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The Biggest Problem The Walking Dead Needs To Solve In Season Six
The Walking Dead draws an average of 17 million viewers each Sunday and has one of the most devoted fan-bases in the world, but the AMC series is far from perfect. TWD has always had a lot of potential. Its philosophy of being character-driven drama is what gives it that, but sometimes I feel this is misused. It leaves one area of the show particularly weak.
The showrunners have always had a large group of characters they want to develop. That’s obviously fine, it’s an apocalyptic series so large groups of survivors is to be expected. However the show tries to develop all these characters fully in one season. There are simply too many characters for that and the affects are telling. I feel most characters in TWD are passive and one dimensional.
The reason they come off this way is because most of the characters in the show just talk about ‘who we are’ or why they committed a certain action. It’s a heavy handed and lazy way of developing a character. Audiences build care for a character through the actions they take. We want to see what they’re going through not hear about it. It feels like every few minutes we either get Sasha talking about mourning for Bob, or Rick announcing ‘this isn’t us any more’ or someone else questioning ‘who we are.’
For me it hearkens back to when the show creators wanted the group to be like a family. It’s as though they want the audience to root and like every character, but having all the characters kiss and cuddle one another stifles any dramatic stakes or intensity. You need conflict between characters, because when characters are pushing each other to their limits you see change, growth and depth emerge in them. Daryl and Rick are the only real examples of this. Rick when he was made stronger by Shane in season 2, and Daryl by his brother, Merle, but since those times the show has cut out any strong conflict between the group. Why? Because hardly any of these characters have strong enough motivations.
I feel TWD lacks the ability for subtlety in its characters by giving them strong goals and motivations. If you took characters like Eugene, Tara, Rosita out of the plot and replaced them with someone else, it wouldn’t change the dynamics of the story that much. It’s because all they seem to be there for is to join in supply runs, or stand around in the background. Eugene wasn’t always like this, his ploy to get a lift across the state was a strong motivation, but now he doesn’t have anything interesting to add.
The characters need motivations that will rub against other motivations. A great example of this is in the former AMC series Mad Men, which centers on an ad agency in the 60s. It sounds dull, but give each character a motivation and soon the conflict and squabbles appear, each character having to learn and adapt and grow through actions. Mad Men was exceptional at it. TWD seems to think development is losing someone close to you then crying about it for a couple of episodes. We know it’s a tough world, but it seems the way someone mourns in this show is to either ignore everyone, or kill some walkers. It’s repetitive and tedious.
It could also be the fact that this character development problem has arisen from the creators wanting to bring in characters from the comics. A 45 minute show can’t deal with so many different characters in and out all the time. So it seems the writers are using these quick ‘developments’ as a way of satisfying comic book fans without realizing these characters ultimately add nothing to the story. All we have to do is wait until early one episode we hear a certain character’s back-story and just as we’re beginning to build an understanding of who they are, then later in the episode in a routine supply run they get gorged on by a walker. It feels like a cheap way of creating drama.
I hope season 6 can address this by creating conflict between beloved characters because there is nothing worse than seeing two characters we love turn on each other. We need less of characters talking about their pasts or “who we are” every five minutes. Create a strong main villain. This show has such great potential, but I fear soon it may become an apocalyptic soap opera.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday 11th on AMC. Trailer below.