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

Published 7 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That girl’s humanity had been replaced by the drum beat of hunger, and fearing for his life, Rick Grimes shot her – we were not spared the sight of it.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. Never read the comics – so I kinda skimmed through this article to avoid spoiling them for myself.

    I think it was powerful episode and well done by the actors involved. When I saw Lizzie standing over the body of her dead sister I was shocked.

  2. No. The whole psycho Lizzie bit was rushed and they just crammed it all in there. How am I supposed to be emotionally invested in this whole psycho Lizzie storyline when we only had like two episodes of development for them? I’m sorry but it wasn’t believable for me. And the Tyreese-Karen relationship wasn’t either. They prolonged that far too long. And Lizzie killing Mika was taken from what happened to Billy & Ben in the comics, so no. It just shows that the comics are better and they should stick to them a little more often.

    • I can understand the thought that the psycho Lizzie factor was a jump, but when you factor in the revelation about her and the mice and the rabbit, and the Judith incident, it makes sense to me.

      You’ll get no argument from me about the Karen and Tyrese angle.

      • I mean yeah it makes sense, but it happened far too quickly. If the first half of the season didn’t focus SO much on the governor (by focusing, I mean them basically apologizing for season 3 and gave us what we should have gotten in the first place), I believe it would’ve worked out better for me. I didn’t respond at all to any of Lizzie’s scenes. I was starting to like Mika though. Her and Carol saved this episode for me.

        • There were like 3 episodes with the Governor. He was barely a focus at all.

          • Barely a focus? It was three of a total of eight episodes focusing on the Governor. Two of which didn’t have Rick’s group in them at all.

    • I completely agree that it was rushed. But I don’t agree that the comic is better. For it’s hard to objectively compare the two media because they play to your hearts’ strings in different ways.

    • Not sure how it felt “rushed” when they have been hinting and building up to it for most of the season. While not necessarily the main focus, the Lizzie crazy factor has been there every time she appeared in an episode (even if we didn’t know who was doing things)

    • I didn’t think it was rushed. They’ve been building on her psychosis since even before the Governor was back in the picture.

  3. As a long time comic guy I learned a long time ago that t.v. and film are a greatly different form of media than comics, and that success in the main stream often means straying from the source material. a poor example of this (IMHO) has been True Blood, not only has the show gone way off topic from the books, it’s just lost any real connection at all. The effects of this can be seen in it’s drastic drop in the ratings. A excellent example of this has been what the Walking dead has been able to do. I’ve read well over 100 issues of the comic and for the most part I have enjoyed every page. The show has done it’s best to remain faithful, while telling a compelling tale for people not familiar with the comic. These days a great selling comic sells 250,000 copies. If you make a comic book movie just for the fans selling 250,000 tickets is going to be a problem.

    Chris P.

    • I agree. The majority of the time, the books/comics turns out to be way better than the actual film/series. I think the only film/series that it is equally as great as the source material has been LOTR, Harry Potter, GOT(even though aside from the red wedding last season didn’t really do anything for me). While I think the comics for TWD is great, I also don’t think it would translate well on TV is done exactly as the comics. I like that they change some thing up and judging by the ratings it seems to be working. I give Kirkman credit in knowing that he needed to change some things to relate to the general public that hasn’t read the comics.

  4. It’s hard to make that comparison as the media lends to different ways to build suspense and surprise.

    Those who are familiar with the comic are less surprised by the Lizzie/Mika episode and previously with the Gov/Hershel scene.

    The phantom phone call had less impact because of the comic.

    And, the comic can be more R-rated than the TV show, if it were on premium cable, it could probably get close to what is done in the comics.

  5. To me this was the BEST episode of the series after watching last night I was REALLY impressed that the writers were balsy enough to do this.

    • Right. This gives me hope that the “Judith” scene might end up happening

  6. If you ask me, Carol is the only person thats exercised any proper good judgement this whole season… This season is really shaping up to be almost as bad as the farmhouse… If it weren’t for the midseason finale it would be a total fail. The 2nd half of the season has just been taking too long getting where it’s going.

  7. To me it just seemed contrived. I didn’t believe Lizzie when she stood over her sisters’ dead body. While I understand that she was supposed to seem like she was crazy, even crazy people have their reasons for doing things. We didn’t get any insight into what drove Lizzie to commit this deed. While this doesn’t mean that I am pleading for backstory, contrived flashbacks or a wordy monologue where Lizzie explains her motivation. It would’ve been nice if I could’ve at least seen the moment where she decides to commit her act of ‘benevolence’. What was it exactly that her sister did that made Lizzie decide to kill her? Does Lizzie really believe her sister is better off dead? Would we do the same of we had seen the things she has? What is it within the nature of the two characters their relationship that would trigger such an act? If we’d had any insight into these questions as Lizzie stood beside her sisters corpse with bloodied hands as Carol found her, then I would’ve been shocked. Now I could do little more than shrug. Because did anything really happen?

    • They did explain why she did it. She wanted to prove to them that the zombies were people. She even mentioned that she could hear them talking to her.

      • I know, but I didn’t believe it. It was just anecdote to me. Because she never said what makes them people to her. She didn’t even treat them like people. It was just something she needed to say for the plot to make sense, but it wasn’t something that was true to the character. The talking thing is an even more unbelievable, if they are talking to her, when did they start? What are they saying? What difference does it even make that they are talking to het? It’s just a throwaway line that only serves the purpose of retroactively explaining her motivation when you look back. Because the fact that they talk to her doesn’t even influence her final decision.

        • The were clues in previous episodes that the girl wasn’t right in the head. The scene where she almost smothered Judith,in my opinion was fore shadowing for this episode. Even her sister thought she was crazy. Crazy people normally don’t have a reason that we would understand for why they do what they do. For example, the guy that killed all those kids in Conn. I don’t feel that it was rushed. I knew the girl was crazy before this episode.

        • I think she suffers schizophrenia.

        • +1

        • She did treat the walkers like people. She fed them rats, gave them names, and played tag.

        • Yeah, she treated them like people. She have said this in previous episodes along with clues, and again said this in this episode. It has been lurking for some time and it finally came to an end. I have a feeling this is the event that is going to set Carol down a certain path.

  8. No the show is no where near better than the comics and neither was that moment. Telltale’s game is still my favorite of the walking dead license and then the comics but the tv show is not great. The comics moment wasn’t totally rushed like lizzie’s plot line. The comics will always be better than the show. Plus to me last night was far from shocking.

    • Yeah, at this point the game is better than the comics and the TV show combined. And I like the comics and the TV show.

  9. I was shocked that walking dead even showed that in the ep wow. bravo on pulling this one off

  10. Can they do an episode where people aren’t crying ?

    • You do understand the world they are living in right?

    • and an episode in which the baby isn’t crying.

      why do babys always have to cry. it annoys me to no end. like we don’t know it’s there when it’s not crying, seriously. i can see it, even if it’s not crying. this needs to stop. not just in the walking dead.

  11. I agree with what someone posted earlier, Carol is the only one this season who has her head on her shoulders. Teaching the kids to defend themselves was a good thing. Killing Karen and the other guy is something that would have been done in the real world. I don’t read the comics, maybe that’s why I enjoy the show. I will say the second half of this season, up until this episode, has definitely dragged. I would be cool if they shortened the amount of episodes per season, as long as the story moves at a fast pace.

  12. I’ve started off watching the TV show then long way I jump on reading the comic book. Two are completely different. The comic book is pretty “dark” and you get a sense of danger every time you read an issue. The TV show went on it’s own route/take, it does follow what the comic book did, but the show are sticking to something different than the comic book. I don’t get the sense of danger a lot in the TV show like when I read the comic book. I remember in this one moment *SPOILERS* when Abraham and Eugene are walking back to the Safe Zone, out of no where he got shot and I was shocked and sad to see him die, he’s a cool character, one my favorite. In the comics, you don’t know weather a character will survive, everyone is not safe. Rick Grimes can die in the comic book and the story can still move on without him. Not saying that the tv show can’t move on without Rick, I think it can.
    So the question, is the TV show now better than the comic book? No, I don’t think so. It’s like saying “is Arrow now better than the comic book Green Arrow”. Like I’ve said, both are different from each other.

  13. You mean its better because it ripped off of mice and men. Sure I guess.

  14. People are in SERIOUS denial about TWD. PLEASE admit that the show has become terrible, with a lot of boring sequences that don`t matter to the story,with a lot LESS attention to detail and with rushed events that don`t make sense or give something for the audience to care about, like carol coming back outta nowhere, tyrese forgiving her immediately,carl`s mind-numbingly stupid reactions from episode 409. I`m sorry but as of the second half of season 3, it can`t compare to the comics. The videogame is also better.

    • You’re kidding, right? Show does sometimes become boring but you should be aware that it’s not all shoot and run (as many expect from anything in zombie genre). The show itself depends largely on episodes of dramatic content and, speaking of that, last night episode was one of the best in the series.

    • You do know this show is a drama show based on human development right? Like it’s been said numerous times since S1, if you’re expecting a Romero type of zombie flick then you need to move on because it will never be that. The show has and always will focus on dramatic content along with the human aspect side rather than the zombies. Last nights episode was the first episode that provided that Season 1 type of feel. People thinking this show is going to cancelled or needs to be cancelled need to wake up because this show isn’t going anywhere for a long time unless ratings drop dramatically which I just don’t see happening anytime soon. That’s like me saying Game of Thrones needs to be cancelled because they have a bunch of filler boring episodes, LOL. It’s just not going to happen

      • Yeah i agree, that`s what i want from the show, all i`m saying is that things are not well done like they used to be and that`s disappointing.

  15. The correct answer is the game…

  16. The series needs more competent writers, and a better showrunner. All of the writing this season has been mediocre and the actors, who do a wonderful job, need scripts worthy of their talent.
    Watching this episode I was studying the child actresses performances, to see if they could potentially grow into interesting characters a season or two from now. Both kids did an okay job.
    I was shocked not at the fact that Lizzie killed Mika, but that it happened so soon… There was too much forced in this episode in the name of character development, which in the end fell flat because of their premature deaths.

  17. I’ve actually been unimpressed with this show (especially since they replaced Frank Darabont with Glen Mazzara who’s works are actually quite mediocre), though I’ve enjoyed each season minimally, the only reason why I stick around is so I’m not clueless when my friends talk about it for long minutes. This episode tried going for something emotional and shocking, but I thought it was a little laughable. I understand what they were going for, Lizzie has reached a point of insanity where denial is her only escape. That sounds good on paper, but there was little to no build up on it. First off, she showed early symptoms of insanity before, which foreshadowed her eventual aggressiveness (her smothering the baby’s face). But her denial that zombies are like normal people came from NOWHERE. Previous scenes showed her horrified of zombies (like all the previous episodes), and now all of a sudden she likes to play with them? Why? When? How? Another problem was her please-tell-me-about-the-rabbits style death scene, and I couldn’t help but ask… who cares if she died? I never connected to her emotionally, I hardly know anything about her. Am I supposed to feel shocked because she’s a young girl? What a cheap and lazy tactic for a writer. This trickery always wins over the audience as ‘shocking’ and ‘unpredictable’, and if that’s what they prefer over actual characterization and plotting, fine then.

  18. The second half of this season is really spotlighting why this show is successful. I and many others are loving it and thinking it’s the best since the first few episodes of the series while others think it’s just awful. It is a show that has something for everyone. Some people are so convinced that this show is dead while others think it’s alive… the truth is, they’re both right. It is the WALKING DEAD after all ;-)

  19. I had a lot to say on the review thread…

    …But in all honestly, if taken as a stand alone episode, it was a great hour of television.
    Within the context of the series, I believe it was premature; BUT, if it’s a new direction, after the drivel the series has been giving us lately, and the writers are proving they got the chops & this is the caliber of show we’re going provide…then I’m excited for the future of the series.

    Finally

    Hopefully

    Maybe

    • You are softening your stance a bit and I agree with your post.

      • Actually, right after I made this comment, I decided to watch THE episode again. Now that the shock is gone & I can really study the episode.
        Honestly:

        One of the worst episodes of the series…and that’s saying a lot.
        Anyone who claims it was well written, doesn’t know the first thing about writing. The whole thing plays like a bad after school special or lifetime movie. Sappy to the point of agony.
        And the acting, just horrible. As if the director was standing there, guiding them through every little beat. Felt unnatural & forced.

        This episode played to the audiences, but has done nothing for the overall arc & story of the show.

        Terrible episode. Maybe the series is going in a far worse direction than ever.

  20. I actually identify with Lizzie and her breakdown. She created a better imaginary world to live in, burying her true feelings until she was forced to have an irrational emotional outburst when her “friend” died. She seemed to believe that either you’re an evil zombie or human, so therefore the walkers must actually be human because the alternative is too painful to think about. When holes appeared in her beliefs, she had to chose either to drop those beliefs or do whatever desperate attempt needed to keep her world from falling apart. So she chose to knife her sister because of a desperate need to prove that walkers are really human.

    I think her slow breakdown mirrors some of my own issues with mental health. Which is kinda a warning our modern society needs more awareness about mental illness. Lizzie’s black and white thinking and the belief that showing emotion is weak, while something common in many of the characters with no ill effect, were vital parts of her dissociation from reality.

    Sure a therapist could have helped with conquering inner demons, but what is really needed is a society that doesn’t shame a person for being born with a predispotion for mental illness, that doesn’t expect a person to fix their mind by just wanting to or just trying to “think positive”, that doesn’t laugh patronisingly when someone shares their irrational beliefs, that doesn’t view such a person as permanently broken and untrustworthy and therefore never worth even trying to help.

    Now, if the zombie apocalypse happened next year, would you rather be in a world with today’s number of persons who have avoided treatment because of the stigma, or in a world of people who can maintain their sanity because they have you as part of their support system?

  21. I don’t understand all the hate toward The Walking Dead. What other non premium cable shows are you watching that are so much better? I like where the show is going to this season. It’s infinitely better than being stuck on the farm all of season 2.
    As for which is better I can’t say. I see the show as an alternate universe of the comic. They’re both good and I’m not disappointed when the show deviates from the comic. I hope it continues. I’ve stopped reading the comic because it is so dark and depressing. I hope the show continues down a different path.

    • ‘What other non premium cable shows are you watching that are so much better?’ That’s the problem, there’s nothing. Studios love to pick up a show and drop it after Season 1 making it utterly pointless to watch anything. Other than that, I agree there’s nothing better that’s not on HBO. As for the hate toward the Walking Dead, I recommend you reading some articles and reviews of why people are sorely disappointed. I don’t hate The Walking Dead, but I personally think the writers don’t know how to write a coherent plot with consistent characterization, making for some really pointless meandering.

    • Bates Motel, since you ask. Blows TWD out of the water.

      • I don’t know. I must admit, I like Bates Motel Season 1 but Season 2 has been kind of boring 2 episodes in. Even the latest season of SOA was a let down for me. Right now, it’s all tied IMO

        • Are you saying The Walking Dead isn’t boring? It’s the most boring top rated show on television right now.

          Tie break goes to quality of acting and Bates is in another stratosphere. You also mention that it’s ONLY two episodes in where as TWD only as two episodes left and has been dragging since the break.

          The OP asked what I would consider better and right now TWD doesn’t hold a candle to Bates in terms of story, acting and quality of writing, for me. TWD started off with such promise but they are taking short cuts to save money and the product is suffering. After each I fell more people are looking at from that perspective.

          • I get that. I agree that Bates Motel offers some better writing and the acting is very good but for me I like the whole drama aspect of the show. I guess I am a WD fan much like Marvel fans are to AOS, they both have issues but because you’re a fan you want to hold on to hope that things will eventually turn around even though they probably won’t LOL

    • I like TWD but Sons of Anarchy is the better show. Hell on Wheels is better as well.

  22. I actually started off Walking Dead in the form of the game first. Played through all of season 1, loved it, thought it was so amazing that I figured I should start watching the show. And so I did. When I was about midway through season 3, I decided I liked the franchise so much that I wanted to read the comic too (which I’m on I believe issue 78 now). So I’ve been reading the comic now along with watching season 4 of the show (and season 2 of the game whenever episodes are released). I feel like of the three, the game is still my favorite for sure.

    However, the show and comic are easier to compare with each other than with the game, as the show and comic follow a lot of the same basic storylines, with diversions here and there. So it’s easy for me to say when I liked how something was done better in the comic or on the show. Even when it comes to characters (like how I like comic version of Andrea more, but TV version of Carol more). Simply put, some things are done better in the comic, some are done better on the show. And I can’t really tell you which one does it better more often.

    It’s hard to compare big moments like these though. For example, I saw Rick talking to Lori on the phone after her death on the show before I read it in the comic, and while reading the comic I just thought to myself “I feel like this would have had more of an impact reading this if I didn’t already know what happened because of the show.” Now it’s the opposite for the Lizzie and Mika story. I had already read the Ben/Billy story in the comic, and so I kind of expected that’s where they were taking Lizzie and Mika on the show. So when it happened last night, I wasn’t completely blown away because I was expecting it. So now I think to myself, “would this have had more of an impact to me personally if I hadn’t read it in the comics first?” So now all I can compare is the execution, and if I’m just looking at it like that I may have preferred how it was done on the show. Carol’s struggle with it all was just really compelling.

    So is the show or comic better?…It’s still hard to say one way or another.

  23. That doesn’t say much for the comic, cause the show is terrible.

  24. Yes, a well crafted shocking scene. Apart from that scene it was an episode composed of unlikable characters, mediocre actors and more walking through the woods (as I would subtitle the whole second part of the season). TWD has become one of the worst drags in television history, especially given its endless possibilties with the Zombie apocalypse and the source material. If they’re in it for the human interaction drama… the actors just don’t cut it.

  25. Thoroughly enjoyed this episode, i didnt think it was rushed, there i only so much time you can invest in characters. If it where to run ny longer, for me it would have been been drawn out. Also i was amazed at seign tyrese having such a balanced response. Curious to see ho long he will last in the world of tw.

  26. I guess I’ll be the only one to actually answer the question asked, instead of giving my amatuer TV critic review of the show & how I feel about Lizzie’s character. I don’t think the show is better at all. I think it’s pretty good, almost as good as the comic, but not better at all.

  27. In summary, the comic is best. Why? Because it is the medium that provides the most freedom. The criteria I use to make the judgment is simply: “how rich/3-dimensional is each character?” and how does Comic book Rick (or other character) stand up to its TV version. The answer is not very well. The power of the comic is how each character is all things e.g. Rick is both a good and bad dad/leader/person and the TV show hasn’t quite caught all of these beats and layers (yet). The lack of this richness is what makes it still derivative rather than original. If anyone wants to know the real Rick, I say look at the comics (the current issue is another doozy). The game is excellent at putting me into the situation, and making you make hard choices and then comparing you against other players. But to say its better than either TV or comic is laughable, there is not enough grey in there for me to reflect ppls true personalities. How many times might a person in real-life attempt the impossible and save two people? and get away with it. Also, the game doesn’t let you change you mind later as in real life you might (it still feels pretty binary). The TV show failed by not starting elsewhere, that’s not to say that Rick and co couldn’t feature but the story told from a different perspective might have been richer and provided more freedom for the writers.

  28. The game is better than both the comic and the tv show nowadays.

  29. I dont think neither is better, although you people all got preferences, an some root for the comic others for the game. And others for the series. What i fail to understand is that several critics say the show whent down hill after season 2, okay so great but why are you still watching ? And complaining. For me however i still enjoy the show till date. Although i seriously dont hope rick and co will end up to become a couple of lumberjacks