The uncertain future of The Walking Dead was propelled into an entirely new direction during a gruesome finale that finally breathed a little life into a stale plot, restoring a sense of uncertainty and danger that was sorely lacking during the entire second season. We spent far too much time inside the safe confines of Herschel's farm, so much so that I felt the herd of zombies that overran it was the metaphorical audience insisting that our characters do something else other than argue with eachother and tut tut about morality and whatever the hell we wasted twelve weeks doing.
But even though the show effectively reintroduced terror and uncertainty, it also proved that it has a lot of work to do. Because while the battle scene was intense, I never had any fear that we'd lose some of our main characters. In fact, I was hoping some would be killed off.
The fatal flaw of the show still exists within its nucleus: these boring ass people. Earlier this season, we were promised that Daryl would pull a Sarah Palin and "go rogue," but he's settled on falling in line and just looking badass with his crossbow and very loud motorcycle. I'm not sure if Carol and T-Dogg have their names in the opening credits, but if I'm the agent of Rick's red truck or, hell, even a blade of grass that blows in the wind on the side of the highway, I'd fight for my clients' names to appear alongside them because those characters serve about as much purpose as house plants. I suppose I enjoyed Andrea's solo mission after she was separated from the group, though I still take issue with her character arc as a whole. Her sudden transition from delicate, suicidal fawn to the cocky Annie Oakley was never properly explored. Now she's this killing machine with incredible marksmanship. (Actually, they all are. A couple of weeks ago they were learning to shoot guns in Shane's gung-ho shooting clinic, now they are blasting non-stationary targets between the eyes from moving vehicles. That Shane must be one good teacher.) And after we roll our eyes at Maggie and Glen's thin romance, all we are left with is TV's worst family: The Grimes Clan.
Actually, I am enjoying Rick's struggle with leadership because it's clearly something he's not used to, and right now, this is probably the strength of the show. As a sheriff, we were lead to believe that he was always in control, used to having the right answers, and thought of himself as honorable. But now, in this new world, his decisions are backfiring and the instincts he once trusted have betrayed him. His leadership comes not from powerlust, but from love and the desire to keep his group safe. This could be an effort to inflate his self-worth, but I suppose no good deed is completely selfless. Rick's speech to the group about killing Shane could have used the help of some political spin (next time, immediately claim self defense, don't start with "I killed my best friend for you people"), but the seed of desire to kill Shane was implanted by the insufferable Lori, who desperately told him that his best friend was danger to the group. Which leads me to the scene where I realized that maybe the Walking Dead really learned nothing.
During the private moment in which Rick confessed to Lori that he killed Shane, she was shocked and appalled as if it wasn't her idea all along. But even though the notion of her husband as a cold blooded murderer was difficult enough to handle, she seemed to keep it together until Rick evoked ....
Of course. Carl and his dumbass hat. Because just when the creators think their scenes need more emotion and motivation, they always bring up Carl. Everytime they are on the brink of something new, chaotic, and interesting, they reground it in the hackneyed "childhood innocence" plot line. So, of course, after Rick informed Lori that Carl shot "zombie Shane," she was inconsolable. Fuck it, just have the cast sing "We Are The World," around their campfire. Seriously, can we kill Carl just so the creative team isn't tempted to use him as a crutch? The show might switch locations and ramp up the gore, but really, it's just the same bullshit every week and causes the tense scenes to feel unearned.
Also, before I conclude, the show, once again, reaches nonsensical conclusions to motivate their actions. The group could question Rick's leadership due to his obvious unraveling (and the declaration that their little community was no longer a "democracy," though, really, when was it ever?), but instead Carol suggests that Rick's hiding of some pointless info (the fact that they are all carriers of the virus) creates mistrust and causes doubt as to whether or not he should lead. Even Glenn steps on the pedestal and infers that this omission of information is somehow a death knell to his leadership. Who gives a fuck? What does this have to do with staying alive? Why do they continue to find bullshit reasons when clearer ones exist? No, it's not the characters new heightened reality that causes them to make strange decisions and focus on odd details. It's shoddy writing, plain and simple.
And that's really the issue with the Walking Dead. It's a great concept and an admirable effort to show how humans (communities) deal with a new world order in a post-apocalyptic society. But we've spent hours and hours in these characters lives and heads only to discover that they aren't all that likeable. And not in the Tony Soprano way where you like him even though he's bad. These characters are just poorly developed and uninteresting.
I haven't read the comic book, but next season certainly looks like it's headed in more of a, well, "comic book" direction. With the introduction of a hooded, katana wielding zombie slayer, and the promise of the prison I hear so much about (the last image of the show), it appears the show might take on a new feel.
I hope it's for the better.