The Walking Dead: Zombie Plot Device
By Bert Ehrmann
March 26, 2012
I was, is and am a big proponent of the TV series The Walking Dead. I championed the show when it was first announced and couldn't believe that one of my favorite writer/directors Frank Darabont was the one who was heading up the series. And, after the stunning first season of The Walking Dead I became even more fanatical about the show and counted the days until the start of the second.
And even with the second season, after Darabont was unceremoniously dumped from the show and The Walking Dead shifted gears from instead focusing on a group of people on the run from a zombie apocalypse to instead a group of people holed-up on a farm trying to wait out said apocalypse I still was, and am, a fan of the show.
But I have to admit that I feel like after the start of the second half of the second season of the show I started liking The Walking Dead less and less with each viewing. And I'd have to guess the reason for this is because of that farm.
Quite honestly, I really dug the idea of the farm at first, a place for the group to catch their breath and come to terms with a world overrun and ruled by flesh eating zombies. And it made sense story wise that the group would stay at the farm with one of the members recovering from a gunshot wound and another missing.
I figured that with the characters being able to relax a bit on the farm that we'd get to learn more about them and maybe delve a bit deeper into exactly what was happening elsewhere in the country/world that we got a small taste of in the first season.
But this never really happened. When Carl recovered from his wound and the matter of missing Sophia was resolved the story of The Walking Dead ground to a halt. Without some outside drama coming along to move things forward much of the second season was focused on bickering characters and odd episodes about zombies stuck in the mud or trips into town or zombies stuck in the well.
Worst of all, many of the characters of The Walking Dead became odd intense versions of themselves. If in the first season character Rick was a good man, in the second he was a great man, a bright, shining pillar of his group. If Shane's motives were unclear and dark in the first, in the second he was downright evil. And so one and so on.
In most TV dramas, either the characters develop and change (like The Sopranos or Battlestar Galactica) or the story changes around the characters that mostly stay the same (like Star Trek or Burn Notice) and sometimes both (like The Wire). But with The Walking Dead, neither has really happened. Sure, the characters have been intensified, but I wouldn't call that any meaningful change. And since the group has been on the farm this whole season, the story hasn't had a chance to go anywhere either.
I'm also been less than satisfied with how the zombies are being used on the show this season compared to last. With the first season, the zombies were always around and were a regular threat. The characters of The Walking Dead would constantly run into them, and viewers were never sure what was going to happen around the next corner or in the next room.
Now, the zombies seem to be there for shock value and don't seem to act or behave in any consistent manner. The zombies seem to hide in dark places to reach out and grab unsuspecting victims to deliver "boo" scares. Sometimes the zombies can move fast, but sometimes can only hobble along. Sometimes they're so weak they get stuck in the mud and other times strong enough to literally rip apart characters with their bare hands.
In a way, that's been the theme this season; the zombies show up when necessary to push the story along and stay away when not needed. Just watch the last episode of the second season and tell me I'm wrong.
The zombies have gone from terror to now no more than a plot device.
I've described this season of The Walking Dead to my friends as the TV series Lost, but on an island. Now, I can hear you scream, "You tiny-brain toad! Lost was set on an island!" Which is true, but with Lost we spent as much time on the island with the characters as we did off in other locals and places via the use of flashbacks/forwards/sideways on the show learning about the characters. But with The Walking Dead the island is the farm and the characters almost never get off of it and the viewers spent an entire season there with them.
And with a revelation at the end of the second season of The Walking Dead I can't see this getting any better.
I'm not a person who demands that there be more zombie action or thinks that the horror element of The Walking Dead is too light. I just want, no need, something to happen in a TV series like The Walking Dead and I hate to admit that ultimately, the second season of the show feels like a giant waste.