It's safe to say that once your show surpasses 5 seasons, it's somewhat of a TV institution. That's great news for The Walking Dead! Alas, with longevity comes the risk of growing stale.The Walking Dead may be hugely popular, and have a dedicated following, but if Season 6 makes no effort to focus what people like about the show, viewers could come to see it as a one trick pony that's somehow been allowed to perform said trick for five years now.
For The Walking Dead Season 6, the show runners are in a comfortable position, knowing they have a product that will be lapped up no matter what. The show needs no massive overhaul, but what simple tips should it follow to ensure it lives on?
Cut down on characters
Yes, TV. It's very impressive when shows are able to manage massive rosters of characters. The Wire still remains the primordial form of good television for this reason, and yes, everyone wants to be Game of Thrones with its giant cast. The thing is, even Game of Thrones can't manage the sheer number of its characters, so why should The Walking Dead Season 6 attempt to compete?
Sure, there are innumerable amounts of people Rick and his allies could run into during the zombie apocalypse, but not every one of them needs the same narrative voice and agency as Rick, Carl, Michone and Daryl. An over abundance of characters will diminish the audience's focus on who really matters, and that is something The Walking Dead cannot afford to lose.
This may sound insane at first. A show predicated on a zombie apocalypse cutting down on the amount of zombies? Well, yeah. The Walking Dead, in both the comics and show, has always prided itself on focusing on the people rather than the zombies. Part of the show's creepiness comes from just how little the walkers matter the further into the series you get.
However, that does mean that when the show wants you to care about the threat of the walkers, the effect is lessened. I can no longer be thrilled by characters scoring endless headshots on endless zombies. The Walking Dead Season 6 needs to focus on what fans have shown interest in, and people stopped being interested in zombies some time ago.
Make death mean something
Many fans will be ready to contest me in suggesting that character death has become meaningless on The Walking Dead. While the deaths of some characters on the show have been (and will be) soul crushing to those who've grown attached to them, there persists such a procession of characters being introduced and then killed off just when enough audience attachment has built up. That effect is lessening.
When writers kill off their characters too liberally, we stop perceiving the loss of people, and start perceiving the whims of someone quickly trying to conjure drama. Less is definitely more in this case, and if The Walking Dead can prioritize character death, the fan reaction will go from "sure I guess" to "OH GOD HOW COULD YOU DO THAT?"
Depart from the comics
Again Game of Thrones (the cool kid in school) is doing this, so what's stopping The Walking Dead Season 6 from leaving the nest? The show has always played fast and loose with Robert Kirkman's original story, adding characters, killing characters early, not killing characters at all. Why not extend that liberal approach to the plot too?
I know many fans are looking forward to seeing Negan and the All Out War storyline, but if the show simply becomes a checklist for fans to judge as a replication of what they've read, it stops being its own story, and becomes something that simply meets targets.
Whatever The Walking Dead Season 6 holds in store for us, we are at least safe in the knowledge that it is moving into brave, unknown territory. What do you think? Does The Walking Dead Season 6 need to revamp itself, or is it fine as it has always been? Write a response post, and let's get the fandom talking!