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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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Feb 14, 2014
Hey Grumpy! Great article. I'm new to the show - zzombie stuff is not my thing. But enough people stayed on me about the quality, that I decided to marathon. I'm up to s04e07. What has brought me back each show is the "Live together, Die alone" L O S T type vibe it gives me. I like the characters. ANd there are some I really hate. My question - I am curious - having no previous knowledge of the origin material... was the Gov. supposed to have this redemptive story arc? I'm i the second straight Gov-centered episode (which is kind of annoying having these back to back - he's a good chatacter, but I didn't want to be apart from the main cast for 2 straight shows). I haven't finished 07, but it seems after all the just plain evil he was a part of - that the out of the blue he's a sympathetic character. Just seems really out of place.
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Jan 28, 2014
I did read the comics and I really hope that's not where the writers take the rest of the season. It's just more madness.

I agree on a light at the end of the tunnel. We don't need to see the end game, but a little spark of it would be cool. Rumors of an anti-virus, or for them to find walkers that expired on their own. Something to give them hope.

The one thing I don't see in the show is something I think would be very realistic. People who hunt the zombies/walkers. I know I would. Massive traps that kills the walker herds. I don't get how they can just walk by some of them, didn't we learn anything from Dale's death? I would be taking down as many as possible, that would be my mission. Lead the herds into massive traps and set them on fire. I want to see people not only surviving, but also being more proactive. THAT is realistic. We're human and we're fighters.
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Jan 21, 2014
I can't say I entirely agree with your take on TWD thus far but probably more in agreement with what I'd like to see.

For a show that's 3 seasons deep and involves people with a lot of time to talk and interact with one another, the character development is awful. Part of that goes hand in hand with the fact that developed characters can (and often are) killed off, but typically their final episode is where we find out most about them. The best example of this was T-Dog.

With the group separated...again, I'm nervous about future development. More intimate settings could setup very well or completely put personalities on hold until they get to safety. I'm REALLY hoping for the former.

What I'd like to see:

More development: Like say, for example, what the hell happened to Rick and Carol to so drastically alter them. Sure, bad things happened, but their transformations happened during the offseason...BOOO! Same goes for Beth, though 40 episodes in, save for her suicide attempt, we know almost nothing. Tyreese and Michonne, both are pretty much unknowns. Darryl's been pretty much unchanged since Merle died. There's no excuse for this.

Stop being stupid: Who am I to say how I'd act in a zombie apocalypse, but these folks make some of the DUMBEST decisions EVER! If they want me to care when these characters eventually get killed, have them stop acting like idiots and their deaths become tragedies.

Stop cheating: It goes hand in hand with some of the continuity issues, but zombies popping up out of nowhere, getting stuck in an inch of mud from rain that never fell or otherwise creating impossible situations for the sake of drama...just, cut it out!

Confirm Judith is dead: Not for the sake of baby killing, but because it's the kind of jump start Rick needs and the tipping point to make Carl the crazy badass he's meant to be.

Don't treat the audience like their dummies: Sure, some are, but don't pander to the lowest common denominator. Along the lines of no cheating, there's no need to artificially create a "situation" and "zombie kill of the week". I'm willing to overlook continuity problems if the end result is really effective (see season 2 premiere hiding under cars on the highway as a heard walks past scene). Still, the best scene IMO of the series and in involved a single quiet zombie kill.
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Jan 20, 2014
I think it is still too soon after the beginning of the ZA to have an endgame. Even though 3 years have passed for viewers, it has been less than 2 years, I believe, for our survivors. The endgame right now is survival of the fittest (or the luckiest), and that is okay with me as a viewer. There are still so many directions the show could take with basic survival as the short-term endgame. I think the main goal for all of them is to find a better version of the prison, but will that happen this season? Probably not. Do I hope it happens eventually? Of course!
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Jan 20, 2014
I'd say Carol has to be back because it feels like we were just getting to the good part when the plot got cut. That must have been the first real talk she and Rick had ever since Sophia and Lori died.

I've never noticed how attached Rick had grown to Carol, nor how attached Carol had grown to their children, how irrational they could get when it comes to protect someone they love, nor how detached they have gotten to the lives they used to lead back when the weren't a widower and a widow.

I still feel Rick did it in order to protect her, I still believe Carol obeyed because she had grown to respect him, but I'm postitive she was right she could've handle Tyreese and I'm sure Rick was mistaken for Tyreese would've never killed Carol after Sasha or Hershel.

I want to see if Rick really won't have her there when his call - supposedly - got Judith killed, I want to see what Tyreese would really do when he finds out, I want to see what would really happen now that everybody else died and its really just the few of them.

And then, I want to see what happens when you add Darl to the mix.
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Jan 19, 2014

Some interesting points here; however, since you say you didn't read the original comic, there's some key aspects that you're missing that affect to the very heart of the series. (NO SPOILERS following about the TV series' possible future, by the way).

I think TV's TWD have taken the best path possible, following the original comic in general lines but introducing so many changes that we cannot expect to watch it knowing what's going to happen: Sophia's (second) death at the barn simply broke me; same thing goes with Andrea. Shane, Dale... they also caught us off-guard.

The huge problem is, some key moments in the original comic were so mindblowing that TV writers have no choice but try and replicate them as fatihfully as possible; however, since they've made so many changes in so many secondary aspects, some of them just don't work. I.E., Rick and Tyreese fighting. In the comics, they were friends so close that it hurt. In TV, it had no sense.

Same thing goes with the Governor's attack. In the comics, we just peed. In TV... we just didn't. That wasn't OUR Governor. He never was.

As for Judith, I just think that some things can't just be shown in TV and zombies chewing a toddler is in the top of that blacklist. In comics, we saw her die at the prison assault, and Rick and Carl run away in tears, just the same. Since the serious sh*t that followed was my favourite part in the whole comics, I sincerely hope that they don't even think about changing it too much and bringing her back. She died, let's move on to... better stop typing just here.

And, for God's sake, if you like TWD, READ THE COMICS!!!! YOU'LL LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!!!!

P.S.: about Lizzie: she doesn't even exist in comics, so... who knows.

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Jan 20, 2014
Agree wholeheartedly. A lot of the problems I have with the show is how it makes the comics look or how they make the show look. A lot of what is shown is for obvious reasons watered down but I just couldn't abide the Governor nonsense. Particularly after reading Rise of The Governor...how they screwed up that character I will never forgive.
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Jan 20, 2014
haha, i may just have to get the comics a shot. I know things can translate differently from page to screen, so I'd love to see their version of The Governor and everything else. You and a lot of others have persuaded me that it's something that I need to do so reading the comics is definitely on my to-do list.

And if Judith is really dead on the show--I definitely understand them not showing it. For those of us with no knowledge of what happened though, it seemed like a fake out and she was gonna end up still alive. They could still pull that but knowing she dies in the comics makes it less likely.
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Jan 20, 2014
I don't think the writers will fake out such a thing just to say "got ya!" afterwards. If they did it, I believe it means Judith is gone.
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Jan 19, 2014
Your first point is the reason The Walking Dead will probably always only be a good series for me, but never great. Unlike others, there are few story lines on the series that I complain about (I never found Season 2 to be as tedious as everyone thought, thought the virus storyline this season was refreshing, and while I might have done things different with The Governor, I'm not going complain about what was done).

The primary problem I've had with the series from the beginning is it seems to me an exercise in futily. Is there any point in watching a series in which, in the end, everyone dies? I guess, technically, that's the risk we make with any series - will all our time and effort we put into watching the series pay off at its conclusion?

Unfortunately I don't think this is a problem The Walking Dead will be able to fix. In terms of an 'endgame', or a long-term goal to work towards, as you suggest, it would be ideal, but because it's based off of the comic books, this makes it very difficult to do. While I haven't read them myself I know that while the series is quite different to its source material, at this stage the same important events occur, just in a different order or way. As the comics are still going, it will be near impossible for the show to start planning a long-term storyline that explores the mythology of the zombie apocalypse, or even for the main characters.

And I can't speak for the comics, but whenever the series has briefly tried to offer a solution to the zombie apocalypse was at the research facility at the end of Season 1, which I personally found to be one if the weakest parts of the entire series.

I think that this season The Walking Dead has really found itself, and for the series to suddenly start pursuing zombie cures or to start suggesting how/ why the zombie apocalypse started would feel odd for the series since it has specifically developed itself as something other than that - more of a character driven show.

So it's sort of a conundrum for me. While I want the series to be something more than what it is so that I can become invested in it long-term, at the same time I think introducing such aspects to the series would be a detriment to what The Walking Dead has done thus far. I guess there's nothing really to be done.
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Jan 19, 2014
Can't say I disagree with your reasoning. I certainly don't want The Walking Dead to sacrifice the character aspects it does well for the sake of an endgame. But while, I think it would be hard for the reasons you stated, I don't think it's impossible and it really would propel the series to greatness.
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Jan 19, 2014
I can agree with most of what's been said. For me the appeal of the show has always been watching the people survive and make their way in a world that has changed so drastically. I enjoy the character development that others find tedious or extraneous. I don't agree with all of the decisions the writers have made but other than the entire Governor sequence I can get behind them.

The prison was groovy for a while but exploring how to defend it from the living as well as the dead was good times but I think them being forced to leave will be even better. It drives home the point that nothing and no place is ever safe...that's quite a bit to wrap your brain around.

I am with MissMunchkin below also glad that they were sick. I spent an awful lot of time noticing how they all seemed remarkably healthy in such conditions, no clean water, piles of dead/undead bodies breeding disease everywhere and no one gets sick? Heh? So the disease that was good.

What I think people are forgetting in terms of new characters are two things. One, even though it was overshadowed by Carol being kicked out, there was a voice on the radio which means there's another community somewhere for them to get to. Seemed like each season there was something to get to before season three. First it was the CDC and then when Sophia got lost it was Fort Benning. Hopefully this season they get to bring that back with whoever was on the radio.
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Jan 18, 2014
I disagree and agree on a few points. I personally thought the virus storyline this season was fantastic. Back at the end of season 2, I was complaining that no one was getting sick. No one! In this disease ridden world, are you kidding me? These are some real lucky mofos... And then season 3 started and Andrea had a little cold... that went away really quickly. And then finally, season 4 filled my OCD desires of showing that people are gonna get sick, and they're going to die just from being sick. Thank you, show!

And personally, I think the characters all periodically getting sick is an important part of surviving in this world. You do what you can not to get sick, but you're surrounded by dead bodies, contaminated water supplies, and food that is barely edible. Of course illness will follow you everywhere. They need Carol back to fill in that nurse quota again, because she is the one that trained with Hershel. And while Bob has some medical background, I still don't trust him as far as I can throw him.

I also disagree about Tyreese and Sasha just being bit characters now. I care about them, and I've never read the comics. I remember going, "NOO!" when Sasha collapsed from the illness, and then I was so relieved when she was okay. Love her. Keep her around for a while! Tyreese is quite a bit more unhinged than his sister, but he's still relatively likable when he's not going nutso.

In this half of the season, my wants are simple:

1. Bring back Carol, and bring on Caryl. Call me a romantic, but I love the romance on this show, because it's always a "This may be the last day we have together" kind of romance. And that's the best kind.

2. Figure out the fate of Judith for sure. Whether Tyreese has her and she's fine or someone witnessed her lil' body becoming zombie chow, let's get a definitive answer going into this second half of the season. I don't mind Rick remaining a zombie shell for a while, but me - as an audience - I want answers now.

3. Get the group back together... eventually? This splintered cell thing is going to be interesting for a little while, but I can't imagine the disjointed storylines will feel very good after a while.

4. And I agree about the Governor. The next villain? Give them some depth and bring on some real fear for the group.
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Jan 19, 2014
for the record, I didn't mean to completely dismiss the virus storyline. I hadn't really given much thought to the absence of sickness at this point, but you're right, that was absolutely unrealistic. I thought there were some incredible moments in the virus story, I just felt they dragged it out because they really had nothing else driving the story at this time.

And I completely agree with your thoughts on the next villain. I'm all about introducing a big bad but it's gotta be somebody that I buy as a real person.
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Jan 18, 2014
The show definitely has its ebbs and flows, so I'm not going to vouch for every moment of it, but I'm not sure I agree with your thoughts on character development. If we knew everything about everybody, and everything could be justified within that character's moral code, then we'd have a post-apocalyptic world of one-dimensional people whose actions could be predicted--I.E. characters from the Star Wars prequels.

One thing to remember is that the series (comic or tv) is not about the zombies. It's the people who are the walking dead. Therefore, it's about the people and how, sometimes, it's people we must fear most in a zombie apocalypse--people like Shane, people like the Governor. They are people who would exist in this situation. There are times the Governor wasn't the best written, but the character absolutely makes sense.

Scott Gimple has really brought the show to full form this season. Unfortunately he had to waste two episodes setting up the prison meltdown that should have happened at the end of season 3. But the virus storyline was golden and really set up some amazing character moments while bringing a logical, yet unforeseen threat to the forefront.

I think you'd appreciate the comic books. Though, they don't apologize for anything.
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Jan 19, 2014
You're absolutely right. Gimple has done a good job and the prison showdown was inevitable and something he was left with to handle. I think he did an admirable job of trying to add layers to the Governor, it just didn't quite land. I'm excited for what he'll bring to the table in the future.
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Jan 18, 2014
I agree on all fronts with the sleigh exception around Judith. It's difficult to watch a young child (especially a baby) die in a show, yes, because we're human. However, logistically for the writers to deal with a baby, not neglect it, but still have the show have the same level of excitement etc. I assume would be hard. Just as it would hard having and raising a baby in this environment I suppose, so maybe exploring this on screen would bring some realism as well. I'm torn as a viewer on this and will be happy with whatever they decide to do with Judith's storyline. I don't envy the writers in the respect at all.

I think that Scott Gimple has been the best show-runner yet and I hope with him at the helm our desires for what the show needs and should become will mostly be actualized. It may not please everyone, but I think whatever unfolds will be true to what the show is/should be. I have faith in Gimple, though I hope it's not misplaced.

My hope for 4B is that the group stays severed for a while, keeping them on the road for a bit - it would be unrealistic especially in this world for them to all meet up quickly. Knowing that Abraham and crew have been cast makes me think that this will be the next big storyline, which I couldn't be more excited for - I'm yearning for some of the great plots and characters in the comic to come to fruition in the show. I also want to see them deal with winter at some point, and the sooner the better in my opinion.
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Jan 19, 2014
I completely agree with you regarding Judith. To clarify, my issue is not with them killing off a baby. While it's a difficult circumstance to convey, for sure, it would certainly feel authentic. I just don't believe that they did kill her so it seems kind of cheap and exploiatative at this point. Like they want us and the characters to react to something devastating only to reveal it was all a misunderstanding. I might be wrong. Either way, I don't think it's something that should remain a question mark. We should find out definitely if she's still alive or not very quickly when the series returns.
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Jan 19, 2014
Okay, misunderstood! Completely agree!! They need to explain what happened to her definitively ASAP.
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Jan 18, 2014
sleigh=slight … silly autocorrect.
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Jan 18, 2014
I agree about there needing to be some kind of hope in the zombie apocalypse. I thought the prison would provide a stable home base and while taking that away was good for the story, it removed any semblance of hope for a normal life. Maybe a cure for the zombie virus - not one that turns zombies back but one that keeps someone infected from turning when they die?

I also agree there needs to be some fresh characters. How about a scientist that investigates how to repel zombies? We know loud noises draws them, but what effect does low or high pitch sounds have on them? How about a scent that causes them to steer clear of an area? Or using something like a flesh-eating bacteria to wipe a large contingency of them out? Humanity is smart and curious and it stands to reason that someone would be working towards figuring out how to eradicate the zombie population.
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