We’ve seen some crazy stuff from AMC’s small screen adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s smash hit comic, The Walking Dead. And while a few seasons have felt a bit uneven in regards to the writing, we’ve generally been blessed by a serious beast of a series with some brilliant characters. But The Walking Dead may be on the cusp of danger as we move through season seven.
Why, you ask?
I’ll tell you why.
Kirkman’s comic focuses on a sprawling story. It’s big. So big, in fact, that it’s not going to transfer well to the boob tube, I’m afraid.
If you thought things were chaotic trying to follow Rick and his gang as well as communities run by The Governor, or even a handful of despicable ex-cops who’ve holed up in an abandoned hospital, you’re about to have your mind totally and completely blown by how stretched out this story becomes.
As fans will soon understand, sometimes a story can be much too big. The Walking Dead is one of those stories, unfortunately. But what makes it so enormous? The insistence on introducing a whole slew of new characters and conflicts, that’s what.
Up to this point we’ve typically been asked to follow Rick’s group exclusively (with members of said group often embarking on small missions, which allows the series to be broken and avoid grating repetition). But that’s going to change quite a bit, as the story is already introducing entirely new communities. The question that comes along with the story expansion is do we care about all of these new faces?
Soon we’ll be asked to follow Rick at Alexandria, Carol at the Kingdom, the whole lot over at the Hilltop and Negan and the Saviors. That’s four full communities and too many new characters to count. We’re already seeing introductions early in season seven, and while it’s cool to welcome new faces to the fold, it’s only going to become harder to follow and invest in so many different individuals.
We didn’t catch a glimpse of Rick in episode two, and episode three spends its time homing in on Negan’s compound.
All the time away from Rick’s group won’t leave us echoing the age old adage of absence makes the heart grow fonder, it’s only going to create a dearth of interest. Now, Rick’s group may not be the primary group from which we grow distant, but it’s going to happen to at least one of these groups (if not all) and that’s hard to deny. The story already felt as though it was on the cusp of bursting from the seams prior to Negan and Ezekial’s introductions, what the hell happens now?
How can we come to invest anything – positive or negative – in Negan if he’s only a focal point of a third of the season?
Do we really care about Ezekial and his preposterous (it worked in the comics, but proves to be a major misfire in the live action transfer) tiger? Furthermore I ask you this: how do we get to a point in which we do indeed care about the character if he’s little more than a cramped persona in what is supposed to feel like an abysmal post-apocalyptic existence?
Let’s all remember that The Walking Dead only eats up about 45 minutes of our week. There’s only so much time to build something endearing to fans. Thus far AMC has been successful in doing just that, but with another 40 characters (a random guess) to devour time, it seems rather unlikely that we’ll ever pour our hearts into another character. The story is simply too big for this medium.
I’m all for introducing interesting new characters with magnetic personalities and mind blowing backstories, but I’m dead set against stories far too enormous to translate successfully to any screen, big or small.
The Walking Dead is simply too large in scope to continue impressing on the small screen. It’s only a matter of time before we’re fed up with missing Rick, or Carol, or Daryl. Expecting fans to be content with watered down stories and massive character neglect seems like a recipe for disaster, especially when you acknowledge the fact that character exploration is really what’s kept most of us onboard with the series.
Season six featured a number of episodes that felt like watered down filler. Sadly, none of it was meant to feel that way. We’re supposed to care for the people in this horrifying existence, but as more personalities are brought into the fold, more viewers will drop The Walking Dead from their must-see lists.
Devoting genuine attention to a dozen characters was already a challenge. Devoting genuine attention to three times that is absolutely absurd, and a bit much to ask of viewers. Even viewers who adore and follow the Image comic religiously.
As a hardcore fan of The Walking Dead, I sincerely hope AMC gets their act together and remembers that it isn’t the moments in which fan favorites are getting their skulls bashed in that capture our imaginations and hearts, it’s the moments in which we feel like we truly relate to characters that breaks through our emotional barriers. Unfortunately, I can’t begin to fathom any barriers even being tampered with while examining a story so expansive that the show’s creative group is crippled to the point of seriously neglecting individuals that we should all adore.
Here’s to hoping the insistence in sticking with so many comic details wanes, as the small screen isn’t big enough to house so many players. The Walking Dead doesn’t just feature too many chiefs, it now features too many Indians.