Hey, so I hear y’all watching The Walking Dead had a heck of a Sunday night. You won’t believe what happened, the headlines blare. Such a twist. Such a gut punch. Such a terrible thing to happen out of nowhere. You’ll never guess what happened.
A character died.
Right? What a revolutionary direction for the show to take. Did said character die meaninglessly? Holy shit, such creative muscles they’re flexing!
I loved the first season of The Walking Dead but ended up stopping watching in the middle of some random episode in season three. I got bored with it on Netflix, flipped on something else, and forgot to ever go back to it. It’s not the darkness, the violence, or the death. These things don’t trouble me in a story in the least. But the problem is that The Walking Dead isn’t a story. It’s just a monotonous drone of people in pain.
The fact that the writers are able to make you actually care about these characters while they torture them for your viewing pleasure shouldn’t be taken as a evidence that the show is any good as a story. It’s a shell game that convinces you to empathize with characters as they’re ground into dust. The empathetic characters are an essential part of the sadistic machine. But it’s only a treadmill of emotion to keep you marching towards the nonexistent dangling carrot. To their credit, the producers of The Walking Dead are putting to air the most overwhelmingly popular snuff film in history, week in and week out.
But constant death and hopelessness isn’t a story. Stories have trajectories. They might go from bad times to a happy ending or good times to a tragic ending, or dance all around in between, but if it’s just a flat line of suffering, that’s not a story. It’s just pornography of misery.
Some of you will argue to the contrary, and that’s fine. But ask yourself, when is the last time you learned anything new about the world of The Walking Dead? When has there been any advancement of any story other than the characters trudging to the next location or set piece of suffering?
Since the Doctor whispered into Rick’s ear at the end of the first season, there has not been a single new fact introduced about this world. There has been no direction, no gradual learning of more, no story development. So when the producers say they already know what happens in seasons ten through twelve? That’s no triumph of long term storytelling. The show will be in the same place it is now, regardless of who happens to be alive, or where they happen to be. All the physical moving around is just the illusion of story to mask the fact that there isn’t a story being told at all. The show isn’t going anywhere.
The Walking Dead has so far aired 70 episodes. The last time any actual plot development happened was in episode six. The next 64 have just been slowly cutting away the characters you love. And that’s not any kind of story.