First off, a distinction. I am making a distinction between AMC's The Walking Dead and the excellent comic The Walking Dead. I am NOT done with that. Far from it. I have really enjoyed the growth of Andrea's character and Rick's attempts to be moral while doing decidedly controversial things and making huge mistakes along the way. But, more on that another time.
Secondly, a warning. This may contain spoilers. If it does, thank me. I saved you from watching this episode.
Last night's episode, "Triggerfinger," showed me that the show had lost a great deal of its mojo. Now, they are simply tacking on drama to the show and at times doing it in a half-assed way. Need some drama? How about introducing some living antagonists that are boorish northerners. Instead of a herd encountered on a highway or a high school full of zombies, now we get a smattering of them here and there. They seem to have lost focus in a lot of ways. They seem to be missing the obvious drama right before them.
How could The Walking Dead build drama more effectively?
1. Bring back zombies! What happened to them? There is a lot of plot building and world building to do here. Seeing the bloated zombie in the well was interesting. Seeing the herd was interesting. There is a lot to learn about how the zombies operate and move about. Instead they seem to be the occasional bone they throw the watcher. This really struck me in the mid-season finale when Shane confronts Rick about the danger he put everyone in as they stayed behind and searched for Sophia. Shane was right in a sense, but, according to the action of the show he was dead wrong. In the world the show has created, they could stay on the farm indefinitely. The extended time not moving seemed to have cost them nothing. They lost Sophia on the highway, not the farm. The farm seems to only encounter a zombie or two every few episodes, and they lost NO ONE in the search for Sophia (other than Otis who was lost indirectly due to Sophia). The show tried to create a conflict, an idea of Rick's hope contrasting with Shane's cold pragmatism. But Rick's hope is much more pragmatic. The zombies aren't a threat here at all.
2. Find a new direction. Okay, so in last episode, we learned that Fort Benning is not a viable option. But this was from a decidedly unreliable source. And just because one direction is cut off, doesn't mean another is not open. The Nebraska idea is a good one. But, whatever they decide, they need to GET OFF THE FARM. I am sick of the barn (especially now that it's no longer a looming threat). I'm sick of Glen and Maggie (I get it, young love and all that). I'm sick of the pointing fingers and threats that never seem to come to fruition. If this is a show about people, great. I want that. But what separates this from Mad Men is its unique world. We should be learning about people as they try to exist in a post-apocalyptic world, not as they try to figure out when certain are allowed to eat at the table or use the kitchen. This space has been explored. Move on.
3. Teach us something about this new world. This probably goes along with number 2, but we need to learn something about the world around them. In the comic, they have gone to a gated community (bad idea), a prison (somewhat good idea), Woodbury (I wonder if this will ever happen in the show?), a military base, a newly formed, fortified community, and now they are realizing there are others out there. We've seen Atlanta, I-95, and Washington, DC (and its suburbs). I know it's had a longer run, but we need to see something out there other than this farm.
4. Kill, hurt, or maim someone we care about. I wish I had gotten to know Sophia. I was so unfamiliar with her that, without the dramatic music and the staring characters, I am not sure I would have recognized her. It was creepy to have to kill a zombie child. I know because the first sequence in the show's premiere showed Rick killing one. Then they went back to the well. And, while it was dramatic, it lacked the power it could have had. Last night, they had a chance. Lori was taking off her shirt. What if she had been bitten? Wow. What if she was maimed and Shane had to fight off zombie hordes while they came to rescue her? Instead, life moves on and the show does not. Now we have manufactured a showdown between Rick and Shane. Really? The tension was there. All that had to happen was Shane has to make a move. Instead, the increasingly disappointing show felt the need to have Lori spell out exactly what the conflict is and we have to judge from Rick's expression how homicidal he is. I hope it at least goes somewhere. Maybe it just means Rick will make Shane take a turn doing the laundry.
Maybe all of this is related to the show's budget cuts. Certainly, it costs money to film on location and to create zombies. If so, this is a budget cut that will kill The Walking Dead. It is leaving the show stranded in one location where it is only capable of spinning in circles and manufacturing drama. Lori flipping in the car was one of the most obvious gimicks I have seen in a show. She's flipped, she may be dying. Nope, she's fine. The flip was just to get us to tune back in a week. The problem is the classic "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice..." dilemma. I have to ask myself: is the show going anywhere? Or is it another failed attempt at a genre show? The hay is most likely in the barn on this one and we'll see where things go from here. My hopes are dwindling, my DVR space is valuable, and my viewing time is limited. And this show may not be good enough to make the cut.