5 Plotlines The Walking Dead Needs to Stop Repeating
The midseason premiere of The Walking Dead just hit, and honestly, it looks like they're making some changes for the better. It is a completely different animal than anyone was expecting, which, for a show that relies so heavily on doing the exact same thing season after season, is something fans should be pretty excited about.
But that's just one episode. There are certain recurring plot devices that The Walking Dead continuously rehashes to the point that they are now starting to reek more than the zombies that occasionally appear on the show. If this season of The Walking Dead wants to continue being surprising and exciting, it needs to avoid the following storytelling crutches it's been leaning on since Rick stumbled out of that hospital five years ago.
A Character Always Struggles to Accept That Zombies Aren't People
In a show about people turning into zombies, it's expected that we will see the plot point of a character grappling with the thought of killing a zombified loved one. That's, like, the first box you check for Zombie Movie Bingo. But season after season, the writers keep dragging out this trope and pretending it's a brand-new plot development.
We're not even sure what season this is from.
First, there's Morgan, the man who saves Rick's fresh-out-of-a-coma ass. Morgan has the chance to shoot his undead wife, but just can't bring himself to do it. We later find out that Morgan's zombie wife tried to eat their kid, leaving him no choice but to finally kill her.
In Season 2, otherwise known as the season when AMC's dramatically reduced budget forced Rick and company to stay on a farm for an entire year, we are introduced to Hershel, who, unbeknownst to Rick's crew, is keeping a barn full of his zombified family members, because he can't bring himself to dispose of them.
And we all remember how that turns out.
When we are introduced to the sinister Governor in Season 3, we are led to believe he has a deep, dark secret, only to discover that it's the same damn plot point from the previous two seasons: he has a zombie daughter that he's keeping alive.
At least he's fatherly enough to use Pantene for zombies.
Season 4 gives us Lizzie, a girl so fascinated with zombies that she befriends one:
And then later kills her sister so she can have a permanent zombie buddy. Guys, there are other ways to struggle with your humanity. We don't need every villain to be harboring a secret zombie relative.
There Is Always One Completely Irrational Idiot (Who Gets Killed)
While the writers have given us a handful of decent characters, most of the screentime is taken up by a revolving cast of imbeciles that in actuality wouldn't last 10 minutes in a zombie apocalypse. Appropriately, all of these characters are now dead. Spoiler alert, we guess.
Season 1 gives us Merle, the courageous racist who manages to find room in his heart to be bigoted even though there's like 10 people left in the country. He serves no purpose other than hamstringing the main characters before finally dying after a lame redemption plot that feels like it was tacked on at the last minute, because that's what good writing looks like.
These four frames are his entire character arc.
And because no weekly hour of drama would be complete without a love triangle, we are blessed with the trifecta of Lori, Shane, and Rick. Lori Grimes, Rick's former wife and Shane's maybe-or-maybe-not baby momma, is the queen of irrational, stupid decisions and seems to have fewer brain cells than any of the actual zombies, a trait perfectly illustrated by that time she flips a car for no reason whatsoever:
Look at all that shit in the way! Oh wait.
Ultimately, her unwillingness to choose between Shane and Rick leads to Shane trying to kill Rick, because Shane is another idiot character that makes no sense. In fairness, Shane starts out as a decent, dynamic character who just turns into a caricature of an asshole the more screentime he gets, culminating in a volcano of random fits of jealousy. This is despite the fact that he and Rick were partners and best friends for years. It all goes back to that first day of screenwriting class -- if you run out of reasons for your antagonist to be antagonizing, just turn him into an irrational maniac.
Then there's Andrea, who has basically two character traits: being a terrible person (remember when she tries to help Beth kill herself?) and her weakness for bad boys. She shags Shane before shacking up with The Governor, completely oblivious to his evil antics despite him showing her his creepy zombie fighting arena on their first date.
And they say romance is (un)dead.
Even when she discovers that The Governor tried to have her former best friend Michonne killed, Andrea still willingly has sex with him and refuses to take him out, which results in him feeding her to zombies a few episodes later. It's not like this is a difficult puzzle to solve -- Andrea in the comics is a strong, assertive character that doesn't do any of that bullshit. They could have literally just copied her verbatim from the source material, if it weren't for the apparent "irrational moron" quota the showrunners have to make each season.
Seriously, comic Andrea is basically Sarah Connor.
Then there's Bob.
Pause at any given moment he is on-screen and he will be making this face.
Bob is a former alcoholic who endangers the whole group for a bottle of booze before eventually becoming a barbecue side dish for a group of cannibals, and then turning into a zombie. Because this show is about zombies, in case you forgot.
Season 5 graces us with the gift that is Father Gabriel, a pointlessly obtuse and secretive character who has managed to somehow stay alive in the apocalypse despite his inability to do anything useful. His ultimate stupidity comes when he, while perfectly safe inside a church, decides to claw his way through the floorboards like some rabid animal for no reason whatsoever just to immediately get stuck in a horde of zombies outside, reminding the viewers once again how useless he is. He runs back to the church with his tail between his legs and causes the church's barricade to be destroyed in his rescue, because everyone in this show is a goddamned moron.
"I'm sorry; it's like I was being called upon by a higher, dumber power."
Death Is a "Get Out of Jail Free" Plot Device
It seems only fair that in a show about zombies, the threat of death is going to be around every corner. That said, it quickly becomes a tiring plot device when anytime the writers need the fellowship of Rick to leave a location, a random army of zombies appears out of nowhere to chase them out. Zombies aren't exactly ninjas or a hurricane -- you would see a huge group of them coming well in advance.
Also, instead of actually inserting plausible tension into a scene, the show relies on secret hiding zombies that pop out like some sort of jack-in-the-box. Then the person being attacked acts completely unprepared for zombies, as if they aren't smack-dab in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Why the fuck would zombies be hiding? And how? At all other times zombies are super noisy, like a bunch of groaning, slobbering, wheezing ... well, zombies. Remember that zombie that's pretending to be asleep/dead to trick Hershel?
To be fair, maybe he's the corpse of Daniel Day-Lewis.
Why the hell would a zombie just sit there pretending to be dead? Zombies crawl mindlessly from one meal to the next. Gaslighting human beings is way more planning and willpower than a standard shambling ghoul has any reason to possess.
The non-zombie-related deaths are even more nonsensical, thrown in purely for shock value. Remember the non-racist redneck Axel, who is shot in the head by The Governor despite him having a perfectly clear shot of main character Carol?
"I'm safe! It's not a midseason or season finale!"
Then in the latest midseason finale we lose Ravenclaw alumni Beth, because she decides to stab the crazy cop lady with a tiny pair of scissors despite being two seconds away from freedom. No adult person would make that decision, yet here we are, staring at a fan petition to bring Beth back from her ridiculous death, because The Walking Dead's writers don't understand how human beings behave.
There Is Always an Ultimate Goal That Never Pays Off
It's become a running joke at this point, but the characters on The Walking Dead are constantly thinking up some new scheme for ultimate salvation every season, even though we all know it's going to turn out to be cannibals or some bullshit.
In Season 1, their main objective is reaching the CDC, because surely it will be safe there and maybe there will even be a cure. However, once they finally arrive, they're met by a lone nutcase who at least has the decency to let them know that everyone has already been infected before he blows himself up for no reason.
"Don't be sad; he's in a better
show place now."
In Season 2, Rick and the gang try to settle into farm life with the Hershel family, until a horde of zombies (see "we need Rick to relocate," above) shows up, forcing them to leave.
The next season is basically just the farm all over again, only this time it's a prison, with Rick giving the group the same monologue about how they should settle down and try to make a life there. Then we are introduced to the apparent utopian community of Woodbury, until we find out that it's run by a psychopath and is completely destroyed in the finale.
In Season 4, the prison is overrun by yet another horde of zombies, and the group spots signs for a new safe-haven called Terminus.
"We can't wait to meat you!"
Surprise! Terminus is run by crazy cannibals.
In the midst of Season 4 we meet Eugene, who tells the group that he's actually some sort of genius who knows the cure for the zombie virus and needs to get to Washington, D.C. Rick's group, desperately clinging to any shred of hope they can find, risk their lives to get Eugene's mulletted ass to D.C., only to discover that he made the whole thing up because he's lonely or something (see "The Walking Dead's writers are awesome," all previous entries).
Lastly, there's Beth's rescue mission, which is actually successful, in the sense that it rescues Beth from having to continue her miserable existence in the zombie wasteland.
Success looks a lot like a gunshot wound to the brain.
Rick Struggles With His Humanity the Exact Same Way Each Season
Rick, the hero of The Walking Dead, starts out as a moral dude and a good cop, used to saving lives rather than taking them. We can't blame the guy for struggling with the first couple of times that he's forced to kill someone to keep his group safe. Yet, season after season, we find ourselves watching an increasingly bearded Rick fighting the same inner struggle, because for whatever reason he is incapable of accepting this particular truth of his new life as a warden of the apocalypse.
By Season 7, he's just going to be in a Chewbacca suit.
In Season 1, Rick leaves professional scumbag Merle handcuffed to a roof but has a change of heart and goes back to try to rescue him. Stone-hearted practicality is still a new concept to him, since he has literally just woken up in the middle of a zombie plague.
"Sweet, no hospital bill."
In Season 2, Rick and Shane bicker over killing Randall, who had just tried to shoot them both. In Season 3, we see Rick struggling over whether he should send Michonne to be killed in order to end the war between the prison and Woodbury.
By Season 4, Rick has killed more people than your run-of-the-mill serial killer, yet he agonizes over banishing Carol, even though Carol confesses to murdering two people in cold blood. It's like Rick is playing a video game and wants to make all the correct choices to get the good ending. Despite it being the primary concern of a man tasked with keeping a group of survivors alive, Rick is still completely unable to reconcile putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few.
"In all fairness, Daryl is just way cooler than all of you."
In their attempt to save Beth, Rick's group captures two cops who run the hospital, only to argue about whether they should keep them alive. When one escapes, Rick suddenly forgets about the whole not wanting to kill thing and, turning into some Grand Theft Auto protagonist, unflinchingly shoots the guy in the face with zero remorse, making his struggle even more pointless. Heck, in this week's midseason premiere, Rick goes through the same "I can't kill people" struggle that he's been dealing with since the first Obama administration. It's time to explore a different aspect of Rick's character, folks. We can't keep beating the same zombie horse.
For more walking follies, check out 4 Reasons 'The Walking Dead' Hates Humans More Than Zombies and 5 Insane but Plausible Ways Your Favorite TV Shows Could End.