TV review: “The Walking Dead” shuffles along, looking for a story worth telling

By Columbus Alive
From the October 10, 2013 edition

This far into “The Walking Dead” it’s time to ask, “What’s the f---ing point”? The series has been wildly inconsistent; a random great episode here and there, surrounded by dreadful (and dreadfully boring) storylines. But there’s a much bigger problem: What story is “The Walking Dead” attempting to tell?

“The Walking Dead” generates huge ratings so “the story” is clearly working. And fans probably don’t care what some TV critic has to say, but I’m going to question the missed opportunities anyway.

“The Walking Dead” could — and should — be great. There’s so much to explore in a long-form zombie (or any) apocalypse tale. (Just look at the handful of thought-provoking concepts and themes analyzed in “28 Days Later.”)

There could be a dire narrative around what happens to society, or what’s left of it, when everything falls apart. Do we rebuild or merely survive?

What happens to humanity in inhumane environs? Who are the real monsters, the undead or the living?

How does one live, not just survive, without hope? And is hopelessness the most dangerous infection?

Yes, I know “The Walking Dead” has addressed these ideas before. But it’s either been done with on-the-nose perfunctory (culminating with the utmost predictability), or just glossed over. Complex characters that fluctuate between good and evil could beautifully, tragically and horrifically represent the many responses to these situations.

Instead, the Season 4 premiere feebly retreads old ground, makes poor attempts at new ones — characters talk so much about “coming back,” I’m sure new showrunner Scott Gimple has been playing an early-aughts Stereophonics record on repeat in the writers room — or just meanders between characters old and new.

“The Walking Dead” writers/producers have squandered the many opportunities for the series to be great, let alone transform the zombie genre, that it’s impossible to have expectations of improvement. Which is a shame because the conditions were just right.

After becoming a massive hit, I doubt “The Walking Dead” has any plans to change.