I should disclose, first off, that I haven’t actually seen all of the episodes that precede Walking Dead’s season 3 premiere. I stopped watching after the first episode of season 2, at which point we (the viewers) had entered the 7th hour of storytelling with nothing more creative to offer than yet another scenario wherein the protagonists found themselves the terror-stricken victims of a broken-down RV in the middle of American Zombie Country.
Season 1, I had felt, promptly plummeted in entertainment value after the first couple of episodes, and completely lost its ability to absorb me into its narrative environs when incoherent story-telling served to break the spell. I felt insulted, as a viewer, when somewhere in that original season, the ragged crew of Zombie Apocalypse-surviving protagonists exited their broken-down RV only to enter it again and drive off — as though the script-writers simply forgot it had been broken down to begin with — after a prolonged intervening scene in which they abandon a fellow traveler in the woods to meet his impending death.
Given my assessment of the ultimate quality (or lack thereof) of season 1’s screenwriting, I was somewhat moved to side with showrunner Frank Darabont when it was announced, even before the whole of season 1 had been aired, that he had fired the entire writing staff in anticipation of season 2. However, AMC would later fire Darabont himself, for reasons that are still unclear, while it would be revealed in the bitter aftermath that the network had asked — in all-too-typical and predictable a ploy to trade quality for profits — that the showrunner film significantly more episodes with a significantly decreased budget. According to Screenrant.com, “Instead of long, sprawling outdoor scenes, the network wanted the second season of The Walking Dead to occur 50% outdoors and 50% indoors (indoors being cheaper to film). Another note asked whether or not the audience had to always see the zombies – couldn’t they simply hear them sometimes.”
The first episode of season 2 began with an embarrassingly poorly written, and horribly delivered monologue spoken by lead actor Andrew Lincoln into a radio, which may or may not be transmitting to a friend he had encountered earlier in season 1. “We met a man… a scientist… and he said… well, nevermind what he said…”
Soon, of course, the RV was broken down again, but the tension of the descending zombie hoard was undermined by the fact that I found myself rather unsympathetic to the 2-dimensional, and simply unlikable, characters for whom the undead hungered. In fairness, though, it would be difficult to maintain any tension — even with the best of screenwriters and actors — when the show was aired on AMC, which never failed to insert copious amounts of advertising at each opportune — and even inopportune — moment. Clearly, the only way to watch an AMC show is not on AMC when it airs, but either on DVD or by streaming some time thereafter.
As it would happen, I never got around to watching the rest of season 2, and I didn’t even finish watching the whole of episode 1 of season 2. As though to highlight his less-than-masterful acting skills, somebody saw fit to give Andrew Lincoln another monologue, this time in a church, directed toward an icon of Jesus, rife with cliche (some typical drivel in which he recognizes he hasn’t been the most devout believer, however…).
With the best of intentions, and attempting to maintain an open mind, I switched on the premiere episode of season 3, immediately gaining the impression that I had not missed much in skipping almost all of the previous season. It was soon revealed that main protagonist, Rick, had killed his friend Shane in some previous episode, but this failed to elicit my curiosity. The problem of the flat, poorly played, 2-dimensional characters is insurmountable, I have come to accept. Season 3 begins with some nice, tense zombie-slaying action that is inevitably interrupted by the over-dramatized interactions of the human players.
Finding a prison, the survivors decide that the facility may be their best bet for establishing a secure fortress, fortified against the zombie threat. They set about severing and spearing the heads of the undead mob within eventually securing a cell block of their own. Then, of course, it’s back to those over-dramatized interactions… and a barrage of commercials and asinine interludes. Again, I completely lost interest in the show before half of it was over, and failed to make it all the way through.
I am completely at a loss to explain the success of The Walking Dead. I understand the appeal of the survivalist fantasy, have a deep appreciation for the horror genre, and even love hideous low-budget (yet highly entertaining) b-grade films from the drive-in era. How unlikely it seems that I am entirely put to sleep by this Zombie Apocalypse epic while most of the rest of the viewing public seems to be enraptured by it. (My viewing partner was also unimpressed with the show, however, only remarking that “The kid’s name in this show is Carl, and that’s retarded.”) Perhaps I’ll try it again one last time, but certainly when I can watch it on my own terms, not held to the jarring interjections of AMC and its advertisers.
Walking Dead, I feel, could be greatly improved if trimmed down to only those scenes with zombies in them. In parsing out the simpleton human characters in favor of the impressively theatrically decayed undead, the viewer would be left with the only performances this show provides worth seeing.