Walking Dead fans have long promised quitting the AMC tent-pole for good this time, the dwindling ratings have shown some to be true to their word. However others, like myself, have kept watching despite the nagging sense that reasons to continue tuning in have been getting fewer and farther between. In the beginning it was broadly about survival, Season 1 even gave us an explanation of how the virus worked, courtesy of Noah Emmerichs’ Dr. Edwin Jenner at the C.D.C., incidentally he had given up on living and thought Rick and co. should too, but they fought, they wanted to survive and would do whatever it took.
We followed the group from Hershals farm, to the prison, all the way to Woodbury, and we even watched hours and hours of walking on a railroad to get to Sanctuary. Where an intriguing group with an intriguing leader in Gareth awaited. Before we knew it that intrigue was gone along with the cannibals of Terminus. Next up was Alexandria, where the focus on surviving by any means necessary shifted, which started off okay but went stale very, very quickly. Hilltop, and the Kingdom have featured fairly prominently too but who really cares at this point.
Along the way there have been an enormous amount of character deaths, each time we assumed for some greater reason and each time we were proved wrong. Characters like T-Dog, Deanna, Tyreese, Sasha, Bob, Noah, and Beth (to name only a few) have come and gone without any real character development. Existing characters like Tara, Rosita and Aaron could be gone before we know it and what would the point have been.
It seems as though the show doesn’t really know either. The garbage people are a prime example of this. Most recently they all died except for Jadis (turns out they aren’t Yoda worshippers after-all), I get that it’s a reason for Negan to kill Simon, I can see it now…Negan rounds up the Saviors, waffles on about having a traitor in the ranks, and since Dwight is back in Saviorland right now we will think its him but then twist, it’s actually Simon being pummeled by Lucille, and another one bites the rust for the simple reason that death is good way of punctuating episodes, resulting in the act of dying meaning nothing.
Back when it did, it came far to early for the Shane’s, Lori’s and Merle’s of that world. We could take it when it felt like it was leading somewhere, now we know it isn’t it is getting harder to digest each time it happens. Denise’ premature death is giving Tara something to hate Dwight for before she probably dies, Dale and Hershal died way back when, and then Glenn didn’t really die, before really dying…with Abraham, which led to Sasha dying. Lots of other characters died in the meantime and now Carls limp death is the latest last straw.
His final actions served as a message to part-time dad Rick to end this horrid war, stop the senseless killing, there must be something more than surviving at all costs. Co-dad Negan agrees, kind of. Episode 10 of season 8 reminds us of his preference to kill ‘Just 1’ (2 if you want to really mess with viewers), either way just enough to send a message. Which is part of the problem, most recently Carol and Morgan have struggled the same dilemma, Jesus and Maggie have got in on the morality act too. This is not a new idea for the walking dead, it is ground well trodden, Dale pioneered the idea in the 6 episode season 1 but in the second half of the 16 episode season 8 this should not be the major theme, let alone a good enough reason to kill-off a major character.
There is no end in sight, which is unusual because generally cable shows don’t go on this long. They also stick to shorter runs of 13 episodes at the most, considering season 1 had 6 episodes, season 2 had 13, and ever since season 3 AMC have settled on 16 per season, (split into two 8 episode runs), I can’t help thinking that ultimately has been the biggest issue the show has had. It is just too many episodes, the potential ‘Fear the walking dead’ crossover smells like a last ditched attempt at another ratings grab, which will mean these issues carry through to the bitter end. We the viewer will either keep our promise of finally quitting while we still can, or allow morbid curiosity to keep us staring, glassy-eyed at the rotting corpse of the now wandering dead.