In 2010, The Walking Dead premiered on AMC to little fanfare. The entire zombie narrative reached a saturation point in our television viewing, and another show about zombies would not survive. Eight years later, TWD continues to dominate a large portion of AMC viewing. The network constantly runs seasons at a time to get viewers caught up. Shows like Talking Dead became appointment viewing to hear what other people thought about the new episodes. TWD helped generate a spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead. I joined TWD mania during the middle of season two. I had to play catch-up because I missed the debut season but quickly turned into a fan. The characters compelled, the action flew, the animations amazed, and the show left me wanting more. During the middle of season six, the light bulb flicked off. I no longer felt the passion from TWD that I normally had. The show is not appointment viewing for me; I enjoy reading summaries to see what happened, but the passion remains no longer.
The biggest change that occurred for me was a general apathy towards the show. I cannot fault the directors for the malaise that set in; apathy occurs in every walk of life when repetition trumps excitement. In the early seasons of The Walking Dead, I felt myself living in the eyes of the characters. I felt the pain when Rick lost his wife. I shared the shock when Sophia stumbled out of the farmhouse. I felt the despair when the CDC announced the lack of a cure for the sickness. Everything happening in the show connected me to the world. During the middle of season six, I lost that feeling. I had seen everything the show could offer, I had felt every emotion the characters went through. Once you emotionally disconnect from something, coming back is rare. Only the most unique series can keep a strong passionate following beyond five or six seasons.
Personally, the show hits the highest marks when the focus is on a very small nucleus of characters. Some of my favorite episodes involve just a few people. Shane and Rick could carry an entire season with their interactions and incredible on-screen presence. In the present, TWD has too much going on. Multiple camps of people, each with 10-15 characters receiving screen time proves overwhelming. Attaching my interest to one or two people cannot happen because their individual storylines do not form. When someone meets their end, the emotions that I used to feel go lacking.
Formulaic normalcy became easy to spot the more I watched. The seasons followed a pretty standard narrative: a gradual build up with introducing new characters, having a somewhat big event or character death in the mid-season finale, a re-introduction to the plot after some time passed, and another gradual build up to the finale, when a major character would be wiped off. Only in the rarest of cases would a big character be killed off unexpectedly during a random episode. Sure, big events would happen at random times, but the show entered a rhythm that has not changed.
Ultimately, the end game of the show stopped appealing to me. I am not the type to ask for a shiny bow to wrap up everything nice and neat. However, where does it end? Do the protagonists and antagonists meet for one massive war to decide humanity, or do they just go their separate ways and create a new society? Will the zombies cease to exist, and if so does this become a show about character development and simply human-to-human contact? None of the multiple conclusions intrigued me enough to consider. I do understand the show is entirely fiction and a zombie takeover cannot happen (hopefully); however, I still struggle with the idea that a good chunk of the remaining population is evil or out for themselves. For the most part as a species, humans come together when faced with an outside force. The majority of us band together in adversity. I would like to think that a zombie takeover would bring us together. I could be wrong, but it is nice to consider.
The Walking Dead remains loved by millions of viewers. The world’s odd love affair with zombies helps shows like TWD hit the pinnacle of TV viewing. I fully understand why people continue to stick with Rick and the gang. The group rushed into our homes and took us by storm, and it can be hard to leave them behind. Sadly, TWD got a little too large for its own good and left behind what made it great; a strong focus on a highly centered group.