WHAT UP INTERNET?!
This particular piece isn’t so much a recap of this week’s episode ‘Spend’ as it is musing on the direction of the television series in general. That being said, THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE WALKING DEAD TELEVISION AND COMIC BOOK SERIES, SO IF YOU AREN’T CAUGHT UP ON BOTH YOU SHOULD QUIT READING NOW. As you know I’m a big fan of the show, but the direction of it has got me wondering….
I ranted quite a bit about the death of Tyrese: how the character wasn’t developed particularly well and how his death did little to further the narrative. After this past Sunday’s episode, which saw the bell toll for the newest member of the group, Noah (#RIPNoah), I began to think to myself: are the writers of the show simply running out of ideas? Do they not know how to develop characters? Has the show gotten too big for its own britches? These are the questions of only one Bro, so if you do not agree I completely understand. However, let me tell you why these thoughts are beginning to fill my head the more I think about the direction the show is heading.
Maybe this is just me, but apart from Michonne (who has been heavily featured in multiple episodes) and the Governor (who had episodes entirely of his own) none of the characters brought in following the fall of the farm feel particularly developed. While I certainly believed I knew Tyrese, I didn’t feel a particularly strong connection to him. Sasha? She might as well be a stranger and the same goes for Tara. Noah’s death struck me as one of the more gruesome the show’s had, but didn’t necessarily strike a chord with the feels. Gabriel is someone I feel the viewership knows as well, but is there a deep, emotional connection there? Doesn’t feel like it. Abraham and his crew-while certainly interesting-do not strike a chord with me in the same vein as Carol, Glenn or any of the other members who have been there since the beginning.
This lack of character development (Again, only the thoughts of one Bro) explains why the death of Beth struck so many of The Walking Dead faithful hard and fast. The core characters who have been present since season 2-Rick, Carl, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Carol,(and Michonne)-are the ones we all feel that elusive ‘connection’ with, and whenever any of them go the narrative as a whole suffers. The death of central characters-especially in a series such as The Walking Dead-should serve as a cataclysmic event and said deaths should affect the remaining survivors substantially. While there were a few moments of bonding over mutual loss between Maggie and Sasha (And Sasha has done a good job of showing her pain since arriving in Alexandria) the deaths of Tyrese and Beth had no time to serve a narrative purpose. These should be huge, ground-shattering events which need time to breathe in the narrative, yet the deaths of both Tyrese and Beth (As Noah’s just happened) were little more than a footnote. While it remains to be seen how Noah’s death will affect the group, we would expect given his relatively short tenure his death will not have a substantial impact on the group.
The best episodes the series has done since season 1 have undoubtedly been the character driven episodes following the fall of the prison. While we got brief looks at the personalities of characters such as Bob and Sasha, the focus was on building relationships (Daryl and Beth, Tyrese and Carol) or the journey of the more established (Rick, Michonne, Carl, Glenn, Maggie) and the series thrived. However, given the recent string of deaths (Beth, Tyrese, Noah, inevitably someone in the finale), the exit of a character seems to be the central plot device the writers are using as of late, although this does nothing to further the narrative. Gabriel’s confession to Deanna and Aiden’s death served as fantastic plot movers (Gabriel raises Deanna’s suspicions, Glenn returns with the news her son has been killed providing validity) so why eliminate yet another character who was finally settling into the group in Noah?
This underscores the ability of the writers to develop a new character, which admittedly feels a bit lacking. A lack of new characters (Considering we the viewership-like Rick-are slow to trust considering everything we’ve seen our heroes survive) we can identify with reinforces a need for the central characters to further narratives. Perhaps more than any other show on television, The Walking Dead is built upon its core characters. However, the core of the Survivors has been whittling down and the group’s entering Alexandria means the introduction of the sadistic Negan cannot be far off. His actions in the comics coupled with Glenn’s growing importance in Alexandria have me worried he’ll be the next to go (GLENN GOES AND I’LL RIOT…and by riot, I mean cry. A lot. #NoShame in it), and if that’s the case the series will lose yet another strong character (THE FIRST RICK SAW IN ATLANTA!!) the viewers have grown to trust over the course of the series.
Losing one of the ‘core’ characters of the show means we’ve even less people to identify with, to truly connect with and want to see survive. Given the show’s history of adding new people into the fold (How many people were added at the prison? How many people are still kicking from the farm?) and their ensuing development (Bob got part of an episode, Noah got an opening of one, Tara got some time with Glenn, Sasha got some time with Maggie and Bob) indicates we won’t be getting any characters we trust implicitly and genuinely love any time soon. Also, the alarming rate at which characters are being killed off indicates the writers are either running out of ideas on how to advance the narrative or are simply opting for BIG EMOTIONAL PUNCH ad nauseam. Repeated killings means they lose the gravitas such events typically carry (How many people cried for Beth? Probably quite a few. How many people cried for Tyrese? My guess is people were angrier more than anything; as you know this Bro was just turned off. And Noah? I was more taken aback at the way he was killed; he warranted little more than a shoulder shrug since he didn’t mean much to us) and killing new and potentially interesting characters inhibits narrative growth.
Negan has to be on the horizon. Everything in the show seems to indicate his impending arrival. He is a character central to The Walking Dead comic series and he sets up what is arguably one of the series’ longest and most interesting arcs. With Negan comes an inevitable body count and this has the potential to have a troublesome effect on the show (as that number is already quite low), not including the potential for his portrayal to be all types of wrong, considering he is not exactly the most television friendly persona.
If too many people we care about die, we lose the emotional connection to the show the series crafted long ago. That being said, his arrival does have the possibility to build up new characters as well as add multiple new, interesting arcs. If the walls of Alexandria fall in the season finale and no ‘core’ characters die, then the potential for interpersonal conflict amongst the survivors/Alexandria citizenship is substantial. If Deanna perishes in the finale (which would harken back to events of the comic), then even if a ‘core’ character perishes as well there is significant potential for new characters to develop. However, such develop takers a substantial amount of time, and severing a part of the viewership’s emotional connection to the show without an equitable replacement does nothing more than frustrate a passionate fan base. If a ‘core’ character dies in the finale and there are no significant narrative seeds sewn via some type of catastrophic or cataclysmic event…then who knows what direction the show will be headed in. My guess would be downhill, as (in my humble bro-pinion) the ability of the writing staff to develop new characters is questionable at best.
I remain cautiously optimistic as the season finale looms near, because we’re bound to lose someone we know and love and that list hasn’t grown too much over the past few seasons. Here’s hoping everything works out, because while the series has had its fair share of ups and downs it’s what I craft my Sundays around. Fingers crossed everything goes well, fellow Survivors!