Despite the fact that many of the biggest shows of the fall season have returned, many fans are still waiting for the dead to shamble back onto the small screen. I am not one of them.
AMC’s The Walking Dead was one of the runaway success stories of cable. Wonderfully cinematic, the show transferred the bloody emotionally loaded pages of Robert Kirkman’s comics. The show was one of the network’s biggest ratings hits, even surpassing their twin critical behemoths, Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
The success of the show can mostly be traced back to buying into the cultural zeitgeist. Zombies are still en vogue like very few other trends. It makes sense, the walking dead are easy puppets for whatever societal anxiety we want to project on them and characters can still kill them without feeling the trauma of killing a person. It’s easy to write and it’s a simple story that audiences love to consume.
For me, the problem was that The Walking Dead somehow lost all of its depth in the jump to the screen. Rick went from being a capable, if confused and conflicted, leader to thoughtlessly making dangerous decisions. Shane went from being a man torn by betrayal and lust to a failed rapist and potential murderer. The racial tension that was almost entirely absent from the books boiled to near “Crash” levels.
In an attempt to make a subtle dark series work for a mass audience, showrunner Frank Darabont jacked up character traits and themes until the show buckled under the weight. The characters were at best unbelievable and at worst obnoxious while the tension, shocks and plot all failed to find solid footing.
I’ll be watching season two when it premieres Oct. 16, but unless the series hopes to find a world of its own that viewers want to spend time in, The Walking Dead may become a show that needs to take a bullet in the brains.