Have writers for The Walking Dead devoured all their good storylines, content now to serve leftovers?
The following story contains spoilers. Beware!
The season premiere of The Walking Dead did not live up to my expectations — and I believe it shows that the show’s writers are losing steam and are merely scripting events for shock value. Season seven opened with the long awaited payoff to last year’s cliffhanger ending. Who did Negan kill? Turns out, it was Abraham — a call the internet had made months in advance. Then, just when we thought the weight of a gimmicky ratings ploy was lifted, the show decided to pull from its source material and kill off series’ favorite Glenn, and at once the voices of many fans cried out in agony.
This left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths and left me very confused and angry at the lack of originality and poor planning on the writers’ part. For those who are unaware, The Walking Dead is based on a series of comic books. The show follows its source material very loosely; save for a couple key characters and plotlines, it’s almost its own separate thing. That’s what made it work — it thrived on unpredictability and original plotlines, at least for the first few seasons.
After seeing how this cliffhanger caused the show’s online buzz to spike, The Walking Dead’s writers decided to do something similar.
The past two seasons have almost followed the comics to a tee — and now the show feels relentlessly bleak. The show went from an original commentary on human nature that reanimated the zombie craze, to a nihilistic, ratings-chasing bore that throws in would-be iconic events for shock rather than storytelling value. And this was embodied in the way the show’s writers have treated the character of Glenn Rhee over the last few seasons.
A couple years back, the blogosphere was abuzz and television watchers were reeling from the “death” of Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow. After years of following his conscience rather than the dictations of tradition, every decision the well-meaning but naïve bastard made came back to stab him in the gut – literally. Fans were shocked that such a beloved character was gone…but was he? While the character was still bleeding out on screen, conspiracy theorists set the internet aflame with theories – after all, this was a universe of magic and dragons. Surely anything was possible? Sure enough, a year later, Snow was resurrected by vaguely explainable hocus pocus, and it was a television EVENT. The character’s entire purpose and story arc was revitalized – all because he had walked through death’s door and turned back around. After seeing how this cliffhanger caused the show’s online buzz to spike, The Walking Dead’s writers decided to do something similar.
When The Walking Dead’s writers wanted to dominate the entertainment conversation once more, they pulled out the ol’ “Let’s kill off Glenn!” card— again.
In the AMC show’s sixth season – right when Jon Snow speculation was reaching a fever pitch – the writers decided to kill off Glenn, tossing his fate in the air for the next several episodes. And when everyone’s favorite pizza delivery guy made his triumphant return, fans let out a collective sigh of relief. Everything went back to normal – and that wasn’t a good thing. There had been no stakes in the “fake out.” Story-wise, there was no reason to make fans think that Glenn had been turned to walker-chow. It was a ratings ploy, pure and simple. And a year later, when The Walking Dead’s writers wanted to dominate the entertainment conversation once more, they pulled out the ol’ “Let’s kill off Glenn!” card— again.
“But this time, let’s just let viewers know that someone died, without showing them who!” they must have said together in a RedBull-addled fever. “We’ll let the speculation drag on for months, as the real brain-dead walkers of America – our faithful viewers – talk about nothing but our gimmicky ratings ploy. Then when we finally kill this fan favorite character off – for no real reason related to the story – the ratings will be HUGE!”
And the story will be insignificant.