Top 10 Ways To Make 'The Walking Dead' Less Stupid, Revisited

27 comments

This is going to include SPOILERS for the comic and the show. Tread carefully. 

Back in November, when The Walking Dead finished off the first half of its second season, I wrote The Top 10 Ways To Make 'The Walking Dead' Less Stupid. It was my attempt to address the ways in which the show was completely screwing the promise of its concept. 

A serialized character study built around a zombie apocalypse, produced by the network behind Breaking Bad and Mad Men, should be riveting television. The Walking Dead turned out to be the complete opposite; a mess of forced conflicts between boring characters. 

The end of the mid-season finale had the single best character beat of the series (Shane hesitated; Rick didn't). It was enough to keep me watching. And when The Walking Dead returned in February, I approached it with optimism. By the end of the return episode, when Lori crashed a car and was stranded, for no reason other than to create a dramatic opener for the next episode, I nearly tuned out for good. 

And yet, I kept coming back. Maybe it's because there was nothing else to watch on Sunday nights (until Game of Thrones returns). But also, in a way, The Walking Dead reminds me of Boardwalk Empire, a show that, despite it's higher pedigree, didn't seem to have any sense of direction until the final few episodes of the latest season and then, suddenly, was amazing.

Anyway, about my original ten complaints. Did they address them? Let's find out...

10. Stop with all the monologues and serious talks.

My complaint: This show should have been called The Talking Dead? Am I right?! Seriously, the show is filled with boring monologues.  

Was it addressed? Yes. There were still plenty of monologues, but finally there were some good ones. When Rick lectures Shane, about him and his wife and his son, that was aces. And when Rick has the talk with Carl, about how he wishes things were different but they have to accept that this new world is dangerous and people are going to die, that's exactly what this show should give us: A tough talk between a father and son that never would have taken place, if not for the circumstances of a zombie apocalypse. 

9. Hire more female writers and directors.

My complaint: The female characters on this show are bitchy, crying, weak stereotypes. 

Was it address? Yes. I'm encouraged to see that Carol and Andrea are acting like people with depth, instead of broken, shivering stereotypes who can't function unless there's a man around. In fact, they're both showing signs of toughness. But Lori, oh Lori...

8. Give Lori a break.

My complaint: Lori is a terrible, contemptible character. 

Was it addressed? No. She starts the second half of the season by driving into zombie-infested territory and trashing a car for no discernable reason. Then she has a long conversation with Andrea about how she's pregnant and has no choice but to have her baby, but the men will protect them, and the job of the women is to cook and do laundry. It was a monologue written by Rick Santorum. In the last few episodes I warmed to her a bit, but mostly because she just stood in the background. She did have one redeeming moment, which is when she apologized to Shane for everything that happened between them. But that made Shane go crazy and try to kill Rick, so even when Lori tries to help, she screws things up. 

7. Give T-Dog something to do other than be black.

My complaint: T-Dog is on the show to fill a racial quota. Also, his name is racist. 

Was it addressed? No. He shot a zombie and drove a car and carried a box. He had a dozen lines. He's still the show's affirmative action character. The writers aren't even trying, to the point where it's really sad. The worst part is, when T-Dog finally did get to say something in the final episode, he was being a jerk and trying to abandon everyone. IronE Singleton deserves better. And I still wish someone would just stop and ask, "Hey man, what's your real name?" And then everyone can call him that. Because T-Dog is a "black" name created by a white person.   

6. Address this season's massive logical fault.

My complaint: The entire conceit of the first half of the season was that the survivors were looking for a little girl who, it turned out, had been zombified and locked in a barn. And yet, no one on the farm noticed... 

Was it addressed? Yes! The characters said it was ridiculous Sophia was in the barn and no one on the farm realized it. Hershel explained why it happened. I know this seems like it's nitpicking, but it's not, and here's why: To completely ignore this means that the writers were willing to forgo all bounds of logic in order to create an emotional payoff, which shows contempt for the audience. I can accept that Hershel didn't know. I'm just glad they acknowledged this.

5. Stop making characters do stupid, illogical things in every episode.

My complaint: How have these characters survived this long, when they clearly haven't taken ten minutes to sit down and come up with a logical plan of action? They seem to believe that poor communication and randomly doing things is equivalent to a survival strategy. 

Was it addressed? No. Why did Lori go into town after Rick? Why did Randall tell Daryl his people were rapists? Why did they even save Randall in the first place? Why was Shane's plan to kill Rick so needlessly complicated? Why did Dale go wandering off, in the dark, alone? Why doesn't anyone keep a better eye on Carl? Why, after so many episodes, did they wait for the next-to-last installment to actually address security on the farm? I can answer all these questions with two words: Lazy writing. If the characters constantly make bad decisions, it leads to easy dramatic moments. I do suspect this will get better, as they'll probably learn their lesson from the farm burning down and all those people dying. 

4. Kill all the survivors; replace them with new ones.

My complaint: A lot of these characters are not sympathetic or interesting. 

Was it addressed? Yes. They didn't kill all the characters, but they certainly made them less annoying. A lot of them have even grown on me, Carol and Andrea being two good examples. The showrunners did kill Dale, which was great, because he meant well, but he was super-annoying. I'm a little disappointed they killed Shane, because Jon Bernthal was one of the more charismatic members of the cast. But, thematically, Shane's death makes sense, and it was satisfying. The rest of the people who made it to the end of the final episode, I'm fine with.   

3. Put Daryl in charge.

My complaint: Daryl is the only character on the show who has survival skills and doesn't act like an idiot.

Was it addressed? Yes. But only because Rick stepped up in a big way in the final episode--not a democracy, indeed--so now I'm cool with him being in charge. Daryl is still my favorite character, though. To me, he's the most interesting, because he has so little to gain from being with these people; they make such idiotic decisions, his chances of survival would be greater without them. But he sticks around, probably single-handedly keeping them alive. I'm fascinated to know why. 

2. Introduce Michonne.

My complaint: Michonne is character from the comics, and a strong, black woman. This will solve several of the show's racist and misogynistic issues. 

Was it addressed? Yes! And she got a sweet-ass intro! Her appearance on the show last night was a glorified cameo, and today we learned that she'll be portrayed by Danai Gurira next season. Between that, and the casting of David Morrissey as The Governor, there's some interesting new dynamics ahead. 

1. Try to include some zombies.

My complaint: A show about zombies should include some actual zombies. 

Was it addressed? A lot of people misinterpreted what I meant when I made this point last time. When I watch this show, I'm not looking for a Resident Evil-style zombie kill-fest. What I am looking for from The Walking Dead is zombies, sometimes. But the entire first half of the season included a scant few zombie moments, and a lot of scenes of people whining. The inciting incident behind the show could have been anything: Bird flu, SkyNet, rabid badgers. The lack of zombies created a lack of threat; there was no sense that they were lurking around every corner. They were tossed in, almost as an occasional reminder so that people wouldn't forget what the show is about. 

And yes, they did address this. First, by including an actual zombie attack on the farmhouse that was tense and scary. Also, by doing things to deepen the mythology of the show, like the fact that if you die with your brain intact you're going to become a zombie anyway (which is a very fatalistic touch--there is no escape, even in death!). This finally feels like a show about people surviving a zombie apocalypse, and not about a bunch of annoying people on an extended camping trip. 

In closing

So, did the show get better? Yes.

Is it a good show yet? No. Especially when compared to some of the other hour-long dramas we've been spoiled by over the last several years.

Depsite my enjoyment of the final two episodes of this season, they still came with a lot of problems. There were occassional sparks of brilliance countered by illogical nonsense (how do so many characters fire accurate headshots from moving cars?!?) and obnoxious character moments (c'mon Carol, stop acting like Rick hasn't kept you alive).

Maybe Frank Darabont was the problem, and the upcoming season--the first that he'll have no involvement with--will be better for it. The parts are there, and I hope everything falls into place. I'll stick around, for now.

Image of The Walking Dead:  Compendium One
Author: Robert Kirkman
Price: $32.39
Publisher: Image Comics (2009)
Binding: Paperback, 1088 pages
Image of The Walking Dead: Season 1
Director: Frank Darabont
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Laurie Holden, Sarah Wayne Callies, Emma Bell
Rating: NR (Not Rated)

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Comments

Tai Ramos's picture
Tai Ramos from Brazil March 19, 2012 - 2:06pm

I have the highest expectations on Michonne, hope they turn her into a Tara Thornton. And nice to see someone who recognizes Daryl should be the head in charge. Agree with everything you said.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life March 19, 2012 - 3:39pm

I agree with everything you've said, even though I didn't watch a frame of season 2, but you are dead wrong about Boardwalk, my friend. That is quality storytelling.

1979semifinalist's picture
1979semifinalist from California but living in NYC is reading Joe Hill's NOS4A2 March 19, 2012 - 4:44pm

We're in total agreement Rob. Great write up. I too, will be sticking around (based solely on the strength of the last episode and the appearance of Michonne).

Although I hope Tal Ramos above is wrong and Michonne never becomes a Tara character as I hate Tara with every fiber of being and spend most of my time praying for her death. Soooo hoping there's no correlation. If they stick close to the comics for Michonne's character she'll be amazing. The intro definitely gave me hope!

Long live Daryl!

Laramore Black's picture
Laramore Black from Joplin, Missouri is reading Mario Kart 8 March 19, 2012 - 5:05pm

I'm still waiting for them to finally bring Daryl's racist brother back somewhow.

There was his whole mysterious vanishing and then there was Daryl's dillusions out in the forest almost as a lead up that he would come back. Something tells me they'll write him into that group that Randall ran with somehow. It seems that it's a loose end they want to keep open.

Cath Murphy's picture
Cath Murphy from UK is reading Find out on the Unpr!ntable podcast March 20, 2012 - 2:52am

Boardwalk Empire  is totally awesome and I will review it slavishly on SoundonSight as soon as the next season begins. I love writing about Boardwalk.

But about WD - the best thing that could happen to that series is that Carl gets eaten. He is the most annoying child character since Richie Rich.

M. Ylikangas's picture
M. Ylikangas from Finland is reading The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock March 20, 2012 - 6:58am

Am I the only one who was NOT completely and utterly disappointed with the second season?

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch March 20, 2012 - 8:50pm

I love watching Walking Dead but it irks me too when I see glitches and inconsistencies and things that seem obvious to me. Such as: hey, if you built walls around your living space, they wouldn't be able to break them, would they? Or, hey, nobody noticed that the young kid can't act? So many shows replace an actor for another and just keep going. Why can't you? And, hey Lori, when you dump a guy because your husband is back, do you expect him to pretend nothing happened and to immediately fall out of love with you when you kick him to the curb? Nobody thinks that the guy might have feelings? (I had the exact same problem with Homeland) Even the biggest jerks try to ease the other person into the break-up.

Well, Rob, I agree with most of your points. But I still love watching the show (which I suspect you do too!)

Elee Zimmerman's picture
Elee Zimmerman March 22, 2012 - 3:15pm

Can't argue with the piece.  You raise an awful lot of good points, though I think you're a bit forgiving about whether or not these issues have been adequately addressed.  So much of Season 2 was one missed opportunity after one really poorly scripted vignette, then rinse and repeat.  It was nice to see Rick grow a pair in the last episode -- wow, it only took two seasons -- only then to have Lori pretty much return into stock pissed off female mode #1; she's caused so much of his angst, he really oughta leave her to the zombies, at this point.

jayphayes's picture
jayphayes March 22, 2012 - 3:20pm

When I first read your review, which came off as scathing but I now read and interpret as the words of somebody disappointed, I agreed and disagreed with the points listed.  Upon further consideration, I mostly agree, and I can relate to the annoyance that comes with being criticized by those that can't see the show's shortcomings through their own fanaticism.

One thing I do disagree with is the show's need to be less "sexist."  Most of the ladies are emotionally inconsistent (Lori in the s. 2 finale, anyone?), but I agree with what the writers chose for their roles in the "village."  In times of crisis, when people have undefined roles and no time to flesh themselves out in the presence of others, people will revert to banal, subconscious perspectives, right or wrong, as an efficient way to immediately divvy out survival responsibilities.  It's a post-apocalyptic world, and there isn't going to be any civil rights rallying or outlash from people who feel jaded- these perceived normative roles would naturally take effect.  It makes sense.

That said, with such a strong black lead character(s) in the books, I can't help but echo your point about T-Dogg.  That's not writers making conscious decisions about the state of the tribe in these circumstances; that's the creative staff using a token and conveniently putting him aside.  With any luck, he gets better treatment in s.3.

I like the introspection, but the show could use more balance.  Therefore, I'm all about the serious talks, but they should be more necessary to the plot and less "filler."

I agree that there are logical holes.  Saving Randall, only to face the dilemma of killing him when a bullet in his head would have sufficed when his leg was making out with a fence post, was the most glaring example of unnecessary stupidity for the sake of filling an episode quota and setting up a fight and showdown scenario for Rick and Shane.

Lastly, I'm in 100% agreement about Lori.  Am I the only one that wanted to shake her when Rick revealed Shane's fate and say "what's your issue, you condescending, overly emotional, and undeservedly elitist nitwit?!"

Tai Ramos's picture
Tai Ramos from Brazil March 27, 2012 - 3:57pm

Although I hope Tal Ramos above is wrong and Michonne never becomes a Tara character as I hate Tara with every fiber of being and spend most of my time praying for her death.

A week later I come back to realise I skipped the DON'T from my original sentence. I'm sorry for that 'cuz I hate Tara as much as you and I'd cry tears of blood to see Michonne turned into her!

 

 

ASC1's picture
ASC1 October 18, 2012 - 10:33am

So, I didn't read every comment, but my biggest issue with the logic of this show appears at the end of season 2 but has already been brought up in season 3. If everyone supposedly carries the virus causing the zombies, then why does it matter if you get bit.. how does that Change you more than actually already carrying the virus? And if a bites worse because of saliva or blood, then don't dare tell me they haven't been getting the blood and other discharge in their eyes and mouth when they pop the things in the face and it splatters...  so, if you have the virus, why would you get the fever from the  bite, and why would a guy's leg need amputated if he already carries the virus. This is a major fault in logic to me.

Juan A Wagner's picture
Juan A Wagner October 19, 2012 - 11:00am

the whole femnist flavor you try to add is tasteless and worn out, however i agree with most things you metioned. 7 /10 good job.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this October 19, 2012 - 11:01am

What "feminist flavor" did I try to add? What does that even mean? 

Juan A Wagner's picture
Juan A Wagner October 19, 2012 - 11:08am

sorry for the double post, but i mean on reason 2 and 9 when you used the word mysoginist and said the show need more female writters made your article give off a fem vive. In fact untill i saw your name i could have sworm you were a female, no disrespect thought i thught your article was spot on but i coult not help but feel like it was written by a feminist from those two sugestions alone.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this October 19, 2012 - 11:15am

Thanks. And you don't need to be a woman or a "feminist" to recognize that the writers were doing a really shitty job protraying female characters on that show. 

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life October 19, 2012 - 8:15pm

7 out of 10 on the Wagner scale. Not bad, Rob.

katief's picture
katief November 16, 2012 - 11:34pm

I agree that the writers need to work on the female characters, but I would disagree with the word misogynist. The vibe I get from the female characters on the walking dead is not that the writers hate women, just that they don't understand them. The writing is offensively lazy rather than offensive. In this way I think the problem with T-dog is the same problem with the female characters - a failure to be able to explore different kinds of characters.

The problem is not so much that the women take on reasonably traditional gender roles - it is that they are caricatures stripped of personality. The writers should not just make them into caricatures of 'mother' and 'lover' - making both their characters and their interactions with the male characters empty and lifeless.

Very little effort is put into giving the female characters depth. Only Andrea - who more or less acts like the men - resembles a person at all. I have no problem with women taking traditional roles, I myself am a very traditional woman, but that doesn't mean I flop about snivelling all the time, not having thoughts and waiting for men to boss me around.

Zombie shows are so great because they explore the human condition. But this show only explores the white male condition. It is lazy writing and it is limited.

I don't think this observation makes me particularly 'feminist' in some super political way. When people write child characters that do not resemble children or real people it takes away from the impact of a show. Same goes for female characters and black characters. My issue is not that the women should lead, or should shoot things instead of cooking, or should do anything in particular to appease my feminist ideology or something. It is that they should resemble human beings.

 

squidy's picture
squidy November 23, 2012 - 10:05pm

Ugh yay, thank you. Writers, here's a little secret: women and black people are human, just like you. Just think of what their priorities are based on their relationships with the other characters, etc, and then write what you would do. Except don't, because the white guys made a lot of stupid choices too. How about just ask somebody else what they would do.

jeffreyeyr's picture
jeffreyeyr February 17, 2013 - 9:54pm

Racist and sexist? You provide no real argument for why the show is racist and/or sexist. All you do is complain about how you perceive the show is portraying certain characters. You perceive it as unfair that the women are shown as weak and stupid, all the time ingoring instances of when the show portrays the white males as weak and stupid. T-dog's name is racist? What do you think racist means? What is your definition? I think people of a ealier time period, who had to deal with much more serious racial issues than your percieved crimes made by a TV show, would find your definition of racism laughable. 

The show is showing the weak side and strong side of all peoples. Leave it to an overly sensitive liberal mind to dig for racism and sexism when it simply isn't there. It's ironic that you people parade around with your so-called high morals, pretending to ignore the color of skin or their gender, but yet you are still the ones to bring race and gender into every equation when it was never there to begin with. 

massimo51's picture
massimo51 February 21, 2013 - 3:56pm

Thank you.  I keep wondering why after having watched and loved True Blood and Game of Thrones, my friends and coworkers kept saying I had to watch the Walking Dead.  Well now that I finally did,  i feel like wtf is this crap and what is wrong with my friends and coworkers.  I've thus far watched up to Episode 11 of Season 2, and I feel like I'm forcing myself to watch another episode every few days, because I'm curious to see if there's anything that will redeem the show in my eyes, and nope nothing so far.

The women are whiny and for the most part can't take care of themselves.  The only characters I genuinely liked were Daryl and Glenn.  They're the only ones that seem to serve a decent purpose and aren't constantly stirring up problems with everyone else.  I wanted to add that Rick as the story's main protagonist seriously urks me by constantly trying to save everyone.  I was on Shane's side when it comes to that.  Not saying he should gun everyone down, but he inadvertantly does put everyone in danger when he tries to be everybody's hero. In a post-apocolyptic world, it's all about survival and you can't and in certain cases shouldn't try to save everyone.  By him putting his own life at risk over and over and over again, he inadvertantly put his own family's life survival on the line over and over and over again, even when they weren't around.  Lori taking a perfectly good car, without telling anyone, and crashing it, she should've died then. The rational thing for her to think, was that if Rick couldn't take care of himself, what chance did she have of helping, plus shouldn't her priority have been watching over their son, Carl?

Another thing, I agree with was they never really did take the time to think things through, setup a real plan of action.  They were too busy trying to save people from themselves and in the process putting themselves in danger.  The zombies seemed more like a secondary threat, rather than the primary threat, the primary threat being idiocy.  Everytime someone would make a stupid decision, i was hoping a zombie would just pop up and kill them off to spare any future screen time from being wasted on that character.

In my opinion, the women should all be training to be something like Sarah Connor (Terminator Series) or Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and as a group they outta be coordinating their efforts to ensure maximum survival not squabbling constantly.  I wish they'd just suck it up and focus on fighting the real enemy, the zombies.  As a group they're pretty chaotic and useless.  Point in fact, Carl didn't almost die from zombies, he almost died from a series of stupid decisions leading up to him being shot.  This show makes me root for the zombies.

eriedot's picture
eriedot February 25, 2013 - 7:47pm

I really don't like the show but you have to remember that it's also a comic book. Some of those stupid things you think they should do to make it better will just make it go of track from the comics, and even though I like the comics, I was actually disappointed with the show because it made me realize these points you've made.

Chase Parham's picture
Chase Parham March 4, 2013 - 7:40pm

Why not revisit this again for the third season?

atxmusic83's picture
atxmusic83 September 10, 2013 - 2:40am

I just recently started watching this sad attempt at a show. Like the author of this blog i couldn't turn it off either. There are so many senseless things done. They also just stand and watch when they should be running. Or when they know they need to be quite someone always tends make a noise. Its starting to get so predictable. You know that when an intense situation arises someone will make a noise or fall down when it would be so easy for them to stay on their feet. I just can't get my dissapointment for this show accros is a comment. Its horrible!

eponymousjones's picture
eponymousjones October 17, 2014 - 11:33pm

Can't believe I created an account on this site to talk about how stupid you are.  There is no "massive logical fault" wih the girl being in the barn.  

If you watched the damn show close enough, you would have noticed that Maggie and Hershel gave each other a knowing look when the group first arrived and mentioned the lost girl.  Hershel shook his head as if to say "no don't say anything."  Hershel knew the girl was in there the whole time.  His line about Otis doing it was a lie.  Fuck.

Dean420's picture
Dean420 June 23, 2015 - 11:34pm

Andrea is my least favorite person on the show, she always fucks the bad guys and always jumping to do anything involving a gun and is so annoying and always sides with Shane, and then she's one of the few people on the show that does not do the recoil thing when shooting a gun, it's like she's shooting a BB gun which absolutely kills me. And then comes the governor and she has a million chances to kill him but doesn't and because she doesn't a lot of people die. If she would have never went to wood bury then Merle would have never tried to kill michone then Merle woulda never ran into Glenn and Maggie then that would mean they woulda never knew about the people in the prison. They shoulda killed off Andrea instead of dale in the second season. 

Chris Weber's picture
Chris Weber July 19, 2015 - 8:51pm

Not a good show?? Uhh... If people actually agreed with you, then The Walking Dead wouldn't blow by Sunday Night Football NFL game ratings each and every week when they have conflicting time schedules...

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this July 20, 2015 - 5:57am

The Big Bang Theory has a huge audience and is also really lame.

The Transformers movies have made obscene amounts of money and are barely comprehensible. 

Fifty Shades of Grey reads like it was written by a four year old and it's sold more than a hundred million copies. 

Popularity does not equal quality.