The Walking Dead is, by any imaginable measure, a tremendously popular and successful show. It’s launched or boosted the careers of dozens of characters, garners millions of viewers every week, and has thrust Robert Kirkman’s original comic into the mainstream. However, the last few seasons have seen the show lose some of its luster.
With the closing of the most recent season, viewership has dropped significantly. Zombies are no longer a major fad in popular culture, and even AMC has begun investing in other shows, like Into the Badlands, that are tailored to appeal to Walking Dead fans. However, the show isn’t dead yet. It still has plenty of opportunity and time to change things for the better. So, here are five ways The Walking Dead could win fans back.
Get Real and Gritty Again
The Walking Dead has gone from a show about a man who was left for dead trying to survive and find his family to a show that is sometimes a political drama and sometimes a cartoon. Instead of featuring scenes where a genuinely good man like Rick has to choose between working with literal racists or facing hoards of the undead on his own, the show now features scenes with pet tigers running around and killing bad guys. While scenes like this aren’t inherently bad, they’re not what got people interested in The Walking Dead way back in Season 1.
Initially, TWD was about people making incredibly difficult choices to protect themselves and their loved ones and the wide-reaching consequences of those actions. This, mixed with a couple of really cool action scenes and gory moments, made for some great television. If The Walking Dead were to strip away all the unnecessary flair and return to being about a guy fighting against forces he can’t control, former fans might just make the show a staple of their Sunday night again.
Lean Into the Crazy
The show could also go in the complete opposite direction and be as bonkers and improbable as possible. Give us more badass speeches and following through on impossible threats. Make Rick ripping out a guy’s throat with bare bear teeth seem drab. Make villains like Gareth even smugger and antagonists like The Governor even more disillusioned.
Right now it feels like The Walking Dead wants to be weird and crazy, but stops from going all out because the people behind the show are afraid fans might not like it. Well, a lot of people have already dropped the show, so now would be the perfect time for it to get totally insane. Really, the show just needs to pick a tone and stick with it, rather than loiter in the weird middle ground that it’s in now.
Kill off the Dead Weight
The Walking Dead has always been at its best when it has focused on Rick, his family, and maybe four to five other characters. Currently, the show has a pretty expansive cast with quite a few unique, but not exactly interesting characters. Especially with the death of longtime fan favorites like Glenn and Abraham, it’s difficult to really care about some of these newer characters.
Considering that the conflict with Negan and The Saviors is rapidly building, now would be the perfect time to kill off some of these unnecessary characters. This would both help build tension and create more opportunities to focus on characters that the audience actually cares about.
Jump Ahead a Few Years
The Walking Dead has, unfortunately, settled into a predictable trend since season three. The gang finds a place they think they can live, tries to some degree of success to settle in, and then gets into some kind of turf war with a neighboring faction. Jumping ahead a few years at the end of this season or at the mid-season finale would get TWD out of this rut.
A time skip could drastically change the status quo of the show. Relationships could develop and solidify without taking up hours of time, communities could rebuild and strengthen, and new threats could develop off-screen. It would also be interesting to see how older versions of the younger characters who are more used to living in the apocalypse would deal with and cope with the struggles of everyday life.
Make Carl the Main Character
Rick has served as a great central character for these past seven seasons. However, there is not much left to do with the character after everything with Negan wraps up. Rick has been to hell and back, suffered almost everything a person can experience, and still continues to try to do right by him and his family. There’s not much left to explore with the character or any situation to put him in that he hasn’t already experienced to some extent.
Rick’s son, Carl, on the other hand, is a well of untapped potential. While he has been on the show as long as Rick, Carl’s usually kept on the sidelines or protected by other characters. But, his actions and interactions with other characters are usually really compelling to watch, like when he tried to assassinate Negan with a machine gun. If the focus of the show were to shift to Carl and depict his struggle to find his identity in the apocalypse rather than Rick trying to maintain his, that might just get fans back on board for the upcoming season.