The first half of The Walking Dead season 8 has ended and it’s left a lot of disappointed fans in its wake. The ratings for The Walking Dead have not only dropped considerably in season 8 but so has hope that the series is going anywhere promising, anytime soon. Yet all hope is not lost for the zombie series. If The Walking Dead plays things just right, season 8 can be saved along with the entire series — but a few very specific things must happen.
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Speed Everything Up — Immediately
If there’s one major problem that’s plaguing The Walking Dead in season 8 so far, it’s pacing. Only two to three days have passed in the world of the show during the first half of season 8 but everything was stretched out for eight episodes, some of which were super-sized and longer than the typical 40-45 minute run time. This would’ve been fine if things were actually happening but the first half of The Walking Dead season 8 felt like a collection of deleted scenes. They might have been deemed important at one point but they could’ve been easily brushed over and condensed.
The Walking Dead hasn’t been rudderless in season 8 but it has been tortuously slow. There’s no reason that things should be taking so long to happen. Characters walking across the forest and talking does not need to happen in real time, especially when there’s a war going on. In the first season it took Rick little more than a couple episodes to cross hundreds of miles and find his family. If season 1 was presented like season 8 they would’ve shown every single moment of Rick’s journey, including his bathroom breaks.
The slow pacing completely robs The Walking Dead of all sense of tension and momentum. Outside of the action-packed season premiere and winter finale, there’s been no real battles. In fact there hasn’t been anything in the first half of season 8 that couldn’t have been wrapped up in one short and much more exciting installment. It sounds like the midseason premiere will be one long goodbye to Carl but that’s the last time The Walking Dead needs to take its time in season 8.
Rick Needs to Start Leading Again
To be perfectly honest, Rick Grimes has never been a great leader on The Walking Dead. He’s the main character and interesting but no one should be taking too much advice from Rick on how to lead. Still The Walking Dead did show Rick in a leadership role for most of the previous seasons. Yet in season 8 he was pretty much a nonentity.
This is due mostly to Rick being off on his own or with Daryl but still there wasn’t much of an inspiring spark in Rick. Unlike Maggie or Ezekiel, Rick did nothing to lead anyone or seem powerful by any stretch. Rick really lost more control than he gained, considering Tara and Daryl going way off the plan. If anything Rick just seemed tired and worn out. Obviously he won’t be in a good place emotionally after Carl’s death, but hopefully the show can still make Rick a more active character while he is mourning Carl.
Have the Characters Actually Work Together
In addition to Rick seeming more like a leader, The Walking Dead could desperately do with having the characters who have grown to be a family actually act like one. For more than half of season 8, a large swath of the cast has been completely missing. After the season premiere Michonne didn’t have a significant role until the episode right before the winter finale. She might not be the most loved character but Michonne is incredibly important and for her to disappear is almost unacceptable.
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Furthermore it just makes it hard to connect to the narrative of the war when the cast feels so separated. Season 8 hasn’t really given a sense that everyone is against Negan and the Saviors. It just seems like a few scattered groups are fighting (or more accurately talking about fighting) Negan.
Rick made a big speech about how the war is bringing all these groups of people together and there’s been a ton of discussion about the new world that’s going to be built after it’s over. Yet season 8 hasn’t done enough to actually sell the audience on the idea that this huge alliance is real or important.
Stop (or Commit to) the Confusing Time Jumps
The Walking Dead hasn’t been entirely averse to flashbacks, flashforwards or skips in time. Yet in season 8, the convention of moving up and down the timeline has been abused to an insane degree. It all started in the season premiere with flashes to a red-eyed, bleary Rick and an Old Man Rick. Since those teases the time jumps have just gotten worse and more confusing.
The impetus for these weird skips of time seems to be break up the monotony of the current action. Yet they do not help at all. Rather than making things feel more exciting or helping move the story along, the time jumps have just served as distractions. They’re not clever or well-used, they’re just kind of slapped into random scenes with no warning.
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They’re not an inherently bad idea, but if The Walking Dead wants to keep using them, they need to be far more incorporated than they are now. If the show isn’t prepared to end the time jumps, fully commit to them and make the jumps be more frequent and longer-lasting, so the audience can invest them before being pulled back to present day.
The War Needs to End
Most importantly though The Walking Dead needs to put an end to the war by season 8’s close. The first half of season 8 was exceedingly slow but that might be worth it if it’s all leading to one big conclusion to the Negan vs. everyone arc. Negan has been a huge figure for such a long time and The Walking Dead needs to bring at least this chapter of his story to a close.
The Walking Dead doesn’t necessarily need to kill Negan but they do need to wrap up the war. The exciting part of this war isn’t all the action and violence. It’s what the world will be like after the conflict is over and it’s way past time to get to that story. If the war is dragged out to season 9 (or beyond) The Walking Dead is looking at a very dismal future, not a promising one.
But what do you think? What would you do in the back half of season 8? Does the show even need improving or is it perfectly fine in its current state?
The Walking Dead season 8 returns Sunday, February 25 at 9/8c on AMC. Want more news? Like our Walking Dead Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of AMC)