‘Walking Dead’ Is in ‘Lost’ Mode

'Walking Dead' Is in 'Lost' Mode

The zombie drama isn't on an island, but is moving in circles

Around its fourth season, “Lost” turned into a show about people walking back and forth across an island, just missing each other, occasionally reuniting. Eventually it took time travel to keep the castaways apart, and it felt a lot like stalling.

With Sunday's midseason finale, “The Walking Dead” is in full “Lost” mode. Remember how disappointingly “Lost” ended? “Walking Dead” seems to see no end in sight. Its biggest goal seems to be to keep walking.

Also read:  ‘Walking Dead’ Finally Kills Someone Big (Spoilers)

The AMC zombie drama has also become a show about a band of survivors getting separated, thrown back together, kicked out of their home, finding a new one. The Governor seems like he's changed, but hasn't changed. Rick seems like he's changed, but nothing changes. The only constant is death. We cycle through characters.

It's obvious why “The Walking Dead” would take an if-it-ain't broke philosophy in its fourth season: With its third, it became the top-rated scripted show on TV. It makes money. AMC is planning a spin-off. The network probably cares less about a driving narrative than bringing people back every week.

Consider the difference between “NCIS,” a machine that's built to last and changes as little as possible, and “Breaking Bad,” a masterpiece because of its obsession with change. The two shows represent two models of television: the old unambitious one that strives for consistency, and a new one that rewards viewers for studying change over time. “Lost” helped popularize the second model, and was best when most committed to it.

Also read: Why Ousted ‘Walking Dead’ Boss Frank Darabont Doesn't Watch It Anymore

New “Walking Dead” showrunner Scott Gimple seems to have given in to understandable pressure to turn his show into a machine: It's well-oiled and often hypnotic to look at, but watching a machine is still watching a machine. Boring is its own kind of broken. “Lost” most lost its way during the seasons when it had no end in sight.

“The Walking Dead” seems to suffer that aimlessness as well. There was nothing that happened on Sunday that couldn't have happened in the Season 3 finale. The show seems to have kept the Governor alive last year only to precisely repeat his previous life: Trying to save a doomed little girl, taking over a community, trying to take down the prison. Better to have killed him than made him redundant.

At its best, the show moves aggressively forward, eschewing repetition and backstory. Glen Mazzara, the showrunner who left last season, pushed for accelerated storytelling, and the show was better for it during his run. His time on the show was proof that change is good, and that viewers in a post-”Lost” era demand it.

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There was a little acceleration Sunday — like the Governor's quick capture of Hershel and Michonne. Unfortunately it felt unbelievable. Michonne taken down so quickly by her arch nemesis? The show's writers have done too many things this season that felt convenient for the show's writers.

They still know how to come up with some captivating tricks, like the mud beast that bit Meghan. “The Walking Dead” will always be good for isolated moments of wonderful horror. But the show could be so much more. At its best, like “Breaking Bad,” it's a show about moral choices. Who would you kill or let die to keep someone else alive? Why are your people your people and their people “The Others”? Are your people more valuable than their people? Why?

“Lost” asked those kinds of questions. “Breaking Bad” asked them better than any other show. The main question on this season of “The Walking Dead” has been, “Which of these characters is going to die?” There's been a surface level discussion of whether people can change, but the debate has been as one-sided as a chess game with a child.

Also read: ‘Walking Dead': Is The Governor the Walter White of the Zombie Apocalypse?

“Lost” at least created the illusion of forward motion with its many mysteries. It failed to solve them, but we didn't realize until the very end that we'd been had. Up until then, especially in the early days, the show was ridiculously fun.

The big mystery of “The Walking Dead” is how walkers came to be. Mazzara used to say it wasn't a question the show wanted to answer. Maybe Gimple has changed his mind.

That would be nice — any forward motion would be nice. Right now “The Walking Dead” is walking in circles.

  • frelling_cute

    I would like some answers and not just walking. How about some progress?

  • Sean Murdock

    Wow, Tim — what happened?? Twelve hours ago you seemed to be applauding that the show was finally showing some teeth (by killing major characters), and now you're all, “Walking Dead has lost its way.” I'm afraid your comparison to LOST is flawed, as well — you said the show was best when it was committed to relentless change, and bemoaned “the seasons when it had no end in sight” — and then you cited Season FOUR as when it all fell apart for you. First off, there was only part of ONE season of LOST where it seemed there was “no end in sight” — as any fan knows, that would be the first eight episodes of Season 3. After much backstage wrangling, the showrunners managed to negotiate an endgame plan for LOST, and everything went full-tilt, season-three-walking-dead-style from there. (A little TOO full-tilt for some fans…)

    Forget about the “answers” that LOST supposedly never gave us (let's not go there; I suspect we disagree), TWD hasn't even asked any QUESTIONS since the end of Season One. Remember how important it was to get to the CDC in Atlanta? Shouldn't there be some kind of push to seek out a government outpost or some kind of larger survival movement? Zombie movies are famous for not requiring plots, but a TV show is something different. With the prison and the Governor now gone, it forces exciting possibilities on the show; the question is whether they will go into new, interesting territory or just find some new substitute for the prison and the Governor to milk for 2-3 seasons.

    Where I totally agree with you is that everything that happened last night could have happened in the Season Three finale. They could have easily killed the Guv then, returned to the prison, and found it overrun by walkers — BAM! The first 8 episodes of Season 4 never happened. I suspect that they didn't want to destroy Woodbury AND the prison in the same story arc, and they wanted to get a little more mileage out of their big villain, so they took a few episodes for “character development” and staged a re-do of the Woodbury battle. I expected all along that Team Rick was going to be forced out of the prison this season; they couldn't stay there forever — too claustrophobic, and too boring if they are overly “safe.” The question now is … what now?

    • tim.molloy

      I didn't say it was back on track 12 hours ago… I was pretty neutral on the necessity of the deaths (still am). And I agree, no big questions from WD since the great CDC mystery. Just moral questions like “Is it okay to kill a hostage who may or may not come back to hurt you?” But then the show keeps having it both ways by answering the moral questions one way, then resolving them by having the person just die.

      • tim.molloy

        Also if we're getting into the nitty gritty on “Lost” seasons, I love the Season 3 finale — “Not Penny's boat,” chills — and despite my saying the show got a little too wandery in Season 4, “The Constant” is one of my 5 favorite episodes of any TV show.

        • Sean Murdock

          I don't want to derail your comments section with LOST chit-chat, but my favorite stretch of everything after Season 1 was probably the second half of Season 3 — so many great, gripping episodes in there, “The Brig,” “Greatest Hits,” etc. The S3 finale was the most mind-f**king twist I've ever experienced, and yeah, “The Constant” is amazing, on a level of its own. My issue with what you said was your claim that the show spent “seasons” (plural) wandering adrift, when really it was only the first third of Season 3 (although I even have a soft spot for some of those “cages” episodes). Say what you want about Seasons 4-6 (and I have some definite problems with the EXECUTION of those seasons), but they weren't aimless.

          Say, we should discuss all things LOST in September 2014 — the 10th anniversary of the debut of the show. Mark your calendars!

          • tim.molloy

            Marked!

      • Sean Murdock

        Oh, OK — I must have misinterpreted your immediate reaction as being more positive than it was. Funny how Breaking Bad dealt with your moral question — “Is it OK to kill someone who might come back to hurt you?” — more thoroughly and agonizingly in the first three episodes of its FIRST SEASON than The Walking Dead has in its entire run so far.

      • Peter

        For what it's worth, I agreed with your critique 100%, Tim, and I complement you on being the only critic to tell the truth about the Walking Dead: that it's main narrative – or lack thereof – wanders as aimlessly as the zombies that it depicts, and eventually ends up nowhere. The show has gotten boring because we keep ending up with the same circular story. The only good thing I have to say about the show is that after featuring the brutal looking Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Lori (Sarah Wayne-Callies), at least the show's female characters are a bit more attractive Beth and Tara (Emily Kinney and Alanna Masterson).

  • John

    Get off breaking bad's dick.. It's pretty overrated now and the ending was predictable just like a lot of the 5th season. Should be using the Sopranos as the show to compare

    • tim.molloy

      I'd love to read the post where anyone predicted anything that happened in Season 5 of BB. It's the gold standard for me. Sorry.

  • asims1988

    Classic media ploy for viewers and readers, find something popular and criticize it. Well done.

    • tim.molloy

      Yeah, just like all season long. Except when I said nice things about it. Good point.

    • dystopia_joe

      Man, fanboys sound like conspiracy theorists a lot of times.

  • aproduction

    I have to agree with you. I keep wondering if “Walking Dead” is EVER going to address the zombie virus with scientists and doctors on the show. Why can't Rick and some of them find a community of scientists who actually believe they might be able to cure this virus and who have theories about its cause? I would like to see some government action – good and bad – to see what the “powers at be” are doing in the U.S. Has it spread to other countries? Broaden our horizon, please! This season, more than ever, I just felt like we were going in circles. It's getting boring. I would have enjoyed the Governor and his group actually living at the prison in a separate section and then, SHOW how the 2 camps have to work to get along. What a great premise for 2 authorities like Rick and the Governor bickering with one another – like 2 countries, sort of – and showing how they have to learn to work together and the conflicts involved. But, no…we have to have another death battle and lose some of our favorite characters – meaning, Herschel….I haven't read the comics, but by now, I would have stopped reading them because the story is going nowhere….just like “Lost” did. Great article, by the way!

    • jake

      The Walking Dead is not about the origin of what happened but how people are dealing with living in this new world. Read the books, the show is right where it needs to be.

      • frelling_cute

        Origin but no resolution?

    • Amdazzler

      While the show doesn't always follow the comic word for word, they did sort of follow the comic's storyline last night when the governor attacked. That's what happened in the book, and he died there, so if they're going to follow that storyline then it makes sense to off him on the show as well. And I think the Governor would have gone the way of Shane eventually if they had allowed him to stay.

    • Moot

      Unnnn they did in Season 1. Did you just start watching the show? They went to the CDC and literally explained, or tried to explain, all of your “points.”

      Nice try to astroturf this shit article.

    • chupacabra007

      Did you miss the whole CDC season? There is no cure. Everyone is infected. If you bothered to read the graphic novel series at all, you'd see that it's about the relationships people have to each other and survival. Also, the governor in the comics was just about as bad, if not worse than the one on the show. He's truly just an evil dude, and would most certainly have to be killed.

  • jake

    Incorrect. this show is not “lost” at all. If anyone has read the books you will see that they are following a similar progression. Of course there are some changes but much of the basic story is still the same. In the second half the 4th season we will see the crew move toward Alexandria. If anyone bothered to watch the spoiler for then next half you will see they took a part straight out of the books. Read the books before judging where they are taking the story.

    • tim.molloy

      I've read the books. I prefer them to the show. It's interesting to me that all the best things on the show this year have been from the comics. I wish they would stay closer to them, honestly.

      • Wayne

        This is the difference between Stephen King's “The Stand” and the Walking Dead comics. In one, the end of the world happens, and then it escalates and goes somewhere. The Walking Dead comics have never gone anywhere and Kirkman never had an idea where it would go. Look at the letter column in the all-torture issue where Michonne tortures the governor for the entire comic. Kirkman flat out says he has no idea where it's going, but as long as people keep buying, he'll keep writing. That's the issue where I checked out.

        • guyg

          Let's glaze over the fact that one is a novel while the other is an on going series.

        • Mark Morris

          When he said he has no idea where he's going, he didn't mean that he just gonna give up. He means that there isn't really a plan as to where the characters are going. Much like it would really be. For instance, he is halfway through a comic where the survivors are going to an army base (or whatever makes you happy) then he gets the idea that they run into a herd and trows all their plans into chaos. No they go off into a different direction. As for folloing the comics, which i was a little upset about in the begining. Kirkman said it best, Why would you want to watch something where you know exactly everything that is going to happen?

      • chupacabra007

        I thought that at first, but I've let the show take it's own fork in the road, and I'm enjoying it immensely.

      • dystopia_joe

        The comic and the show are both horrible. The comic was OK for the first 84 or so issues, but now it's just a bunch of recycling of previous characters. They even have a “new” governor … I gave up on it. Very dull and doesn't really go anywhere.

  • SamD

    I disagree. The plot is coming full circle. Moving on without a resolution to some of the big moral and interpersonal questions would be redundant. Most people were sad but not shocked when Hershel was killed. He didn't die in vain though… he recognized that a common morality ran through his post apocalyptic family. That's why Carol had to go, and why Carl was corrected for killing the man…even if it made sense. The fight is between sociopathy and compassion and the foreshadowing, long story arcs and even repeated situations allow us to see that the writers seem interested in the interactions and choices of people more so than the walkers….ala ‘The Mist'…which makes for pretty compelling storytelling. Especially when combined with the setting that seems claustrophobic and realistic and unpredictable. I love what they have done with the show so far and I cannot wait to see how they deal with theme of morality in the mentally ill person, probably a child, within their group in Feb.

  • frelling_cute

    I want them moving and finding answers. It's stuck at the prison.

  • Benjamin Statham

    All the trivial money and company garbage aside. The Walking Dead SHOULD have ended after one season. Edwin Jenner already TOLD us how it is going to end in the first season. It would have been short and sweet.
    Frank Darabont MADE this show. When he left so did the point of it. The first season had a healthy mix of tragic AND feel good moments. All it has become now is misery and death again and again.
    It's an unhealthy existence anyway as the creator Robert Kirkman has admitted he simply enjoys making Rick's life pure Hell for the fun of it. That doesn't allow for anything but senseless violence. Look at the Governor, a psycho bad guy who is psycho and bad just for the hell of it. Just to let TWD have it's villian.
    But comics never were to be taken seriously anyway. Look at Batman vs Predator etc. Lol.

  • Mark Morris

    “No end in sight…” No shit sherlock, the comics that it is based off of is still going… So there is no end, I think it's doing a great job of showing that nothing changes. Rick is still seen as the leader when he is trying to just be himself. People just don't understand whats happening and so they hate it. I hate you.

    • dystopia_joe

      The comics should have ended two years ago. Kirkman is basically recycling his old ideas now and the story is tired. It's destined to drone on and on until Kirkman quits due to every last penny being squeezed out of it.

  • Erwin

    I agree with you, Its totally redundant keeping the governor alive from season 3 and repeating the same attack story. The story should have been interesting if the governor was either killed in season 3 or was kept alive who changed (for real) and joined the camp. I should have agreed with the outbreak problem inside the prison which should have become out of control and forced the remaining (main characters) to leave the place and have a new whole story to tell rather than finding a way for them to survive the outbreak and carry on with the story inside the prison again. This is really boring.

  • Kevin

    For what it's worth, you come across as a Lost fanboy who is still pissed about the ending. I predicted the ending of Lost by about season 3. You would have to be an idiot not to realize that you could never tie up so many ridiculous pseudo scientific plot threads. At least TWD is based on a solid foundation of graphic novels, as opposed to a flash in the pan season 1 of Lost that accidentally became a hit, while writer's scrambled to fill in the rest of the season with non-sense. Lost was good for one thing. Cinematography. I do agree, you could have killed off the Gov at the end of last season, but I think you'll get the change you're looking for in the second half of this season.

    • cobrazombie

      Spoken like a true TWD fanboy…

  • Startoker

    Tim,
    If I'm reading you correctly, you actually thought “Lost” was good? Popular, maybe; but good…never. Not that TWD is fantastic. “Breaking Bad” was OK. But if you thought “Lost” was ever good, I would have to question your judgment as a TV editor.

    • tim.molloy

      No, you're reading me incorrectly. I thought Lost started good and fell apart. Try reading again.

  • disqus_mNzz56Mlfe

    Who is this guy? Does he even watch the show…did he even research it before writing? He's uninformed in BOTH cases. Lost was, in fact, based on a specific script. Matthew Fox talked at length about how he knew his character died the first time he read it. True, it was extended by 2 seasons (and didn't have a great ending) but it was most certainly scripted with specific events to unfold.

    Common sense tells us that, based on a comic still under way, this is an epic tale in the literal sense. They're going to write a conclusion to the TV series before the conclusion of its source material is determined? Imagine Star Wars IV with no V and VI. Or LOTR ending after Fellowship. True, TWD deviates from the comic at points, but from a material standpoint if follows a story that is still being told.

    He doesn't seem to understand what this show is actually about. As George Romero correctly pointed out, this is not a zombie show in the classic sense of the genre. I'm not going to watch NCIS and expect to see the goblins of Sleepy Hollow. I'm not going to expect CSI to deliver constant action and military conquest. If he considers it boring because it doesn't move as fast as he wants, go watch World War Z. This story isn't about solving a mystery of who-dunnit and how. Never has been. I can bet you most people, including me, are only mildly curious about how it began. Its about character development, its about how you cope and survive in the future as evidenced by one overwhelming theme: whether people can let go of the past and how they do so.

    I have no problem if he doesn't like it – not everyone does. Character development/ where life takes you types of plots aren't for everyone. But at least understand the show before you try to analyze it.

    • Bob ob ob

      Yeah Matthew Fox knew that. His character was originally supposed to die in the pilot. Do your research.

    • Guest

      If ever there was a book that was turned into a horrific pile of garbage, it was WWZ. Just sayin'.

  • Andy B

    I couldn't agree more! I never watched Breaking Bad, but I DID give up on Lost after about 3 seasons (realizing that they had no idea what the story was ahead of time). I also agree on your assesment of Walking Dead. The only shows that are interesting are the finales. And when was the last time Rick had a scene in which he wasn't crying!? I haven't reached my limit yet but I am seriously worried that this show is going to be the stake-in-the-heart of the wonderful zombie renaissance that we are experiencing these days!
    Don't blow it guys!!!!

    • Андреи Тотх

      Dude, go watch Breaking Bad. That shows will change everything.

      • Eve

        I think what makes the show strong is the writing/character development. It's what made Lost good for a few seasons. As a viewer with no knowledge of the comic, I thought “rehashing” the Gov was an excellent choice. His interactions with Lily, Meghan and family allowed me to see him differently and almost “like” him. Once he reunited with Martinez, etc and returned to his former self, I was again sickened. However, I feel the way the shows developed, showed us how the Gov became the Gov… not in a backstory sort of way but the results were the same. I'm not a fan of zombies but I love good writing… Carol telling Merle that maybe he was a latw bloomer, too…My alltime fav, the sexy interaction btwn Carol and Daryl with “69” innuendo…..def loves me some innuendo….great writing and character development – keep it nice and slow, better for enjoyment….

  • Christopher Gardner

    A zombie apocalypse will last until either a cure is found, or all zombies are dead. It seems very realistic to me, because it does keep going in circles…they are always on the run, whether it be from zombies or evil people. As a Zombiologist, I find this show to be very spot on.

  • brando

    I completely agree. The show has become very boring. It's almost as if the writers don't know what to do or in what direction to take the story. And please spare me the comparisons between the comic books and the show. This is a t.v. show, and it must stand on it's own; millions of viewers never read the comic books and never will, they want to watch an entertaining t.v. show. Take note of Breaking Bad, it never had one boring or static moment, that's the way to tell a story.

    • ICreatedU

      Amen!

    • Tonira

      Boring as hell, you are totally right.

    • Zimsky

      Yep.

  • http://thetvphilezone.blogspot.com/ The TVPhile Zone

    Spot on article, thanks for a good read. I agree with most of what you wrote. I think the problem with this show is that it suffers from the same dilemma that ‘Lost’ did. But for different reasons that you stated. The writers have to do a 16 (TWD) to 24 (Lost) episode show, so they have to write in circles to fulfill a season's order.

    If TWD was a 10-12 episode/season show, I think the pace could speed up and provide more excitement and “change.” With both Lost and TWD, I think less is best.

    I'm all for character development in TV drama. Just not cartoon character development. And the Governor had become Wile E. Coyote.

  • Jacko

    It's crying out for an intelligent zombie, I'm only still watching in the hope that eventually a zombie will talk and be reasonable for some reason I really want this to happen. I want it to lead to people and walkers living side by side.

  • Greg H.

    Its really hard for me to accept that anyone thinks that the show was better off with Mazarra's approach. The last half of season 3 was a disaster and more often than not completely devoid of logic. He had driven the show so far off the narrative of the graphic novel by the end that it took Gimple 8 episodes to set it back on course. The Prison story arc in the comic was easily the best segment of its entire comic run. Season 3 wasted so much potential and completely glossed over so many aspects that made it unique and special. Instead we ended up with a unimaginative, by the numbers TV show.

  • Fabian

    Tim Molloy is DELUSIONAL

  • NoKidding

    Agree the Governor should have died last season. I'm also now afraid to even like a character only to have them killed 10 minutes (Bye Patrick &/Zach) or a couple season (Bye Hershel) later. It's hard to care about a show when there's no one you care about left. So Daryl better live on.

  • David Stansbury

    This is a very well written and reasoned review.

  • Dan Druff

    The reason why TWD has so many viewers is because 90% of them are zombies. The other 10% have nothing else to do.

  • THE LVC

    Breaking Bad sucked, a bunch of guys killing each other and the main character has cancer. I couldn't get past the second season and I am frankly amazed by the shows popularity. I grew up on the lower west side of Chicago where people got into dealing drugs when they were 16 years old not because they had cancer but because it was really the only option besides cutting someones grass or washing dishes for minimum wage. Breaking Bad I disliked because it was a tired tale to me. Walter White had fifty years to get his shit together Walking Dead gives me the escape I need. The morality of the characters on the Walking Dead only comes in black and white its “kill or be killed”.

  • Holly Dorsey

    What an idiot. The show is awesome.

  • Dave Justdave

    this article is retarded. First off, LOST was one of the only shows to be entirely scripted out from the beginning, so there was always an ‘end’ in sight. Second, walking dead is fckin awesome. stick to you shitty NCIS crap. u don't deserve to watch WD nevermind write a review of it.

    • Alana Vitale

      Couldn't have said it better Dave, Thank You! TWD, nothing like Lost. I never even thought to compare the 2 till this article, it ticked me off too. Love TWD!

      • Dave Justdave

        i'm glad there's other people out there that have a brain ;-P all these people put in their ‘ 2cents', but thier input isn't even worth that much, and that has nothing to the economy going to shit either.

  • ALECM

    The show is excruciatingly boring and hasn't been the same since season 1. I feel like there was more character development and plot in 1 episode of season 1 then any of the current seasons combined.

  • jack ryan

    I have been thinking about the “Lost” comparison for some time – glad to see and read I'm not alone. I despised the last season of Lost, for all the reasons that's been stated before. The writers and creators kept saying and posturing that the entire journey was leading somewhere with meaning. And then when they failed to deliver, they turned on the viewers who felt cheated and blamed them. I strongly believe that Darabont had something to say and would have taken this series in a different direction. Sadly, he is no longer a part of the show he helped create and we are now left with the “Lindelof” clones who have nothing to say and no where to go. Like the reviewer said – It's walking (dead) in circles.

  • Ananth

    All gays are eventually going to turn into these flesh eating zombies!

  • Doug Sawyer

    It's as if the Tim Molloy has no clue that there are comic books that lay out a pretty clear direction of the story…derp