For the longest time, one of the very best things about The Walking Dead has been its level of accessibility. The casual viewer can enjoy the tension, the action, and the riveting sense of dread and terror that permeate every step the show takes. Others find themselves deeply immersed in the interpersonal relationships and development of the wide array of characters that The Walking Dead has to offer. The most devoted fans can be found trawling through Web forums, press releases, and comic books (the source material for the show), desperate for any shred of info concerning upcoming plot arcs.
The Walking Dead’s inviting nature is what makes it AMC’s biggest show to date. Generally speaking, this is perhaps the premier trait of AMC’s production arm—look no farther than Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Better Call Saul for evidence of large fan bases that flocked to shows at different times. AMC’s slogan—“Something More”—rings true.
Indeed. Something more for everyone, even if the “something” is different from person to person. In many ways, the show’s accessibility is a great thing—with a multitude of fans watching for different reasons, everyone finds their niche. The show is constructed in an ingenious way, really: The Walking Dead is a television program that has an incredible array of tools to form itself into the greatest television drama of all time.
Unfortunately, if the man behind the hammer is incompetent, the house has to crumble sooner or later.
In many ways, the sixth season of The Walking Dead has been plagued by much, much more than “walkers.” A few notable examples are easy to come by—for instance, the apparent killing-off of a beloved character, only to revive him four episodes later, feels less like compelling writing and more like lazy fanservice. This cop-out style of writing shows up over and over: directorial choices made after the third episode’s “reveal,” the midseason finale, and most egregiously, last Sunday’s season finale.
Poor writing has always been at the top of the list of criticisms of the show, but up until this Sunday, these flaws had been forgivable. If “Last Day on Earth” (the show’s season-six finale) is any indication, however, turning a blind eye to The Walking Dead’s weak points has only served to exacerbate the problem. Without indulging in spoilers, it has become clear that AMC no longer respects the will of its audience—fanservice, of course, is undoubtedly bad, but outright disrespecting the source material of your television show is dangerous in multiple ways. Not only do you risk the chance of weakening the program, you potentially alienate the most devoted fans of the show.
In fact, this is precisely why the season finale spits in the face of every type of fan. The most casual fan loses the sense of action they seek. Those who are most invested in the characters themselves are left hanging, wondering which of their favorites is most at-risk. Die-hard comic fans are the most disappointed of all—watching the most famous and anticipated adapted scene of a magnificent work being butchered before your very eyes is not a glorious sight. AMC has proved its unwillingness to make risky choices, choosing instead to betray its fans with money-grubbing tactics far too commonly seen in media today.
Beyond any doubt, this is a real shame. As said before, The Walking Dead has the tools to be an incredible television program. The actors are consistently spectacular: Andrew Lincoln as Rick, Norman Reedus as Daryl, Lauren Cohen as Maggie, and even the brief appearance of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan have all proved that the acting talent held within the show is unquestionably phenomenal. The cinematography has never been better. Music choices enhance the story 1,000 times over. On a technical level, The Walking Dead is nearly perfect. But more than any other show currently running, it is evident that, without quality writing, even perfect technical skill means little in the face of a failure to write a compelling plot.
Here’s the reality: The Walking Dead is a “good” television show. AMC’s biggest hit has the essence of a compelling plot. As unfortunate as it is, though, the inability to conclude a story has the ability to invalidate the work as a whole. For 99.5 percent of a season, AMC has delivered high-quality programming. The truest fans of the show hold to this with good reason. But if The Walking Dead is ever to become the best of the best, the writers must stop pulling their punches when the stakes are high. Otherwise, the show will fade into obscurity, which is a fate that every type of fan never wants to see.
Featured Image By AMC Studios