SPOILERS for Season 8 of The Walking Dead to follow.
The Walking Dead has now concluded its 8th season and it’s even more clear now that this show peaked way back in seasons 4 and 5 and is on a steady decline destined for the world of trash TV. It has become a series that lacks any sense of originality or differentiation from the storylines of past seasons as the world and characters in here only have a finite amount to offer. Every moral character decision we have seen a number of times before, the war with another “evil” community we have seen done to death, and going forward it’s only going to be more of the same. The storylines throughout the season aren’t engaging, thrilling, or enjoyable as it’s just more of the same dreadfully slow pace filling in episode long gaps between major moments. Slow builds can work and can work very well, but in this case the rewards waiting at the end don’t make sitting through another 16 episodes at all worth it. The Walking Dead at this point is a show I only watch because I’ve stuck with it this long… Like ripping a bandage off, you’re not going to slowly peel it off in pain only to get 80% of the way and then stop, you keep going because you’ve already endured the worst… you hope.
Lets get the good of this season out of the way because despite the shitbox this season turned out to be it definitely wasn’t all bad. Where the walking dead still manages to give audiences some sort of engagement is with the various characters and personalities they have and the performances behind them. There are some mostly good individual character arcs in here amongst the shit storylines which provides a silver lining for anyone sitting through the sluggish war storylines. Dwight (Austin Amelio) has a pretty decent arc in here which sees him doing his best to help Rick and his people take out Negan once and for all. Watching him try to convince both warring factions that he’s on their side gave his character a lot to do and made him an important part of the season. The way his character’s arc ends up though in the final episode makes a lot of what he has been doing this season fairly redundant. Everything he did for Rick’s group results in him still being exiled by Daryl, and all of the late success we thought he was having in climbing the ranks within The Sanctuary is thrown out the window when it’s revealed Negan had been playing him.
Morgan (Lennie James) was my favourite character in the entire series way back in season 1 and since then, especially in the last few seasons a lot has been done with his character and his morality. As you may already know, as of the end of this season his character has been pulled from The Walking Dead and is now a core character of Fear The Walking Dead, so this episode was essentially his goodbye. Now, it’s a quick goodbye but despite the fact that I once loved this character I don’t feel like there is anything else you can do with him. We’ve seen the pacifist Morgan, we’ve seen the bloodthirsty Morgan, and with his constant psychological battles in the past his storyline has run its course….. much like the majority of the cast in here. Quite possibly my favourite character consistently this season was Simon played incredibly by Steven Ogg. His character is one of the few who I never got frustrated watching as whenever he was on the screen he was the most entertaining person present… above Negan.
Speaking of Negan, the season finale sees the supposed long overdue end of the Rick and Negan feud which we have been following for what seems like an entire fucking lifetime. I would love if I never had to hear the words Sanctuary, Hilltop, Kingdom, or Negan ever again because these locations and this character have been sucked dry over the last few seasons. But of course even though Rick wins the war, he lets Negan live as a captive so that he can watch as Rick and co. build a new community from the ground up. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Negan is a great original character and by far the most unique personality we have encountered in the entire show. But Jeffrey Dean Morgan‘s villain, as entertaining as he was he overstayed his welcome and the novelty of having Negan as a villain wore off as this season progressed. Plus not having him die here I think is entirely the wrong way to go, I don’t care if it is in line with the comics because it’s a punch in the gut for the audience as after countless episodes building (very very slowly) to this moment, it never arrives. And Rick is still Rick, he has a lot of good strong moments in here and some frustrating ones here and there, but he’s the hero of the series he’s good to watch.
At this point in the show every episode regardless of any deaths or the threat of danger for characters completely fails to evoke any sense of emotion in the audience. It’s not thrilling, it’s not suspenseful, and I’ve just about given up on caring about anyone who may die. Even when it was revealed that Carl (Chandler Riggs) was as good as dead in the midseason finale it didn’t get me and even though he’s been a character who has grown with each passing season the moment didn’t really grab me emotionally. What did grab me and was executed quite well is the aftermath of this moment in the midseason premiere. That final episode which shows the lead-up to Carl’s death, his contribution to the community, and how it affects Rick is the best thing this season. That episode is probably the only definitively good episode of the entire season. It’s the one storyline that is executed well and Carl does have a lingering impact on the rest of the season which is nice.
Despite these positive individual character arcs the season as a whole doesn’t offer anything to remain excited about. All of the happenings at The Sanctuary and the Hilltop and in Alexandria during the midseason finale just felt repetitive and rehashing the same crap from previous seasons. Try build a community; shit fails, develop a fully functioning plan; shit fails, come across an evil community and villain; shit fails… All this keeps on happening and it will keep on happening as there is nowhere for this damn show to go. The last portion of the season finale is dedicated to setting up where the show could go and trying to get people excited for season 9 but it doesn’t work. The big twist they’re hoping will bring viewers back is that Maggie, Jesus, and Daryl are joining forces to possibly overthrow Rick’s authority and exact justice on Negan. With the limited investment I had this season even I can pick out the fact that this doesn’t really make sense. I understand Maggie’s motivations, I sort of get why Jesus would want to contest Rick, but I am completely baffled as to why Daryl is all of a sudden against Rick’s angle. This twist doesn’t have me looking forward to the future of the series nor does the presence of that helicopter Jadis called in a few episodes earlier. I’d like to think that the overthrowing of Negan will lead to something fresh for the series but I think the world and characters have been sucked dry of potential original storylines and arcs and we’re going to get nothing more of the same crap that will drive this show into the ground.
If you are someone who is still watching this show and getting a good amount of enjoyment out of it then I say that’s great. It has its brief moments that shine but amongst all of the other crap filling the 16 episode season it’s hardly worth the watch. I’m not awaiting the arrival of season 9 at all and if anything I’m hoping it ends soon so I don’t have to keep watching this crap. It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones were competing for the most ratings each week and now one is still thriving and the other is as good as dead. I’ll most certainly have forgotten 90% of what happened this season by tomorrow so that says a lot about how engaging it was to watch…