The Corner

Culture

The Walking Dead Limps On

Okay, it’s been a few days, and I assume everyone who still cares about The Walking Dead — a shrinking group of people according to the ratings — is probably caught up. Still if you didn’t watch Sunday’s mid-season finale, you should probably skip this — and maybe the finale, too. I try to minimize Spoilers though.

On one of the first episodes of my podcast, David French said that one of his main problems with TWD is that the crew goes from being Seal Team Six to the Keystone Cops, sometimes in the same episode (or something close to that). That problem hasn’t ended – it’s intensified: Every episode, I expect to get mad at the characters for one stupid decision or another.

In fact, it’s hard for me not to have outright contempt for a lot of the characters, which is a bad place for a show to be. I’m not talking about the supporting players, or the villain, or the Trash People (don’t get me started); I mean the main characters. Sunday night’s show featured the death (presumably) of a major character. The network promoted this death as a huge blow to viewers, sort of like the death of Ned Stark in Game of Thrones. I suspect it will be greeted by many with relief.

But even if you’re angry to see the character go, the real problem is that the show is simply a hot mess. This is the case from the jumpy editing that always makes you feel like you missed last week’s episode for about the first 15 minutes of each show to the ridiculously inexplicable tactics and motivations of the characters to the tedious debates about morality.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem seeing people wrestle with moral dilemmas, but many of these moral dilemmas were weighty subjects in previous seasons, when the threat of the new world was fresh and unknown. By this point, the survivors should know who they are, what they’re willing to do, and stop whining about it. Such debates feel more like filler and laziness than attempting to entertain the audience.

The show is also inheriting many of Game of Thrones’s timeline problems, but these problems are far less forgivable for a show that’s supposed to be based in the real world (more or less). For instance, it seems like Maggie has been pregnant for several years now, and she still isn’t showing. Conversely, it’s supposed to be just a few years since the zombie apocalypse and the Trash People already have a dialect that seems like a cheap Star Trek rip off. I half expect the leader of Garbage Nation to start yelling, “Brain and brain, what is brain!?

Erik Kain makes a good case for firing the show runner (Explicit Spoilers), which I think makes sense. In the near term though, I have one concrete suggestion. Kill Negan. Kill him soon. Kill him painfully and move on. I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a great actor, but someone made a terrible decision in how he portrays Negan. The ideal villain is someone people love to hate. Negan isn’t that. People hate him, but that’s it. There’s no love. He’s annoying as Hell. I don’t mind his cruelty and all that. But his dialogue and mannerisms are simply unentertaining and unbelievable. It’s an incredible waste.

I’ll see the show through to the end, just as I did with Lost and Battlestar Galactica and Dexter — other shows that squandered the loyalty of their audiences. I’ve invested so much time, and I feel like I should write about it to the end. But it’s not a good sign that I am relieved it won’t be on again until February.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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