Like the flesh-hungry, shambling walkers that populate the series, The Walking Dead (TWD) cannot rest in peace. It doesn’t matter how many missteps they take or what narrative nadir the series meets, it will shuffle on in one iteration or another until it completely falls apart.
Initially the series was the perfect blend of horror and action, and its concept meant it would be able to tell different types of stories with interesting characters whenever things needed to be spiced up, but that’s not what happened.
Around Season 2, the series became a source of constant frustration for TWD fans. As the show meandered and lurched on with no sense of an endgame the stories became dull, characters were sidelined, and new production teams rotated in again and again. In short, TWD turned into a real drag.
Even though the series has managed to include some interesting moments in its later seasons it feels like the creators can’t help but shoot themselves in the foot every few episodes. Even if you still enjoy the show, you have to admit some of the creators’ decisions are really bad. Obviously, spoilers about TWD are to follow.
When Andrew Lincoln (who plays Rick Grimes) announced he was leaving TWD during Season 9 AMC couldn’t keep quiet about it. Instead, they reminded fans over and over Rick would be leaving the show forever. Obviously they were trying to drum up viewers, but rather than leave anything up to surprise they announced the episode in which Grimes would supposedly expire prior to its air date.
While this may have spiked ratings for the episode, it also completely wrecked any sense of tension regular viewers may have had. Immediately following “The Obliged,” the episode where Rick falls onto a piece of rebar and impales himself, AMC ran a trailer for the final episode of TWD to feature Rick. Why even try to have a cliffhanger if you’re just going to let everyone know what happens?
It could have been a good move to finish off Carl. This could have been a moment where the show’s creators brought back the idea that anything can happen - especially with Rick Grimes going out the door a season later. But that’s not they were doing.
Instead, the loss of Carl is just another shocky twist meant to give the audience a taste of the forbidden. Even if they needed to elliminate Carl, they could have at least sent him out with a narratively satisfying ending. Instead, he’s randomly bitten by a walker and then spends an hour dying.
Carl's end should have mattered. The audience should have been rocked by the fact that one of the main characters had just been dispatched by a cruel world. In the end it just felt like business as usual.
After Glenn kicks the bucket Maggie has everything she needs to embark on a major character arc. In the comics the loss of Glenn inspires Maggie to question the leadership of Rick and lash out at the rest of the characters before coming into her own as the commander of the Hilltop group. The showrunners for TWD didn’t do any of that.
Instead, they put all Maggie’s character work aside and did nothing with her until Lauren Cohan (the actress who plays Maggie) bounced from the show midway through Season 9. For whatever reason, Cohan didn’t feel the need to stick with the character she’d played for eight seasons, which suggests Maggie’s story wasn’t about to pan out.
It’s safe to say TWD wouldn’t exist on television if it weren’t for Frank Darabont, the director behind The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption, and a ton of horror cult classics.
The show’s first season is arguably the strongest of the first nine, but AMC cut the budget in half for Season 2 and commanded Darabont turn in all of his scripts before going into production, a move Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan said was “unheard of.”
After arguing back and forth via email AMC abruptly fired Darabont from the series and replaced him with Glen Mazzara (The Shield, Damien). By most accounts Darabont was hard to work with, but even his replacement said the director worked constantly to make sure the show was as good as possible - even on episodes produced after he was fired.
By ousting Darabont AMC made it clear they ran the show, not the actual showrunner. Unfortunately, Darabont’s vision was a major factor that fueled the earliest episodes. Without it, TWD often feels like it’s just spinning its wheels.