With the departure of Frank Darabont at the end of the first season, and Glen Mazzara at the end of the third, writer/executive producer Scott Gimple took over The Walking Dead, and turned it into something, well, different.
Fans of Robert Kirkman's original comic books on which the series is based, will be very pleased by how things turn out, as, reportedly, one of the main reasons Mazzara was ousted from the show was his lack of reverence for the source material and his insistence on tinkering with it to create a dramatic landscape better suited for televised storytelling. Not anymore, as Gimple and Kirkman steer the show back, rather abruptly, I might add, to its comic book roots, with varying results.
On the plus side, the show now has more of an episodic feel, with arcs being introduced and resolved within a few episodes, and a stronger emphasis on stand-alones, which works for those just tuning in to the show, and those who are merely casual fans who dip in a few times per season to keep up with a show that is more than trendy. On the minus side, long-time fans of the show, like myself, are subjected to a rude awakening, where, suddenly, characters start acting in ways not wholly consistent with what we know and love about these characters, while the mythic, serialized approach that made the show such a ground-breaking, timeless, and haunting storytelling endeavor, is mostly gone.
The show is still very good, don't get me wrong. But it's not an incomparable, perfectionist masterpiece anymore, as Gimple is a great writer (as evidenced by his episode "The Grove", one of the finest hours ever to air on television), but only an adequate showrunner, as under his guidance the show's technical merits take a blow, losing the tightly cinematic style of the previous three seasons. And Gimple also seems to have a penchant for sentimentality, as this is the first season to have a mawkish, almost unbearably saccharine bent, which is most notable in the episode "Still", one of the worst and most sentimental episodes of the series up to that point.
By the end of the season, things even out a little bit, and we begin to get used to this new but not improved Walking Dead, taking the good with the bad, the brilliant with the average. I, for one, will continue to watch the show, hoping for the best, waiting for Gimple and co. to surprise, shock, and inspire me. And if they don't, well, there's always the first three season to watch again and again.
Only time will tell...
Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2017