Nov 14 2011

Debate of the Day: Is The Walking Dead a Good Show?

Published by at 11:00 am under Debate,Television

This is a question I’ve been wrestling with for a while now, and since I’m not doing weekly reviews of The Walking Dead, I wanted to open it up to the public.

I think it’s easy to be blinded by the fact that a well-produced, gore-filled show about the zombie apocalypse exists. Such a thing is awesome purely as a concept, and so I think we’re predisposed to forgive it if it it’s lacking in other areas like writing or acting.

I look forward to the show each week, but I always end up cocking my head at the end of the hour and saying “that’s it?” For example, last night was about the fifth episode in a row about an unfruitful search for a girl, and it’s becoming clear that perhaps this one incident is seriously going to be the main storyline for the entire season.

This is one of the show’s main problems: direction. It’s always kind of a problem in zombie apocalypse movies when you have to ask the question “where is this going?” Usually, in a two hour film, you can be alright with just “survival” as the end goal, but here? With a show that’s on like it’s 12th hour out of God knows how many? You need a more clear endgame. It used to be wandering to the CDC, which was trashed, then it was wandering to a military fort that has probably zero percent chance of being safe at this point. But that got interupted to spend this whole season wandering in the woods or camping in a farmhouse looking for a singular girl. Hardly he most compelling plot device especially when it’s a character we care next to nothing about.

This brings me to my next point, I would argue that we care very little about MOST of these characters. The show just hasn’t developed many well-rounded, sympathetic or interesting characters. I would argue that the ONLY two interesting characters on the show are Shane, particularly with his recent hard call with Otis, which was one of the show’s best moments, and Daryl, who is just a great character through and through, and I’m glad he got a spotlight on him this episode.

But everyone else? I hate them, I really do. The old man, the blonde idiot, the asian guy, the black guy, the battered mother, Rick’s perpetually miserable wife and Rick himself. NONE of these are good characters in the least, and no matter how much the show stays away from zombie killing to focus on them, they never seem to get any more interesting and engaging. Rick is finally start to undergo some moral struggles, but I’ve said before that Brit actor Andrew Lincoln goes way over the top with the whole cowboy thing, and seems like a caricature too often. I’m also not a fan of Sarah Wayne Callies, last seen in Prison Break, who only has only acting speed in anything I’ve seen her in, frantic/crying, and it gets exhausting.

It’s also apparent that the show’s budget has been cut pretty hard this season. Where we used to have entire cities full of zombies, now we get what, two lumbering walkers per episode? I understand cutbacks but it’s like watching Avatar 2 in 2014, and 95% of the film takes place in a dank spaceport in Boston with the last five minutes full of Na’vi and the rich CGI forests of Pandora.

That said, when the show is good, it’s really good, it’s just that these moments don’t happen enough. Do you think The Walking Dead is a good show? What’s it doing right or wrong?





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35 responses so far

  • J5

    I think it’s an awesome show, but this season just seems to be dragging on. Yes, character development is essential to make you give a shit about these people if they get eaten (I havent read the comics) but I’d like some more Zombie stomping action.

    I didnt see last night’s episode, I’ll be watching it tonight, but I’m wondering when we’re gonna find out about whatever secret the ranch/farm owner has.

  • Jeff

    The only 2 characters I care about are Glenn and Daryl. Everyone else is stupid and annoying. The show overall is okay, but I guess I really just watch it because I have nothing better to watch and I watched the first season so I am a little invested in it. Final verdict: It’s just okay.

  • Piratey

    Your lack of having read the comic still upsets me. I live in Ann Arbor, Email me and I will arrange to have all of the comics available to you =/

  • http://filipallberg.com Flip

    It doesn’t fare well at all against it graphic novel counterpart which, by far, has to be one of the most engaging post-apocalyptic storylines I’ve ever consumed regardless of it being a book, movie, game or comic.

    If you want the real The Walking Dead, read the graphic novels. At first they will seem similiar but the tv show branched of quite early into it’s own sucky entity

  • MajorTool

    I think it is a great show!
    I like how it isn’t staying true to the comic. It gives it a fresh feel.
    The point you bring up is a flaw and a blessing. We’re spoiled with the fast pace story that TV shows use to keep viewers. So yes it does feel slow. But don’t look at it that way… treat it as a comic a long on going story that doesn’t need continuous resolution.
    Also, the character building is great… to see how people are changing after being put into an apocalyptic world. I think that’s the real story.

  • Diarmuid212

    After reading through all of the comics so far I can say that for sure there is more action to come. It is true that they are not following the comic closely, but they are with the big things. Some characters and bits seem to be different here and there, but overall the story seems to be the same.
    I just bring that up because at this point in the comics, there is a bit of a lull in zombies as well, but don’t worry, things change.

  • JC

    Not read the comics but I love the show

  • Javier

    I do consider it a good show, and though it deviates at times from the Comic source, having read them beforehand makes me like it even more.

    Even though character development still has miles to get it right, in essence episodes being zombie-less are working towards it…It happened in the comics, we’d get issues with barely any in them, just moving internal struggles and issues of characters, but then again with better development in character.

    Robert Kirkman (the creator) has stated many times before that it is basically a human show (comic in his case), hence the not that often presence of zombies…being accostumed to different zombie media where killing them is the driving force along with survival makes it a slow to get invested in this one…it can’t always be “episode 1: kid lost, ep. 2: kid found”, things happen slower in real life, heck, even deaths in the comics aren’t theatrical or extravagant, just sudden, boom, shot, eaten, whatever, dead..

    My advice is, knowing that they can still pull off great moments, and the show is basically good compared to other things on (Terra Nova anyone?), and knowing the source material of the comics and the storylines and situations that will (hopefully) arise, it’s going to turn out great.

  • Guy Incognitus

    You nailed it about the characters. Shane and Daryl are the only two I like, mostly because they actually make the right choices to survive. There’s so much stupidity in the group. Why are they still driving that run-down RV? The high-way is covered with available vehicles, I’m sure you could find yourself an upgrade within 5 minutes.

  • Jason

    To me, it doesn’t really matter.

    What IS a “good show?” I like the Walking Dead. I like watching it. Shouldn’t that be all that matters?

  • Dzuksi

    I stopped watching it after the first season. And it was extremely hard to sit throug first season along.

    Reasons why i don’t like it? Characters are uninteresting, stupid at most times and soap opera crap is just not needed.

    I didn’t read comics tho….

  • Mark

    The show pales in comparison to the graphic novels. That being said, yeah, I can’t stand any of the characters (except for Daryl). Shane and Laurie ticked me off in the GNs and in the show. I prefer the Shane-Laurie-Rick resolution in the GNs than this long and drawn out torture. If the show could pick up its feet a little and move along at a brisker pace (unlike the zombies in the show), I think it could be so much better.

  • Bigdog

    Like most “good-very good” shows, there are flaws. Some stuff that is easily correctable, and should have already been corrected. In the other hand, some other stuff couldn’t be “corrected” without changing the soul of the show.

    TWD is not a great show, at least not right now (Contrary to other fans, IMO it was a GREAT show for most of last season). But is is a very good one, and my treat every week. I look forward to it every week.

    It’s one of those shows I gladly make a point to never miss for as long as it is running. I’m ok with that.

  • http://s14.zetaboards.com/applesaucerecords/index/ RadioSlayer

    Daryl is the best character on the show, hands down. He’s flawed but still a hero. I like Dale too, but I see Dale as an Expy for Glenn from King’s The Stand. Admittedly, I’ve never read The Walking Dead, just watched the show. I find this especially true with the off hand comment that if he’d known it was going to be the end of the world he would have brought better books. Also, while Shane is interesting as a character, he’s not sympathetic in the least.

  • Lacey Thomas

    LOVE THE SHOW!!! WATCH IT EVERY SUNDAY!!! PLEASE DONT CAN IT!!!!!!

  • Jason M

    It’s suffering from Heroes syndrome; too long between seasons, and Frank Darabont fired all of the original writers soon after Season 2 was ordered.

    Then they fired Frank Darabont. So the show’s suffering.

    My problem is, why is this group of people so unprepared and foolish?

    They’ve had access to military weapons – why didn’t they take them?

    They could find new vehicles, a new RV…no? What are they, nostalgic?

    These characters shouldn’t be this dumb and unprepared.

  • http://www.seasonedgamers.com JapJay

    I consider it a good show, but not a great show. There is something off, after starting very strong. I hated the CDC arc of last season since it veered off from what makes the comic so great: its not about the zombies or action sequences, its about the survivors. That ending made it about the “zombie apocalypse” more than anything. I think this season, while very slow, has certainly gone back to what it should be.

  • Pip

    @Jason, what are you talking about, “military weapons”? I don’t know if they established this, but you can’t shoot the zombies in TWD universe because the hordes function primarily tracking sound.

    Also, the RV is incidental to the fact that they haven’t driven anywhere yet. In the comics they use other vehicles as they go, and they continue to use the RV because obviously its designed to house multiple people, and offers some form of comfortable shelter, versus an SUV or a minivan.

    The comics move at a faster pace than the show. They build the tension between Shane and Rick much faster. And, like Carl’s bullet wound being stretched into 3 episodes is much much more long winded than the pace of the comics.

    That said, I think its a much more appropriate way to handle that kind of plot element in a tv show. A little kid getting shot would consume a lot attention for a group like this, and I think with cinematic story telling they have to take a more “real time” approach to give the show credibility.

    I really like the way they’re handling the characters though. The performances are excellent. I love watching the dynamics between Steven Yeun (Glenn) and all the female characters last episode. I think both Lori and Andrea’s actresses to a great job with some challenging material.

  • Ricardo

    Last season, it was a good show. This season, it’s like watching paint dry. I completely agree with you that the ongoing emotional crises of the characters, which are supposed to make me care about them, are completely failing, and as a result I have no connection with any of them at all.

    I also agree with Jason M above: after all they have seen and done, this group of people is too stupid to live. Something as straightforward as searching for the lost girl: everyone should be in pairs, and at least one person of the two should have some wilderness survival training.

    Unless things shape up, I’m rooting for the zombies.

  • Jason M

    @Pip

    There were dead soldiers at the original hospital, at the CDC, in Atlanta on the streets….plenty of opportunities to get military rifles and ammo.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t have an RV, I’m saying they should get a BETTER RV. One that doesn’t blow a hose every other episode.

    You’re right about noise; so why not get some serious vehicles that can simply mow down large groups of zombies? That’s a lot less noise. It’s a lot safer buttoned up in a big 4×4 with zombie-squishin’ tires and a mean front grill (sporting military rifles) than running through the woods with a crossbow.

    Re: the comics; that ship has sailed. They have to work with their current tools.

  • Eliza

    I too like the show, but I’m finding the whole “missing girl” direction tiresome. In the real world, they probably would have given up by now. Andrea pisses me off, being whiny and rude, but I like the rest of the characters. Shane has a lot of dimension–you can’t figure out if he’s bad or good and Darryl is the best character on the show.

    Overall, though, I think The Walking Dead is great. Sure, it would be nice to see more zombies, but Robert Kirkman has repeatedly said that the whole series was about the people during situations such as these, not the zombies. I’m sure some of the reason the show is so successful is because it’s very character driven and that reels in both hardcore zombie fans and people who never watched or cared for a zombie movie alike.

  • Piratey

    @jason

    What vehicle on the road would “mow down large groups of zombies” Nothing like snapped bones and teeth getting lodged in your tires. Broken windshields? Crushed radiator? Engine block? Busted suspension? Alignment? Unless you’re driving a monster truck, you typically don’t want to hit sacks of boney meat with any vehicle.

    “Military” weapons would be completely unnecessary and not viable. In any post-apocalyptic scenario, your choice in gun needs to use common, easily obtainable ammunition. 9mm, .44/.45, .223. .38, 12 gauge. It’s not like K-Mart sells the 7.62×51 nato rounds that most military assault rifles use..

    As to the comics, the show is starting to slide back toward the comic. Andrea sniper rifle, growing Rick/Shane schism, assorted unmentionable(spoilers) other things…

  • Jason M

    LOL, I’m not talking about a Dodge Neon. Get a decent sized diesel with a large, heavy front bumper. Even a semi would do fine, and can carry quite a few people. A Humvee. Maybe something with a WINCH that could haul those dead vehicles out of the way?

    Ah, fehgeddaboudit. I simply cannot stand stupid characters who are incapable of learning. Totally unprepared, and should know better by this point. Characters with zero flaws are boring, but those with too many flaws are even more so.

    They were at the CDC…couldn’t they have picked up some anti-biotics?

  • trashcanman

    First season was fantastic. This one is a fiasco through and through. The characters in the comic are engaging. These people are a bunch of idiots deliberately trying to get themselves killed. The writing has become atrocious. If you tumble down a hill with an arrow sticking out of you, every bump is jiggling that arrow around in your guts, tearing shit up. You will bleed to death. And if you pull that arrow out, doubly so seeing that it is the only thing plugging the hole in you. This is common sense and common knowledge. And Andrea pulls the trigger against everything they know about gunshots bringing in zombie hordes even after seeing like 5 dudes run up to the “zombie” (which she can’t even really see) and obviously laying down their arms? Seriously? NOBODY is that stupid. Nobody except the show’s writers. Read the comic instead. It’s flawless and respects characters and audience alike.

  • LEM

    This season hasn’t been good so far. It’s dragging out lame stories and the writing is really bad too. I’m not sure how much can be attributed to the budget cuts or to Darabont being fired but the show has certainly suffered in a creative capacity. The show was never intended to be a hit and the actors involved are barely capable with the few exceptions of Jeffrey Demunn and Norman Reedus. They lost writers and probably don’t allow Kirkman the control he deserves to drive the stories where they should go. I guarantee the love triangle with shane, rick and lori was forced upon them which is a standard tv executive ploy that is thrust upon every single show because it’s easy and formulaic to mine for material. This show really needs to pick it up during the second half of this season to keep me interested.

  • Frank

    Wow. It looks like people have a lot to say about this show. I agree with Jason. I enjoy the show, so who cares if it’s “good” or not? BTW has anyone seen Hell on Wheels? Pretty good if you ask me.

  • Beanie-Boy

    It was a good show until AMC cut their budget, thats why Darabont got fired. AMC informed Darabont that the budget was going to be cut in half for each episode and they asked him to shoot the season in order one episode at a time, where Darabont was shooting the first season like one big movie. Then they asked/told him to have the characters be inside for the majority of the season, with the zombies banging on the windows and doors, AMC said it would save alot of money on makeup for the zombies; this is why we havent seen very many this season. It is a great show but it is lagging right now due to AMC being cheap bastards. All of the writers/creators for other hit AMC shows like Mad Men have said that AMC is all of a sudden cutting the budgets on all their shows. The actors for Walking Dead were also instructed not to mention the firing of Frank Darabont to the media, and being a character on a zombie show the actors knew it wouldnt be very hard to be killed off if they did speak up. Bullshit AMC, you have tried to give your golden goose an enema and now all the viewers have to pay the consequences.

  • Juliana

    For me, what makes this show awesome is exactly the fact that all the character have flaws. None areperfect, and that I simply don’t like any of them (with the exception of Daryl, which is gonna make me dr this show if he dies). I think it shows our own flaws and mistakes as humans beings, and it keeps me wondering if that’s how I would be if there was a zombie apocalypse. We need to consider that there’s not many people in the world that would become a Daryl or a Shane in a zombie apocalypse, they are different and because of that they become what you call “good characters”. But in fact, most of us would become the blonde chick (which I absolutetly despise) or some rick’s wife (crying all over the place).

  • Rubiksman

    I agree wholeheartedly that the characters are uninteresting and unlikable. The one who bothers me the most is Carol, she reminds me of Michael from Lost and how he “Lost his boy”. Shut up, we get it, we’re trying our best, gosh…

    The bigger issue on a whole for me is the pacing. It moves way to slow. For instance, Carl was all better within three pages of being shot in the comic. I understand from a TV/Movie perspective that you’ve got to dramatize things, but spending almost a full episode at his bedside is a bit ridiculous.

    The should really consider going the 6-8 episode route to tell an overarching story (like season 1), rather than stretching it out for 13 like they are this season. Not only that but look to the comic to get an idea of how to develop the characters.

  • theButterFly

    I’m torn. I have been enjoying the show thus far, and I am glad to see them picking up more notes from the comic book in the second season. I guess, they took the often maligned CDC excursion on the chance that the show did not get picked up for season 2. Now they are back on a bit more comics focused path. I guess the biggest knock against the show is the fact that the two most interesting characters thus far in the series are Darryl and Shane who are ether brand new characters or not even around at this point of the comic. The one way that they can bring things back in line, would be to return to what has always been the driving theme of the comic series which is the close character study of Rick and what lengths he is willing to go to protect the group and what individual trials he must face to do so.

  • Nick D Pags

    I was worried about this season from the get go, because they fired all the writers from season 1 for some reason. And now I hear that Darabont is gone.

    I really hate it when the writing for a show gets disrupted like that.

    I remember Heroes wasn’t going too badly until there was a writers strike and after that, lost all semblance of sense.

    I am finding it strange that people aren’t outright hating Shane. He’s been close to rape, he told Rick’s family he was dead when that wasn’t true, he almost shot Rick in the back, and now Otis.
    The big one for me, because there was no ambiguity about it, was when he had Rick in the crosshairs and was really thinking about it.

    I really began to get worried in Episode 4 this season, the zombie in the well just seemed like an addendum to me. It’s like they forgot the concept of the show and tacked on that scene just to keep the zombie fans happy.

    I hope it picks up, because this season is meandering like a zombie.

  • Emily Ward

    Why did it take 5 struggling people to pull up one little dude out of a well?

    Why couldn’t they lasso the well zombie from the outside of the well?

    Did anyone else laugh at the dramatic peeing scene?

    Just a few points.

  • Kris Avery

    Here is my two pennies worth.

    The real problem with the show is the writing. We’ve got some pretty great actors for a TV show, so no problems there.

    The locations don’t need to be extravagent, in fact they can be anywhere.

    So it all comes down to what the characters do and say and the situations they are placed in.

    Here is the problem. The characters we’re supposed to root for are essentially stupid, and I mean dumb. In the large majority of cases they make their own trouble. Their fate isn’t sewn out in the wilds of a zombie infested world, it is right there inside their own stupid little pea brains.

    What the writers should have done to make this program watchable (without us screaming at the TV about how stupid they are, and “what we would have done”) is to place smart characters in difficult situations with narrow choices.

    It is the situation that should be out of their control, not their grasp of intelligence.

    It would have made a greater series if they had spent it all just trying to cross a city, with all of the possibilities that could offer. Make it more like 24, where around every corner there are fresh dangers.

    Instead we are left with idiots who lose children, split up to find them, limit who can carry guns, risk taking zombies out of wells when there are 4 other wells, …I wont go on.

  • goko

    I feel the same way about the show, hate them all to. Maybe i will finish whit this seson.

  • Mitch

    I wonder if everyone likes Shane and Darryl because *SPOILERS* they aren’t in the comics and are some of the few things that the show can call its own.

    But yes, I’m happy with this second season so far.

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