You can’t see or hear me but I’m slow clapping right now. Why? Because I sat down to watch the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead, genuinely excited to see it for the first time in a year, and instead spent the next 50 minutes bored to tears.
Worth comes at the almost-end of a season riddled with serious issues, the main one being its complete inability to deliver anything vaguely entertaining. Last week I was genuinely hopeful that a big twist was about to shake things up. It’s not the first time I have had high hopes that a major change in direction was coming, and wound up bitterly disappointed.
It seems to have become TWD’s stock in trade, setting up potentially awesome scenarios then utterly squandering them.
Because The Walking Dead has become the show where potential goes to die and ironically fail to reanimate.
A lot happened in this episode, and none of it was even vaguely interesting. There was a lot of Carl nostalgia, which might have been touching were it not for the fact that I was expecting Carl himself, and didn’t get him. Part of me want to give the show the benefit of the doubt and say they’re teasing us and saving it for the season finale, but at this point I’ve lost all faith.
That’s giving them too much credit.
I’ve realised the reason I’m perpetually disappointed with the show is because I keep seeing epic narrative patterns developing and the writers choose the sidestep them in order to chase after dull banality.
It actually takes a special level of skill to suck so consistently.
So what exactly is going wrong? I have been a devout fan of the show for 8 years now, never missing an episode, always having a theory. I’ve hung in there for the last three and a half seasons since the group arrived at Alexandria and everything suddenly got painfully dull.
I keep hoping it will get better again, but time and again I’m disappointed.
Previous seasons had issues to be sure – season 2 was a slow one, the epidemic at the prison was a never-ending snooze-fest, but always they have rallied. There may have been a few episodes every season that sucked, but that’s true of pretty much any show and when they were good, they were phenomenal.
Those days are gone.
Terminus and the cannibal storyline was the last time I recall the show being genuinely compelling. Since their arrival at Alexandria we have had a lot of angst, a lot of nonsense, and very few zombies.
And this is the point that Worth really drove home for me:
The problem with The Walking Dead is the almost complete lack of dead people.
It’s been a growing problem for a while, but as the zombies on the show continue to decompose at the rate a normal corpse would, all but the newly turned are in no way threatening.
Worth presented us with a show that included zombies the way most shows include dogs. They’re generally harmless and fun to look at, only becoming a threat if you are a) trying to break through a gate they happen to be chained to, or b) stumble across a pack in the woods while you’re half dead and incapable of effectively running away from them.
This week Aaron could be found starving and on the verge of dying of thirst, out in the woods, all on his own. Despite this, he managed to single handedly take out half a dozen zombies when the best move he had going for him was his ability to fall down a lot.
At one point he loses his knife and, in desperation, runs at a zombie, pushing it with all the strength a half dead man can muster, causing them both to fall down. From then it’s a toss up between who is more pathetic, Aaron in his feeble attempt to find his knife, or the zombie in its inability to close a two inch gap between its face and Aaron’s unmoving leg.
The remaining zombies are dealt with by hitting them a couple of times with a stick. Some of them don’t even require the obligatory head-stab, he just clocks them with the stick, they fall down and don’t get up again.
Elsewhere Daryl single handledly dispatches another cluster of zombies who are kind enough to walk so slowly he has time to reload his crossbow once for every single one, while Rosita tackles two on her own without any issue at all.
The Sanctuary has them strung up on the gates as a deterent and punishment for the people who piss Negan off, and he’s not the only one using them for furniture – last week we saw Jadis sporting a particularly bizarre zombie-lined cart.
Zombies have literally become part of the furniture.
While I’m all for a zombie show having more depth than gratuitous violence and horror, The Walking Dead seems to have forgotten that the only reason we’re watching it in the first place is because we like zombies.
The large chunk of the episode was taken up with Negan and the saviours, rolling out a lot of what I’m sure some people will call plot advancement. Simon attempted a coup and wound up an undead fence decoration, Negan very predictably tricked Dwight into setting a trap for Rick, while Lauren was revealed in a ‘shocking’ twist.
The only shocking thing about her return was that they chose the dullest ‘twist’ imaginable and ran with it despite a million more interesting options.
Honestly, I’d completely forgotten who this girl was until she said Dwight had turned on them and she’d run away, at which point I vaguely recalled something like that happening, causing him to briefly worry his cover was blown.
I cannot express to you how little I care.
Even Negan was boring me this week.
Worth took the only interesting character the show has had for two years and broke him.
The excuse I am going to hear from die hard fans is that it was all in the name of plot advancement that loads of ongoing storylines were advanced, and it’s set us up for an ‘epic’ final episode.
And you may be right.
But here’s the problem with all of that – advancing dull and dead-end plot lines doesn’t count as a win. You don’t get points for stuffing ‘plot’ into your episode if said plot is in no way entertaining. And it may well have set us up for an epic final showdown, but seriously, we reached the point of being ready for that well over a year ago.
It’s not setup so much as the final blissful end of an extensively drawn out teaser, trying to milk the saviours for all they’re worth. And they’re not worth a great deal.
I’ve come away from Worth with the same feeling I had at the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, namely an overwhelming sense of disappointment that something with potential had been sacrificed in the name of making what came next better.
Generally speaking when a series reaches the point of needing to do this, what comes next is marginally better than it otherwise might have been, but still royally sucks.
After all the build up Harry Potter ended with 550 pages of pointless wandering followed by 50 of mildly interesting stuff culminating in a twist I’d seen coming at the end of book one and a boss battle that was solved with a single spell.
I suspect the only difference we are going to see in The Walking Dead is that it’s not going to end that quickly.
Do you think the writers have noticed their show died several years ago and has itself become a slow moving and utterly ineffectual zombie?