on TV today there is some absolutely terrific writing. Yes, much of it is crap, but there is plenty that’s well worth watching. For example, I was completely blown away with Breaking Bad and consider it one of the best shows I’ve ver watched. I think those who look down their noses at TV just because it’s TV haven’t bothered checking out some of these series that are exceptional.

    • ericjbaker

      I like watching a good dramatic TV show because I like seeing how the writers keep the momentum going, how they make corrections when things go off track, and how they learn from what worked and didn’t in the past.

      I liked Herschel as well, but his presence seemed to force the writers into moralizing all the time. I’m glad he was there, but I’m also glad the show is moving on.

  • Bob Rodrick

    Being a big horror fan like you, Eric, I tried so hard to get into this show when it first started, but I just couldn’t. I don’t want stories, I don’t want character development. I want wall to wall “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” style gore and horror. I think this should have been just a quick mini-series with a lot more action. What it actually is does nothing for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go watch “Evil Dead,” and not that awful, unnecessary remake, but the real deal!

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