*Editor’s Note: Individual episode reviews by me and Dylan S. Phillips can be found here*
About halfway through last season, The Walking Dead started to feel repetitive and dull, relying on cheap gimmicks for dramatic tension and boring situations that saw people make decisions that were completely out of character. While that can be said for some of this season’s storylines, it also showed promise for a brighter future. Nevertheless, the writers dragged out the battle between the Saviors and the rest of the communities in order to explore a variety of subplots either from the comics or created for the TV show.
The main story of season eight revolves around the continued battle between Rick and his group, the Kingdom and the Hilltop against Negan and the Saviors. The groups repeatedly attack each other causing hostility to come to an all-time high as both sides continue to regain the upper-hand. As relationships are strained and loved ones die, the conflict comes to a head where Rick and Negan finally bring an end to their feud. Let’s highlight the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good are Carl’s journey in the first half of the season, Siddiq’s introduction and acceptance in the group, Morgan’s descent into madness as it leads into Fear the Walking Dead, Dwight’s infiltration of the Saviors, Ezekiel’s realization of his status in this world as the Kingdom falls and Negan’s personal growth. The bad are Eugene’s apparent double agent status, Simon’s sudden interest to remove Negan from power with no signs of it before, Gabriel’s illness and onset blindness, Gregory’s story and his screen time compared to other better characters, Jadis and the Scavengers, and Rick’s descent down a path of destruction.
And of course the ugly are Morgan’s hunt of Jared, the lack of mourning for Carl from other people who most likely got letters from him as well, Aaron and Tara’s attempt to recruit Oceanside, the constant will-they-won’t-they between Rick and Negan and all of Daryl’s story. He was created entirely for the TV show so no storylines are set in stone and it feels like the writers are out of ideas for him, but can’t kill him because of his ultimate fan favourite status. He seemed to be at the route of almost every problem that happened thanks to his act first think later mentality.
Not only was the story itself a dull and dragging mess at times, but the constant use of flashbacks and flashforwards created multiple timelines that created distance between the audience and the atmosphere of the show. Seeing scenes that jump forward or backward destroys the immersive atmosphere that a show like The Walking Dead needs in order to create constant cliffhangers and cheap, pandering thrills. The characters continued to act in ways that benefited whatever storyline was trying to be told rather than follow their previous behaviour.
Opinions and relationships were constantly changing to serve the current direction of the story probably due to having too many supporting characters. With the war focusing on major players, others were put on the back-burner. Enid never had a moment to mourn Carl, someone she was assumed to have a relationship with. Rosita, Michonne, Jesus, Jerry, Aaron and Siddiq were all severely underused unless it was used to benefit another character’s story. Aaron lost his husband and yet dealt with no inner demons during his time of starvation outside of Oceanside? Jadis and Gregory got way more time and yet they are not nearly as likable as the others.
The problems with this show have been evident in the last few seasons and hopefully the finale can remedy that with a time jump or change in tone. The promise of all-out war ended in lacklustre fashion as no one died on a show where no one should be safe. The fact that the show is supposed to be about the survival of humanity against the undead apocalypse and yet the biggest threat is betrayal among human groups rather than trying to sustain a real civilization has this show going on a downward spiral. Obviously the premise needs to adapt as characters cannot be expected to live like nomads and travel forever on a show like this, civilization is built by creating a foundation for society to thrive.
This season of The Walking Dead is a dragging character drama that follows whichever storyline will deliver the biggest bombshell to its TV audience while upsetting its comic fanbase. Taking away the show’s main selling point, the walkers; aside for the occasional gimmicky death of a beloved original character with way more story to tell, shows that the writers are focused on more shock and awe than actual storytelling. While some of the stories continue to be interesting, they are either thrown into the background or killed off to continue the less engaging, campy and oversaturated stories of a few bigger characters. Hopefully the shift in tone that the finale suggests brings this show back into form with its earlier seasons by returning to its roots and letting us know that death can happen at any time in the apocalypse.
From the slow, uneventful war story to the campy, dramatic betrayals and back-stabbings, this show has fallen from grace to the point that only a very strong, soft reboot can save so I’m gonna say it’s not worth the watch.
Here’s our video review:
What did you think of The Walking Dead? Let me know in the comments!
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