Does The Walking Dead have the staying power of its undead inhabitants or is it creating a zombified audience of viewers willing to accept the mundaneness of a retread?
I love me a low-budget horror movie. [Check out my list of six horror movies you need to see]
Why? Because low-budget horror movies take the most chances. Peter Jackson with Bad Taste and Sam Raimi with the first two Evil Dead movies being the prime examples -- they took chances. They were unforgiving and told the story they chose. Ask John Carpenter how that worked out with Halloween -- not too bad.
During its first season, The Walking Dead took chances. The creators didn't seem aware of the audience as much as they decided they were going to tell an interesting story, with compelling characters, with the resources they had.
Again, during that first season, it felt like they had to take chances. I don't know what the per episode budget was, but it didn't feel big, yet it felt like enough.
But then something happened. The show took. People started watching. It suddenly had an audience with expectations. Season one took chances. Season two became self-aware and fulfilled its story to audience expectations. By season three, The Walking Dead's vision became much like it's one-eyed antagonist -- the Governor -- lacking depth-perception and overly concerned about pleasing the masses at any cost.
It was sort of like George Romero's Land of the Dead versus the original trilogy. Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead were all independents and were totally unforgiving in their approach to filmmaking. Land of the Dead was a studio production and had studio expectations and for the most part was nothing more than a Dead retread. Romero made an effort to capture the original magic with Diary of the Dead, but then the Survival of the Dead follow up was more forgettable than the 2008 Day of the Dead remake.
And that's where it seems to stand with The Walking Dead -- trying to make a comeback effort. However, to the trained zombie slayer, one would see that the show itself has become like the undead, wandering around, consuming its viewers and waiting for an appropriately gruesome way to be put out of its misery.