The lanes on the left represent the show's fanbase about halfway through the second season.
But it doesn't have to be that way! A serious, ongoing series about the zombie apocalypse could be so amazing, and after the last two episodes, I'm almost positive that The Walking Dead is finally going to have to start being the show I'm waiting for. For reals this time. Any day now.
P ... please?
This should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: I'm going to spoil everything, in every sense of the term, for everybody. I'm going to spoil the TV show, I'm going to spoil the books and I'm probably going to spoil your overall sunny outlook on life. So really, don't read any of this if you haven't finished the comics, or if you're not caught up on the show, or just ... at all. Don't read this. It's the only safe thing to do.
5No More Red Shirts
"OH GOD! NOT JIMMY!" -- Nobody, ever. Not even Jimmy.
It's taken two full seasons, but they've finally done it: The Walking Dead has run out of Red Shirts. The aftermath of the farm scene left both Patricia and Jimmy dead -- two characters I had to actually look up to see if they had names, because I kept referring to them as "the guy that doesn't matter" and "the blonde girl that's not the other blonde girl." Seriously, when that kid stoically died in the RV without uttering a single line, I was convinced that the writers had just sighed a collective "fuck it" and threw some poor intern in there to up the body count. But IMDB insists that Jimmy was a real thing in several real episodes, so I suppose we should all care that he heroically died from not locking the fucking door. I lock the door when guys with a bitchin' tan walk too close to my Subaru; I'm pretty sure that's like the first thing any thinking human being would do before willingly driving into the Million Zombie March.
But I digress: Yes, it's a stupid and petty cop-out on the part of the screenwriters to keep throwing out chum instead of messing with the "real" characters. But you guys: This is almost it! With Jimmy and Patricia dead, that's almost all of the zombie kibble gone! The only two disposable characters left now are Beth and Carol. And Carol, as obnoxious and pointless as she is, has at least shown up for most of the episodes: There will be some sort of emotional consequences if the zombie apocalypse's Miss Punctuality gets herself killed.
"You guys having an apocalypse? Can I come? I promise I'll be quiet; you won't even notice I'm there."
It's like this: Have you ever come home after a hard day at work, and the first thing you do is to gather up everything you could possibly need -- phone, laptop, remote, beer, Hot Pockets, Kleenex, bail cash -- and put it all by the couch, just so you won't have to get up for the next few hours? Well, that's what the writers of The Walking Dead did, right at the start of both seasons. They carefully collected and arranged their Red Shirts within easy reach, so that they could lazily punctuate a scene with a meaningless death whenever they needed it. Have to build some tension in a hurry? Throw a handful of nameless campsite folks to the zombie hordes. Just realized the fishing episode was mind-numbingly boring? Hurl one of the racist caricatures to the undead. Not sure how to write a compelling chase scene? Start whipping Hershel's anonymous family members at the undead like batteries at a riot cop. But now that's it: There's only one more disposable character left to burn before the writers have to get up and walk all the way to the fridge to get another.
And they do have a track record of laziness, so maybe they just won't bother.
4Shane Is Dead
"Hey, if y'all need to externalize every negative attribute of your personalities, I'll be in the shitter. Hit me up."
One of the most compelling aspects of The Walking Dead comic was watching Generic Good Guy Rick being slowly but completely ruined by a lawless world. He started off as a cliche small town sheriff, sure, but only because it was fun to explore exactly what it takes to break Andy Griffith's mind and make him eat the rest of Mayberry. The character had to begin as a featureless paragon of virtue so we could watch anarchy tear him down to a baser level, but it's not that way in the show: TV's The Walking Dead had Shane survive two full seasons, and that was a mistake. He was cast as the reckless bad boy antihero from the start, and as much as that archetype might ravenously devour the panties of zombie apocalypse fangirls everywhere, watching his descent from amoral to evil just wasn't compelling TV.
In adapting the comic, The Walking Dead writers decided to split the Rick character up into Good Guy Rick and Bad Guy Shane, and had them bounce off of each other, rather than having one single character wrestle with opposing moral concepts. But now Shane is dead. Do you see what they've done? They've accidentally written themselves into a corner, and now they have no choice but to make Rick actually grow as a character! They're going to be forced to continue Shane's antagonist role within Rick himself, rather than having him sit on Rick's shoulder in a little devil costume and whisper cartoonishly evil suggestions in his ear, like he has been.
"Rape 'em, Rick!" "Well I don't see how that gets us a new air filter for the Bron-" "YOU'RE WEAK, RICK! YOU CAN'T PROTECT US!"