The Walking Dead’s Season 4 premiere was watched by 16.1 million viewers and got a 8.2 rating among adults 18-49.
That’s up 30 percent in the demo from the Season 3 finale, which means the show is more popular than ever before, almost shockingly popular since the series began in 2010.
But does that mean it’s an amazingly, gripping intelligent series? Not necessarily.
When it comes to a truly well written and well acted drama series, this show can’t touch Breaking Bad, which garnered several Emmy nominations and wins in the 65th Primetime Emmy awards. Nonetheless, The Walking Dead has its moments, both good and bad. Many critics of the show have generally praised the show and have given it anywhere from a B to an A+ rating.
However, the ratings should be specialized and pertain to each episode in the season rather than counted for the entire season because there have been some amazing highs, but also some dubious lows.
As a fan of the show (didn’t start watching/streaming it until the past summer), I can easily list at 5 pros and cons about the show that many critics may have already specified. However, there are depths that many critics haven’t thought about that I would like to address as both a fan and a critic of the show.
1. It draws you in immediately.
If you’ve never seen the show, I strongly suggest watching the pilot “Days Gone By” first. If that doesn’t get you to continue watching the show, then I’d suggest you move on. Chances are that it will grip you like it gripped me instantly, which is incredibly rare for some like myself who avoid watching the same show week after week.
In my opinion, the pilot is one of the strongest episodes of the entire series thus far and it’s ability to captivate you is a huge pro for this show.
2. Some high quality episodes
As mentioned before, the pilot is one of the strongest episodes, but there a few other episodes that feature strong writing, characterization, plot development, and entertainment. If I were to point out a few specific episodes to look out for, I’d pick “Days Gone By” and Vatos from Season 1, “Pretty Much Dead Already”, “Better Angels”, and “Beside the Dying Fire” from Season 2, and “Killer Within”, “This Sorrowful Life”, and especially “Clear” from Season 3.
Those particular episodes showcase probably the best writing of the entire series as well as exhilarating, heart pounding action sequences, intense acting, and shocking twists. Many critics and fans feel that the episode “Clear” from Season 3 may be the best episode of the entire series, especially for its characterization, acting, and writing.
3. Deeper Meanings
The series doesn’t just focus on survival, it manages to uncover deep, hidden meanings about humanity, society, and morality in a post-apocalyptic world. The entire plot of season 3 deals with human nature with the town of Woodbury and the portrayal of The Governor.
In season 2, there are concepts that revolve around suicide, killing another human being, and the overall human psyche. Much of these concepts evolved from the first season, where people had to choose between life or death by their own free will.
The series definitely has a lot of depth and, it’s overview on humanity as a whole may be the most interesting theme of The Walking Dead.
4. Zombies or “Walkers”
It is afterall a show about the living dead, so obviously this is a huge pro that has attracted millions of fans. The simple answer to this is that a lot of people love zombies. This dates back to the late 1960’s with George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and more modern and even humorous takes with 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland. Recently the movie based on a popular novel, “World War Z” performed very well at the box office despite less than stellar reviews.
Whether people love the hidden political agenda in zombie flicks or the thrill of murdering hundreds of zombies, they’ve become extremely popular and are not going away anytime soon. Whether this is just a craze or a true adoration for the living dead remains to be seen though, but given decades of living dead movies, I’d say it’s become part of our culture now.
See: CDC’s Zombie Apocalypse
5. A few outstanding characters
For a drama to truly be successful, the audience needs either someone to root for or someone who completely captures their attention. It’s no secret that the fan favorite character is Daryl Dixon played by Norman Reedus. I mean what’s not to like, he’s sort of an anti-hero, a bad-ass, and can be downright cruel sometimes, but yet he’s loyal, he’s trustworthy, and he truly cares about the people he’s with.
The same goes for Michonne played by Danai Gurira. She’s strong, wields a sword, which is quite different than a typical gun, is intuitive but portrays a lighter side that will surely continue to be uncovered moving forward. Other strong characters included Merle Dixon (Daryl’s brother), Hershel Greene, and of course Rick Grimes (the main protagonist).
There will likely be more characters added on and many more will be lost, and you know the show’s writers and actors have done a good job when their hardcore fans become truly angry if one of their favorites gets killed off.
1. It can be very slow-paced.
One of my pet peeves for this show is that the pacing can at times get painfully slow. The first half of season 2 was at times completely uneventful, slow, and downright boring. Critics agreed about the slow pacing, but at least there was some sort of payoff.
The same goes for parts of season 3 where there was a lot of talking and walking going on with very few results. The premiere of season 4 started off a big sluggish as well, but things turned up a notch pretty quickly. Obviously not every episode is going to be incredibly action packed and full of deaths to either the main or sub characters, but they should at least progress the story and make more scenes mean something. That brings me to my next biggest con.
2. What’s the Payoff
Fans are now diving into the fourth season of The Walking Dead, which is pretty significant given each episode lasts some 45 minutes. So what’s in it for them? Will they receive a big payoff for putting so much time into this show, or will it be a huge disappointment.
The next big question is where is the show going or what is it’s purpose. Is the purpose simply to live the rest of their lives at the prison and hopefully not get attacked by walkers, or is there a bigger plan?. I haven’t read the comics so I don’t know how that gets resolved, so I’m just basing my opinions on what I’ve seen.
Now I appreciate that in season 2 all that searching and pacing led to a shocking mid season finale or what I would call a nice payoff, but it still took half a season to get there. So I hope the writers speed things up a bit and really think about how to give the fans that big payoff.
3. Moments of Weak Acting
I don’t want to contradict myself because I mentioned how strong the acting can be in the series, but I also would like to point out that sometimes the acting is very stiff, unconvincing, and almost painful to watch. There were moments in season 1 and 2 where I cringed at the actor who played Carl Grimes. It didn’t click with me at times, and it was really apparent in the slow-paced episodes.
I wasn’t a fan with the characters of Lori or Andrea primarily because of stilted or unconvincing acting. That’s not to say they didn’t have any good moments, but sometimes the bad really outweighed the good. Even the best characters had their weak moments, so I don’t necessarily blame the actors completely because often times the weak acting was juxtaposed to a weak episode.
4. Doesn’t Explain Things
What else is out there? Is there a real functioning society out there that has maybe discovered a cure? What are the origins of the disease and are there more facts about it? How long will they stay at the prison?
There’s so much so discover and often times I felt like they’ve been keeping it a big secret. I would like to know what else is out there beyond state borders. I would like to know if there’s still a society out there that functions like the modern day world. I would like to know more about the disease and the origins of it. I have a feeling all of this will eventually be uncovered, but I still feel that we, the fans, should know more than we do.
All we know (Spoiler Alert) is that everyone is infected, the Governor is still out there, and they’re trying to stay alive at a prison. There’s so many possibilities and explanations that have yet to be uncovered. I personally want to know why the walkers aren’t decomposing like in 28 Days Later. Hopefully more questions will be solved than asked in the future of the series.
5. Too Played Out/Predictable
Again this is related to some of the cons listed, but there is a sense of predictability so far this series, especially at the farm and the prison where nothing changed. Think back to season 2 where many episodes involved the group waking up at the farm and searching for Sophia (Carol’s daughter, the girl who went missing). Think back to the past season where things were rather mundane at the prison. There wasn’t anything new going on and it became very routine.
Now in an ironic way routine is what our daily lives are based on, and yet it doesn’t work in a drama like The Walking Dead. We don’t want to see a show where the exact thing happens all the time, even though that’s what our lives are mostly about. A show is supposed to entertain so the constant getting up, standing watch at the tower, and killing off zombies at the fence becomes rather dull and uninspired.
This is why I really enjoyed the first season because they didn’t stay at the camp for long, and there was always something going on in different environments, so I really hope they leave the prison soon. I also want The Governor dead already, he’s overstayed his welcome and needs to be killed off soon although the suspense of when he’ll return does add a bit of intrigue to the 4th season.
So to conclude, for what the show is meant to be by the writers, directors, and producers, it definitely is. I don’t think the creators are or were ever aspiring to make a Breaking Bad level type show. Their main purpose is to entertain and do their best to recreate and adapt a comic book series. Based on the show’s current popularity, The Walking Dead absolutely achieved that goal and probably will continue for a long time to come.