THE WALKING DEAD is back. It’s back and I am glad, I am glad but I am also bummed as it’s still the same show it was when it left last year. It’s the exact same show with no change in sight. Some might be pleased by this. I am not one of those people. I’ve been hoping for change for some time and based on this week’s evidence that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But that’s not to say ‘No Way Out’ was a bad episode of television, it was not. It wasn’t great however, and there lies the plight of THE WALKING DEAD. It is a once great show, now turned mediocre.
With episode nine of this, the sixth season, ‘No Way Out’ picked things picked up straight where they left off before the mid season break. Rick and co over run by zombies, trying desperately to survive, and Daryl, Abraham and Sasha, held up by Negan’s biker gang. Not having read the comics, I don’t know much about Negan, apart from that he’s supposed to be a savage. This information was enough to provide a small sense of dread for Daryl and friends but then I remembered that this was TWD and the chances of anything too horrible happening here were unlikely. But before I could roll my eyes at the empty threats made, Daryl blew them all up with a rocket. I was sufficed.
I know what I want with TWD. I know what I want for this show — in my eyes — to work again. I WANT CARNAGE. And not because I need violence to enjoy an episode but because what this show so desperately needs is for some fat to be trimmed, for heads to roll, and some of the passengers to be left behind. There are too many characters in TWD, too many that were either once interesting and not anymore, or never interesting at all. The show needs shaking up. It needs to learn how to make the brave decisions. It’s not enough having three good episodes and then five of filler. GAME OF THRONES deals with this very situation itself, it gets rid of the big characters before you get sick of them. That’s what keeps it fresh and unpredictable. The exact opposite approached from TWD delivers to us the exact opposite outcome. Characters become stale, dull and by the time they ever get around to dying, we’re glad to see them gone, or at the very least indifferent to their passing. This is not the way it should be. This is not the same show that killed off Shane (*weeps forever*) all those seasons ago.
I had honestly forgotten a lot of the plot details from part one of this season. Mostly because none of it really mattered. It didn’t force me to care enough past the first few episodes — which were pretty darn excellent. I didn’t even remember the beats I didn’t like, the plot elements that were tiresome. I only remembered apathy. As the episode wore on, and the old threads came back, re-introducing themselves, I started to remember. I remembered that feeling of wanting to bang my head against the wall because hearing the same character moments played out again and again is not good TV — made even more frustrating with the memories of how consistently good it used to be. There is so much crap in this show that it’s actually unbelievable. I mean, who cares about half of this? Seriously, there are like ten characters that you could just cut and the show would be twice as good. A great example being Morgan’s escaped Wolf and the doctor lady. Such a mind numbing series of exchanges that I couldn’t help but hope Daryl would turn up with another rocket and take both of them out, saving us all. Perhaps that’s what this show needs; a crusader, a Don Quixote like character, that instead of being on a mission to civilise, just takes out anyone superfluous and/or who has out stayed their welcome.
It wasn’t a great start to the episode. Things were shaping up pretty badly, they really were. There was nothing of interest being presented. Nothing new. Nothing learned. That was until around the twenty minute mark, when things seemed to change. Something happened. After twenty minutes, I felt like rejoicing, a switch had been flipped. In my head, the words of Bane rang out, “YESSS, BROTHER!!”As Rick led his party, covered in Walker guts, hand in hand, trying to weave through the horde, things got messy. One after another, the heads started to roll and for a while it was glorious. The first casualty was Jess’ annoying son Sam, he got it in the neck — gods were thanked by all in attendance. Yes, it was a character no one cared about, but least it was something. Jess herself was next, ripped apart in front of us, and I was actually kind of sad to see her go, she was one of the more likeable people the show tried to introduce in recent times, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
Then it was the turn of her other son, completing the devastation of Rick’s adopted family, as whats-his-face got sworded through the heart by Michonne, saving Rick who was singled out for blame for what had transpired. It was all pretty excellent. Ideally I would have picked more meaningful deaths but this was certainly something. And then… CARL. Oh yes indeed. It couldn’t be…. could it? The worst character in the show… dead? No? They wouldn’t… would they? No… it turns out they wouldn’t. My glee quashed in double quick time, Carl was still alive, a bullet in the eye, but still alive. My dreams were ruined and the false dawn promised forgotten as quickly as it arrived. It was a sad time indeed. Little boy Grimes was of course patched up, providing Rick the time and the incentive to channel his inner Tyreese and take it to the horde, inspiring all the previous non-interventionists of the town to rally to his cause and fight back the walkers. It worked, everyone came together, proving to Rick and to us that they had what it takes to survive in this world. The battle wrapped up after Daryl set fire to the stream with another rocket blast, providing a pretty spectacular visual of the zombies walking into the flames. It was great stuff, as was the montage of everyone slashing at the zombies with a black backdrop. That was pretty cool.
These cool moments, these false dawns/almost dawns are fine, but it’s not enough. THE WALKING DEAD needs something so game changing that it never feels the same again. Something that shakes the shows very foundations. Something not everyone is sure they like. You have to risk turning people off to get them to keep turning on. In the end, ‘No Way Out’ started off dreadful, got worse, and then gave me hope. Deaths came, but not the ones I wanted, not the ones the show needed. Carl survived — the worst case scenario, and Glenn faked us out again with a death tease (there are only so many times you can cry wolf). Then things picked up at the end with the massacre. But, again, it’s not enough. It’s not enough to have ONE excellent episode, a fantastic fifteen minutes. It’s not enough. This show can be more than that. It used to be more than that. Unfortunately, they just aren’t brave enough. They don’t want it enough. My worst fear is that TWD turns into TRUE BLOOD. That shows decline was impossibly rapid and TWD has avoided that kind of descent into awfulness, but the slide is there, the slide is happening, and I don’t like to see it. I’ve put too much time into this to just stop watching, so I’ll soldier on, hoping for better. I just hope they hear my cries. I want to love this show again. I am fed up of loving one episode and being indifferent to the subsequent four. I WANT CARNAGE.