18 November 2013

Why I Quit Watching The Walking Dead

I was a big fan until this season. And then, after the second episode, I just gave up. I think the inherit conflict in the show's structure finally got to me. It's not that the show doesn't give fans what they want; everyone wants something different that can't be met.

But what is central to the show are two things that I think are in direct conflict with maintaining long-term engagement:

  • The show is, at it's heart, largely about character development and interpersonal relationships. The characters have more or less found ways to survive (although more on that later). What they haven't figured out, and what the show constantly explores, is how or if you rebuild society in the face of certain doom.

  • The show is also brutal about the realities of life after the apocalypse. Hope is a dangerous thing, often repaid in crushing disappointment or death. In fact it relishes the moments when destruction visits the group, spending considerable time on the setup and execution of graphic deaths, repelling of the zombie hordes, and the general acceptance of killing walkers as a matter-of-fact part of life.


These two things set up a conflict the show can't resolve, however. When you have a show driven by the characters within it's universe, viewers have to connect. It's the only way you can put yourself in the world and feel threatened or satisfied. The drama of the show hinges on viewers being able to feel the heavy, ever-present threat walkers embody.

Except you can't anymore. Allowing yourself to identify with anyone other than Rick opens the real possibility that your avatar in the world gets killed or removed somehow. Rick is the sole exception as he's not in any real risk. The economics of the television show effectively dictate that Rick must survive. He's the cover art for the show.

Anyway, all of this has led to the show becoming very boring once you remove yourself from becoming attached to a character or engaging in the deeper explorations. All of the questions the show raises are embodied in characters; altruism, bravery, morality all found voices in people. To grep the arguments of the show, you have to viscerally understand the character making the statement. The reward for doing so is no longer worth the investment for me.

I'll probably binge watch this season on Netflix at some point, but I no longer make time to watch it when it airs. All the people I talked with about the previous-night's show have all independently stopped watching. The overwhelming comment is that the show is "boring".

I don't think that bodes well for what, until now, has been must-watch television.

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