‘The Walking Dead’: Is the Show Now Better Than The Comic?

Published 6 months ago by

walking dead carol moment The Walking Dead: Is the Show Now Better Than The Comic?

[Warning: Massive Spoilers for The Walking Dead S4 Episode 14.]

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Within the first five minutes of “Days Gone By”, the pilot episode of The Walking Dead, the show announced that it would treat children precociously – as an unnamed police officer (later revealed to be Rick Grimes) faced down a charging small child whose hand was still clasping a stuffed white bear, her face bloody, pale, and rotted away to perpetually reveal her brace-clad teeth.

That girl’s humanity had been replaced by the drum beat of hunger, and fearing for his life, Rick Grimes shot her – we were not spared the sight of it. Frank Darabont (the director of that episode and the show’s original showrunner) even slowed down her fall to the harsh pavement.

Was it shocking? Yes, but Darabont was telling a tale about the apocalypse and the moments after society’s rules had begun to lose the electric in their fence. Of course he had to make us uncomfortable from the outset. Of course, he had to make us gasp and repulse us with this impactful opening scene, simultaneously causing us to inch forward toward the screen just a little bit.

Through four seasons, The Walking Dead has had other moments with children that have been similarly jarring – perhaps too many of them, using the device as a crutch to shock us. Carl has endured the bulk of these, killing both his mother and a zombified Shane. Sometimes, it feels like this is Carl’s story, since by the end of it, no one will be more changed by the broken world of The Walking Dead than he will be. However, so far, Carl seems to be mostly alright with his quick transition away from childhood innocence and obliviousness.

walking dead next rick and carl The Walking Dead: Is the Show Now Better Than The Comic?

Lizzie, who along with her sister Mika have been mostly peripheral characters this season, has not been alright. The girl saw zombies as people, humanizing one to the point that she named him “Nick” while at the prison. Later, there were hints that she had tortured small animals, and there was a horrifying moment where she attempted to suffocate baby Judith.

Last night, Lizzie went further than most of us ever imagined she would – further than we thought this show would or could go – when she went from throwing a tantrum over the death of a walker that she had been playing with, to the moment where she tried to let a walker “change her,” to the shocking death of Mika at her hands.

The Walking Dead comic book is notorious for shocking moments. On the show – which vacillates between being a mostly faithful adaptation and its own beast quite often – some events are dialed back or fully scraped, while others swap different characters into these situations. In this instance, Carl is the one who must do what Carol does on the show – eliminating a child who has grown into a monster, after Ben kills his brother with a knife, turning to Andrea (his surrogate mother) to reassure her by saying: “Don’t worry, he’s going to come back. I didn’t hurt his brains.”

walking dead lizzy moment The Walking Dead: Is the Show Now Better Than The Comic?

Those words are nearly identical to the ones that Lizzie utters while standing over Mika’s lifeless body, blood splattered on her face, same as it is on Lizzie’s face. As a reader/viewer, we both arrive at and pivot away from these points in vastly different ways, but the sameness of those moments allows us to really compare these two mediums.

As a storytelling device, comic books are limited by their lack of dimension as well as the reader’s imagination; the latter of which resembles the way that a computer game is limited by the internal firepower of the computer that it’s being played on. The trade-off is that in comics, the creator’s own imagination serves as a boundless playground (within reason, this is still a commercial endeavor that is beholden to the marketplace), whereas in TV and film, budgets and network standards must be respected, often leading to adaptations that mirror the spirit but not the impact of these stories.

This divergent point informs the ever-raging debate between those who favor source material over adaptations and vice versa, but with something like last night’s event, the debate can momentarily feel one-sided, even if it’s a rarity.

From a visceral standpoint, one panel of a mouth-agape Andrea in a comic doesn’t compare to seeing the shock and fear on Carol and Tyrese’s faces when they find Lizzie – it doesn’t compare to seeing Carol doubled over in pain as she wordlessly conveys her guilt over failing those girls, and it doesn’t compare to hearing the tremble in her voice as she tells Lizzie to “look at the flowers” before putting her down.

From a story standpoint, though, such a successful adaptation is rare because far too often, the moving image is constricted by the fretful artist and all those pre-conceived notions about what will and won’t play well with audiences.

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The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sunday @9PM

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  1. Lizzie is the shows version of Ben, and Mika was the shows version of Billy.(Ben and Billy where the twins from the comics)

  2. If the show is better than the comic books now, that’s faint praise.

    I stopped watching at the last season break point.

    Is this all TWD has to offer? Endless iterations of side characters having a moment and then being sent to the chopping block?

    Somebody, somewhere has to be searching for answers and striving to make things better.

    I want to see a zombie/apocalypse show that focuses on those characters not the Dead End Ensemble TWD favors.

    Also agree with those that rank the TellTales games as the best iteration of the franchise.

  3. No way is the show better than the comic book. The comic has the superior story and better character interactions. The TV show is a watered down version for the mainstream. Think of how many iconic moements from the comic that have been passed over completely, characters being swapped, etc.

    The show started to take a nose dive in quality around Season 2, which dragged unecessarily… Season 3 tried to make up for it but botched the Governor… Season 4 reminds me a lot of Season 2.

    I still read the comic but this show is becoming a joke if it already isn’t one.

    • I honestly could have not said it better my self, I only watch it not to compare to the comic more than anything, that way when people tell me “oh the show sucks but have you watched it” I can answer “yes!” and it is still not better than the comic. I wish this should could have been on HBO.

      • now*

  4. The problems with fans of the comic are their unforgiving nature, their inability to remain objective as viewers of the medium and a general arrogance and entitlement about source material.

    They are too-in-love with the comics to be able to watch the show for what it is: consistently coherent hour of television that delivers a new aspect of characters and storytelling each week.

    There is no rule, besides the made up rule, that the shows are obligated to tow the line laid out by the comics. The property doesn’t belong to fanboys. It’s not the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, the Declaration of Independence, or even a Boy Scout’s Manual that should be adhered to out of a sense of sacrilege. They’re stories meant to be delivered in the most effective way possible for the media it is being presented in for the audience that is being targeted.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. Franky, the negativity is shocking. I see an hour of excellent TV each week, with scenes that no one dare showing before, and people keep complaining… I don’t get it.

      • *frankly / dared

  5. The show stopped being good a long time ago. There is about 3 good episodes per season and the rest is a snore. It is hard for me to devote time to this when theres shows like True Detective out there

  6. My wife doesn’t read the comics and loves the show. I read the comics and prefer the comics over the show. I don’t think the show is terrible; I just enjoy the story of the comics better. (Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved reading comics.) For example, I found it interesting how the show humanized the governor, but I preferred how horribly evil and disgusting he was in the comics. It really made me hate him and root for his demise.

  7. I am done with TWD….I draw the line at children. I could not even watch this episode and I have taken it off of my DVR.
    I was close at the mid season finale when The Govenor shot the little girl and we thought Judith was dead.
    I have followed this show since it started but this past week went too far…period.
    Goodbye TWD.

    • Just curious… how can you ever go TOO FAR on a show about the zombie apocalypse? Are all kids supposed to just survive it? They have some sort of walker immunity?

    • Wah Wah Wah Kids Waaah

  8. I read the comics and I watch the show and I enjoy them both. to be honest I have started to view them as separate entities,as the stories have rather diverged from each other, this way I enjoy them both, as mutually exclusive stories.

  9. Never read the comics, but I love the show. With this episode Season 4 has definitely become the best so far. It explores very interesting moral dilemmas to the end in a harsh and relentless manner, and with fantastic acting to boot. Also, I don’t think that Rick is the main character of TWD. It an ensemble show, and as such I’m absolutely fine with the more intimate episodes at the moment, focusing on two-four different characters at a time. It’s great!

  10. I think the comic was slow and the show follows along pretty well. Frankly, I stopped watching a month ago and it doesn’t sound like I am missing much. This season’s attempt to develop secondary characters is too little, too late and too boring.

  11. I read the comic and prefer it over the show BUT I think I can maintain a fair view/opinion with the show.

    What I can’t stand is the fact that there’s always a big slowdown in each season since the second one. I get it, they develop the characters but I’m sure it could be done without the big slowdown. The first half of S4 was awesome but the second half…it feels so freaking slow! and now with only one episode remaining, they will drop a bomb and make us wait a year…it’s normal to end with a big suspense but it’s a pain when we had so much slowness in the last 4 or 5 episodes.

  12. I agree. I really liked this episode of TWD in particular although I usually find the show quite boring. I have read every issue of TWD comics (mostly boring too) and I think that the show did this particular story way better than the comics did. Having Carol shoot Lizzie instead of Carl or another kid Lizzy’s age was a smart decision. TWD comics sort of swept the whole murder of a child under the rug because Carl did it. Child kills child who killed a child is fair but adult kills child who killed a child is unfair. Everyone gets a sense that Billy/Lizzy didn’t really understand what he/she had done so having an adult kill him/her brings huge moral questions into play. The adult obviously has the mental capacity to more fully understand the situation. You’re right about the way the scenario was explored in the TV show versus the comics as well. This episode was probably the only TWD material that I’ve been really impressed by.

  13. Wether the show is better than the comic is beside the point to me. What I will say however is that ‘The Grove’ is the best episode of the entire season! In fact next to the Pilot episode of The Walking Dead; I believe season 4 episode 14 is the next best episode of the entire series.

    Tyrese and especially Carol are two characters who needed alot of work in my eyes.I prefer Tyrese graphic novel version to the tv series. But how he grew here, with looking after Judith and forgiving Carol and just all around letting go of us his anger and frustrations. Was most welcome.

    And now Carol… dear, dear Carol. Alot of people didn’t care for Lori. I despised Carol even more during season 1 and 2. From how she hid under a car while her daughter Sophie ran for her life. Then she had the audacity to act like it was Rick’s fault for Sophie’s dissaperance. But the real piste de resistance was when the group was on the farm deciding whether to execute or exile thier detainee who attacked Herchel, Glenn and Rick in town. And Carol decided to not weigh in on what they should do at all. And sort of rebuke everyone for trying to do something about it!

    She was just dead weight for most or all of season one and two. Then all of a sudden without any sort of heads up she becomes a total badass, confident zombie slayer in season 3. WTF!? The writers break the cardinal rule of writing which is: “Show don’t tell.” We didn’t see her evolution, so she did not deserve it. Character development must be earned not implied. And finally… This person who could not even bring herself to vote on whether a man should be killed or set free. Is now capable of unilaterally taking the life of someone Tyrese loved and some other dude (I don’t recall right now)So maybe that action more so than any other of hers is the ‘true’
    piste de resistance…

    But in this episode the writers of TWD succeded in doing something I thought impossible. Getting me to like and forgive Carol her trespasses. Helping Tyresse take care of the girls, neutralizing a great threat in a child’s body, confessing to Tyrese and accepting responsibility for what she did. Carol has earned my respect and been redeemed. I’m proud of her, and now, I like her :)

  14. I started with the show, and found it unremarkable with some poor moments of acting. I was then lent the first compendium of the comics and found it thrilling. I decided to go back to the show, and I find these moments of people bursting out in emotion to be too much. I really prefer the comic because people save face and try to act tough all the time in order to keep the group strong. It’s those moments when they break down that stand out and really draw you in further to their actions. Furthermore, the characters are much more likable in the comic to me, in the show they seem to complain a lot, they don’t have this kind of badass quality to them. On another note, the show also has too many encounters with roamers that break the rules. The characters make a lot of noise and get really close to the roamers but aren’t attacked. The comics stick to the created rules of the imaginary world much better. This really comes to the pains of episodic writing, where each episode needs a certain amount of elements to qualify for entertainment. They should have kept the characters the same, because imo the comic versions are more likable and then drawn out the plot arcs, such as they did with Shane. I would have preferred more survival tactics and less sobbing.

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