‘The Walking Dead’s’ ‘Lost’ Season

"The Walking Dead's" "Lost" Season

Single-character focus exposes character but has slowed down the zombie drama

Since the prison haven went kablooey – not to be confused with the overrun farm – “The Walking Dead” has entered what might be called its “Lost” season.

In practical terms, that’s meant shifting from everyone banded together in a communal (if usually fractious) home environment – seeking strength and safety in numbers – to what amounts to breaking up into condominiums.

Granted, AMC’s zombie hit and ABC’s island-bound drama have some key differences. Both deal with forging societies under harrowing circumstances, but the first is essentially a battle for survival without end, while the latter, imbued with some of those qualities, pivoted on a central mystery that both initially propelled the show and, eventually, consumed it.

Still, with “Dead” characters scattered in every direction – and the producers using this season to delve into individual back stories – the show has taken on a “Lost”-like feel, which has become possible thanks to the inordinate loyalty of its audience and size of its cast.

There are, obviously, logistical advantages to being able to focus on specific actors from week to week – letting some performers have light episodes or completely sit them out.

From a narrative standpoint, it also enhances the audience’s understanding of what motivates them – letting writers drill down into a character like Carl (Chandler Riggs) or Daryl (Norman Reedus) – the key being that the audience feel invested enough so they – that having no Rick (Andrew Lincoln) or Michonne (Danai Gurira) is offset by getting to spend extra time with Daryl or Glenn (Steve Yuen).

For “Walking Dead,” that has mostly worked, thanks to an infusion of strong new actors – including “The Wire” alums Chad L. Coleman and Larry Gilliard Jr. – as well as the fact the series doesn’t scrimp on zombie-gutting action even in these character-driven episodes. (It took zombies, it turns out, to trick vast numbers of men into watching a soap opera.)

That said, the handful of episodes since the midseason break (and beware some spoilers if you’re not caught up) has felt uneven – from the high of Rick trying to escape a house filled with ruthless marauders, a genuine little masterpiece of tension; down to last week’s less successful interlude spent with Daryl and Beth (Emily Kinney). And those followed the pre-prison detour spent with the Governor (David Morrissey), catching up on what had been happening with him.

Admittedly, “Walking Dead” has been building toward something, from the arrival of Michael Cudlitz’s character to the question of what resides at the end of those mysterious train tracks.

Yet after this rather gutsy bit of idling, it’s time to start revving the engines. Because while the show has amassed enough goodwill to take its time in, one would hope things have begun to coalesce around a new direction, at the very least, by the end of this season’s remaining episodes.

Ratings clearly haven’t suffered despite a murderer’s row of competing events, from the Olympics to the Oscars. In this day and age, however, such success merely means having every nuance analyzed to death – and then clubbing the analysis some more, just to ensure it doesn’t rise again.

The compartmentalized experiment has certainly been interesting, and let’s give the producers credit for taking chances – especially with a new showrunner, Scott Gimple, tasked with keeping AMC’s gravy train running. Having played out this thread, though, it would be nice to see “Walking Dead” start getting back on track, as it were – demonstrating that whatever the similarities, all is not “Lost.”

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  1. Katie says:

    I can sort of understand what is trying to be said but look at it this way. There was no way that they could have contiued the season in the prison because it would just drag on forever. There was no way for the plot to continue without loosing the excitment that TWD is known for.
    At the same time if the cast had stayed together this would also drag the plot because we have already seen it before. This is the first time that the characters have been away from each other for this length of time.
    I think that the writers are heading in the right direction at the moment. They allowed the audience to watch the characters deal with the death of Hershal while at the same time deal with being seperated from what is now considered their ‘family’. If they want to create new plot points and develop the characters more and introduce new characters that are both from the comics and original then let them and enjoy the ride.

  2. Bob Jones (@bjoneslaw1972) says:

    This show has gotten away from the thrill and terror of losing cast members week to week and has suffered as a result. Don’t get me wrong the acting corp has improved overall since the show began and there is not a character that I want to lose, but there was some sheer and unpredictable terror to the show that has been eviscerated with the unwillingness to sacrifice the current group of characters except on a predictable season or mid-season ending bloodbath. Sometimes you become a slave to your own success.

    I think the storytelling has been good but not transcendental. Was it really a surprise that Darryl was just following his brother around doing nothing? What did we learn about Carl that we didn’t already know? Did he learn something about himself? I don’t know. We spent an entire episode watching him be selfish and reckless and I’m still not sure he was “changed” by that experience? The point of this second half “road” theme was to develop these characters at the sacrifice of tangible events I’m just not sure that development has been entirely worth it thus far. What grand character themes are we going to be able to tie back into the last 4-5 episodes that will make each of these more valuable in the long run?

  3. Lostie says:

    I started reading this thinking it was comparing LOST to TWD…but they said Not one word on LOST…i was hoping maybe they would compare Sawyer to Rick….or…Jack to Daryl….too bad…would’ve Loved to read bout that…☺…

  4. John Reid (@GrahamPink) says:

    People have such short attention spans, oh look, a squirrel! Try enjoying the character development, and yes, what’s at the end of the railway tracks is where the show is going.

    • Michele Riv says:

      I agree! There’s been plenty of zombie action in each episode, but more importantly we’re all feeling the tension and isolation and danger of the group being separated – something that would quite easily happen when societies break down. I have missed the Rick and Michonne characters this last couple of weeks and it doesn’t look like they’re back this week either. But, then again, that’s what the characters feel, right? Missing what they had, missing perhaps Rick’s leadership, however flawed at times. I was a LOST devotee, but some of those plot lines went awry and the whole thing became confusing and too far away from the core characters that I loved to watch. I look forward to at least some of the characters reuniting soon, but it won’t be the same. They are all changed by this experience and all the loss. I’m anxiously awaiting to find out what happened to Beth. Who’d have thunk I’d care at all about her? The last couple of episodes made me more invested in her. I think this half of the season is darker and more lonely in tone, but well done.

  5. JJust says:

    I like this season, especially since the break. They’re idiots when they’re all together and now the characters seem more real. (Possible spoiler alert) The twist with Daryl and Beth in the last episode gave me a real feeling of loss and worry. And that’s from someone who was hoping that Rick really was dead a few episodes ago. Please, someone on that show tell them to take their rifles off full-auto though. Every time they put 40 bullets in one zombie it takes me out of it.

  6. It’s definitely time to start “revving the engines” to put it mildly. I don’t know why the creators insist on stalling and dragging out tired storylines. Good review, Brian.

  7. Kevin says:

    I don’t mind the backstory of the characters overall…we should know who they used to be prior to the zombie apocalypse. We’re invested in these characters potential survival. The series, situations and characters are evolving from episode to episode–so–I’m in!

  8. Troy says:

    I agree with this article. But I disagree that it is not hurting the show’s ratings – I think they will soon drop if it does not improve very soon. It is time to get the show back on track and stop the “individual” stories. The group dynamics are the best part of the show. Hopefully, with just about everyone going to this “place ” they will again meet up as a group. If not, this new show runner should be fired immediately.

    • Tanya says:

      I agree, Troy. And if it keeps up like this, it deserves to lose ratings. The writing this season, to me, has been terrible. If it all ties together in the end maybe I’ll change my mind, but for now it’s just a huge disappointment filled with characters I no longer recognize and illogical plots.

      • Joe says:

        Sorry Tanya but if that’s you’re opinion you’re clearly not paying attention because you and Troy are way off the mark. The writing and character development have been much better this season than the past 2 and most of season 1 really. Nearly every one has agreed with this – including the very author of this article who was simply criticizing the slow pace of episode 12 that at the time only served as character development and not to serve the plot and thus a little pause about how things were headed. But Sunday’s episode showed Ep 12 did serve the overall plot and started to pick things up. Great episode after an admittedly dull – but still decent – episode 12. You really need to start paying closer attention and maybe try watching episodes more than once because it has really been a thought-provoking season with a lot of hidden nuggets that really serve the overall narrative of the plot. These holes you speak of simply do not exist. For a good review of the last episode check out spoilertv.com. Best actually in-depth review site out there. And LOL at the show losing viewers. A lot of people thought that’d happen after last year’s admittedly lackluster finale, but instead the audience has continued to grow at an impressive rate.

    • Joe says:

      Gotta disagree. The unevenness is sometimes necessary on a show like this where character development is so important and there is a large, expanding cast to concentrate on. Especially since there wasn’t much character focus in season 3. I think the back half of season 4 has blown away the second-half runs of seasons 2 and 3 thus far. Episode 13 was great an 11 was about as good as any in the series thus far. Episodes 9 and 10 were also quite strong. Ep 12 was a bit slow, but that was necessary to open up Daryl and finally delve into Beth. Sorry, but Scott Gimple clearly has the show on the right track. And things are already picking up with Episode 13 and that’ll likely continue through the end of the run. And sorry Troy, but if the ratings didn’t suffer after the lackluster season 3 finale – instead soaring by 2-3 million on average thus far this season – they aren’t going to suffer anytime soon

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