Last night was the half-season finale, a fine time to reflect on the question I asked last month: Is “The Walking Dead” a bad show? The answer after another five episodes: Yep, pretty bad. Maureen Ryan of AOL News explains why with pinpoint accuracy. It’s still good for one memorable moment per hour, but usually those moments have to do with the macabre tragedy of the zombies’ predicament, not the main characters’. There was more pathos to that scene a few weeks ago of the zombie in the tree who’d tried to hang himself after being bitten than there’s been in the thousand angsty conversations between Rick and Lori. I thought the best scene in last night’s show wasn’t the overrated final sequence, in fact, but Hershel and Rick trying to wrangle two zombies stuck in a bog with ketch poles. For one brief shining moment, everyone onscreen was sympathetic. With this crew, usually it’s the opposite.
Here’s the big ending, which benefited a lot from the contrast with what preceded it — another 55 minutes of chatty crapola. It’s fine as far as it goes, but even here you see the show’s weakness for melodrama. They don’t need music to underscore the emotion and they don’t need the characters lined up quite so theatrically to draw the analogy with a firing squad. If you need those cues to realize you’re supposed to be repulsed by the brutality and dehumanization of the zombie apocalypse, this isn’t the show for you. Even the not-so-surprising twist of Sophia emerging from the barn doesn’t pack much of a punch. Zombie kids are always sympathetic, but (a) Sophia had maybe three lines in the course of the series before she disappeared and (b) they’ve already gone to the “living person confronted by zombified loved one” well o’ tragedy twice before, once with Andrea’s sister and again in the very first episode with the man who spotted his dead wife through his rifle scope. That’s been a staple of zombie flicks since the daughter in “Night of the Living Dead” (and done most successfully with “Roger” in “Dawn of the Dead”). Are they out of ideas already? I fear what awaits us in February, my friends.