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The Walking Dead is a show that surprised me.

I love zombies as much as the next guy, but I don't go into a zombie television series expecting such strong performances, thought-provoking conversations and complex characters. The Walking Dead took the idea of a post-apocalyptic zombie world and made it feel real and relatable; the type of show that's gripping to watch but you're sort of relieved when it's over because you realize you've been tensing up the entire time.


The revolving showrunners have each had their strengths and weaknesses,but overall, The Walking Dead rose above whatever misconceptions someone may have had about what a zombie show could and should be and became one of the greatest dramas currently on TV. Now, it won't get the accolades and the exceptional actors are overlooked every time award season comes around (Andrew Lincoln's gutwrenching performance in Lori's death episode should not have been ignored) , but those of us who watch it know the level of quality this show is capable of achieving.

That being said, I can't honestly say that The Walking Dead left us on the best of terms.

With a show as wildly successful as TWD, there's always going to be swells of naysayers, complaining no matter which way the wind is blowing. I've actually been fairly pleased with more of the series. I loved seasons one and two. I did not get bored on Hershel's farm; I thought there was compelling character work being done. I enjoyed most of season three and the Woodbury set-up was intriguing and showed a lot of promise.

It wasn't until The Governor really went overboard in the backend of that season that they lost me. I felt they had made him into too much of a diabolical villain. One that we were supposed to perceive as broken to the point of insanity, but instead came off a bit cartoonish. His actions were shocking and violent just for the sake of being so.



We knew we hadn't seen the last of him when the third season ended (although, how I wish we had) so it was hard to write that arc off as just an unfortunate misstep. I knew more was coming. But when the Governor resurfaced, I withheld judgment. Maybe they'd done some character rehab that would transform him into a villain that fits in this world, rather than the caricature he seemed to be. When he showed up at the prison with the tank (well, before that actually), I knew there was no chance of that.

What works so well for The Walking Dead is the fact that it's characters seem real and the story seems grounded so no matter how many zombies we witness weekly, the drama still feels powerfully genuine with emotions we can connect with. Nothing about the Governor was grounded and he upset the balance that The Walking Dead had crafted so well in seasons past.

Now that he's gone, where should The Walking Dead go moving forward? This week, AMC unveiled a bleak trailer forecasting what's to come in Season 4B and it looks fantastic. As unfortunate as the Governor storyline may have been, the fallout may be enough to help the show find its groove again. Here are a few things I'd like to see happen:

1) Come up with an endgame. I'm not saying they have to set an end date to the series, but they need a long-term goal to work towards. I've enjoyed watching a show about people just surviving and there's a plethora of drama in that, but there needs to be something more to keep the narrative going. Without it, they'll need to continually resort to storylines like the Governor (which, as I made clear, I felt was awful) or this season's virus outbreak (which wasn't terrible, but became tedious after an episode or two) and we're gonna have a hard time connecting with what drives these characters. Just staying alive is a lofty goal, but some promise of hope or other clear directive may go a long way in assuring this show doesn't lose its momentum.

2) Build some new characters. I know there are some new characters floating around, but flesh them out. Do some real work with them. Don't just throw an alcoholic into the mix—make us care about him first. A lot of the scenes with Tyreese this seasons could have played a lot more effectively had they defined anything about his character beforehand. We didn't care about him. We weren't invested with him. So as he agonized over the loss of his girlfriend, the audience could barely muster up a sympathetic shrug. The only real character they've added post-season two is Michionne, and let's be honest—as awesome as she is, they still have a lot of work to do in fleshing her out. In a show that is bold when it comes to killing characters we care about, there needs to be characters that we care about and it's time to restock.

3) Bring back Carol. This goes hand in hand with #2. It's not that I'm the biggest Carol fan in the world, but she's a character that we're invested in at this point and her exit was not worthy of the time we had spent with her. Don't get me wrong—Rick making that call made for some powerful television and I don't think it was a bad choice story-wise. However, as I stated above, we've got a shortage of characters we truly care about at this point and she's one of them, so we need her back in the fold.



4) Don't skimp on the zombies. I don't need non-stop zombie action, but I need more them characters just poking sticks through a fence at them. There have been moments on the show that so effectively portrayed the terror of living in this kind of world. It's an aspect that they shouldn't shy away from. It elevates the drama and it reinforces the threat these characters face.

5) Reveal that Judith is alive ASAP. I'm not buying for a second that she's dead so I hope they don't plan to drag out Rick's grief for any real amount of time. Let him find his baby so we can all move on and forget that The Walking Dead ever executed this cheap ploy.

6) Keep cranking up the creep factor with Lizzie. I did not read the graphic novels so, for all I know, what becomes of Lizzie may be common knowledge but it's not known to me. However, with the show seemingly backpedaling a bit in making Carl a sociopath (and with Rick having gone through so much—fine, let his kid become more sane), Lizzie fills the creepy kid quota and she does so in an effectively chilling fashion.

Those are just a few of my thoughts but I'd love to hear yours. The Walking Dead can be a truly great show when it wants to be, but it's a little off its game. What are some ways it can strengthen as it heads into season 4B?

Mark Gray runs the website and podcast Untempered Television where he offers honest, unfiltered thoughts on your favorite TV shows. Follow him on twitter @untemperedtv.
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