Ever since catching that first episode on Halloween night in 2010 I and many of my family members have been die hard fans of The Walking Dead. I loved the fact that a show about zombies was the number one show on TV, I was invested in the characters and I loved looking forward to seeing it every Sunday night as a way to close out the weekend, Hell, I even enjoyed watching Talking Dead as well. I could write an awful lot about all the good things the Walking Dead has done as a show over the years, and in my opinion there has been a lot. However that is not what this article is about, this article is about how in the span of two seasons the show has become a shell of it’s former self. With this latest bit of  shocking but not really surprising news that Andrew Lincoln is leaving the show it seems as if the end is near. 

Where did it all go wrong? Well over it’s 8 seasons there have been various moments that kind of made you scratch your head or roll your eyes, it has never been a perfect show, but it was almost always at least compelling and the characters were the draw. I was always interested to see what Rick, Glenn, Michonne, Daryl, and Carol were up to and see how they would tackle any adversary at any given time. This worked pretty damn well through 5 seasons. Season 5 may have been my favorite if I recall correctly as that is the one where the group was on the road the most and at their most desperate. I didn’t start reading the comics till the beginning of season 6 and I caught up rather fast, I thought the comics were very entertaining but I felt that the show handled the majority of the characters better aside from a few like Andrea who is really just a shell of her comic self and comes of completely unlikable. Still through things like the Governor having major plot armor and Andrea being annoying, we still were excited to root for the heroes of the show.

When it became clear the show was about to introduce arguably the comics most popular character in Negan, I was giddy with anticipation for how it would all play out, little by little they teased his arrival throughout season 6 and it had for my money some of the best episodes in the series like “Not Tomorrow Yet” featuring the raid on the Satellite compound. The build up to Negan’s introduction was ominous and nerve wracking particularly because I knew what happened in the comics when he finally shows up, and I was so stressed for a while thinking about who may or may not end up meeting Lucille first hand. Especially since in the books it happened to be my favorite character in the show who meets his end. The buzz and hype around the season 6 finale was probably the highest it has ever been for the show. “Who is going to die?” was all everyone was worried about, I still remember watching that episode which although it set up the infamous Negan lineup scene differently, it did an excellent job of building tension and suspense. People were texting me bascially saying “holy shit this is crazy” and “Im stressed” and other similar reactions. They were doing it, they somehow built up to this moment perfectly and once Negan finally stepped out of that trailer and our group of survivors is on their knees, all bets were off and anyone was fair game. I smiled and kept saying “oh shit, oh shit!” as Jeffrey Dean Morgan spouted Negan’s words from the comics line for line and was anxious and scared that we may lose one of our favorite characters….Then that now famous season ending controversial cliffhanger happened and everything changed.

Non-comic readers I spoke to seemed to be okay with this as they didn’t know what should or shouldn’t be coming. I understood that perspective but I also realized that what the showrunners and writers had done was probably a huge mistake. All that tension amounted to no real payoff or release so to speak. Here were were at the end of April and would have to wonder an entire summer just who was on the receiving end of Negan’s bludgeoning. There were two big problems from my point of view with this. The first for me was, I knew this issue this episode was based on like the back of my hand and I know that that particular issue has THE PERFECT stopping point for season finale. The problem was they stopped about 20 minute short of that ending. So for me a comic reader it was a missed opportunity, a huge one. The comic story that this episode is based on continues on in the issue and shows us Glenn’s brutal and shocking death, and shows how Negan uses it to impose his will onto Rick and Co. getting them to agree to his demands before leaving them in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night to process what just happened, the final lines of the comic are Negan saying “We’ll come for your first offering in one week. Until Then…Ta Ta” and ends with an overhead view of the group sitting in shock around whats left of Glenn’s body. THAT would have been a powerful and impactful ending to the season moreso than leaving the audience with no sense of relief on who died. Everyone was more pissed than anything and this goes back to the SECOND problem with this way of playing it out in a cliffhanger…by the time the show returned, all that insane tension they built up over the season and finale was gone, at this point, a summer has passed and people had moved onto other shows other things and the mystery of who was dead had to be built up all over again in the season 7 premiere. Then it turns out Negan whacked TWO of our heroes in Abraham and Glenn and while I hated to see either go, it was a real disservice to both because Glenn’s death overshadowed poor Abraham’s. I will say I am glad they stuck closely to the comics when it came time for Glenn to go, because in the comics it is pretty horrifying and supposed to be and they definitely translated that feeling to screen, but still this was done well enough even with the extra fakeout Abraham death but it was from here on out where the Walking Dead I loved started to disappear.

In Season 7 we began the awful trend of everyone being split up and placed into bottle episodes. The BIGGEST issue I had with this format was we had just been put through the ringer with Glenn and Abe’s deaths but we see very little of the blowback and reactions to this right off the bat (pun intended) The next episode introduces the Kingdom and Ezekiel, we have zero follow up with any of the characters in the lineup, no reactions to what they just experienced which further removes us from any emotional connection to the deaths that in the comics to this day are still part of the biggest moment. The next episode again just shows us Daryl, now kidnapped by the Saviors stuck in a cell. We again get very little reaction to Glenn’s death aside from a small moment when he is shown the polaroid of Glenn’s dead body, that scene was decent, but oh look here is the 3rd episode of the season and we don’t get much talk about Glenn or Abe, it’s not until the FOURTH episode of the season that we get to see how Maggie and Sasha are doing after their respective significant other’s murders. and to be honest I didn’t get enough of the emotion out of these characters after this tragic event that I would have expected or wanted to see. I felt like I was more upset that Glenn was gone than anyone else in the show. This season continued on with these bottle episodes for a while keeping our group separated and wasting time introducing new characters and factions that aren’t in the comics and eat up screen time from our main characters. Nobody cared about the show only Garbage people, nobody asked for this dumb side story about the Oceanside colony that literally amounted to nothing meaningful. All it did was amount to filler. Which is a big problem because the books at this point are in the middle of what is probably their most acclaimed run and here I was (along with every other comic reader) all excited to see it unfold on screen and they absolutely butchered it. In the comics this stuff is not as dragged out as the show played it out to be, it moves along at a swift pace. Completely just took the blueprint that is easily adaptable and made it into a convoluted and confusing mess. Filler and more filler is what much of season 7 felt like. From the production values to the staging of all the action scenes, it was a mess and pleeeeeeeeeease don’t get me started on that goddamn deer, you know the one.

So with Season 7 out of the way, I had hoped season 8 would pick up the pace and adapt the comics “All Out War” arc much better than they adapted the previous story arc “What Comes After” . Well they pick up the pace a little for sure in a sense that this season had more action, but unfortunately as I previously mentioned the staging of that action was mind numbingly poor. Action scenes between many B grade Alexandrians and Nameless Saviors play out with no sense of urgency and location, and both sides waste an extraordinary amount of bullets, which is a precious commodity in the apocalypse. Characters are written so poorly in this season that you kind of started to hate everyone for being either so dumb or so inept, look we know you can’t kill Negan off in the first episode of the season but at least take some pride in your writing and stage it properly so it doesn’t make Rick and co look like complete idiots and the worst shots ever when they don’t blow Negan away when is right in front of their faces. Provide us with some circumstances that at least provide us with suspension of disbelief. I don’t even want to talk about Rick wasting ammo shooting machine guns wildly at an unarmed Negan and missing completely everytime. the show was riddled with problems this season that really just took me out of it. It became one of those things where every episode I found myself wondering where was the common sense in the writers room, where was the ONE person who was directing that could/should say “Hey guys, this doesn’t make any sense, can we do a bit better?” I know there isn’t an answer for that, I know Showrunner Scott Gimple caught a lot of heat for that Cliffhanger, and he deserves the heat for everything else that was poorly handled on this show, which was everything. Oh and depending on the episode you didn’t know which Morgan, Carol or Rick you were getting, the pacifists or the psycho murderer versions. It became a ridiculous flip flop of character arcs and beats we have already been through. I can’t tell you how many episodes involved characters nobody cares about shooting at other characters nobody has ever seen. The show now felt cheap, the cinematography was ugly, the Kingdom? Jesus? They just did not work the way they were portrayed here. Maggie who has been pregnant for 3 seasons now (and became very unlikable in the process) still wasn’t showing, which leads us to believe that this all is taking place over a couple days or weeks, but the issue there is its been years for us and the show didn’t think we the audience would benefit from some kind of time frame marker, a simple “Day 12” or something would have gone a long way to making this thing feel a bit less dragged out than it did.

As I am typing this I realize alot of it is just bitching, but this was a show I loved and it was filled with characters I rooted for, Not too long ago in season 6. Now the show was a chore to watch, the characters I had grown to enjoy were barely recognizable, the sets, the setups, the visuals were all sub par…then they decided to kill Carl….

This decision was the true beginning of the end,  anyone that reads the comics knows how important Carl is to the narrative, and by deciding to kill him off for what most people believe to be money issues as he was about to turn 18 and would be owed an adult sized pay hike, Scott Gimple claimed it was done so Rick wouldn’t kill Negan. Which I call bullshit on, because this pacifist, all life is precious shtick was clearly Morgan’s claim to fame, for gods sake he built the jail cell so they wouldn’t have to kill anymore people, but of course as I mentioned the flip flopped his beliefs more times than I can count, and instead of Morgan dying as he should have and having Rick honor his belief by sparing Negan and putting him in that cell, we get Carl bitten in the dumbest way and dying meaninglessly all to drive home some forced change of philosophy. It all played out so much better in the comics and it goes back to that age old issue of people trying to put a lesser quality spin on things just to make their mark on it, it sucked and you robbed the show of it’s biggest selling point, the relationship between Rick and Carl and their hope for the future. I am sure they will argue oh but Judith is the future, no she is not because no one really cares about Judith and this show will likely be cancelled before she can even speak. They killed Carl and robbed the audience of all the great Negan and Carl interactions while Negan is imprisoned. They ruined a big piece of what would have been their next big arc which I won’t ruin here in case they go that route in the show, but Carl was a huge part of that. They also may have very well pissed off Andrew Lincoln by taking away Ricks biggest motivation, his son. So here were are, about to lose the other character that could have kept this show afloat.

Andrew Lincoln is a fantastic and underrated actor. He held this show together through all the lesser quality episodes, simply by giving his all to the role. There was nothing better than badass Rick kicking ass, whether it was killing off the cannibal’s from Terminus with that red machete, or ripping that one creeps throat out with his teeth. He was also always the main emotional core of the show and he truly gave it his all, after season 7 and 8, I really began to feel like this guy deserved better (they all do really, except for Tara..why is she still alive?) and deserved to be on a bigger and better stage. I was happy to see Michonne actress Danai Gurira strike gold by starring and stealing scenes in Black Panther and then Infinity War because she is truly great and it shows in those films that she is a star, especially when not muddled down in a show that is just spinning its wheels not knowing what to do with itself. I want the same for Andrew Lincoln. he deserves to move onto a project whether it’s a film or a show that will have the same quality and care put into it that he puts into his acting. His decision to leave comes after the announcement that Maggie will only be in handful of episodes in season 9 as well. I am okay with this because her character became kind of unbearable at times and as much as I love Lauren Cohen, her accent was getting a bit too all over the place for my taste and that cheesy bond villain end scene of her behind the desk during the season 8 finale was just eye roll inducing. But Lincoln leaving the show is something you just do not recover from, the story going forward is ruined, they could possibly come up with something interesting, sure, its always possible, but the Walking Dead that I loved and looked forward to seeing translated to live action is done for. No one left on the show has the charisma to be the lead, not Daryl who they slowly turned into a grunting simpleton, not Carol who has no clue what she wants to do, Not Michonne who also will not work as well without Carl and  Rick. OH AND NOT Glenn who’s hamburger helper at this point. None of them. I don’t know what the real reason is that lead to Lincoln leaving the show, I imagine it’s a combination of things, perhaps he wants to try something new, can’t fault him for that, perhaps he was pissed off by the handling of Chandler Riggs situation. Maybe he too felt by taking Carl out of the equation that Rick’s arc isn’t as compelling anymore, or perhaps he secretly feels like many of the fans do at this point, that the show is going down in quality and better to jump ship now and start something new.

I guess this all probably sounds like one big rant and that is absolutely what it is, I really could have gone into so much depth into how poorly these past two seasons were handled, but I think I have summed it up for the most part. The Walking Dead was something special for me for a while, I used to love watching it, used to love calling my family members and friends who watched it after or the next day to discuss it. In recent seasons we didn’t get much joy out of that as some stopped watching altogether and others felt like I did. It really was just such a cool show and the characters were what made it that. Somewhere during producing season 6 their formula and ideals changed and for whatever reason, they decided to do things differently, more cheaply, less…good? It is strange because any fan will remember the huge buzz and excitement leading into that season 6 finale, the show was probably at it’s most popular ever that night, and after the episode ended it would never be the same again, but sadly for the worse. It is a shame that the point in the comics that is looked upon as the best in it’s run, filled with dread, emotion and action and sparked all kinds of interest and readership and fandoms had the exact opposite effect on the show and it’s fans. I don’t write this article to be a hater, I write this article because I am genuinely upset by how poorly everything has been handled for something I really enjoyed. Scott Gimple and whomever else responsible for Season 7 and 8 are to blame for killing this show after season 7’s premiere and reanimating it’s corpse. For these these last two seasons the show much like the walkers that inhabit it’s world has been limping along as it deteriorates and rots right before our eyes, I guess in someway that is fitting for a show about zombies, but still a sad sight to see.

 

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