Creator: Frank Darabont
I had this ranked a few spots higher but then I watched last Sunday’s episode. And it reminded me how low the show can get.
I had zero desire to watch a drama about zombies, but then people started saying it was good. The first episode certainly lived up to the hype, but oh man did it go in the tank after that. The first season is a mish-mash of barely fleshed out characters and plots. Many of the actors are painfully not up to par. The prime example of the show’s problem during the first two seasons is the character of Shane. It is painfully obvious that he is dangerous (and if you didn’t pick it up from his actions, the emoting will help you out) and smart characters are oblivious. But it wasn’t “well, the audience knows more than the characters” type of situation, because Dale is right there with us hating Shane from the beginning. And he points out how obviously evil Shane is over and over. And nobody does anything. That kind of writing is inexcusable. Season two might be the worst season of a not-terrible show I’ve ever seen. Nothing happens except characters acting stupid for days on end, flip-flopping their ideals every episode to fit the new story-line.
Then something happens near the end of season two. The writers realize the mess they’ve created and blow everything up. They begin killing off the worst characters one-by-one until nearly all of them are gone by the end of season three. They transform Rick into the leader the group needed. They then put everyone on the move, not allowing anyone to stay sedentary for too long. The Governor was a bit over the top, but it was a welcome relief to have a human villain that had a motivation other than hating Rick. And the new characters they brought along were more interesting and were better acted.
Season four is some of the best drama I’ve seen in my life. For the first time a character dies that we actually care about, and he leaves in realistic, gut-wrenching fashion. The fallout is also glorious. The search for Terminus has a great build-up (and hey, it kinds of reminds me of the beginning of Final Fantasy VI as they all try to get back to Narshe), and secondary characters begin getting some backstory. The Grove is probably my favorite episode after Too Far Gone. The climax of the episode had been building for almost two full seasons, but it was done so masterfully well that most people didn’t see it coming. It’s amazing how quickly the writing changed from insipid to inspire. We’ll just ignore Rick’s final line of dialogue from season four.
Season five was okay with some definite highlights but some of the issues of season two to begin to creep in. Antagonists are introduced for no apparent reason other than to be obnoxious (see: the priest), and the hospital side plot winds up wholly unsatisfying, developing no characters and serving only to kill off others. Season six so far is more of the same, with a couple of really good episodes and several that just don’t…do…anything. Characters go through the “no, I’ll go alone,” and “no, I’m coming with you,” argument ad nauseum, literally running around in circles changing their minds constantly. And what they’re doing or not doing with Glenn is insulting and manipulative to the audience.
That said, the highs are so high that I’m going to keep watching unless it completely falls apart.