The real life Whisperers are saying The Walking Dead should call it quits. They say that the show will never be as good as it used to be, that the characters have become stale, or that the writers are just toying with the audience for their own sick amusement. I’m not one of those people. In fact, I think the show has progressed quite naturally. Do I like everything that has happened? No, of course not, but I would challenge anyone to show me a perfect series. Yes, it is not the same without Rick and Carl but we all knew they couldn’t last forever. Still, that doesn’t mean that everyone likes how it has evolved so let’s take a look at how the new world is shaped.
One of the great things about the early Walking Dead episodes was it’s hopelessness. That sounds depressing, but what I mean is that all of the characters were trying to deal with a world turned upside down that was dangerous, unpredictable, and unimaginable. All the creature comforts of our easy lifestyle have been stripped away and to make it worse, they constantly have to be on the lookout for the millions of flesh-eating undead villains as well as the remaining potentially untrustworthy unhinged humans.
This situation gave us something that we had not seen before on television. It was a weekly digest of survival in unimaginable circumstances where any of your favorite characters might suddenly die because of the slightest moment of inattention. Each roaming episode found the group trying to find somewhere sustainable that they could survive with a frequently changing setting. It was interesting because they had no home and we did not know from one episode to the next what would await them the next week or who would survive.
Now fast forward to the last few seasons and more specifically, season 9. The theme of the first few seasons was to find somewhere secure to survive, but the group does not have that worry any longer. Mostly secure places have been found in the communities of Alexandria, Hilltop, Oceanside, and the Kingdom, but that means the unpredictably of the earlier episodes is greatly reduced. They no longer have to go on frequent supply runs or set-up camp because the communities are somewhat self sustaining, which greatly reduces the unpredictability of the first few seasons.
With safer communities, the focus of the show and life in general, shifts to focusing on relationships between people and other communities. It’s not so much about how to survive the day, but how to survive and thrive in the long term. The threats are not so much the lonely walker sneaking up on you in the dark, but who is out there that wants to take what you have (think the Whisperers). The whole dynamic changes when communities are established and that is not a bad thing. Do you really want 9 seasons of a show where the people are just constantly wandering? The show would then be accused of simply repeating a formula.
If you think about the Walking Dead from a viewpoint of evolution, the current course is the natural progression. People are trying to rebuild what was lost in the best way they can while trying to fend off any threats that arise. This naturally changes the shows dynamic to that of a drama with an eclectic mix of people and the occasional walker lurking about.
I think the shows writers have done a great job moving the story forward while advancing the communities and their leadership. The introduction of the Whisperers brings a threat like they haven’t seen before. In addition to wearing masks made of human skin, they are also ruthless and live by a code that includes no forgiveness. If you dissent, you are dead. If you fall behind you are left. It’s a group that travels together but are on their own at the same time. They are more animals than people.
I look forward to the impending battle with the whisperers in season 10. They have shown their ruthlessness to the communities and are a threat that must be dealt with as soon as possible.