These are dark times for The Walking Dead. T-Dogg died. Lori died. Oscar (who?) died. Hershel lost a leg. Maggie was molested. Glenn was beat up. Daryl left. Rick went crazy. The continuous misery of the characters is funny in a Fear Factor way, and the silly plot developments and occasionally weak writing are funny in a bad way, but why doesn’t the zombie apocalypse have a lighter side?
“The Suicide King” offered occasional scraps of purposeful humor. Tyreese jokes that he is the first black man to break into prison. Axel jokes that he is the first white man to want to stay in prison. Carol says she wouldn’t mind the sound of a jumbo jet. But the series’ rampant sullenness so thoroughly dilutes these moments that they appear nothing more than the characters’ futile efforts to maintain a semblance of sanity.
I’m not saying that AMC should produce my crossover fanfic in which The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper fights zombies by being outrageously condescending to them, but even the darkest dramas include enough humor to endear us to their characters and make the viewing experience a little less monotonous. Breaking Bad would not be the same without classic Jessie-isms. (“Magnets, bitch!” “Yeah science!”) Dexter would be a big yawn without Dexter’s quirky inner monologues and Deb’s foul mouth.
The Walking Dead lacks not only any recurring source of real humor but any positivity. The characters have victories but no triumphs. Rick rescues Glenn and Maggie, but it was like checking off a box on an endless list of problems—the characters have no room in their lives for back-slapping or hooting or high-fiving. There are no moments equivalent to Walter White outsmarting his enemies (“I won”) or Carrie Mathison unraveling another piece of the puzzle on Homeland. Such moments reward the audience for enduring hours of suffering and conflict, and The Walking Dead has had none.
Come on! This show is about zombies. It doesn’t have to be Shaun of the Dead, but it shouldn’t take itself so seriously. The series could introduce Lost’s Sawyer to play a lovable jerk who gives everyone a nickname and a hard time, or give Glenn a buddy for some fatuous back-and-forth. Or it could just add a puppy! After all the Grimes group has gone through so far, if this season doesn’t end with Rick playing Wii with the Governor, I’m going to start hallucinating Lori’s ghost, too.