The Walking Dead is one of the most popular comics around at present that doesn’t come from the Marvel or DC stable. It also helped re-establish Image Comics as an indie publisher with a lot of modern clout, and one that’s bent on carving out original stories or unique takes on existing geek tropes. When AMC decided to take the chance on the zombie-infested universe that Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Tony Moore created, fans were highly skeptical, but so far, it’s been an adaptation that’s managed to remain alive and kicking to its eighth season.
That said, the television show has deviated a lot from the books in order to properly fit the medium, as will always be the case with any comic book property to be translated. Some changes have been really solid but others have missed the mark big-time. Kirkman knew the risk going in and as executive producer, he’s still heavily involved, which makes it a bit shocking how the series manages to lose steam at times in terms of plot, pacing and character depiction on the whole. Keeping that in mind, CBR decided to dissect the show and look at what it does terribly wrong compared to the comics.
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead comics and television show.
15. THE ZOMBIES
The zombies in the show aren’t scary or intimidating at all! They’re supposed to bring a degree of horror and fright with them but honestly, they’re so lethargic and slow that any suspense you’d like to see always ends up falling flat. The series would be so much more exciting if the zombies were like packs of rabid dogs, as seen in Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead.
Instead, the zombies here are so easy to kill and, apart from cool designs, they’re pretty bland. As a result, the show lacks intensity, with zombie-hunts actually feeling boring at times. If the undead were more vicious, we’d have a sense of urgency in this apocalyptic world similar to the bloodthirsty vampires in the 30 Days of Night film.
14. THE VILLAINS
Every time we come across a villain in the show, they feel oddly familiar to what came before. We get it, people will be selfish, bitter and deadly to get what they want to survive, but honestly, a little differentiation would be appreciated. The Governor and Negan, for example, feel the same in the show, yet in the books, they came off differently. The former was ruthless but cerebral, while Negan was just chaotic.
In the show, though, both are cut from the same delusional cloth, giving the same kind of maniacal dictator. Even the groups such as Oceanside, the Saviors and the cannibalistic Wolves give off a one-dimensional survivalist vibe. Hopefully, the show does the Whisperers as hauntingly as the book did to freshen things up and make sure the villainous terrain avoids further mediocrity.
13. THE TONE
The show’s tone is so inconsistent that you can’t help but feel frustrated. At times, it feels like a soap opera, then at others it tries hard to be an action-driven series. When it’s not attempting to do both, it then tries to give you horror and gore. There’s no problem in attempting all these themes but a balance must be struck or else the show will just fluctuate and end up all over the place.
This has happened so many times and throws off the pacing of episodes. In fact, the show is currently experiencing its lowest ratings ever and weak attempts at finding a steady tone have a lot to do with that. The tone of the comic has always been consistent so hopefully the show undergoes course correction soon.
12. THE ISOLATED WORLD
One of the biggest flaws in the show is that it feels too isolated. Making the world that Rick Grimes and everyone else is living in so confined is something that should have been changed for television because such an expansive setting would help convey what’s wrong with the world even more, allowing us to see, hear and feel the angst poisoning the globe on a whole different level.
Instead, things at the moment are small-scale and limited. Keeping the show boxed in like this and not letting fans know how the rest of America and the world in general have been affected by the outbreak also feels stifling. Fear The Walking Dead actually does this right, allowing people from different geographic locations to interact, truly building, not just a world, but a universe.
11. THE CINEMATIC FLAIR
Over the course of eight seasons thus far, what also stands out is that TWD really lacks cinematic flair. We’re not asking it to be the HBO epic Game of Thrones but it has to go big or go home. TWD lacks ambition and spectacle, looking so much like network television. AMC needs to put more budget in because the overall production and the special effects all feel cheap. Showtime’s Penny Dreadful is another example of cinematic storytelling that this show should be following.
A production which lacks budget is something you can’t hide, as seen with Marvel’s Inhumans, leading to the show looking visually weak. TWD has potential but apart from a few scenes with Ezekiel’s tiger, Shiva, it isn’t being maximized. It ought to be cinematic and setting the bar for both zombie shows and films.
10. CHARACTER BACKSTORY
Great shows are built on great plots and amazing characters. Their backstories and how they evolve really contribute to a show’s success. TWD, however, fails to give a sense of who its characters were before the outbreak and makes it difficult to understand their growth. Apart from Shane, Lori, and Rick, we haven’t seen too many characters’ backgrounds to really grasp their journey.
This creates disconnects in characters’ narratives and can lead to the audience not feeling emotionally attached to them, especially when they die. Life before the outbreak informs why people act the way they do in its aftermath and is essential in really painting the bigger picture, whether it be for villains like the Governor or new faces like Morgan. Hopefully, they do the tragic Negan backstory (with him losing his family) justice.
In the comics, Rick took over Alexandria and became more diplomatic as opposed to 100% aggressive. We saw Maggie take over at Hilltop, while Rick’s camp itself elevated the likes of Michonne, Andrea and Jesus to help protect the people. The show, though, has way more leading personalities but sadly, it doesn’t utilize them well and sells itself short.
Maggie hasn’t really been molded into a leader making it confusing as to why Hilltop would want her. Daryl, Morgan, Carol and Jesus are also among the others that have shown leadership potential but for some reason, the writers just want to focus on Rick. Why not share the leadership role around? We’ve seen him in this position for so long and it’s gotten repetitive. The show seems scared to elevate other characters for some reason.
8. LGBTQ CHARACTERS
The show hasn’t handled LGBTQ characters as well as the books. On the television show, the writers take such a novelty approach to homosexuality and you actually feel like they’re plugging in such relationships because they have to meet a quota of some sort. The series, for some reason, doesn’t allow such relationships to flourish like the straight ones do in the air-time given.
Tara and Denise is an example of this, and seeing Tara handle Denise’s death at Dwight’s hands off-screen really felt like a disservice. We’re yet to really get into Jesus’ sexuality and if Eric and Aaron’s relationship is an indicator, don’t expect too much. Their relationship also feels tacked on, although the homophobia seen in Alexandria towards them does add a dose of much-needed reality to the situation.
When romance is charted in the books, it’s organic and feels natural, but in the show, there are quite a few cases where it feels forced. Rick and Michonne is a prime example. Their relationship came out of the blue and felt very rushed. There wasn’t much chemistry, especially because just one season before, Rick was interested in Alexandria’s Julie. The lack of chemistry is also apparent with Carol and Ezekiel, and with Abraham, Sasha and Rosita.
These all feel chucked in for the sake of having love in the time of the apocalypse. The show did this right with Glenn and Maggie because it took time to develop their courting and eventual union. Romance requires depth to be told properly and most of the time, TWD fails to flesh this out.
In Season 1, we really didn’t need the science of things to be explained when Team Rick headed to the CDC. This felt like a move that dumbed down the audience. The show could have had the team find out about the infection through Shane’s reanimation alone, and then investigate the process of other dead persons changing on their own without being bitten, like the comics depicted.
Taking away science and having the team discover this through natural means shows a degree of intelligence in a primitive era, which would certainly have been unexpected by the non-comic audience. Also, this would have kept an air of mystery to the infection. Instead, the series wanted to tell more than show and it felt like one explanation too many.
The show really has lost its art of subtle storytelling because quite a few themes get telegraphed very often. The theme of betrayal is a prime example, and apart from being so predictable, it’s done to death! The series loves to use this plot device over and over. It’s mind-blowing how repetitive it gets, from the Governor’s people, the Scavengers, and even Pastor Gabriel in his first arc, all betraying Rick’s people.
The writers try way too hard to shock you with the “our friend is really an enemy” twists and these also end up feeling forced. Also, such storytelling lacks impact. We get it, in a zombie apocalypse, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, but that doesn’t mean that betrayal lingers at every turn. TWD harps on this season after season and it ends up being unoriginal.
4. CHARACTER INTELLIGENCE
This show legit has some of the dumbest character decisions in the history of television. Rosita asking Eugene to make one bullet to kill Negan, Daryl acting up and infuriating Negan causing him to beat Glenn to death and Gabriel trying to save the villainous Gregory only to end up in a bus with Negan are just some of the moments that leaves us wondering how did these people survive such dire circumstances.
We know that there’s a need for drama and tension but these characters make such rookie mistakes, when there are a plethora of better options available and obvious. Seriously, we don’t need everyone to be a genius. We’d just like them to use common sense every now and again. Maybe the pool being shallow on smart characters is why Rick isn’t too keen on officially crowning more leaders.
3. ACTION & FIGHT SEQUENCES
The fight scenes have always been average on this series. Apart from Rick going up against the Governor or the few scenes where Morgan uses his staff, there’s no real intensity. This is a shock because AMC has already done brilliant fight sequences with its kung-fu western Into The Badlands, so maybe Kirkman and company should be employing those choreographers.
As for the action spectacles, they too have been lacking. We got a glimpse of how epic things could be when the Governor brought a tank to take Rick’s camp out at the prison but other than that, it’s all been yawn-inducing. This disappointment can be summed up in the Season 7 finale where Hilltop and Ezekiel’s Kingdom joined Alexandria to fight off Negan’s people. The gunfight was poorly executed and felt vastly underwhelming.
Once Hershel was killed by the Governor, the show lost its sense of family. The writers tried to recapture this with Alexandria later on, but for some reason every family Rick tried to build since just felt like a militia with people as soldiers and tools. We understand that things need to be more aggressive with folks ready to declare war on them but you can’t afford to lose your heart and soul.
Family is what the series is based on. When we saw Rick romping with Michonne last year, it was clear Alexandria was merely a base, not a home. It’s no wonder that fans are less invested because a bunch of people who are not a family simply delaying the apocalypse isn’t a concept that deserves high traction. Maybe this’ll change with Judith and baby Hershel growing up.
For someone who Kirkman kept alive despite killing off in the book, the series has shown no growth with Carol. She moved from a sweetheart and survivor in Season 1 to someone who lost a lot and turned into a stone-cold killer. Yet the show constantly has her carrying out questionable decisions, then shaping her as a leader, before making her a murderous outsider once again. They then rope her back in as a hero, before rinsing and repeating in a vicious cycle.
It’s like they can’t decide what to do with her. Is she an anti-hero or not? Her arcs oscillate so much and get either very annoying or frustrating. In the books, she was slightly less complex, being more free with her proclivities, but even when she killed herself, we understood the character. This isn’t the case in the show.
Let us know in the comments below what The Walking Dead does terribly wrong for you!
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