I’ve been pretty hard on the last couple episodes of The Walking Dead, with most of my criticism boiling down to complaints about how the show is taking steep deviations from the plotline of the comic.
I honestly hate to be that curmudgeonly, nitpicky sort of fan.
But at the same time, I also hate to see the extremely high bar of quality set by comic creator and writer Robert Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard on the printed page be repeatedly lowered every week on my television screen, and it did directly stem from creative liberties being taken for the show’s storylines — and poorly thought out and clumsily executed ones at that.
‘Welcome to the Tombs’, wrapping up the third season, pretty much takes the show completely off the comic’s leash for the upcoming fourth season.
I’m actually fine with that, because to me, in hindsight, it’s preferable to having the comic storylines mangled and tackled half-assed, which is what we directly saw over the last few episodes.
This point was almost inevitable. The show had done a fantastic job in the first two seasons of balancing the source material while still deviating just enough to provide dramatic tension so the fans of the comic were just as unable to guess where the story as newcomers that hadn’t picked up a single issue.
In some cases, particularly in Shane’s character, this took advantage of missed opportunities to explore something new that still had deep ties to the comic. With all new additions like Daryl and Merle, it would seem counter-productive to have new characters and not spend some degree of time developing them.
Eventually, though, it was going to prove increasingly difficult to keep the two continuities in lockstepped sync without either doing the comic stories a grave injustice, or shortchanging the show to keep pace with a storyline from an entirely different medium with its own unique set of storytelling elements and the singular, uncontested vision of a single creator.
Wisely, the creative team of the show has decided to let the show stop running parallel to the comic and spin off into uncharted territory. That’s a bold move in and of itself, because there’s going to be blowback from fans of the comics-slash-graphic novels.
I can practically hear the howling from here, and I haven’t even ventured online yet to gauge reaction to the season finale.
Although one way to look at it as that it’s just hitting the pause button on the comic, at least for the moment, to savor new possibilities, namely the Governor’s continued descent into insanity. Self-deprived of his numerical superiority — thanks to slaughtering his own troops in a fit of psychotic rage — Philip Blake is now poised to be a very dangerous predator.
Rick and Co. have certainly done the right thing in taking in the Woodbury refugees, the elderly and infirm and children that even Blake deemed unworthy of being cannon fodder to press a gun in the hands of and conscript.
It’s a noble gesture that undoes a lot of ill will our protagonists have banked during the season by their action — or in the case of the doomed hitchhiker in ‘Clear’, inaction — but it’s not going to be without deep cost. There’s now twice as many mouths to feed, a great deal of resources were spent in fending off the Governor’s routed invasion, and Blake himself is still out there somewhere, with no other motivation than to make Rick and his crew pay, and pay dearly.
Not to mention thousands upon thousands of ravenous walking cadavers standing between them and gathering food and supplies.
The prison only offers protection as long as you stay within its perimeter. Or out of the zombie-filled catacombs underneath, which is something that’s going to have to be dealt with eventually.
(And here’s a thought . . . remember back in Season 2, when the group struggled with what do with Randall, the prisoner of a conflict between our heroes and the scouting party of a much larger group that was clearly motivated by pillaging and looting? Was that group Randall was referring to Woodbury, or could it be a different group, one that a bat&#$%-crazy Governor might stumble across and assimilate himself into? It stands to reason that Andrea might have off-handedly told him of this situation, and Blake might even have been keeping an eye out for such a large potential threat. What if when he, Martinez, and Random Thug That Managed To Not Piss The Governor Off roll back into Woodbury, they find the place occupied by that very group?)
I have no problem with David Morrissey and his awesome portrayal of the Governor sticking around for a while. Yes, I was kind of looking forward to seeing a huge gun battle between Woodbury and the prison — particularly if it culminated in the same way it did in the comic, the final showdown between the rival groups of humans being interrupted by the rotting cavalry of a massive herd of walkers shambling over the hill — but we did already see that at the end of Season 2 when the farm was overrun.
And we didn’t have to be dissatisfied with the gang simply turning tail and fleeing the prison to avoid a fight. That climactic rout was pitch-perfect, showing the difference between a group of individuals who have had to survive with no help and those who have gotten lazy with walls and large amounts of guns to protect them.
Getting by out in the wild makes you a bit crafty, if you’re going to stay alive. Drawing the larger force in and setting off a series of booby traps was way more fun than just seeing a gunfight that, let’s face it, would’ve been somewhat unrealistic to expect the prison crew to walk away from without heavy casualties.
We finally got a conclusion to the Andrea Saga, as well, which was welcome.
I won’t lie and say I didn’t practically jump out of the La-Z-Boy and shout “SUCK IT, BLONDIE”, or cackle manicially at the idea that Andrea knew she was going to die because she had been an utter moron. (Although I’d have been way cool with them opening that door, being attacked by Zombie Andrea, and watching Michonne lop off her head and see it roll unceremoniously across the floor.)
The whole arc with Andrea has been problematic. Part of it is because, yes, fans of the comic didn’t care to see one of the most stalwart characters in the saga take such a heel turn.
On the other hand, it was an intriguing idea that just wasn’t handled well. Looking back now over the whole thing, it almost seemed that the writers weren’t on the same page with how to have it play out and how to construct it, and each kind of did their own thing in individual episodes and hoped it would hang together well, which it didn’t.
To me, Andrea’s story was supposed to be one of ambiguity. At death’s door, she was taken in by Woodbury, so there was a level of gratitude there, but there was also a bigger possibility that yes, having spent a miserable existence on the road, she might very well be willing to overlook some of the Governor’s . . . peculiarities . . . in order to not only have safety, but a level of relative creature comfort (or at least as much as you could have in a post-apocalyptic wasteland).
On top of that, in being the apple of Blake’s eye, she was afforded a level of importance she’d never experienced before the world ended.
What was her alternative, given that she didn’t even know her friends were alive? I’ve had a huge KILL ANDREA placard for weeks and even I can’t fault her for not wanting to hit the road with Michonne.
But that’s when things started to fall apart, when she learned her friends were alive, and what could’ve been a deep examination of moral fibre ended up with Andrea acting like an outright idiot, being completely oblivious to the events unfolding around her, yet claiming she had the ‘greater good’ of everyone in mind.
She couldn’t even manage to look out for her OWN good at that point, because she was a puppet dancing on the strings of a poorly-constructed plot that had to have her make decisions and ignore things and waffle and waver because the overall story needed her to do so, the same way Rick suddenly had a minor stroke and thought it would be a good idea to trust Blake and hand over Michonne in the second-to-last episode, because for whatever reason, they needed to get Merle out of the way (which was another huge mistake, especially given the set-up for next season and the tension he could’ve caused by being part of the group . . . anyone else think that having rebellious Carl suddenly take a ken to Merle over his own father would’ve been delicious drama?)
Great idea, completely inconsistent execution. Andrea’s arc should’ve served as a flashpoint among the fanbase to debate what they would do in her shoes, with little in the way of clear-cut right or wrong.
But the way it ended up playing out, anyone on Team Andrea should’ve been embarrassed to be on that side. In the end, no one really wins, as all the hours spent developing her character ended up going right down the tubes for a very anticlimactic finish that didn’t do justice to the character or the audience.
Bad writers, no chai lattes for you. As punishment, you need to spend the summer writing screenplays for shoestring-budget straight-to-video zombie flicks, and not one of the highest rated shows on television.
(Or, from the looks of the laughable, eye-roll inducing trailers, sit through marathon back-to-back-to-back showings of the cinematic abomination that legally carries the title World War Z.)
This is where we end up — I applaud the decision to stop straddling the fence and trying to make the show’s now-elaborate canon mesh as tightly with the comic. (Which could end up happening, anyway: we could very easily finish Season 4 having the prison overrun and the key characters moving on where the comic had them post-Woodbury.)
But I’m also not convinced the writing staff can handle the responsibility of original material, either, despite the great hooks they have in place. Andrea’s all-new, never-before-seen arc was a miserable failure, in my book. Season 3 was a tough assignment, to try to give the illusion of sticking with the comic while clearly that was never the intention, so I’ll give them a bit of leeway there, but some of the sloppy writing and plotting of the past few episodes is NOT going to be acceptable in Season 4.
If they can get their creative act together, we could see some of the best Walking Dead stories in the intellectual property’s transmedia history, but if they fail, then ‘Welcome to the Tombs’ will go down as the point where the show went completely south . . . and I don’t mean Georgia.
Thanks for stopping by Public Domain! The Walking Dead might be on summer break, but Shamble On will keep rearing its rotting, misshapen head throughout the coming months, as we take a look at other zombie-related movies, books, games, and comics.