Spoilers ahead. Anyone who reads this without watching S04E09: 'After', will have it ruined for them. That much should be obvious...
AMC’s ratings behemoth The Walking Dead returned to American TV screens on Sunday night (Feb 9th) and last night on FOX for British viewers. We re-join zombie dystopia after the devastating battle that left the prison decimated, our beloved survivors scattered, and a few key characters dead or missing.
Let's just kill Carl off and be done with it
The mid-season premiere focused on Rick Grimes and his son Carl as they scavenge for supplies in a dilapidated town, which, surprisingly – considering it’s walking distance from the prison - is full of nourishing goodies like a 112-ounce can of chocolate pudding. This is as good a time as any for me to list the reasons why The Walking Dead isn’t very good any more:
Carl is an awful character
A combination of terrible acting (sorry kid), tired writing and a lack of ingenuity and originality in Carl’s character has made him a stale entity – one which many fans of the show would like to see eaten by a walker. He’s struggled with power since day one, and while it was believable in his tender years, a broken-voiced Carl doesn’t quite come across as believable.
It was also easy to forgive his wooden performances before, when he was a young kid feeling his way into his acting career, playing a young kid, feeling his way through a zombie apocalypse. Now, it’s just tiring. While the show is filled with some impressive performances (Danai Gurira as Michonne and Scott Wilson Hershal come to mind), Carl is the perennial stumbling block, consistently breaking the spell ‘Dead’ managed to cast so magically in earlier seasons. Please, writing team: don’t turn him into the show’s lead.
Rick Grimes is ridiculous now
Out of the entire camp, Rick Grimes has probably dealt with the most. Killing his best friend, losing his wife, endangering the group he self-elected to lead and losing his baby daughter in a fire fight with a one-eyed madman rank amongst his biggest grievances. But that’s no excuse for saying every sentence like you’re lifting a car above your head, Andrew Lincoln.
Since Lori’s passing, something that initially drove Rick insane, he’s gradually become more contrived, dramatic and over-egged. It’s infuriating to watch him say the simplest of sentences with the conviction of a recently incarcerated felon. Despite the enormity and gravity of the situation depicted in The Walking Dead, there is room for subtlety. I’d like more of that, please.
Not enough of the good stuff
While I lament half of the decisions made by the Walking Dead’s production team, it’s not all bad. Problem is, they don’t show enough of the good stuff.
This season took a break as Hershel’s head went awry. He’s dead, and the people that matters most to are his daughters, Maggie and Beth, who – judging by next week’s episode snippet – are involved in a far more enthralling episode than the one we just watched. Why the story didn’t pick up with them baffles me, and rendered the predictable, trite dialogue between Rick and Carl even more boring.
Technically, the episode didn’t need any dialogue, given that only three characters were involved. So anything that was included needed to be absolute gold. It wasn’t. And it all felt forced.
Michonne turns to jawless, armless zombies to keep her safe when the going gets stuff - cool
What’s more: the only good thing about the show’s return, a certain samurai-sword swinging Michonne, isn’t in the episode enough. Her dream was neatly handled, and it’s interesting to delve into the back story of a character so mysterious. The reaction of Rick and Carl as she finds her way back to them, cutting free – and cutting the heads off – the walkers in her path on her way, is telling of her influence on the group. More of her, please.
Where from here?
I found the first 8 episodes of season 4 to be the worst the entire show has to offer. The pacing was off-piste and the battle rushed. The speedy return of The Governor, who managed to find his evil marrow soon after coming into contact with humans again, and his subsequent death, was hurried along – ironic when you consider the threats of war towards the end of season 3.
Now, with the ‘human enemy’ out of the way, walkers provide a primary threat once more. There’s nothing to say another sentient body could harm the group once more, but to try and build another character over halfway through the season is destined to fail. And simply relying on walkers to provide conflict will soon grow old given the amount of fuel used up on them already.
By ruining the end of season 3 with some shoddy plotting, season 4 has looked a fragmented show. Cardboard performances sit opposite some desperately overacted ones and, like the survivors ambling through the woods, there’s little purpose or direction any more. All we need now is Daryl to be killed off so the other Walking Dead fans can cotton on to the show’s decline.
What do you think of The Walking Dead so far? Have I got it 100% wrong? Let me know!