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!
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:
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.
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.
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!