[Note: This is an essay that potentially spoils everything that has so far happened on Season 3 of AMC’s The Walking Dead.]
With just a few weeks left until The Walking Dead returns to TV screens with all new episodes, I decided to write a little something to help express my thoughts on the show thus far and what I hope can come from the rest of this season. Yes, there are concerns regarding the series’ budget, the number of remaining episodes, and possible behind-the-scenes drama, but while this may be more of a ‘wish list’ overall, I still think I have a reasonable number of ideas concerning how the show can be even better, considering that this current season has done so much to improve upon itself, as a whole, already. So now, here are five items that I believe can contribute to the show being better overall.
1. Slow Down
I may have already thrown off some people by this first statement, but bear with me. I am aware and agree that the biggest issue of the second season, particularly in its first half, was the slow-as-molasses pacing, which had everyone up-in-arms, considering that Rick and the gang did nothing but hang out at Hershel’s farm. With that said, I would agree that Season 3 has done a great job of keeping things moving, as there is constant plot momentum and a lot of new characters and settings being thrown at the audience practically every week. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it has gotten to a breaking point and needs to do some work on letting the show breathe a little, rather than continuing to try and shock and impress by way of rectifying a problem with the previous season in the most dramatic way possible.
The most necessary thing, I think, would be to stop with the shocking deaths of various cast members. I am very aware and love the way that the comic book is happy to expel practically anyone at any time, but it does not quite work the same in the television format, or at least in the way that this show handles it. Killing off Lori was certainly shocking and contributes to a lot of different components of the series, namely the characters of Rick and Carl, but would things have been that much different if T-Dog was left alive? Point being, whether or not there is an end game in mind for this season regarding the overall lineup of characters, some of the big shocking deaths of this season have not quite registered as effectively as the intention may have been leaning towards. It feels like events that occurred for the sake of shock value, rather than completely necessary pieces to the plot of the show overall. For now, I do think the show is done killing off major players, but I would not hold it against the series to do it again, before getting to what I could imagine is a rather epic season finale, where major deaths would seem more appropriate. Whether or not this is a bad thing, I can only say once it occurs, but while I am not against the idea of major characters dying, the show just needs to do a better job at earning the deaths of certain people, rather than simply scratching them off the list.
Slowing the momentum of this season down a little would also allow the show to settle into a bit more of a consistent groove, which would be appreciated. I am not saying that we need to have another Hershel’s farm situation inside of the prison, but even if I was not a comic fan, I think it is fair to say that there have been a lot of significant plot beats hit in just eight episodes, which could have easily been stretched out into a longer period of time. This would have allowed for more time to get acquainted with some of the key individuals involved (Michonne and The Governor), which, in turn, would have allowed people to react more favorably to certain character decisions (again, Michonne).
And now to speak as a comic fan, while I am aware of everything else that is in store for many of these characters, let alone count on various alternate paths for the series to go, it does seem like we have moved through some very significant moments and aspects of the comic rather quickly. Whether or not the series plans to incorporate certain elements in a different way or just not handle particular events altogether, I cannot help but think that there were certain missed opportunities that could have translated well to the TV series.
Were the show able to allow a little more breathing room, I think some of the things I have addressed could make a difference in the long run and hopefully I will see some of this in the remaining episodes.
2. Expand On The New Characters
I would like to see these remaining episodes take some time to develop the characters more. The effectiveness of the character work in The Walking Dead has always been the series’ biggest problem, as the writing, when it comes to heavy dialogue scenes especially, has a tendency to feel a lot more perfunctory, rather than nuanced or cleverly written in any particular way. With that said, we have a better feed on the characters we are most familiar with, given that we’ve spent two and a half seasons with them, so now it is a question of accepting all of the new people that this show has introduced this season.
Michonne has easily become the most notable character in this regard, as the fact that she is such a great concept for a character (a mysterious, samurai sword-wielding woman, with two zombies in tow) has been badly impacted by the show making her way too silent and reserved, when times have called for her to be much more than just an enigmatic individual. Sure, she has done some bad ass things in terms of zombie kills and her knockdown, drag out fight with The Governor, but giving us more than suspicious looks and worried emoting can go a long way for this character, who is a fan-favorite in the comics after all. Hopefully now that the show is in a bit more of a position to breathe, we will get a chance to have Michonne flesh out her backstory just a bit.
The Governor is the other notable character addition this season, which is especially important, as he serves as the true villain of the series, currently. I would say that the show has done a better job at building up this character, but that does not mean there is not more to learn about him. Unfortunately, with the amount of time left in this season and all that is going on, I have a feeling that The Governor’s plan to take on the prison in full force is going to overshadow the possibility for further expanding on who this man really is. I would have liked to learn more about him, particularly his plans for the town of Woodbury. By extension, Dr. Milton is the other character who can be expanded on in this regard, because I have no idea what he and The Governor have in mind with all of their experiments. Spending a bit more time with these two could easily make them more relatable and not just one-dimensionally evil, which the show has somewhat gotten around thus far, but could still benefit more from.
Tyrese is the last major figure that I hope to hear more about. The characters is another fan-favorite from the comic and adding him just now makes me very curious as to how long he will be sticking around. He has the potential to be a full cast member by next season, so it would certainly be helpful to really establish who this man is. Sure, he has just emerged in this season’s most recent episode, so I am not faulting the fact that we do not know too much about him as of yet, simply because we have not had the chance, but I do hope the show takes some time to expand upon who he is. From what I already know about this character, comic-wise and even based on the early seeds the show has planted, Tyrese is very similar to Rick and it will be interesting to see how these two handle being around each other.
The trickiest part of all of this is hoping that the writing is good enough to make me appreciate the possible work to develop these characters further. The dialogue has remained a weak point and some of the best sequences of this season, let alone the series, have been dialogue-free (see the opening scene of this season). This show knows how to convey emotion and build its scenarios, without having characters spell everything out for us and if it can find a way to do that in an effort to develop characters, even while having them speak, than this show has a chance of being even more satisfying overall from a character standpoint.
3. Have More ‘Contained’ Episodes
The Walking Dead has explored this a few times with episodes such as one of the audience’s favorites “18 Miles Out” and in “Walk With Me,” but having episodes that sideline a majority of the cast in favor of a more singularly focused episode have worked quite well for this show. Having more episodes that focus on a few characters, rather than checking in with everyone is basically a way of both slowing the pace a bit and working towards expanding on certain characters, so it fits right in with what I desire from this series already. Additionally, it provides the show with more unique episodes that would be a nice change in pace from the series as a whole, allowing for a bit of diversity in ways to handle this series.
Now in suggesting this, I am not necessarily saying flashbacks are the way to go, but I could easily see that being a result of more singularly focused, character-driven episodes. If there was an episode that wanted to delve more into the lives of the Dixon brothers by running a flashback of them being together concurrently with their present lives, I could see that as being an interesting choice, but not necessarily the best one. Aside from feeling too much like Lost, for example, I believe this is a show that entirely depends on keeping us in this apocalyptic world, filled with walkers, and taking us away from that does damage the image of the series. With that said, if there was an episode depicting Michonne or Tyrese’s journeys, before they met up with the main cast, but still set in the reality of the zombie apocalypse, I would be less opposed to something of that nature.
Again, I am aware of how the show is progressing into a more desperate position of having Rick and the gang in the midst of handling the threat of all of Woodbury coming to invade them, so more intimate episodes may become something of a lost cause for the remaining half of this season, but at the same time, besides the obvious singularly focused finale that should deal with the Prison Vs. Woodbury, there are ways that this show could attempt to put others to the side and deal with just a few of its cast members, while still providing momentum for the entire plot of the season as a whole.
4. Make Andrea Less Annoying
It should come as no surprise that Andrea is currently my least favorite character on the show. It is certainly not due to Laurie Holden’s performance, as I think she is doing the best with what she is given, but Andrea, as a character, has just not been an enjoyable presence this season. I can understand why her character is able to remain oblivious to what is going on in Woodbury, but the show has had a lot of trouble in giving her a consistent personality. She has become a person malleable for whatever is required of her that week, which has been frustrating to watch, especially given all of the other, more interesting, aspects that the show has built around her. And it definitely does not help that the already problematic dialogue on the show extends to her character the most.
In my eyes, there is one clear route to go with for Andrea, which would also be the most fun to see – make her a full-fledged villain. I am not saying that this will happen, but at this point, why not? I think there has been enough setup to suggest that she could sever her ties with Rick’s group and be more willing to stick with Woodbury. Yes, she will have to realize what is going on with The Governor more clearly, but how much more fun would it be for her to end up sticking with him, rather than have the predictable, “You were right, I was wrong,” speech to Michonne? If Andrea was given the chance to realize her situation more clearly and earlier on, I would be more inclined to hope she gets a clue and heads back to the prison, but at this point, the character is so drastically different from her comic book counterpart, that I honestly would not mind seeing her go, if that were to be what follows in the wake of a Prison Vs. Woodbury attack, with Andrea still on the side of The Governor. In the previous season, Dale was also a character significantly changed from his comic counterpart (and also quite annoying) and the show has been able to march on without him. Given that The Walking Dead currently has more characters than it can handle, I would not be totally opposed to them removing its most problematic character.
Upon writing all of this, I realize I have basically suggested “shape up or ship out”, but I do not mean for that to sound so harsh. I would certainly welcome some alternatives for the overall outcome of Andrea in this series, but I just want the show to improve her character overall, given how much potential she has had in the past. At the same time though, I previously was not much of a fan of her character, before the show was able to better rectify this, only to go back to making her a character I do not care for all that much. If the show cannot figure out what to do with this character, it really does seem to suggest that she is not much of a necessity to the series in general, aside from being a good shot with a rifle.
5. Utilize The Prison Setting
My last thought regarding how this show can get better is in regards to one of its current main settings. The prison is one of the most iconic locations of the The Walking Dead universe, but I feel like this show has barely shown it to us. We’ve seen some of the outside perimeter, a cold and sterile living area indoors, and lots and lots of dark hallways. There are a lot of more interesting things about having a show’s main cast in a prison, besides just letting them occasionally explore dark hallways. I would really like to see some more exploration of the territory. Surely Rick and the gang would like to know more about what possible threats there are to living in this environment, let alone if there is a possibility of more supplies being located somewhere. How confusing was it, at first glance, to see Tyrese and his company enter the prison through a giant hole in some building? I know I am not the first one who thought it may have been Woodbury that they were entering.
What I am saying is that the prison is still a somewhat confusing location that has not had enough proper geography established for me to really embrace what should be a really neat location for our main characters. It is a much grander concept than Hershel’s farm, so let us see some of that potential make it to the screen. Once something like a siege by the people of Woodbury occurs, I would imagine that the space has to be explored, but why not an early start on this? Let’s have a team make their way through the area and find out what is happening, where walkers are mainly lurking, let alone other possible prisoners or guards that may still be alive somewhere.
This goes back to exploring the characters, because the prison should truly be one of the main characters of this series and while it has served as the main location for the majority of the cast this season, I do not feel like it has really stood out as something other than a dirty place with walkers occasionally creating a problem for everyone. I should also note that learning more about Axel may prove to be interesting, though the show has already removed certain possibilities by having all of the remaining prisoners (that we knew of) killed in some manner, with his exception. That said, the show could be either hiding something about Axel or just setting him up to become an important team member down the line. Not quite sure, but it still all reflects on expanding on the concept of having this prison location used for the better.
Where To Next?
I have ideas for where the rest of this season will go. I try not to think about possible outcomes, but my mind does wander, especially as a write up an article about what I wish could happen in The Walking Dead, as it is a show I like quite a bit. Given that the series is currently putting out its best stuff so far, I can only hope that the things I would like to see in it are similar to what the producers, writers, and everyone else involved have in mind as well. Better pacing, smoothing out the rate of plot developments, and doing better work on the characters could go a long way in making an already good show into a truly fantastic one. I realize that some of points may apply more to future seasons, rather than just eight remaining episodes, but that does not mean I cannot hope to see some improvement in the near future, rather than further down the road.
Last thought, if anyone has noticed, I barely made mention to the fact that this is a show with zombies in it, but it is for one simple reason – The Walking Dead knows how to handle that major facet already. So with that crucial aspect out of the way, let’s see the show improve even more in all the other areas that count.
The Walking Dead returns to television on Sunday, February 10, 2013 and I will continue to write weekly reviews for every episode at HHWLOD.com; the most recent of which can be found HERE. And if you want to catch up on the series or own the previous seasons, look here: