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The Walking Dead is the only show I’ve watched right from the beginning. I watched the first episode as it aired on TV.

It actually happened by accident.

I remember seeing ads for a zombie television show created by Frank Darabont on AMC. I wasn’t familiar with the comic book, but I like the zombie genre. I thought it could be an interesting diversion, but I didn’t pay attention to when it would premiere.

I happened upon it by accident on Halloween night when I was channel surfing. I think I only missed the first minute or two – I came in moments before Rick’s encounter with the little walker girl.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the shit out of it.

It’s amazing to think back to a time when I was trying to convince people to watch The Walking Dead, now the biggest show on television.

I loved the second season even more. Shane was my favourite character – an unpopular opinion, at the time at least. I’m curious to know what people think of Shane when they go back and watch old episodes because Shane is exactly who Rick has become now, only more tame.

Rick crazy

However, as The Walking Dead continued, problems began to arise, and I’ve come to consider it a decent show, but one that often leaves me disappointed. A show about zombies shouldn’t be boring, but there’s a reason for this. And since most of the problems I have seem to stem from this one issue, it’s come to be the single largest problem with the show.

There are too many episodes in a season of The Walking Dead.

Yeah. Just that.

Consider 24 – an all right, if not fascist, television show.

24′s draw was its excitement, and the writers needed to find compelling reasons for Jack Bauer to kill or, at least, torture a terrorist pretty much every episode. It’s not a sustainable model for a 24-episode television show with one plot line.

This most recent season had 12 episodes, as opposed to the usual 24. It was pretty great in a lot of ways, partly because they had the luxury of being able to focus on one story, instead of having to come up with meandering subplots for side characters to fill time. We were spared having to watch Elisha Cuthbert run from mountain lions.

Most television now is short and sweet. Breaking Bad would not have been as brilliant if there were 20+ episodes every season. It’s a great story, but there’s not enough story for that much television.

What

So why go for 16 episode seasons? My guess is that AMC is trying to grab as many ratings as they can. And it’s at the expense of the show.

13 episodes was a stretch for season two. I don’t deny that the season is slow. This might be a cop-out, but I think that was the purpose of season two. We had a lot of time to get to know the characters.

I don’t believe the same can be said of season three. There are fantastic episodes in that season, and then there are episodes that aren’t just slow, they’re unnecessary. Did we need an entire episode of Andrea running through a field while being pursued by the Governor in a pickup truck?

Did Rick have to go back and forth from sanity to insanity, from protecting Michonne to wanting to give her up to wanting to protect her again? Or how about the Governor? That story was drawn out to a limp conclusion in season three, only to be rehashed for season four. He is the Governor, then he’s not the Governor and then he is again.

Stretching a story makes a character’s motivations inconsistent.

I found Arrow on the Doorpost (the one that’s just a conversation between the Governor and Rick) interesting; I like slow-burn character building episodes. But having that episode conclude with Rick telling the group that “we’re going to war” and then have nothing come of it is frustrating. Each episode in season three was building to something that never really happened.

No one likes to feel like they’re being led on.

Shane led on

I don’t mean to pick on season three, season four has the same problems, and then there are episodes in season five where literally nothing happens – except for a tree falling on a herd of walkers in the middle of the night, thanks to some perfectly placed lightening. “Thanks for that one, God!”

Seasons are too long to sustain the momentum of the story. Episodes are less focused, and stories are drawn out to the point of exhaustion – we wait so long for something to happen that when it does, we barely care. A shorter season length would mean that the show didn’t need to slow down to snail’s pace in the middle episodes.

It’s unfortunate that I’ve come to count on being bored for stretches of time during episodes 4 to 13. There are of course exceptions, but that’s just what they are – exceptions. It seems like there’s a lot of filler for a show about zombies. Trim the fat.

Brevity is the soul of zombie television.

Trimming the fat would fix some other problems too, like when there are filler episodes that build up to a cliffhanger… or multiple cliffhangers. So the audience has to wait, wait, wait and then wait some more.

What’s the problem with concluding a story? In my opinion, it was wrong to conclude season four with everyone trapped in a train car. That should have been the penultimate episode of the season, and it should have finished with the opening episode of season five.

That way you give the season a wonderfully dark symmetry; the first half concludes with the group’s home, the prison, being destroyed and taken away from them. The end of the season would conclude with Rick and company doing the same thing to someone else.

Maggie see that

Now if cliffhangers are caused by budget constraints, don’t shoot sixteen episodes. Focus all your money and energy on twelve episodes or ten if money is tight. I get wanting to start the next season off strong, a great season premiere is a good thing, but not at the expense of a season finale.

Raise the budget of such a ratings juggernaut!

I believe the issue was that most of AMC’s money went to Mad Men. Now that that show is concluded, it seems as if the budget has gone up for season six. AMC may have already clued into this.

Also, if the show had more money they could hire better actors.

Jessie

Who cast Mad Men? And, perhaps more importantly, where are they? Any side character on that show gave a good performance, even if their arc lasted one episode.

Season six has taken a step in the right direction. They could have got anyone to play Morgan’s enlightened rescuer in episode 4, but they went with John Carroll Lynch. The episode was infinitely stronger for it.

There is a multitude of actors working on The Walking Dead that give middling one-note performances. Maybe adding some nuance to Deanna’s two smarmy sons might be more interesting than just playing them to be unlikable. It goes for Jessie’s husband as well. It goes for almost every character from Alexandria.

All this to say, I still enjoy the show, and will still continue to tune in every week; I was there from the beginning and it’s the only show I can say that for. Even as I write this blog, I’m arguing with myself – rationalizing the inconsistencies of the show. Some people want quantity, some quality.

It’s a show about zombies, and for the most part, it’s good, even in its sixth season. If AMC cut down the season length, stories could be focused, the show’s budget could be used more effectively, and stronger actors could be hired. That would take The Walking Dead from decent to great.

But I doubt they’ll listen to me.

After doing moderately well with six episodes, Fear The Walking Dead is jumping to sixteen episodes in season two. Will it be able to sustain itself?

Carol

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