It’s no secret that The Walking Dead has been losing viewers this past season. After the divisive season six finale and the gratuitous season seven opener, fans began to jump ship, feeling that the series was becoming exceedingly bleak and that Abraham and (especially) Glenn deserved a better send off.
Season seven as a whole has suffered from inconsistent writing, with storylines dragging on and on and characters not always acting like themselves. With the last few episodes of this season, The Walking Dead has started to redeem itself. The writers managed to thread a heartfelt flashback of Abraham into the last episode, and while Sasha has met her demise, her death felt appropriately placed.
But the show definitely still has some work to do if it’s ever going to return to the quality of its earlier episodes. Here are 15 Things That Need To Change In Season 8 Of The Walking Dead.
15 Stick with practical effects
As far as makeup and on-set effects are concerned, The Walking Dead is about as good as it gets on TV. Even after seven seasons, the effects department continues to conjure up inventive new walkers -- including this season's armored spike zombie in “New Best Friends” and the hoard of algae and coral covered walkers in “Something They Need.” This is thanks largely to co-executive producer and special make-up effects supervision Greg Nicotero, who has been creating zombies ever since 1985’s Day of the Dead!
But when it comes to computer effects, The Walking Dead’s track record is far from flawless. Watching the CDC blow up all the way back in the season one finale was definitely a bit on the corny side, but with an increased budget you would think the computerized effects would now be near-prefect.
However, there were more than a few moments this past season that really drew attention to themselves, including the vista of the never-ending junkyard, along with the shots of Shiva sitting on Ezekiel’s balcony. We’ve seen the computerized tiger looking near flawless before and after, which only proves that if they don’t have time to perfect the CGI before the episode goes to air they’d be better of leaving it out of the show entirely.
14 Pull more from the comics
The show has always gone off on its own tangents by introducing subplots and characters that weren’t part of the comic — sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. But they’ve always managed to circle back to the source material every few episodes. However, most of season seven was a massive tangent all by itself, introducing both Oceanside and the Scavengers within episodes of each other, which only weighed the series down with a plethora of new characters.
Of course, it would be no fun to follow the comics to a T, but we couldn’t help but notice that some of the best episodes from this past season were largely based on the source material. “Sing Me a Song” and “Hearts Still Beating” chronicle Carl’s secret trip to the Sanctuary and Negan's surprise visit to Alexandria, and the action-packed season finale was largely lifted from the pages of the comic as well. These three episodes provided some of the most intense moments that season seven had to offer, all thanks to Robert Kirkman.
It’s also worth mentioning that these events all happened back to back in the comics, meaning that the show managed to squeeze in an entire eight episodes into the middle of the action. If season eight could do a better job of paralleling the comics, we’d likely end up with far fewer filler episodes than we had this past season.
13 Consistent character development
Remember how awesome Carol was when she rescued Rick and the others from the being cannibalized inside Terminus? Or when she donned a face mask and a drew a bloody W on her forehead to disguise herself as one of the Wolves? Carol had one of the most interesting character arcs on The Walking Dead -- transforming from battered housewife to expert assassin. But then… she became a hermit and has been given little attention since she shacked up in a small house outside of the Kingdom.
Carol isn’t the only character who’s undergone a disingenuous character shift in season seven. Morgan suddenly snaps in the episode “Bury Me Here,” and beats Richard to death despite his new credo, “All life is precious.”
And then there’s Rick. While it’s nice to see Rick finally fighting back, we don’t expect the character to be suddenly laughing and smiling all the time. Especially after he’s just emerged from a zombie/gladiator death match and his hand is still gushing blood. Of course, these characters should be undergoing changes, but lately the character shifts all felt a little too forced.
12 Fewer bottle episodes
“Swear” was by far the worst episode of season seven, and arguably the entire series. It follows Tara, who stumbles onto yet another community after she’s separated from Heath during a supply run. The problem with the episode is not that it puts Tara center stage, but that it connected so little to the overall story. After a rocky start to the season, the last thing we wanted was to be drawn even further out of the action and be introduced to a slew of new characters and problems.
While bottle episodes certainly have their place within the series, the episodes are far more engaging when they continuously cut from one community to the next, interweaving multiple storylines and covering more ground. Plain and simple, audiences tune in to see what’s going to happen to their favorite characters. But when it takes weeks to catch back up with Daryl or Rick or Michonne, you certainly run the risk of alienating your viewers.
11 And fewer filler episodes
Ever since season three, The Walking Dead has turned out sixteen episodes per season as opposed to the standard thirteen, leading to an increased number of episodes that do little to advance the story. We can’t help but feel like some of these episode are stretched pretty thin, as if they needed to extend a few sequences in order to reach the 44 minute runtime.
Some of season seven’s episodes could have easily been combined. For instance “The Well” and “The Cell” — which separately introduce audiences to the Kingdom and the Sanctuary — could’ve been spliced together, giving audiences a side-by-side look at two new communities that are polar opposites from one another. “Bury Me Here” and “The Other Side” are another pair of episodes that took an awfully long time to arrive at their point.
So if returning to thirteen episodes per season means less fluff, than we’re all for it.
10 Start thinning the herd
Of course, people were upset when Negan bashed both Abraham and Glenn’s brains in -- but that doesn’t mean the show should stop killing off its characters entirely. In fact, the series has recently become inundated with characters, and we’d be happy if the showrunners could start knocking off the multitude of side characters who are simply weighing the series down.
One of the major faults that successful TV series make is that they continue to add more and more characters as the show goes on. Maybe they think that audience is getting tired of the characters from season one, or that the new characters will help move the story along at a faster pace. Unfortunately, the opposite of both is often true, and an abundance of characters only makes us feel less connect to the show as a whole. Therefore, we hope this war continues to clean house throughout season eight so we can better focus on a small group of our favorites.
9 More close relationships
Since season two, Glenn and Maggie provided the majority of the romance in the series without ever being sappy. Then there was the love triangle between Abraham, Sasha, and Rosita that ended violently when it was just starting to get interesting. Now it feels like there’s just Rick and Michonne.
While we enjoy the turn of events that have brought these two characters together, there are a lot of relationships in the show that feel like they’ve been forgotten: Carl and Enid, Aaron and Eric, even Ezekiel and Carol seemed like they were getting to know each other (though we’re not exactly disappointed that that relationship hasn’t gone anywhere). We don’t want more overt romance in season eight per se, but rather a solid reminder that these characters are actively trying to build a future with one another.
If everyone ultimately feels like they’re on their own, the stakes aren’t very high to keep each other alive.
8 A return to horror roots
Admittedly, The Walking Dead has never been a straight-up horror series along the lines of Hannibal or American Horror Story. But in the early years, the show still managed to give us the creeps every few episodes. Unfortunately, much of the suspense and macabre seemed to be absent in the last sixteen episodes, leaving the tone of the show somewhere in between a character drama and a slow-burning action series.
Though the novelty of a lurking zombie has largely worn off, that doesn’t mean The Walking Dead should stop trying to scare their audience. People who love zombie stories also love the horror genre by default, and we would appreciate a few more night sequences or even the occasional cliched jump scare. An appearance from the Whisperers (which should almost certainly come by the end of the next season) may just be exactly the kind of creepiness we're looking for.
7 Less of the junkyard gang
Just when we thought that the show was balancing a few too many different communities they decided to squeeze in one more. And boy, was it a doozy.
In episodes ten and eleven of this passed season, Rick and the gang are ambushed by a new group that live in a junkyard and refer to themselves as the “Scavengers” (no connection to the group in the comics with the same name). While its important for each community to have a different look and disposition, the writers have gone above and beyond in trying to make the junkyard gang feel distinct.
They’re lead by the enigmatic leader, Jadis, who has developed an inexplicable garbled speech pattern — despite the world having only gone to waste a handful of years prior. Overall, the group feels like they belong in a 1980s exploitation movie rather than in The Walking Dead, and since they’ve just been revealed to be traitors, we’re hoping that they don’t become a mainstay in season eight after the war is over.
6 More development for the new characters
The upside of a show that isn’t afraid to kill off its main characters is that you have an entirely new dynamic every few seasons. The energy that Shane, Lori, and Dale provided in the first two seasons of the show was different from what we got out of Merle, Milto,n and the Governor in seasons three and four. Season six and seven brought a bunch of new characters into the fold, but unfortunately, the more interesting characters haven’t been given the spotlight they deserve.
Jesus was given a stellar debut at the end of season six, where the scavenger/thief gives Rick and Daryl a run for their money while the three bump into each other on a supply run. Unfortunately, Jesus hasn’t been put to much good use since then. Aside from being seen sneaking into the Sanctuary once the character is largely seen staying put at the Hilltop, where he’s often crossing his arms disappointedly, yet refusing to push Gregory out of power. Then there’s Ezekiel, who had an interesting debut as well but now feels like a fairly hollow character outside of the one confessional conversation he had with Carol.
If this new cast of characters isn’t given the attention they deserve, audiences will only continue to lose their emotional investment in the series.
5 Just kill Gregory already
If you didn’t even noticed that Gregory was totally absent from the season finale, we certainly can’t blame you. The last time we saw this cowardly leader, he was planning to take a journey beyond the walls of the Hilltop, presumably to pay a visit to Negan and spill the beans on his people’s plans to revolt. In his absence, Maggie has undertaken the role of leader, much to Jesus’s approval. But if Gregory does return to the Hilltop in season eight, will he remain the leader?
It’s a wonder that the character has been allowed to rule this long -- he’s not even able to take out a single walker when he has all the time in the world. If it’s a wonder that people would bow down to the sadistic Negan, it’s an even bigger mystery why anyone would continue to follow Gregory. Gregory basically does nothing, and he continues to let Simon (a far more interesting character) walk all over him. Maggie has basically been leading the Hilltop since she recovered from Glenn’s death anyway, and though Gregory may survive for a good amount longer in the comic, we’d be grateful to see this character reach his demise in season eight.
4 Plans for an endgame
How many great TV dramas have lasted longer than eight seasons? The answer is very few. While The Walking Dead still has plenty of comics left to draw from (and more still on the way), the odds that the show will be able to maintain its quality and massive audience for much longer are dwindling.
Once a show gets six or seven seasons deep, you don’t have nearly as many new audience members coming aboard. People are excited to binge watch the first few season of a show when it’s all that everyone is talking about at the office. But having to catch up on seven seasons is a massive undertaking, meaning that the show has likely peaked in the ratings department.
While the premise of the story lends itself to being never-ending (the objective of the characters is pure survival after all), we still believe that by the end of season eight the writers should have an idea in their minds about how they want to wrap the show up. If Rick and his followers have a goal in mind as to what exactly they mean to accomplish following the war with Negan, the audience will be given an incentive to stick around for the last few seasons to see if they can achieve that goal.
3 A Negan backstory
No one can deny that Jeffery Dean Morgan plays the hell out of the jovial ubervillian Negan. The character is pulled almost directly out of the comic book -- but in this case, that’s not exactly a good thing.
While Negan is entertaining to watch, this primary antagonist still feels a bit… cartoonish. We have a hard time believing that so many people would literally kneel down before a man that is so obviously a sadist. He gives his followers more than enough opportunities to assassinate him, and yet he remains totally unscathed.
A bottle episode that digs into the character’s past could make for a fascinating hour of television. What did Negan do in his past life? How did he obtain his first followers? And how did he arrive at his bizarre set of principals where he thinks it’s okay to take another man’s wife as his own, but punishes violence against women with sudden death?
We only hope that season eight can add some depth to this character before his storyline draws to an end.
2 The war we’ve been waiting for
The war has finally begun, and even Negan knows that bringing Rick and his followers back under his control is simply out of the question. The allies were able to push the Saviors out of Alexandria, giving them their first victory against the megalomaniacal leader since they were forced to work as his slaves. But if we’ve learned anything from seasons past, we know that this will be a long and bloody battle with bodies mounting on both sides.
It took sixteen episodes for Rick to finally fight back, and in season eight we hope that all this preparation will prove to be worth the wait. The action-packed finale was a promising start, and if the first half of season eight can provide a number of equally harrowing battle sequences we’ll be more than thrilled. What the season shouldn’t do, however, is sit back and have the characters continue to contemplate what to do next.
We’re ready to see what each side will do to wage war in a post-apocalyptic world. We’re betting walkers will be part of at least one of the group’s arsenal. And since Eugene has yet to get his bullet factory up and running, bringing some gritty hand-to-hand combat back into the show feels like a must-have.
1 Stop tricking viewers
Cliffhangers are one thing, but blatant misdirection that only serves to trick the audience is something else entirely. The Walking Dead started sliding down this slippery slope back in season five, where they did a fake-out death scene that looked like Glenn was being torn apart by walkers, only to later reveal that the herd was actually eating Nicholas who was laying on top of him.
The infamous cliffhanger at the end of season six also made the audiences wait months to see if Glenn was the one killed by Negan (as he is in the comics). Many probably breathed a slight sigh of relief to see that it was Abraham at the end of Negan’s bat, only to see a surprise second killing take out Glenn once and for all.
Then there was the episode where Tara spotted a zombified Heath, which was actually Heath’s doppelganger that just so happened to be roaming around the area where Heath was last scene. And only a few episodes back Michonne breaks into tears after seeing what she thinks is Rick being eaten alive. Admittedly, this wasn't fooling the audience at all, but the moment still felt like it dragged on longer than necessary.
We can only hope that the character and story development will be stronger in season eight, so that the writers can finally leave these gimmicky, bait-and-switch tactics behind.
So what changes would you like to see made in season eight of The Walking Dead? Let us know in the comments!