Monday, November 25, 2013

'The Walking Dead' and Character Development

If there is one issue I have with The Walking Dead as a television series, it is character development.

Season 4 is now helmed by showrunner Scott Gimple, who mentioned a return to form and wanted to deepen the development and ties between the characters. I understand the reasoning behind doing this, and while it fundamentally increases the divide between the books and the television series. Is that such a bad thing?

There has been a widening gap between the show and the books since the divisive second season. At this point I've compartmentalized all Walking Dead media into their own separate-but-related universes ( books, television, video games) because that way I can enjoy each of them as a stand-alone piece of entertainment without that pesky fan rage making me shout "UGH! That's not how it happened!".

The problem I'm having with the show right now is its aim to nurture some character development while sticking to source material that has fundamentally poor character arcs. Yup, I said it. The Walking Dead comics have poor character development. The books are good at telling a story, but the dialogue and cast leave a lot to be desired. Most of the time you'll have players appearing and then being killed off within the course of a single issue or chapter, and it's common to flip 10 pages where the only words are profanity and onomatopoeia "SHRRRRRPT". When you actually get to major blocks of speech in the books, it's not anywhere on a level with dialogue in the show. I have no problem with this since it's a comic book after all, but unlike Spiderman that can be fun and cheesy in screen adaptations, TWD is held to a different standard since it's billed as a drama. A serious drama...based on a comic book.

What makes the books so effective in the early chapters is the pacing. They are a very quick read, and there are very few moments of safety for the characters to sit back and chat. The books know what they are; a glorified zombie movie put on paper. This is why it's really easy to look past the limited dialogue and character depth. There's a story moving along and won't stop for anyone. Unfortunately television works a bit differently. AMC clearly needs to extend these seasons into what amounts to a yearly 12 hour long zombie flick. However, there's a reason most zombie movies have two-dimensional characters. It's more about the situation the people are in than who they are. I think The Walking Dead show needs to remember that to avoid pacing problems while it tries to flesh things out enough to satisfy the needs of a television audience.

What do you think? Should the show steer further from the source material and tell us more about Daryl's past? Or should it embrace the comics again and give us a more action packed program that worries less about people's history and motives and more on their dire circumstances?


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