It’s great, but how long can this show survive?
What we’re liking – or loathing – on TV right now.
The Walking Dead just wrapped up its fifth season in style. “Conquer” was an excellent finale that highlighted everything that’s been enjoyable about the show since showrunner Scott Gimple took the hot seat. This is now a series that prioritises characterisation over action, while still being thrilling, surprising and wonderfully, ridiculously violent. Gimple has reintroduced hope into the mix too, which is vital, given how The Walking Dead’s default state is so often depressing and doomy. The introduction of the Alexandria Safe Zone is the biggest shift to the status quo since the Governor arrived. Rick and his pals have found a home that’s worth fighting for. It’s not the gunmetal confines of a prison, either, but a lush suburban town. And, if the show sticks to the general map of the comics, then they’re going to be there for a good long time…
All of that said, I’m concerned about the chatter coming out of AMC that it could run for as long as The Simpsons ( 26 years and counting...). It’s nice to know that it’s not going away any time soon, but really? If we’re to take that literally – or even “just” creator Robert Kirkman’s speculation that it could run for about 12 seasons – then that raises a number of challenges. Minor comic spoilers ahead...
The most obvious of these is Rick. Andrew Lincoln is the face of this show, but can you see him sticking it out for more than a couple more seasons? Presumably he’s not hankering to do an Adam “Ian Beale” Woodyatt and play a single character for the rest of his life. At some point, Rick will have to go. And given that he is still alive in the current issue of the comic (# 143 at the time of writing)
that’s going to be a major, though not necessarily fatal, hurdle to overcome. Personally I’d love a series that was more focused on Daryl, Morgan or Michonne. But would the audience follow?
Not so much a hurdle, but something to take into account as the show progresses, is the passage of time. So far The Walking Dead has taken place, roughly speaking, over a couple of years. If it’s to continue, then it’s going to need to move on. Those abandoned cities are going to decay and fall into ruin. The communities will need to change too as resources from before the fall become ever more scarce. Then there’s repetition. Now this is a problem.
The Walking Dead is naturally inclined to calm periods in settlements, before some disaster uproots the characters and forces them to move on again. For that reason, it’s difficult to trust the idea that the Safe Zone is now their home. That said, the comic has kept the Alexandria settlement in play to this day. Will the TV show be able to follow that lead without it becoming visually boring?
But most dangerous of all is the problem of overkill. The series is in its prime right now, with season five bringing in record viewing figures, and there’s a spin- off on the way. Fine, but how long is this going to be sustainable? Robert Kirkman has stated that there are plans in place if the show ever starts to drastically lose favour. I don’t want The
Walking Dead to shuffle off any time soon, but let’s hope that Kirkman, AMC and co don’t try to drag it out forever. Let it die when the time comes. Then, perhaps a few years down the line, resurrect it. That would be wonderfully appropriate.
He really wasn’t sure about these new intense facial treatments.