Based on the comic book series of the same name, “The Walking Dead” TV series was a huge hit when it premiered back in 2010 but after seven years on the air viewership has begun to fall and many fans are finding themselves asking whether they should stay loyal to what used to be one of their favorite shows and hope that it finds its way again or choose to watch something else entirely.
While there is much to like about “The Walking Dead” such as its expanding post-apocalyptic world and unique characters like Michonne and Daryl, there are also plenty of faults that are not only preventing the show from reaching its full potential, but are also decreasing the show’s overall enjoyment significantly. Here are the 15 biggest problems with “The Walking Dead” that need to be fixed before it’s too late.
WARNING: This article may contain spoilers for “The Walking Dead.”
15. WHAT CAUSED THE OUTBREAK?
When “The Walking Dead” first started, there was a certain level of novelty to the fact that the show (like the comic book from which it was based) would deliberately not explore the cause of the zombie outbreak and instead would focus on a group of humans forced to survive in this new world order. That idea was cool and interesting at first but after seven seasons, the concept has worn out its welcome and has proven to be more of a handicap than a benefit.
In a way, “The Walking Dead” is the Seinfeld of dramas. It’s a zombie show about nothing. Unlike Seinfeld though, whose writers realized early on that audiences needed some semblance of a plot to keep them engaged, the writers on “The Walking Dead” have dug in their heels and have refused to evolve the show beyond its original concept. This needs to change and soon. Season One gave fans some hints during its final two episodes set within a C.D.C. building and there must be more medical facilities out there that were studying the outbreak and made some progress. Viewers deserve closure or at least an attempt at closure.
14. FIND A CURE
Much like the need to reveal what caused the zombie outbreak, “The Walking Dead” also needs to explore a proper search for a cure for both a zombie bite and a potential immunization for people to prevent them from turning into zombies after they die. The characters don’t even necessarily have to succeed in their search, it would honestly be rewarding enough at this point to witness more individuals beginning discussions with each other about beginning research and even showing some experiments.
Eugene may have been a fake scientist, but there must be some genuine ones who are still alive in the world of “The Walking Dead” who Rick and his friends could stumble across and assist in their studies. A shift in storytelling like this would require a significant degree of divergence from the source material, but that could make the show much more interesting and unpredictable for everyone in a similar way to how “Game of Thrones” is now exploring a different path to that planned out for the novels.
13. FOCUS ON REAL SURVIVAL SKILLS
“The Walking Dead” has shown several characters hunting animals for food during its first seven seasons, but audiences have yet to really see some authentic survival skills in action, which is pretty strange considering how dependant most would think the characters should be on them by now. Sure, numerous characters have learned how to shoot a gun properly, but imagine how much more interesting the show could be if it started detailing how to actually prepare the animals, what parts not to eat, and even how to preserve the meat for use in the future.
This aspect of the zombie apocalypse is something that’s been majorly overlooked on “The Walking Dead,” and focusing on it could not only reinvigorate the storytelling, but would also serve as a reminder to the audience that society as we know it no longer exists. Admittedly, this could be hard to do due to all of the pre-apocalypse canned food currently available in the Alexandria storeroom, but that’s got to run out eventually and the characters will soon need to learn how to make their own food without relying on products from a bygone era.
12. REBUILD SOCIETY FOR REAL
One of the biggest criticisms of “The Walking Dead” has been its habit of pretty much telling the same story over and over again of the group finding a safe location, eventually being chased out by zombies or humans, and then having to settle somewhere else. Rinse, wash and repeat. Rick’s group appears to be settled in Alexandria for now, but viewers have been so conditioned by the previous disasters at the C.D.C., the farm and the prison that it’s pretty much impossible for it to feel like some sort of permanent solution.
“The Walking Dead” needs to break this cycle and stay in one location indefinitely and genuinely begin rebuilding society. There have been seven seasons of apocalypse survival and it’s grown tiresome. Now it’s time to take the series to the next level and begin dealing more with the importance of politics and social evolution on a more permanent basis than what has been done previously. Let’s see where humans as a species go next.
11. WALKING SKELETONS
As cool as zombies are, these undead monsters are no longer providing the same level of scare and sense of dread that they did back when “The Walking Dead” first started. All of the surviving characters have by now learned how to quickly and efficiently defeat not just solo walkers, but also entire groups and the action scenes feel more like people going through the motions rather than fighting for their lives.
A way to make the zombies feel fresh again would be to evolve them somehow. The show has already begun to show walkers that have begun to rot to such a degree that they’re almost skeletons, so it would be awesome to see the writers fully embrace this evolution of the undead. Of course, there are some logistics to deal with in regards to the rotting of the zombies’ brains, but that could be dealt with in a throwaway line stating that whatever activates the corpses after they die also preserves the brain somehow. It could work!
10. USE THE GAY CHARACTERS
Impressively, “The Walking Dead” currently has a total of four gay characters and this is quite remarkable for a show that isn’t solely marketed towards the LGBTQ+ demographic. Despite this positive representation though, the series hasn’t really done that much to explore these characters’ sexuality and one of them, Jesus, is only known to be gay by those who have read the comic.
It’s a difficult balancing act to play. On one hand it’s important not to define a character by their sexuality but on the other it’s also important not to ignore it. Even though Tara was given an entire episode dedicated to her own solo adventure in Season Seven, in regards to her reaction to the death of her girlfriend, Tara was dealt with almost entirely off-screen. The handling of Aaron and Eric’s relationship has also been quite strange, with Eric barely even appearing at all on “The Walking Dead” despite living under the same roof as his partner. If the creators can give audiences a whole episode on Rick and Michonne, they can do the same for Aaron and Eric too.
9. WHAT’S THE END GAME?
“The Walking Dead” is lacking a serious sense of direction right now and what’s worse is that it seems to be a deliberate choice by the show’s creators. The monotonous life of a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world holds a certain level of appeal, but the problem is that after a while, it ends up being just that; monotonous. Audiences need a sense of direction, a reason to keep watching and beyond the “Let’s kill Negan” mission in Season Seven, there’s not much else happening.
This lack of direction goes beyond the series’ overall storyline and is affecting almost all of the individual characters as well. None of the characters really have anything else going on besides the Negan plot and there are no relationship dramas, no side missions, really no subplots at all in play. What paths are the characters on besides simply surviving? What goals do they have? Beyond Maggie having her baby, none of the characters are giving viewers a reason to watch week after week and this is a big problem the show needs to deal with.
8. GIVE US THE SAM WITWER SPIN-OFF
Unknown to most casual viewers of “The Walking Dead” is the small cameo made by Sam Witwer during the first season of the show. The fan-favorite actor, who more recently voiced the character of Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Rebels,” played the zombie soldier in the tank that Rick takes refuge in during his visit to the city of Atlanta.
The original plan for Witwer’s character was for him to return in a special flashback episode or miniseries, but that never came to be due to creative changes that were made to the show during Season Two. The original idea still holds a lot of promise though, and it would be great to see the zombie outbreak happen from the point of view of the military, something that was only briefly touched upon in the spin-off series that did happen, “Fear The Walking Dead.” With a plot that directly ties into the first season of “The Walking Dead,” and an actor that many would love to see featured, flashing back to Witwer’s character could really invigorate the main series if given an episode to explore. In fact, more flashbacks in general would improve the show enormously.
7. PRE-BREAKOUT FLASHBACKS
With life on a zombie-infested Earth providing little opportunity for downtime, it can be hard for viewers of “The Walking Dead” to really identify with and get to know many of the main and supporting characters. Providing information on who a character was before the outbreak not only makes a character more relatable, but also helps define who they are now through comparison with their past selves.
“The Walking Dead” has already had flashbacks for characters such as Lori and Michonne in previous seasons, but these were far too brief. It’s about time the show gave viewers an opportunity to really get to know the characters they’ve invested so much time into, and providing more flashbacks into who they were before the dead began walking would be the perfect way to do so. Who was the most different before the outbreak? Who was the same? Has anyone been lying about their previous life? It’s about time viewers got to find out.
6. AND BREAKOUT FLASHBACKS
While featuring more flashbacks to the pre-outbreak timeline would be a great way to explore many of the characters in “The Walking Dead,” another great way to show character development would be to have several episodes showing where the current cast of characters were at the time the outbreak first began to happen. Fans were offered a glimpse of the outbreak in “Fear The Walking Dead,” but the event was so gradual and limited that it would be next to impossible for another character’s point of view to not provide new information or insight.
Admittedly, it would be quite difficult to film a flashback sequence with Lori and Carl given how much Chandler Riggs (Carl’s actor) has grown since the filming of the pilot episode, but there’s a lot of potential in seeing the outbreak from other points of view such as from Hershel’s farm, Alexandria, and even Tyrese and Sasha in their neighbor’s doomsday shelter.
5. FASTER PACE/LESS ARTHOUSE
When “The Walking Dead” first started experimenting with more creative storytelling, it was pretty cool. The long shots, the scenes with extended silence, character hallucinations, and some smart use of country music all helped make “The Walking Dead” be seen as more than just a regular show about zombies. The problem though, is that due to the success of the earlier experimentations, the creators have become a bit too confident with their artistic filmmaking and the show has become too artistic for its own good.
The obvious example of this would be the Season Six finale which infamously forced viewers to sit through an hour of aimless driving and forced anticipation before having their patience rewarded with an ambiguous cliffhanger and a cringe-inducing first-person view from Negan’s first victim as he was beaten to death. Things didn’t improve in the following season where each episode became a standalone adventure featuring just one or two characters, killing the series’ momentum completely. “The Walking Dead” needs to return to more traditional filmmaking. Keep it simple. Unique doesn’t always mean better.
4. KILL RICK
Rick is one of the few characters who have been with “The Walking Dead” since the first season and many would rightly assume that he’s also been the main character and continues to be so. The problem with a show like “The Walking Dead” having a main character, though, is that it’s very hard to feel any sense of urgency when the character is in danger. As it stands right now, the show could maybe kill off Rick’s son, Carl… maybe… but it seems incredibly unlikely that Rick will be joining the undead anytime soon. This is why he needs to die.
“The Walking Dead” has become too safe in regards to its longtime characters, so the impact of losing Glenn was destroyed by odd pacing and directorial decisions, and the fact that the character had already had several death fake outs over the course of the last few seasons before he died for real. The audience needs to be shocked and the only way that’s going to happen at this stage in the game is if Rick bites the big one. Besides, with Rick out of the way, Michonne can finally become the leader the show is building her up to be.
3. GO GLOBAL
One of the best parts of the “Fear The Walking Dead” spinoff series is its exploration of the zombie outbreak in other parts of the United States and outside of its own borders, as seen with its focus on Mexico in its second season. These glimpses into how other peoples and cultures are reacting to the undead not staying, well, dead has proven to be one of the more intriguing parts of the series and this is something that the main show should begin tackling as well.
“The Walking Dead” could show glimpses of other cities in flashbacks or even, in a series first, cut away to show a group of other survivors located somewhere else. Other TV shows do this all of the time and there’s no reason this one can’t. Another way to show other parts of the world affected (or not affected) by the walker outbreak could be to have one special episode each season that’s set in another location with completely new characters. The new “Doctor Who” series has been doing something similar since its revival and those episodes often prove to be the most enjoyable and critically acclaimed.
2. GO IN-DEPTH WITH THE WALKERS
For a show that’s been on the air for seven years, “The Walking Dead” has done very little in regards to really exploring what makes the walkers tick. There’s been some interesting observations here and there, such as the walkers feeling some natural compulsion to herd and the possibility of them retaining some degree of their living memory, but the show never really seems to follow up on these breadcrumbs and it’s about time they did. Viewers need to know more!
The series has already featured several characters who have expressed an interest in studying the walkers, such as Edwin (the C.D.C. guy) in Season One and Milton in Season Three, and now “The Walking Dead” needs to introduce some more. There’s obviously a lot more to the walkers than knowing that a knife to the brain will kill them. If this is the new world order, everyone will need to understand every part of it and that includes knowing more about the zombies.
1. WRITE FOR TV AUDIENCES
One of the biggest problems with recent seasons of “The Walking Dead” has been an apparent shift towards writing for fans of the comic book series over casual TV viewers. Characters and events have been teased with Easter eggs for comic readers to spot while those who haven’t picked up the source material yet are left scratching their head, wondering what these seemingly random mentions or actions mean.
One example of this was the season-long introduction of Negan whose name was dropped repeatedly throughout Season Six. To readers of the comic book, this was a tease of a comic book character about to make his debut onscreen, but for casual viewers, this just proved confusing as the show was essentially telling the audience that Negan was a group of people before confusingly revealing that he was in fact an individual in the finale. “The Walking Dead” then made the full transition into fan service in that same episode by closing the season with a shot using cartoony blood dripping over the camera lens. It was cheesy, it was jarring, and it was not what viewers were expecting from a show that had previously been, for the most part, realistic.
Do you have any ideas on how to improve “The Walking Dead?” Let us know your suggestions in the comments below.