Hey, Geeks. Welcome to Your Favorite Thing Sucks, where I get to talk about all the worst parts of your favorite things. The Season Nine trailer for The Walking Dead just dropped, and I really feel like I should care about this slow, trundling march to whatever end awaits the series…. But I really just can’t bring myself to care anymore. Let’s talk about why.
Wait. Have I Already Seen This Season?
The Walking Dead has been on for 9 seasons now, which is basically a third of my life. Anything that lasts that long is going to have some off days, and it’s going to have a few repetitions here and there.
But not like this.
The Walking Dead has one of the most boring and frustrating formulae I’ve ever seen in a television show. I know you’ve seen it already, but did you recognize it? It goes like this:
The group we care about gets a thing. A home, a weapon cache, a full party, a… baby. Whatever. They get a thing and we want them to keep that thing. And then someone takes the thing. And then the group either gets the thing back or finds a new thing and forgets about the old thing. It doesn’t seem that repetitive while you’re watching it because The Walking Dead is ALSO so good at dragging things out like a zombie’s traumatizingly slow walk to lunch. But I assure you that it’s there and that I got tired of it around Season 4 but couldn’t quite pinpoint why I was frustrated and Just. Kept. Watching.
Honestly, though. The formula is so repetitive and boring that the only thing really keeping our interest in this show is the characters and their development. But as they splinter and break apart, losing focus and relatability as the seasons go on… there’s really not a lot holding the thing together at all. At least the bad guys are cool, right?
The Antagonists are Idiotic
Seriously. The bad guys in The Walking Dead are… moronic. So, SO dumb. And I’m not talking about the Biters. We expect zombies to lack basic intelligence. But the Walkers were never the main evil in this show. They’ve done a pretty good job of hammering home the idea that evilness is humanity and the lines we’re willing to cross when we have nothing to lose. That’s what keeps us on edge every time the group meets a new non-shambler and tries to decide if they’d be a good addition to the team or someone that shanks you in your sleep. Humans, man. Can’t trust them.
Except, you can’t really fear a lot of them in The Walking Dead either. Because they’re terrible at what they do. With a few notable exceptions that were thrown in purely for heart-wrenching moments and a forced perception that maybe you do actually still care about the bastards for some reason — the antagonists in this show make some really stupid decisions. Monologuing, leaving their captives in a room where they can plot and/or escape, just an overall hesitation to immediately kill the people that they are so intent on killing… I can think of a dozen scenarios that our protagonists only escaped because of incompetence on the enemy’s part.
Even Negan, who is arguably the most intelligent villain in the series, should not be forgiven for everything that led up to the ambush-within-an-ambush fiasco. He had so many chances to end this torturous series, and he chose not to because his ego demanded that he gloat and smile for 30 more minutes way too many times. Seriously, AMC. You’re trying to draw things out to make it more thrilling. I get that. Or I would have if I hadn’t fallen asleep during his third monologue of the night.
Maybe We’re Not Concerned About the Right Things
There are a few things that the characters in The Walking Dead care about. Shelter. Human survivors. Supplies. Basic survival with all those things intact. There’s also the zombies to worry about sometimes, too, but I’m pretty sure that that’s just filler at this point and a subheader of “survival.” The thing they really shouldn’t be doing as well as they are.
There is SO much more to living off the land than this show portrays, and it’s even more complicated when you don’t already have the necessary farmland or infrastructure to make that “I need this to live” shit readily accessible.
Even if we assume that every person who needs their daily diabetes/heart/thyroid/whatever medication is already dead (because none of us are going to manufacture more of that anytime soon), there are a lot of things that we’ve built into our regular lives that keep us functioning even without us realizing it. For example. Have you ever heard of scurvy? That thing that pirates used to get when they went too long without citrus? When was the last time you saw Rick peel an orange? We had to start adding iodine to our salt in 1924 because our bodies can’t synthesize it on their own and salt was common enough that we could ensure people got it into their systems and keep on ticking. If you can’t pick up iodized salt in the grocery store do you have any idea how to get that critical micronutrient? I’m guessing not.
That… Ugh. That Stupid Tiger
I get that this is a weak point, but 1) it’s my article series and you’re welcome to write a better one if you’d like and 2) Shiva is kind of a good representation of how far off the rails this show has gone. There was something very endearing about the first season of The Walking Dead. A ragtag group of survivors trying to work together to survive the apocalypse. There was fear and uncertainty and something that made everything feel authentic and real. We cared about those people. Then, slowly the people and their indestructible core of “this is what makes us human” began to die out, and we held on for the sake of seeing it through to the end. A sense of almost obligation to watch the journey reach its finish. Because maybe with one more season they’ll finally have a home and food and hope.
And then someone said “I totally get that you don’t give a fuck about basically any of these people anymore. Instead of fixing that, I’m going to waste the last of your fucks on a tiger. A Tiger. I am going to make you think that this stupid beast is worthy of your tears and heartache by the end and you will agree with me.” And we went with it.
We didn’t even really hate Shiva for taking up ten times the amount of food a day than a regular human needs. Despite the scarcity of food being well-established and prioritized thus far, we didn’t wonder how long our heroes could survive on its carcass. We didn’t even notice when we started to care more about this stupid cat than about some of the actual humans we’ve been following for ages. And when she died, we cared more about Shiva than we probably would have for any of the characters with actual dialogue that are left. And if that doesn’t tell you how little fucks we still have to give about The Walking Dead, then I don’t think anything will.
But hey. Don’t worry. I’m sure Rick and the gang have a new thing this season. I’m sure they won’t lose it. It’ll be fine.
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.