It happens to even the best shows. They have a great run, a huge audience gets really engaged with the story, and then the main character retires to become a lumberjack. Or something.
A lot of my favourites have been slipping of late. Westeros discovered quantum physics this year on Game of Thrones, so characters can now teleport around the map at will. I mean, hey, why not? Properly depicting time and distance is hard work, and it’s not like George R. R. is still minding the till. Sherlock has mostly sucked since that ill-conceived bait-and-switch Christmas special a few years ago. Good luck finding a hole in the calendar to book Cumberbatch and Freeman for a gig at the same time these days. And House of Cards is suddenly packing it in after a pederasty plot twist. Who saw that one coming? I mean, other than everyone in Hollywood.
The Walking Dead has been trying to jump the shark for years now. But you can’t keep a good zombie down, not even with a well-placed headshot. Every time the show does something stupid (like faking the death of a beloved character only to kill that character again for real a few episodes later), it manages to crawl out of its grave and get fun again. How can a bunch of British actors pretending to be Mericans at the end of the world (and personal hygiene) ever fail to be fun? Despite the frequent cast culls, there’s always a pile of characters worth following.
Like Rick Grimy; his lovely daughter, Coral; Larping Samurai; Filthy Hick; King Rasta; Tony the Computer-Animated Tiger; Junkyard Lady-Spock; The Comedian; Popeye Pizza-Boy; Angel-of-Death Soccer-Mom; Annoying Priest Guy Who’s Still Alive for Some Reason; Samoan Lancelot; Bedroom-Eyes Jesus; the gay guy who’s been on the show for years who we keep forgetting is in the cast; the other gay guy who’s been on the show for years who we keep forgetting is in the cast; Sexy Tiny-Scar Face; Mullet Sheldon; and Lucille, the most engaging piece of anthropomorphic sports equipment since Wilson was robbed at the Oscars.
And ultimately, it’s a show that gives us hope that a diverse group of people can come together in trying times and work as a team to murder other diverse groups of people. I’m a sucker for an uplifting message like that.
Lately though, I’ve had to try hard to enjoy the show and ignore the fact that the last few episodes didn’t make any goddamn sense. Granted, that awkward flash-forward to Rick having a bad J. Jonah Jameson hair day isn’t supposed to make any goddamn sense…yet, but I’m talking about everything else. The problem is we’re now in a storyline called “All Out War” and I haven’t understood anybody’s tactics, plan, or strategy since before last year’s season climax. How could Sasha have possibly anticipated her move was going to pay off in any positive way? What was Negan’s shtick with the coffin supposed to be—other than weird and not at all intimidating? More recently, who is attacking where in this multi-pronged offensive? What are the objectives? How do any of these raids affect each other? If this is the plot they’re tackling, perhaps the crew should have tried to watch some war movies to see how it’s done. This is like trying to sit through The Guns of Navarone without knowing where Navarone is, why it has strategic value, or that the mission is to blow up the guns there.
And then—itsy bitsy spoiler alert that you won’t even care about because nobody else does—there was last episode’s big reveal. MORALES IS BACK, MOTHERFUCKERS!!!
At this point, having killed off damn near everybody who was around for Season One, the producers dug deep to bring a beloved original cast member back into the fold. Unfortunately, there were no beloved original cast members left who hadn’t already become zombie chow, so they rang up some actor nobody remembers at all and offered him a gig.
You know, Morales! He had a family. And they were with the group, but they wanted to leave and go someplace else. So Rick and the gang gave them some food and bade them a fond farewell. And then nothing dramatic happened. I think. I don’t know. I watched the first season twice back in the day and I still had to Google who this dude was, that’s how much of an impression he didn’t make.
That this untriumphant return was presented to us as a big moment we should care about reminded me how little I care about anybody anymore. I’ve become so disengaged with everyone’s fate, I might as well be watching Fear the Walking Dead.
Really. As bad as that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still watch my trashy, formerly great TV shows, no matter how many years they linger past their prime. I’m not going to give up on them like I did ER around the time they blew up the ER for the THIRD TIME. They may be jumping the shark, but at least they haven’t dropped the helicopter. Yet.