[Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead Season 6 up to the midseason finale.]
After five highly-rated seasons, The Walking Dead television series doesn’t appear to be dying off anytime soon. Despite the sharp drop in viewership for its season 6 premiere, AMC has announced the zombie-filled horror drama will return for a seventh 16-episode season. This is good news for the long-time fans of the series, as they will be able to continuing watching their favorite characters survive (and die).
While the show is arguably one of the best horror-dramas on TV right now, it’s not without its shortcomings – which we will address below. However, unlike last year when we discussed 5 Things Wrong with Season 5 of The Walking Dead, we aren’t going to be complete downers, as this season has some definite high points to note.
Let’s discuss Everything Good, Bad and Annoying about Season 6 of The Walking Dead…
The Good – Increased Action
With the exception of a few scattered scenes, the action in the show, as of late, had been waning. Episode 1 of season 6 changed that in a big way, upping the stakes for every one of the survivors, not just in Alexandria, but for that entire region in Virginia. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that while on a mission to bury Pete (who killed Deanna’s husband, Reg, at the end of season 5), Morgan and Rick discover a rock quarry filled with thousands of walkers, soon realizing the semi-truck blockade at the entrance isn’t going to hold much longer. This situation immediately built tension and for the first time in a while, the audience once again felt the sense of dread the survivors must feel on a daily basis. This type of tension was something the show was sorely missing in recent seasons.
Episode 1, “First Time Again”, and episode 2, “JSS”, are two of the best episodes writers Scott Gimple, Matt Negrete and Seth Hoffman have penned to date. Even the flashback scenes (which have notoriously been used in the past as ‘time fillers’) are used to further increase the tension and add action to the show. Unfortunately, this new-found sense of action wouldn’t last long as the next five episodes would fall back into the same tired, exposition-filled routine (something we’ll address in a moment.)
The Bad – Split Narratives
This habit of splitting up the group, and thereby splitting the narratives, has been a big concern of some fans (us included) for the last few seasons. In the beginning, the show only had a couple of stories happening at once, but as the group grew larger the story lines began breaking off into so many paths that it was near impossible to follow them all – and this problem has essentially taken over season 6 of The Walking Dead. Audiences currently have to keep up with the following story lines in the first seven episodes:
- Alexandria attacked by Wolves with Carol, Carl, Maggie, Eugene, and Tara to help defend
- Rick on a mission to lead walkers away from the town – he’s now back with Michonne
- Daryl, having split from Sasha and Abraham, was on his own to survive an encounter with a new hostile group of faceless strangers
- Sasha and Abraham were holed up in an office building waiting to hear back from Daryl
- Glenn, having survived a zombie horde (more on that nonsense later), is now on his way back to Alexandria with Enid
- Morgan, after having an entire episode devoted to his backstory, has captured one of the Wolves alive and is proceeding to reason with him
That’s a whole lot to keep up with in just seven episodes and most of these characters’ development suffered because of it. At the end of episode 7, “Heads Up”, it looked like a reunion was in store for the group as Glenn, Daryl, Sasha, Abraham were on their way back to the town. However, thanks to a conveniently timed watchtower collapse that forced everyone to seek shelter in separate houses, the multiple narratives don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. For a group whose mantra seems to be “Stick together no matter what,” the writers sure do split them up a lot.
The Annoying – Glenn Fake-Out Death
As far-fetched as it sounds, audiences bought into the notion that there exists a virus which spreads through human bites and turns every single person on Earth into an zombie when they die. We accept that Father Gabriel and the others never (if rarely) need to change their outfits. We also accept that, while the world is filled with rotten, disease-ridden bodies, the group has only ever been sick once (during season 3). However, fans drew the line at the asinine way the show attempted to convince them fan-favorite character Glenn had perished.
Just as audiences (and Glenn) were warming up to Nicholas – who had been showing signs of becoming a productive member of the group – the writers gave him a weak reason for losing his mind. So as he and Glenn stood on a dumpster surrounded by walkers, Nicholas shoots himself in the head, thereby knocking Glenn on the ground and into the clutches of the bloodthirsty horde. Episode 3, “Thank You”, ends with Glenn screaming in horror as zombies tear apart his insides – or did they? This season has been devoid of any real emotional content, so the producers attempted to drum some up by selling audiences on the apparent death of Glenn, going as far as removing Steven Yeun’s name from the credits – and no one bought it for a second.
Glenn is one of the original cast members of the show. They can’t just kill him off in a way that leaves everyone in the group wondering what happened to him. When Glenn is eventually killed off (and it will happen) it needs to be public and it needs to be violent and emotionally draining. The show took one of its best characters, one that fans have watched develop for six years, and literally threw him under a dumpster as a red herring. That’s ridiculous in every sense of the word.
The Good – Zombies Everywhere
From the very beginning, Gale Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman and others have let it be known that The Walking Dead would be a human character-driven drama where zombies played second fiddle to much greater threats. Sure, there have been plenty of high-tension scenes where it was unknown if a member of the group would survive an encounter with a walker, but until season 6, zombies have served more as obstacles in a maze than actual antagonists. All that was turned on its ear in the first three episodes this season, as a massive horde was introduced that threatens to change the group’s way of life forever.
Zombies have always been knocking at the door, but this is the first time where simply dispatching or ignoring them isn’t an option. The horde is so large that it’s directly affecting the decisions the group makes in regards to their safety and the town’s well-being. The group must take unsafe actions (such as riding slowly in vehicles as thousands of walkers follow them) in order to deal with them directly. This aspect alone has greatly increased the entertainment value of the show.
The Bad – Not Enough Carol, Daryl and Abraham
For five seasons, fans have fallen in love with Carol, Daryl, and Abraham in a way that means it will indeed be a dark day when any of them are eventually removed from the show (and it should happen at some point). The show could be centered entirely around them and most fans would be entirely OK with that – so where have they gone in season 6?
Carol fooled almost everyone in Alexandria (except Sam) into thinking she was a cookie-baking homemaker until episode 2 ” JSS” when the Wolves stormed Alexandria and she revealed her true self as a badass killing machine. It’s probably the best episode of the season thus far and one of the top five episodes with Carol in it. Sine then, however, the show has literally reduced her role to that of a babysitter – which makes no sense. Meanwhile, when Daryl and Abraham (two of the show’s other bad-ass characters) aren’t riding slowly in a vehicle, they’re spending their precious little screen time running from unknown assailants or hiding in office buildings.
Now that Daryl, Abraham and Sasha are making their way back to Alexandria, hopefully they’ll play a more prominent role and audiences won’t have to endure anymore filler time with characters they have very little interest in.
The Annoying – Plodding Exposition Filler
Speaking of things audiences have very little interest in, the vast majority of the first seven episodes this season have been packed with meaningless character exposition. It’s common for a story to intersperse exposition between action or intense scenes as a way to allow the audience to catch their breath, but there’s been so much of it this season an entire 45-minute episode was dedicated to telling Morgan’s life while he was wasn’t with Rick.
Morgan’s backstory could’ve been summed up in a couple of flashbacks during one or two five-minute scenes. Instead, audiences are treated to Tabitha the goat and couple of throwaway Wolves, which is a complete waste of time since it was established at the end of episode 2 that Morgan has a connection to them. Also annoying is the time and effort taken to introduce a new character, Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), quickly develop him to the point that audiences appreciate him, then kill him off just as quickly. Why do something that extreme if the producers aren’t just marking time until the mid-season finale?
The Good – Fear the Walking Dead Micro-series
One of the best things about season 6 of The Walking Dead are the Fear the Walking Dead Flight 462 micro-series playing once per episode during commercials. Micro-series (small stories usually sponsored by an advertiser) have been around for a while but haven’t been used much in the last five or six years. This goes against the current norm of producing a 3-5 minute web-series which tells a story that runs parallel with, but not essential to, the main series, allowing fans access to additional content.
To some degree, the Fear the Walking Dead micro-series has been better than the actual show and we don’t yet know any of the characters’ motivations, backgrounds or even their names. None of that matters because the story is being told in such a superb way that audiences can quickly grasp what’s going on: a passenger on a commercial airliner has been bitten, and is either dead or dying, and while one mysterious lady seems to understand what’s happening, the others around her are clueless.
Are these events taking place before or concurrently with the first episode of Fear the Walking Dead? Is the man in the restroom patient zero? Who or what bit him and where did he get bitten? It’s assumed they’ve been in the air awhile (and knowing what we do about the virus), why hasn’t he turned yet? Is the zombie still on the plane? There are so many questions fans are eagerly waiting to find the answers to as the season plays out.
The Bad and Annoying – Worthless, Moping Characters
Despite the growing popularity of characters such as Carol, Daryl, Abraham, Michonne and even Aaron, the show’s numerous writers have chosen to bore us in season 6 with details and exposition on characters who have very little to do with the overall story. Take Eastman, for example; even though he was an interesting character, he serves no real purpose in the driving the narrative forward in a meaningful way.
Meanwhile, audiences are inundated with Alexandria citizens like Nicholas, Annie, Scott, David, Heath, Ron and others who are given just enough screen time to become zombie food but not enough to be a real part of the story. Denise was an interesting (if forced) addition into Tara’s life, but now she’s been kidnapped by Alpha Wolf (thanks Morgan) and she means very little to audiences because they know little about her. The show needs to leave all these background characters alone and bring the focus back to the main group.
It’s understandable that the citizens of Alexandria would be in shock after the Wolves attacked their town and a swarm of undead are literally pressed against their walls, but at some point they need to stop with all this damn moping about. Instead of taking up arms (which they have a lot of, by the way) and fighting back or finding ways to reinforce their protections, they are content to walk around aimlessly in a daze. Spencer, for all his annoying flaws, was at least trying to help (albeit stupidly) but Father Gabriel adds nothing of interest to the story anymore, yet we see him time and again as part of the story – usually with a look of fear, doubt and guilt on his face. It’s time for him and the rest of the ‘dead weight’ characters to go.
The Bad – No Clear Character Goals
Of all of the things wrong with this season of The Walking Dead, this is probably the biggest reason for most, if not all, of them: not one single character or group of characters has a main objective anymore. Sure, they’re all trying to survive the influx of thousands of zombies trying to break through their walls right now, but there needs to be more than just pure survival as a goal. Every season has had one or more goals the characters are (slowly) moving towards:
- Season 1 – Get to the CDC at Atlanta
- Season 2 – Find Carol’s daughter/Maintain order at Herschel’s farm
- Season 3 – Take/keep the prison for safety/Fend off the Governor
- Season 4 – Find Terminus/Deliver Eugene to D.C.
- Season 5 – Search for Beth/Find Noah’s community/Enter Alexandria
- Season 6 – ????
Even though the multiple split narratives from past seasons made it difficult to focus on the larger picture, at least it gave characters individual goals, as well as a main objective for the group in general. Maybe this will change in the back half of the season, but for now, motives need to be revealed as they remain largely unclear. However, now that the “bananas” mid-season finale has aired and Negan was finally revealed during the post-credits scene, it’s possible some of these issues will soon be resolved.
What are you enjoying about the The Walking Dead, and what do you wish they would change?