The Walking Dead premiered this week and from a ratings perspective, the outlook is good. Very good. The third season premiere attracted 10.9 million viewers (a mind-blowing number for cable!), defending its title as the most successful basic cable drama of all time in the adult demo. But dammit, it’s time to spit some truth on this zombie craze.
The Walking Dead tells the tale of Rick Grimes, his family, and a slew of survivors of a blood-splattering, intestine-eating zombie apocalypse. The show is an adaptation of a monthly black and white comic book series, created by Robert Kirkman, who also serves as an Executive Producer on the show. Although the show captures some of the meat of the books, I still feel like the true guts of the story remain largely uneaten.
When the show first hit our living rooms, it was a huge victory for the Horror genre. A television show about zombies was being produced and was actually going to air! The books had a steady fan base, zombies were the new rising trend, and Kirkman and effects master Greg Nicotero were both signed on. Epic win! Although I enjoy The Walking Dead enough, I still can’t get over the fact that the show isn’t living up to its full potential. Sure, the zombies look great, the blood and gore is spot on, but much of the characterization of our beloved survivors is gone. I’m not loving the cast (Laurie Holden’s Andrea is my favorite, yet I fight the urge to fast forward every time Sarah Wayne Callies opens her mouth), or the adaptations of who these characters are. It’s very telling when comic book art can present more emotion than actors and actresses on screen, but in this case, the book’s art and writing really do win out.
It’s also no surprise that Season 2 had pacing problems. We searched for Sophia for what seemed like an eternity, and even when words were exchanged, the series really wasn’t saying much – about society, or about the lives and relationships of these people we’re peering in on. It doesn’t feel cohesive. The only true emotional punch this show delivered was the shocking discovery that Sophia was a zombie, hidden inside Herschel’s barn. Once we got over the awesomeness of zombies on TV, viewers waited a full season and a half before getting a shocking, real, emotional payoff.
Season three’s premiere episode got “back to its roots” of killing zombies. Though I love some delicious violence, this running, gun toting, and stab-y goodness begins to lose its effectiveness when the characters behind it aren’t as strong as they could be…and should be. Because of this, the tension has dissipated. The show really needs to tighten up and dig deep inside of these characters in order to highlight the traits that readers of the book know and love. There’s still so much more potential hidden in this narrative than what we’ve been presented with.
Perhaps my standards are too high. Maybe shows like Mad Men, Homeland and Dexter have raised my expectations. Or maybe there’s just too much competition in TV nowadays. Let’s face it – Rick Grimes is no Don Draper. Although I still watch The Walking Dead, I don’t crave it like I do when the gang from Sterling Cooper Draper Price returns. And being such a Horror fan at heart, I really wish I did.