If you’d asked me what my favourite TV show was back in 2015, the answer would’ve been a no-brainer.
From the first 90 minutes of this grizzly zombie apocalypse horror series, I’d decided that AMC’s The Walking Dead was the best thing I’d ever seen.
So, when AMC announced in September that the Season 11 finale of the series will be its final episode, you’d think my reaction would be to call for a national day of mourning. But in fact, it was simply one of indifference.
So, what changed?
No Good Bad Guy
Looking back, it’s easy to see where things started to decline; Season 5, which aired from 2014-15. Before this point in the series, there’d always been a bad guy in the series who’d managed to stick around for long enough to go out with a bang. In the first two seasons, there was Rick’s best friend Shane, and from series 3-4 we had the deceptive murderer ‘The Governor’. As season 4 drew to a close, there seemed to be a new group of villains on the horizon, as the protagonists reached Terminus, but within a few episodes they’d been defeated, having their home blown up by Carol whilst the survivors were picked off by Rick and the group. I’m not saying watching Carol save the day wasn’t an enjoyable watch, but it happened far too soon.
Now I know another huge villain arrived on the scene in season 7 when Negan turned up, but honestly, it’s not the same. From the moment Negan arrived with his spiky baseball bat and a tendency for deadly games of ‘eenie meenie miney mo’, he was pure evil. With Shane, we’d watched him slowly go from devoted friend to jealous killer, and with the governor, we saw how his emotional trauma led him to fluctuate until eventually, he became a complete and fantastic villain. We’d watched their characters morph and grow into the antagonists so that their eventual defeat had a much more emotional impact.
The Only Purpose is War
I know a lot of people have ranted about this before, but the showrunners literally eliminated any hope of a cure in the season 1 finale. As a consequence, they destroyed any hint of optimism that could exist in a zombie apocalypse series. So, for the next ten series, the main purpose was basically just a constant rerun of how awful people are when they’re faced with co-existing with the undead. Whilst this was an interesting concept at first, by season 5 it really started to get old, especially with no clear antagonist, and the group just wandering around aimlessly trying to stay alive.
The Characters Kept Dying
Ok. I get it’s a show about zombies, so there’s going to be deaths. But when it gets to the point where there are two original characters left alive, I’m just going to lose interest. I’m not saying the new conveyor belt of characters are bad, but when literally no-one’s safe it becomes difficult to emotionally attach yourself to anyone. It also makes it incredibly difficult to develop some characters. Anyone remember Noah or Denise? It felt like they were at the beginning of really cool story arcs before they were killed off for shock value, and because we hadn’t had time to get to know them properly, it was hard to feel too sad about it.
Compare that to season 3, where even the criminally under-developed character of T-Dog’s death was a tragedy, and you can see that the show went wrong somewhere.