***THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD SEASONS 1-6***
I planned all these blogs for Hellatus, and I haven’t penned a single one.
My book, Reclamation, has been taking up a lot of brain space. So, why don’t we blame it on my insistent characters and move on?
I’m sitting here though, on a Saturday afternoon, watching the second Sponge Bob movie with the kiddo, thinking about playoffs in a bit, and writing a few words on the book.
Here’s the thing about it. I cast people in my head to play my main characters. Actors, usually, although over time two of my side characters have become people I know instead. The point is, Andrew Lincoln is playing my male main character, Jack. That’s not exactly a secret, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in such an open forum before. And for those of you who don’t memorize actor names, Andrew plays Rick on the Walking Dead.
So, TWD. When there were only 6 episodes of the show and no season 2 in sight, I remember I had just begun dating my boyfriend. Sitting up in his apartment, not willing to leave or go to sleep, we watched all 6. We found them on YouTube, under the heading, “Funny Moments”. I found the premise intriguing.
Listen, zombies terrify me. They always have. Blame it on the babysitter that let me watch “Night of the Living Dead” when I was four. I’ll never not be scared by zombies, and I’ll never consider the market saturated. Watching their evolution to more romantic figures in things such as iZombie and the movie “Warm Bodies” has been a revelation to me.
But that’s off topic. Back to TWD, the topic of today’s blog. We watched those first six, fascinating episodes. I was uncertain how you’d carry a zombie story so long. A movie was all I thought it could sustain. As it turns out, sometimes even writers lack imagination. Because watching through Rick’s eyes as we learned what the world was now, I was both fascinated and held in thrall. What a sympathetic character he was. Honest, kind, loving, and consistently warm, even when dealing with such traumatic events. He was easy to root for.
I love many of the other characters, as you must in order to maintain interest. Carol has probably been my favorite character to watch evolve. I’ve also enjoyed much of Daryl’s evolution. There are two dimensional characters, but in the early days there just wasn’t room for developing them.
Having watched TV evolve as well, I understand the long form of story even better than I used to. I understand that in order to support the longer arc, you must develop a whole town full of characters. South Park and the Simpsons have lasted as long as they have because they are about more than just two or three characters. So, it makes sense that TWD must delve into other characters and take the focus away from Rick. From time to time. But let’s be honest, it was his character that hooked me into the show. Much as I complain about Superman being a Boy Scout, I like heroes. I do enjoy more of a flawed hero, I think you know I love Dean Winchester more than any other hero, but there’s nothing wrong with a good Boy Scout.
So here’s the thing. TWD had to branch out. And given our society’s love of flawed heroes, Rick had to gain flaws. More than just the pain of losing people, he had to have internal struggle. I know that. It makes sense. It’s appropriate.
But this is where it gets sticky.
Let’s back up to when there were only 6 episodes. They announce season 2 has been greenlit. Jubilation! Celebration! Get everyone you know to watch this little show so they keep making more! I convinced my best friend to give it a shot. She and her husband loved it, and when season 2 came on, my boyfriend and I watched it with them. We made a point to go over every Sunday when it was on to watch together.
The show exploded. Suddenly everyone was watching. Seriously, who’s ever heard of numbers that good? They got all the viewers. AMC made all the money.
We went to my friend’s house every Sunday to watch for four years.
Her husband passed away in February 2016. She passed away in July 2016. They were 60 and 53, respectively.
- Fuck 2016.
- We never finished watching season 6 together.
- I still haven’t finished season 6.
I figure there’s a few reasons for that. Trauma, for one. At this point, it was our thing. I enjoyed the time getting together as much as the show, honestly. No, it wasn’t the only reason we hung out. But being introverts, to be honest, my boyfriend and I need extra reasons to leave the house. And my friend was handicapped, requiring a lot of assistance. But when we watched TWD together, it was one of the few times we just got to sit and watch. No getting or doing things, just being friends again like we were when we began watching together. Does that make me feel a little bad? Yeah. But also not.
Anyway. So then they were gone. And 2016 continued to suck ass. And we didn’t finish the season.
Season 7 began. We didn’t finish 6. Two characters died, and the internet spoiled it for me, not that I didn’t expect it not to. And I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), being the Supernatural super-fan I am. And still, we haven’t finished 6. We’re two episodes out.
I’ve given a mountain of excuses for this. And I’ve vowed to catch up. But here’s the thing. Let’s look briefly at my excuses, because I think they’re important.
OK, yes there’s trauma. But there’s also a few story problems. Season 4 began the real branching into other character’s stories, sometimes leaving Rick out for weeks. Season 5 continued that trend, and season 6 really kicked it into gear. How many times did we see a single episode featuring Rick in season 6? Three? Four? Seems like it. Maybe it was more, but it felt like less. So that’s problem number one. And I think that might be problem number biggest, but let’s move on.
To the problems with Rick, himself. Like I said above, yeah, he needed to evolve. Become the flawed hero. But who’s really convinced he’s a hero anymore? At first I was fine with some of the more questionable decisions he made. Killing Shane, for example. He didn’t do it until it was absolutely necessary, and it was kill or be killed. So, even though killing him was not the way to go, it was clear the decision had to be made. That’s something you can forgive him for, and the fact he wanted Shane out of the way was secondary to the fact he was forced to make the decision.
Fast forward to their arrival at Alexandria. Here’s a man who’s had to kill so many humans he probably can’t count them any more. Used to be, when he had to do it, it was so sparse that it was shocking. Powerful. But now we have a man who says things like, “They’re going to give us this place, or we’ll take it from them.” Not for their own good, though you could say that if you wanted, but he didn’t really care about the Alexandrians. He only cared about his people. He’s a man that literally ripped someone’s throat out with his teeth. Killed a man because he coveted the man’s wife. Cinematic, yes. Good? The actions of a hero? No. Not at all. Not a little.
But let’s leave Rick for a moment and talk about the other characters. The very safe, unkillable characters. When I found out Negan was going to kill someone at the other end of a cheap cliffhanger, I knew immediately who he SHOULD kill. Who’s with me?
No question. I’m not trolling you, here’s why.
You can’t kill Rick. The show is supposed to be about him (remember?). But look. Daryl is unkillable. “If Daryl dies we riot”. Yeah that’s all well and good but guys, you’re killing the show instead. If someone is “safe”, the plot can be left to stagnate. If there’s no real danger, in this world where Rick’s wife died in childbirth and had to be shot in the head by her young son, where his his best friend might have fathered his youngest child and then tried to murder him, if you’ve lost the danger in that world, why are we watching?
Really. Why are we watching? I watch things because I give a crap what happens to the characters. Premise pulls me in, characters keep me.
Without drama, and without danger, it loses its appeal.
I guess the tl;dr version is this: I miss my friend, I miss my Rick, I miss the danger. If you choose a newbie – because let’s face it, Red was still new – and someone you already fake killed (and everyone knows he died this way in the comics), you’ve chosen the safe route. And safe is boring.
Let me say it again for those in the back. BORING.
But today as I wrote my little story I realized I think currently my biggest problem is I miss Rick. My Jack is heroic, and brave, and sometimes he doesn’t do things perfect. Sometimes he doubts himself. But in the end, he makes the right calls. You can root for the guy. I might be a little in love with him. But Rick? He’s no longer sympathetic. I can’t remember the last time I actually liked him.
And if you don’t like the hero, and there’s no drama, what’s the point?
I’m afraid I’ll never finish season 6.