We’re halfway through the second season of The Walking Dead. But where are we, actually? If you didn’t stick around for the “Next week on…” clip, you might’ve missed that there won’t be a “next week” at all. Indeed, AMC has done a piss-poor job of advertising this fact, but The Walking Dead is going off the air until February.
When did TV executives start thinking that this strategy is a good one? The best case scenario is… Well, there isn’t one. The worst case scenario, which seems likely, is that a show’s fan base will be furious when their program is abruptly yanked away from them and take to Internet message boards in outrage. And Hell hath no fury like a nerd scorned. The Walking Dead pulled this stunt last year, too, with a truncated six episode first season to “gauge interest.” Well, people were interested, and subsequently pissed off to learn that their new favorite show was disappearing from the airwaves for a year before it had ever really begun. Now they’re doing it again, yanking the show for about two and half months. Savvy move, executives!
I can kind of see the logic of this move on paper, anyway. I’m sure executives think they’re drumming up suspense and anticipation for the return of the show, ala Apple releasing a limited amount of iPhones to drive up demand. This would probably be true if The Walking Dead was as good of a show as something like Breaking Bad. (For the record, if Breaking Bad split up a season into two parts, the Internet might experience its first full-fledged cyber-riot.) But The Walking Dead simply isn’t good enough to justify pulling this kind of stunt. It’s pretty presumptuous and flat-out arrogant to assume that people will flock back, in droves, two and half months from now to a show with no major plot development, unlikeable characters and no tangible exit strategy. Granted, there isn’t jack shit else on TV right now, so maybe they will. But that’s a pretty bold assumption.
I haven’t written about The Walking Dead in a while because there hasn’t been anything to write about. Nothing ever actually happens. For a show about a zombie apocalypse in rural Georgia, that’s pretty unforgiveable. I can count the major plot developments of this season on one hand: Carl got shot (a quick note: if I ever have to be shot, I pray I get shot in the universe of The Walking Dead. Apparently gunshots are only a minor injury here. Carl recovered remarkably quickly from his seemingly fatal gut shot, and Daryl got shot in the fucking head and was up and about the next day with a spring in his step), Lori is pregnant, there’s a farm with a kooky old man who thinks that zombies are sick and not dead, Shane may or may not be crazy, and Sophia, the little girl we’ve just spent seven agonizing episodes searching for, is actually a zombie in the kooky old man’s zombie barn. We’re almost exactly where we started.
On Shane and the kooky old man’s zombie barn: I’m 100 percent on board with Shane’s decision to shoot all the captured zombies. This was presented as some sort of moral conflict, but it’s really not; Shane is empirically right that zombies are dead and not sick. The old guy can believe what he wants, but that doesn’t make it true. (I was reminded of how I was agreeing with Magneto every step of the way during the X-Men movies. He was presented to the audience as a villain, but all of his points were extremely valid.)
To be fair, the ending of this episode was pretty good. Shane’s decision to kill all of the zombies, and the final reveal of zombie-Sophia, will at least shake up the plot when the show resumes in TWO AND HALF MOTHERFUCKING MONTHS (I’m still not over what a dumb idea that is). I’m not in love with this show, and I’m not even sure I like it. But there is something compelling about it. Maybe it’s my macabre natural predilection for post-apocalyptic pop culture, or just that seeing zombies get their heads blow’d off is purdy cool, but I’ll keep watching this show, come hell or high water. The Walking Dead is like the head case professional athlete who shows just enough promise to continue getting second chances; its flashes of brilliance have so far been enough to outweigh its many flaws.
But out of sight truly is out of mind. The executives at AMC would be wise to adhere to that, and stop ripping their most popular program out of the lineup for vast swaths of time. I can forgive The Walking Dead‘s faults now, but what if something else, something better and in the same vein, comes along before February? It’s a foolish and wholly unnecessary risk to take for AMC, with a heap of risk and very little reward.