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The Walking Dead Needs to Die

Chris Chalker, Student Life Editor

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The eighth season of The Walking Dead has come to a close and just like last season, it’s also slowly starting to die. With viewers leaving left and right, the show is dying from within, and after the last few episodes, titled “Do Not Send Us Astray”, “Still Gotta Mean Something”, “Worth”, and “Wrath” to name a few, have further proved (as has the rest of this season) why the show is failing. This article will follow the reasons why this once great show has taken a nosedive lately.

Negan is… well Negan

While the addition of the character and this storyline should’ve been a good thing for the show, the extremely misguided storytelling of Scott Gimple has made this storyline with Negan and the Saviors unbearable and very hard to watch. Not only that, but Negan is, as I stated last year when addressing issues last season: overused, irritating, and annoying. Negan was much better when he was working behind the scenes and a menacing foe for the survivors but it seems like the show has tried to humanize him and make him likeable, which in turn takes away from the very veil of suspense and horror he had in the season 6 finale where we first saw him and makes him seem less like a villain (which is not a good thing). Humanizing him shouldn’t make him come off as soft or less like a villain, but should make audiences connect with him, which is a flop in both of those senses. I feel no connection to Negan and I’m so fed up with him and this story that I just want him to be killed off soon. His character seems weak and insignificant and just not the villain he should be. The Governor was a villain that worked because even if audiences hated him, he had a reason and a purpose and after he lost his eye, he turned into a “no-nonsense” villain that was scary on screen. He was unpredictable and dangerous and that cost a couple main characters their lives. His character arc was interesting and fun because audiences knew him and knew his background and who he was. We don’t have that with Negan, we have what the comics have for his character but that doesn’t matter in the TV show. Negan lacks depth and that makes it hard for audiences to get involved and invested in him and his story.

In the season 8 finale, Negan is spared by Rick because why would a polarizing and hated character such as him be killed off?

Side Characters Always Die

Last season starts with the brutal deaths of beloved characters Abraham Ford and Glenn Rhee and from there a few more people die, but no real death is impactful (not counting Sasha’s death in the finale). The others who died were either useless characters the audience doesn’t care about (like Spencer Monroe) or characters we know very little about so we tend not to pay attention when they get offed (like Olivia). The way the show is, we are constantly introduced to new characters that die at any given moment when things go bad and this is due to the very poor narrative structure of the show at this point. Season 8 has done this all season from the useless deaths in the episode “Do Not Send Us Astray” in which Tobin, whom we met a while ago but never had a very significant role, dies and turns, killing all sorts of other people. Except they aren’t people we care about because no one knows who they are and they weren’t even named. The show has always been aired on the premise that “anyone can die” die and “no no one is safe” but we all know that this isn’t true. If this were true then at least one of the names main characters would’ve died randomly during this season and last season and not only that but someone should’ve died in this attack by the Savior on the Hilltop and yet none of them did. For a show who claims that anyone can die at any given time, it seems as though that isn’t the case as many people have survived near death situations and the audience has now become groomed to know that new characters will die and not the main cast. It defeats the narrative they are trying to get across. The initial shock value and suspence factor the show once had in earlier seasons when people were struggling to fight off walkers is essentially gone. The perfect example is Aaron in the episode “Worth”, where he is in very poor condition and yet he has to take on several walkers, but we know he will make it through this and that he will survive because narratively, Aaron can’t die here because it doesn’t help tell the disorganized story we have now.

In the season 8 finale, no one of importance died, it was all unnamed extras, and the only people who were even really hurt were Negan by the exploding gun and being stabbed by Rick and Rick who was cut across the stomach by Negan.

Breaking Continuity

A major plot point in the comic series is that Negan has his forces cover their weapons in walker guts to ensure “one hit kills” on every victim by striking them because apparently they get infected and die from this. In the show, this was proven early on not to work as Rick and Shane cut their hands on knives they previously used to put down some walkers with and later on when Sasha accidentally cut Abraham after she killed a walker. In both cases, the weapon was in no way clean but apparently this method of walker guts on weapons also works in the show as this is why Tobin died, thus breaking continuity. While this isn’t a big deal on its it’s own, it’s significant when you realize that Rick, Shane, and Abraham all had this happen to them at some point and while the latter two are dead now, they didn’t die from those cuts and lived well past the time in which they would’ve died from it (especially in Rick’s case as he is still alive). It’s stupid that the writers used this plot point despite the inconsistencies with its use in the past. Having recently rewatched the whole series, there are more examples of this being used that break continuity, such as when Rick kills the walker in Alexandria and gets walker blood in his mouth and so on. With so many examples of how the show has broken its own continuity in this case it’s honestly baffling to see them use this on screen because this should mean that a majority of the characters we’ve seen are supposed to be dead.

The Story

Let’s face it, the comics only work in the comic universe and not every little piece of that story can work in a television series adaptation of it. Even though this is a series based off of a zombie apocalypse and has had some unrealistic things happen, but some things from the comics just simply dont don’t work on the big screen. The perfect example is the entirety of this Negan storyline. Negan shows up, kills Glenn and Abraham and somehow manages to break Rick to the point that he can’t bring himself to fight back until halfway through season 7. This is unrealistic in the aspect that one, Rick has already lost so much so why would he break down from this? And two, the idea of these communities and leaders is totally farfetched. How did they not manage to find one another and make a plan to rise up against Negan a while ago?

A perfect example was the scene that was infamously used in the comics, the death of Holly (or Sasha in the TV show). Holly was sent to Alexandria after being captured by Negan’s group and she was killed and turned. When the people of Alexandria find her, she attacks them. This worked in the comics but given how stale season 7 became because of these moments being ripped from the comics, Sasha’s death was ruined because everyone knew what was going to happen to her well before it even happened. This same thing happened with Spencer’s death in the mid-season finale and with Glenn and Abraham’s deaths in the season premiere. The argument “well it happened in the comics”, which wasn’t a very sound argument for the previous seasons, was now a very plausible one and has been for the last two years. The show needs to mix it up and be different from its comic series counterpart. That’s what made the first few seasons enjoyable. Not every moment was in the comics and not every death was the same. There was a feeling of suspense and mystery that is no longer present on the show. On top of this, some of the show’s credibility was lost by the choices they made in terms of the story and characters because the sense of realism and common sense the show once had has been messed with. To be completely honest, the writers and showrunner Scott Gimple took a decent storyline that would’ve expanded the world of The Walking Dead and misfired. The story is choppy and boring and most of the episodes seem to be filler ones (cough cough season 7 cough cough). The utter failure to use this interesting storyline to help the show improve in any way proves that this show is on the wrong track and hasn’t been on the right track for a while now. While some things may have been lost in translation in terms of from the comics to the big screen, it ultimately has been a letdown to fans and has viewers leaving in extreme numbers.

Good characters die and the bad ones stick around

While I will admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the character, the death of Carl Grimes was totally unnecessary. Not only is the reason behind his death totally baffling because he was bit by a walker on the torso. Yes, the kid who helped his dad defend the prison using an assault rifle, took on countless physical threats from the living and the undead, has been shot in the chest and lived and later shot in the head and lived, lost an eye, survived the walkers that overran Alexandria, survived Negan’s lineup, and countless more things and he died at the hands of about three walkers. And why does he die like this? In the show, he is helping a man named Saddiq, whom the audience nor Carl really knows, honor his dead mother which is beyond stupid. In terms of real life, he dies because Scott Gimple has no logical explanation as to why Rick should or would leave Negan alive at the end of this story arc. Carl should still be alive. Meanwhile, Saddiq, who has proven to be the last doctor in the state and shows up at just the right time because the group needs a doctor after the death of Alexandria’s doctor Denise Cloyd a while ago, is just very awkward to watch because we know next to nothing about him.

Denise, whom audiences were just starting to connect with, was tragically killed in Season 6 and she should’ve survived. Her character was connected to Tara Chambler, who, at least in my opinion, has run out of story to tell and did a long time ago. Tara has become a bit useless and she is not the only one. Characters like Morgan, Maggie, Rosita, and yes, even Daryl are all well past their usefulness to the show because their characters have all gone flat and become boring. Daryl seems to have become the writers way of adding in something stupid or irrational into the story. Daryl is the reason Glenn died at the hands of Negan because he decided to act out in the premiere and Negan retaliated. Daryl is the reason the walkers are no longer outside Negan’s Sanctuary and cutting them off from the outside world. These characters have gone from being the better ones on the show to being the worst and it only keeps getting worse.

Other characters like Gabriel and Rosita have been stale and boring and have been for a while. They should’ve been killed off a while ago, yet the fan favorites and actually good characters seem to be the only big characters that ever go when the show isn’t busy offing side characters or doing a poor job at telling the story.

Simon, who in my opinion was the only “good” antagonist out of him and Negan, was killed by the latter in “Worth”. Simon has been bloodthirsty and vicious lately, so his death was something you likely saw coming, but in this episode, they explained a few things about him that, had we learned last season, would’ve made his death more impacting.

In the finale, none of the main characters died. Not even Tara, or Rosita, or even Negan.

The pacing

Remember back in season 2, when fans complained about the show being too slow because the farm plot arc lasted too long? Well imagine if that was spread across nearly 3 seasons and you have the entirety of this storyline in the show. In season 6, Rick and his group were offered a deal to take on a satellite outpost operated by Negan and they believed they had taken him out only to find out in the finale that they hadn’t. Not even close. Season 7 follows the group after the brutal deaths of Glenn and Abraham and the group members decide that the best thing to do is wait because why not? Eventually, they do decide to “rise up” against Negan and his Saviors but this is cut short when things, once again, go downhill and slow down. Season 8 promised us action and has been hit or miss. It completely skips over the most important part of their plan to take out Negan, you know, coming up with an actual plan. Instead, we start out with the group carrying out a plan that we know nothing about and things start to slip into last season. Characters have moral dilemmas but only when the plot demands it (cough cough Carol and Morgan cough cough) and make stupid choices (Daryl and Rick) and the conflict is becoming boring and hard to tolerate anymore. We have so many episodes with little to no action in them and next time no story progression other than, in season 7, “let’s fight them” and no real way to get to that quick and now, in season 8, “now we’re fighting them” with a few episodes of random fighting with no explanation and now we’ve had episode after episode of next to no conflict. We had 2 seasons of “all out war” which equals 32 episodes total, but of those 32 episode roughly 4 of them actually involved people fighting one another like the name “all out war” would make you assume, the rest were essentially filler episodes and did little to advance the plot forward, the show essentially took two steps forward and one step backwards in terms of getting its narrative along and actually advancing the storyline anywhere. After all of this talk and hype about “all out war,” it in no way lived up to the name or the hype, further dragging the show down.

Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman

How do you drive one of the most popular shows into the ground when you inherit it while it is at its peak? You act arrogant and talk down to the audience like they’re below you. Trust me, it works and Scott Gimple has proven it. Gimple took over in Season 4 and has been running it since then until Season 8, the same time frame where the show went downhill. Hmm, coincidence? Not at all. Look at the past showrunners of The Walking Dead. Frank Darabont, showrunner of Season 1, was fired for reasons that haven’t really been explained all that well but from what we’ve been told, it was over AMC not paying him what they contracted him. Darabont helped to adapt the show for tv and helped to get it on its feet, as well as making choices as the showrunner that were different than the comics. Glen Mazzara was the showrunner for seasons 2 and 3 and he was fired for making choices that clashed with Robert Kirkman and his comic series (most notably, killing of Andrea). Scott Gimple took over in season 4 and while season 4 was good, season 5 seemed to be where the show started to go off track by playing out idiotic stories and basically setting characters up in circumstances where they die (like Beth Greene, Tyreese Williams, Noah, Abraham Ford, Denise Cloyd, Spencer Monroe, Sasha Williams, and Glenn Rhee to name a bunch of characters who fell victim to the lazy writing that led to their character’s dying).

Kirkman seems to like having control over what happens and doesn’t like things straying from the comics, despite ratings showing that just the opposite and changing things in a logical way helps ratings for the show, while sticking with the comics very closely and making minor changes here and there and then making big but illogical changes (like the death of Rick’s son, Carl Grimes, in season 8) seems to drive viewers away and make ratings plummet like they are now. The show needs new writers and a clean start, so I remain at least somewhat hopeful that season 9 showrunner Angela Kang can improve the show and get it out of the deep hole it has dug itself.

New characters lack depth

Seasons 6, 7, and 8 introduced us to several different communities and characters. We learned about The Kingdom, The Hilltop, The Sanctuary, the Junkyard, and Oceanside in terms of communities and Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Jadis, Tamiel, Negan, Simon, Dwight, Laura, Sherry, Gregory, Kal, Ezekiel, Jerry, Saddiq, Georgie, and Shiva in terms of (some) characters we met. One thing all of these places and people have in common is that they lack depth and reasons for the audience to become vested in their characters. They all have been introduced in a fashion that makes them the most useless characters on the show and they are also the characters we know next to nothing about these characters, making them all that much more pointless. Yes, there are characters like Gregory, who all fans want dead, but that is solely based off of the style of character and their personality. The new characters now are all incredibly weak and flat that they just don’t seem to fit or mesh with these new characters and the storyline.

In season 7, the decision was made to include Jadis and The Scavengers as an ally to Rick Grimes at first and then as an antagonistic group when they betrayed Rick and sold him out to Negan in the finale. The problems with this are that none of the scavengers were given any real importance or story, if we had gotten to know them better and maybe even got to know some of their stories, then we could relate to them but that doesn’t happen so their betrayal means very little because we already didn’t like them and rick had very little reason to trust them in the first place, so it’s no wonder that they lied to him and sold him out.

Lack of deviation from the comics

The show was praised in previous seasons for the deviation from the original source material (the comics), but this eventually became something that rarely happened in the last few seasons of the show. Numerous upon numerous events have been ripped from the comics or slightly altered to fit the show. The most notorious events that were ripped from the comics was the death of Sasha Williams (replaced by Holly in the comics), the death of Glenn Rhee by Negan’s hands (only real change is that Glenn is the sole victim of Lucille in the comics), Negan and Rick’s fight in “Wrath” (without Rick having his leg broken), the death of Denise Cloyd (Abraham in the comics), the death of Spencer Monroe (no real changes here), and so on. Most of the dialogue and actions are even taken from the comics. That’s not to say that some things haven’t happened in the show that never occurred in the comic universe, like the death of Carl Grimes being the easiest to point out, but that decision to kill him off is an illogical and stupid one.

The show was at its best when the group members did things audiences have never seen before and for the choices that they do make that differ need to make sense. Logical reasoning should say that no one wants to see the comics on the screen, that’s boring and unoriginal and has no creativity to it. Slight changes to the source material don’t make a very positive impact either.

It Needs A Fresh Start

This is a zombie apocalypse series, it is never a good thing to be in the same place for too long because things will definitely get boring and the plot will be stale, but Alexandria has been around since season 5 and it’s… well past the time to leave and move on. This show was at its best when the group was moving around and bonding and traveling and now they’re all tethered down to these communities and it’s very dull and boring for us as the audience to see.

Many argue that the show was at its it’s best when it was divided and on the road. The group faced new problems every day and things got wild and crazy while on the road because there is a degree of unpredictability. It allowed for new bonds to form easily and see how people would interact in a different setting with the other characters instead of being forced into the same places, people, and circumstances. Whereas now the group is just scattered and the show is all over the place so its it’s not as fun to watch with new characters and communities being added in like they grow on trees all the while being given little to no depth and dumb choices being made left and right by characters and the writing crew.

“Plot Armor”

As I mentioned last year, Negan had numerous attempts on his life and of course all of which failed. This season, several characters have had attempts on their lives that have failed or certain things have saved them that have been unrealistic.

The best example is when Rick and Negan face off in the episode titled “The Key” and both characters avoid death numerous times for no real good reason. Rick throws his axe at Negan and misses but it gets stuck in the wall behind Negan, who has fallen onto a ledge. Now Rick grabs the axe and swings for Negan’s hands as he dangles off of the ledge and misses again because Negan falls from two stories and is unharmed. Not even a hurt leg or sprained ankle or beam of wood that he fell of or nail he got impaled by or stabbed by, just nothing. Rick lights Negan’s bat on fire and smashes open an area with boarded up walkers and of course, neither character is harmed or bitten by the walkers that come after them in this small confined space as the two men continue to fight. Prior to this fight, Negan was in a car crash with his bat soaked in walker blood and guts because he figured out that it would be a “one hit kill” on a survivor, but of course he escapes from that too unharmed because why would he be hurt by that?

Two episodes later, in “Still Gotta Mean Something,” Jadis has captured Negan and he also manages to escape death at her hands and somehow manages to get his bound hands free and grab a gun and a flare. In “Worth”, Negan and Simon engage in a fist fight where Simon is winning at first but Negan beats him without much other than some cuts because why would the leader of the bad guy group break a knuckle, or get a concussion, or be beaten brutally like Rick in season 4?

In the conclusion of “Worth”, Negan tells Michonne there can be no peace and that he has to kill everyone, a comment he made to Simon previously in the episode moments before he killed him. This seems to signal that neither group wants or can allow peace and that this can only end one way: with Negan dead. But because it happens in the comics, Negan was more than likely survive his final fight with Rick.

The season 8 finale proved this further by having nearly blind Father Gabriel survive wandering into the woods and being caught by a walker. Negan also has his hand “explode” and bleed after he fired the gun that Eugene had loaded up with rigged bullets and doesn’t lose his hand and later is slashed in the throat by Rick.

The communities and leaders

Last season we met the different groups and communities: Rick and Alexandria, Maggie and Hilltop, Ezekiel and Kingdom, Jadis and the Junkyard, Negan and the Sanctuary, the women of Oceanside, and (in this season) Georgie. Each community is different and special in its own way… except this idea of these different communities is stupid. They are all different somehow because we need to remember which is which. There are so many characters in each community that there isn’t enough time to thoroughly develop everyone there and even a leader like Ezekiel or Jadis aren’t developed very well and are relatively weak characters. They don’t have much depth and we know next to nothing about them. Since these are characters we are following we should get to know them and feel for them but that emotional connection is absent so we don’t feel for them.

Ezekiel is just a theatrical character who solely exists because they wanted something that was “out there” for a character and its it’s really strange. Sure he had Shiva, a tiger he rescued during the outbreak, but even that story was beyond dumb. I’m a visual guy. If you have a backstory worth 5 of our time, then show it to us. Don’t tell us about it.

Jadis is the leader of a group that lives in a junkyard. While this could’ve been promising, it ends up being disappointing. Jadis and her group speak in broken English and she is just very hard to watch and kind of annoying. Following the demise of her group, Jadis has become interesting but she still has a lot of things to do before audiences actually care about her.

Negan and Simon are both misguided characters in terms of their use in the story. Simon and Negan should be intimidating and seeing them should signal that something bad is going to happen but the use of Negan as a comedic character rather than a terrifying villain is a misfire. It makes us view Negan in a different light, one that is not good for his role as a villain. Simon on the other hand, has been underused and retains his sense of being and intimidating (somewhat at least). Knowing Steven Ogg as Trevor Phillips from Grand Theft Auto V, you had to expect Simon as a wildcard that would rock the boat and while he’s delivered on that but his underused has slightly undermined his position as a terrifying bad guy for the same reason that Negan’s overuse has. The audience needs to see these characters in a certain way or it ruins their image.

The Diehard Fans

The one of the most annoying parts of the show now is the “diehard fans” fans who will always defend it. No show is perfect, they all have their flaws but there are people who will always rush to defend the show and its actions and the story and so on. Often times, those who don’t like the direction of the show are told to “stop watching.” Think about that for a minute. You want people who don’t like the show anymore to stop watching, even though ratings are down to a 6 year low and them not watching hurts the show more than them complaining? You would rather have me stop watching the show and hurt ratings further rather than have the show receive negative feedback that it could improve upon? Makes perfect sense.

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