Remember Lost? Good. Now, remember why you watched it? Was it because week on week it was engrossing and high octane? No, it was because it presented more questions than answers, and we all watched religiously trying to get to the end of the puzzle. I was a devout follower for two seasons, then I quit. It just wasn’t good. I returned and binged to the finale only out of sheer morbid curiosity. I wasn’t disappointed I had done so, but I do know that if there had been even a false resolution by season two or three, that would have been enough for me.
Of course, this is how television works, and since Lost it has got worse but it wasn’t invented by it. Soap operas may be watched for the day to day drama, but their viewers multiply massively when there’s a good whodunit to be seen. Same too goes for the likes of “Poirot” and “Murder, She Wrote”. Plot? Performance? Emotional attachment to characters? No, just good old fashioned human instinct to want to know everything. The current worst offender of this is AMC’s “The Walking Dead”.
Confession time, I’m a massive fan of the comics on which the show is based. I’m also a massive fan of the man who brought it to TV, Frank Darabont as well as many of the cast he assembled, most notably Michael Rooker, Jeffrey DeMunn and Norman Reedus. So when I come across as petulant and bitchy (which I assure you I will) remember I desperately want to say only good things about this show. TWD is no question a TV phenomenom. With my hipster glasses on allow me to exclaim about how I had to badger people to watch the pilot, now I’m surrounded by addicts. The comic derived it’s status as one of the best entries in zombie lore due to its alternative takes on various staple things, and a more character focused narrative. This is the approach the TV show has followed too, but to varying degrees of success.
I’m going to, possibly controversially, leave the first season exempt from criticism here. The reason for this is that no matter what flaws you want to find, everything can usually be answered with an “Ah well they were just finding their footing, we’ll forgive it” type of rebuttal. So, season 2. The aforementioned character focus that made the comics so wildly revered has also been the aim of the TV writers, and what works on one medium rarely translates to another. With dialogue being a key component of comics, and characters able to speak monologues, thoughts and concerns, character attachment comes a lot easier. When this was attempted in season 2, except with T-Dog of course, what would up coming out of character’s mouths was clunky and irrational dialogue.
Take Lori for example. Already by the mid point of season 1, our view on her was totally different from that of the comics due to her changed circumstances with Shane. As a result, many comic fans hung on her every word dying to know what other changes there might have been. Newcomers too would obviously be highly interested in how this drama would unfold. Instead, what both groups got is what has to be the most illogical, irrational and neurotic woman ever written for screen. “Rick I love you”…” Rick you annoy me”…. “Rick kill Shane”….” I can’t believe you killed Shane”. It was just all over the place. Were we interested in her arc because there was compelling drama unfolding before our eyes? No, we were severely curious as to what endgame the writers had to this ludicrous behaviour. And therein began a horrendous pattern of the entire series to date.
Thus far, we far more regularly give a shit as to where characters will bring us or how they will gruesomely meet their maker, rather than what they went through to get there. Thankfully, season 4 took a bold step in dedicating half the season to character development, but it has to be noted that it is a little too late. It’s great that we have a better understanding now of Rick, Michonne, Carol and Beth, but because we didn’t get that for the like of Shane, Lori and Dale, their deaths are lessened in hindsight.
With so many behind the scenes changes it’s no surprises that TWD has suffered inconsistencies, but thankfully Scott Gimple has said that the team have a clear plan from season 4 to 6 which should help improve things. As we always do with this show, we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt as we wait with baited breath.