TV’s top-watched zombie fest continues to (s)lumber on.
Listen, I’m not going to pretend I was pumped to dive back into AMC’s The Walking Dead with the season 8 premiere. Truth be told, I abandoned this series midway through season 7 and I’ve never looked back. It seemed inevitable, however, that I return to the series. Partially because it’s sort of my job, but also because all throughout the years, the series tends to open spectacularly.
At this point even the most die-hard fans of the The Walking Dead are aware of this trend. The season premiere will always be solid enough to hook you, the following episodes dial it back, another episode will wow you, then the subsequent episode will dovetail into a blithe of slow-paced narrative and nearly unbearable contrivance until we reach an unsatisfying mid-season finale. This predictability certainly has made me wary about approaching another season, but are my fears warranted with this episode?
Yes. Absolutely and emphatically “YES”.
This is where I would typically write a detailed recap for events of the episode, but there’s no need to bother with that. Rick has another hair-brained plan to fight Negan and the Saviors, there’s rousing speeches we’ve heard at least 10 times before, and the assault on the Sanctuary begins. Negan and Rick do their thing (which is talk in the most trite manner possible), then a massive gun fight breaks out where bullets hail down like God’s righteous fury.
Not a single person is killed. Literally a 1000 bullets are fired and no one dies. Not even an unnamed extra. These people have been landing headshots on zombies for the better part of a decade, yet not a single person out of the 20+ survivors on Rick’s team manages to so much as graze Negan or any of his men.
This episode is all pomp. There’s scores of walkers, lots of explosions, and tons of gunfire that amounts to absolutely nothing. It’s likely the most toothless episode the series has ever spawned. The one and only zombie chow session in this episode happens off screen. The series has gone through great efforts to nurture bloodlust among its audience and this episode was uncharacteristically sanitary. For Pete’s sake, the title of this season is “All Out War” and all we get is a half-assed shoving match.
This episode was worse than bad; it was bland.
After all of the struggles this series has endured the creators and network should know, and hopefully aspire, to do better than such milquetoast offerings. The fans deserve more and it seems rather than reward them, The Walking Dead prefers to spite them. Hell, I wrote about this very problem last year, so maybe I should blame myself for expecting more — but there’s plenty of blame to go around here.
It’s more evident than ever that showrunner Scott Gimple has lost this series. Not only is it off the rails, it’s now barreling through orphanages and kitten farms. Gimple’s team now thinks riveting story is laboriously recreating scenes from the pilot episode and using soft focus flash forwards, or dreams, or — whatever, it doesn’t matter. The point is this stuff is incredibly hokey and when the show starts performing its own “greatest hits” you know it has overstayed its welcome.
This episode is little more than a series of contrivances and stupid character decisions strung together. This is a characteristic of The Walking Dead that has shifted from outlier to common denominator and the quality continues to suffer as a result.
The events play out with such a banality the actors are even beginning to look bored of it. The majority of the cast here stands around looking pensive as they wait for something to happen. The staging of an elaborate plan to lead a horde of zombies to Negan’s front door carries all the tension of a Sunday drive to church. The captivating duo of Melissa McBride and Lenny James, usually dependable as Carol and Morgan respectively, are given practically nothing to do for the entirety of the episode.
A tip of the hat goes to Andrew Lincoln, who somehow beyond all comprehension, continues to act his ass off with such sparse material. But it’s getting to the point his wild-eyed, raspy Rick Grimes is becoming so easy to imitate they could replace him with any number of convention cosplayers and most people wouldn’t notice. Same goes for Jefferey Dean Morgan as the swaggering Negan. It’s beginning to feel like the talent of the cast is wasted rather than highlighted.
It’s a sad state of affairs when you secretly desire actors leave the show to pursue better projects.
I’ll concede that maybe I’m being too harsh on this episode and the series in general. I’m certain that, against all reason, some fans will find aspects of this episode enjoyable. Finally having a clear line drawn in this conflict may very well propel the series forward. There is some passing satisfaction in seeing the Saviors finally get a bit of due justice. But make no mistake, to hope the season somehow gets better from here is a fool’s gambit. We’ve heard this song before. The Walking Dead does not crescendo — it hammers the same notes with increasing indifference.
As constituted, the show is without bearings, without vision, and without the nail-biting tension that was once its calling card. I’m at a loss for what could possibly improve the series short of a complete creative overhaul. It could be argued that the spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead, is a superior show that has managed to improve over seasons rather than spiral further down. It’s the truest way to show that the zombie survival genre does still have something to offer and the faults of The Walking Dead are of its own design. Despite rumblings of a crossover, maybe FTWD would be best served steering far away from this series. And maybe fans would be too.
‘THE WALKING DEAD’ CONTINUES TO DECAY AT A STEADY RATE WITH A PUTRID PREMIERE LACKING IN ANYTHING THAT MAKES FOR QUALITY TELEVISION.