In its eighth season premiere, The Walking Dead crossed a truly momentous milestone. After seven years on TV, and 100 episodes, it became one of the longest-running horror series on TV.
That’s a pretty big accomplishment. Many beloved series never get close to that long of a run. And expectations were high heading into Season 8, because for many fans, Season 7 was a bit of a letdown.
Fans were ready for the series to take a break from the plodding, often nihilistic tone it set with the introduction of Negan. And while TWD’s latest outing has definitely changed its pace, there’s something that’s still a bit lacking.
1. Season 8 started off with a bang
— The Walking Dead AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) December 4, 2017
The 100th episode of The Walking Dead was a big step forward for the series — both literally and narratively. It kicked Rick’s “All Out War” with Negan and the Saviors into high gear. And it offered us a glimpse at a future in which the good guys seem to be living in relative peace.
So in two key ways, The Walking Dead’s eighth season has served as a response to those who criticized Season 7’s slow pace, and the fact that the series seemed to have no end point in sight. That’s not the only positive change the series has made.
2. The Walking Dead is no longer overloading us with new characters
One of The Walking Dead’s strongest traits is that it’s given fans a wealth of fascinating characters over the years. The problem leading into Season 8, though, was that there were too many characters. In Season 7, three new groups of survivors were introduced. And that meant a slew of new names and faces to keep track of on top of the Saviors, the Alexandrians and the Hilltoppers.
Thus far, Season 8 has scaled back its onslaught of new characters. We’ve met just one new recurring player, Siddiq. And numerous other characters — like, basically, half the Kingdom — have become casualties of Rick and Negan’s ongoing conflict.
Sure, we never want to see any character go (RIP Shiva). But having less characters to focus on has given TWD a sturdier ground to stand on. And it’s made room for some truly shocking character-driven moments.
3. Season 8 has given some favorite characters a chance to truly shine
One of the problems with a larger-than-normal ensemble is that there’s often not time for us to spend time with our favorite characters. And that’s certainly been the case where The Walking Dead is concerned.
But already in Season 8, characters like Carol and Maggie have had some of their most memorable moments — scenes that reinforce why fans love them so much. And we’ve finally gotten a chance to get to know King Ezekiel — not the boisterous leader, but the man behind the act.
This character development has been refreshing and helps us stay invested not just in the story, but in the people at the center of it, too.
4. The surprises are based in character and story, not in shock value
One of fans’ biggest complaints about The Walking Dead’s seventh season was that it relied too heavily on Negan’s brutality as a plot device. Fans were shocked, yes, at the gory way the Saviors’ leader disposed of Glenn and Abraham. But overall, these surprising moments left fans feeling queasy and sad, not excited to tune in the following week.
Season 8 of The Walking Dead has also offered up some surprises. But they’ve been focused around the characters, rather than the shock value. When Rick encountered Morales, a former ally turned Savior, it was shocking for both the fans and the characters involved. But it served its purpose — to introduce a new concern into Rick’s life — other than just keeping fans on their toes.
And indeed, the focus on forward momentum has been a strong point across the board in Season 8.
5. The focus on the war has breathed new life into the series
At varying points in The Walking Dead’s previous seven seasons, it’s felt like things were either moving slowly or very, very slowly. In some ways, Season 7 — which largely focused on Rick having to make a decision about Negan — felt slowest of all.
But by shifting attention away from Negan’s depravity and toward how the various factions are fighting back, The Walking Dead’s eighth season feels like it’s reached a breakneck pace at times.
The more intense mode of storytelling has made TWD feel exciting for the first time in years. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. In fact, there’s still one key way that The Walking Dead is totally missing the mark.
6. Everything feels like chaos
Sure, The Walking Dead is a series set in a zombie apocalypse. But for the most part, it’s done a good job at keeping the characters’ motivations, at least, plausible. That hasn’t always been the case in Season 8, though, especially where some major players are concerned. The characters sort of seem to know what’s going on. But it’s hard for us at home to keep up.
The Walking Dead has focused a lot of its attention on keeping the characters moving toward their goal. But Season 8 keeps moving from camp to camp and from mission to mission without much clarity. And it’s also diluted the effectiveness of the characters’ actions.
Thus far, Rick has waged multiple assaults on Negan’s camp — but seems no closer to actually defeating his foe. And the tensions between characters like Rick and Daryl, who have disagreed over strategy, often feel like forced drama and distract even more from the overall purpose of what they’re trying to do.
All in all, it’s added up to feeling as though the characters are running as hard as they can, but still largely staying in the same place.
7. There’s still time for The Walking Dead to focus up
The Walking Dead still has legions of fans — but there’s no hiding the fact that the series’ popularity is waning. That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for redemption.
And Season 8 isn’t over yet. There are still plenty of episodes for The Walking Dead to figure out how to marry its newfound energy with compelling storytelling.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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