As we await the finale of The Walking Dead, we continue to look back at how the comic was adapted to the screen.
Last time, we discussed Season One, which was close to a beat-for-beat translation, barring some changes to the timeline and characters. The pacing was also excellent, even with the additional filler.
In this second article (of eleven), we discuss Season Two, what some think was when things took a turn for the worse. Although ratings and viewers remained high, it was after this season that things began to drop.
One thing to remember was that Season Two had a brand new crew due to the situation with Frank Darabont. Consulting producer Glen Mazzara took over with new writers and ideas.
Unfortunately, regardless of opinions of Darabont’s behavior, it was apparent that Mazzara’s approach didn’t work.
Season Two’s timeline was the most significant deviation from the comics until seasons later.
Both shows have the group trying to survive for a few days after leaving the Camp. Things go awry, and Carl ends up shot, leading to the group meeting the Greene family and settling at the Farm.
At this point, the timelines deviate massively, as the television group stays at the Farm for weeks. In comparison, the comic Farm events are over within days before Hershel kicks out the group.
By the season finale (and 19 episodes total), we’re only three months into the apocalypse, much of it spent at the Farm. Meanwhile, a mere twelve issues into the comics, and we’re now six months after the outbreak, most of which was at the Camp.
This inexplicable choice by Mazzara and the writers to stretch comic issues 7-12 (Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us) into thirteen episodes was the start of the entire series’ pacing problems.
Season Two dragged on forever, with unnecessary filler involving drama between various parties, a plot involving random bandits, and the (futile) search for Sophia. Many characters spent time wandering in circles only to end up dead, some too soon and others past due.
Part of the problem stemmed from the choice to turn TWD into a more extended series, more than doubling its episodes. While I’m sure Mazzara and the producers thought this would add to the show’s depth, it proved that sometimes things are better short and sweet.
Even with the extra episodes, the writers could have spent less time on the Farm and more in other locations. Of course, much of that would have required a little less liberty than they took with the characters.
As previously mentioned, the choice to keep Shane an extra season was a big failure that only added unnecessary filler. While Jon Bernthal is a fantastic actor, the writers still killed him in the same way, just six episodes too late.
In the meantime, Dale suffered an ignominious death thanks to the recurring trope of Carl never staying in the house. Dale was supposed to live well past the Prison, yet a minor character took over his final sacrifice.
The death of Sophia, a character who was central (and alive) well into the comics’ coda, was even more of a massive blow. It foreshadowed future events and showed how disconnected the producers and showrunners were from the source material.
The trajectories of Carol and Andrea continued their respective paths, for good and ill. Carol started to become a hardened survivor with the loss of her daughter. Meanwhile, Andrea instead developed an unhealthy relationship with Shane rather than her comic counterpart’s more wholesome (yet strange) relationship with Dale.
The show changed the Greene family, trimming the living members (at the time of Rick’s arrival) down to only Hershel and his two children, 22-year-old Maggie and 16-year-old Beth. Comics Hershel had six living children, from his eldest (mid-20s Lacey) to his youngest (teenage twins Rachel and Susie), most of whom would live until at least the Prison.
The children would be merged into Maggie (representing the eldest) and Beth (the youngest), and the show would add Beth’s boyfriend, at least until he died. In the meantime, the opportunity to introduce comic characters still missing would remain.
With the Martinez family leaving after the Camp, the group lacked a family to experience a shocking death at Wiltshire Estates. Additionally, the gap before the Farm would have been the perfect time to introduce Tyreese and his group, which wouldn’t happen until Season Three (when we’d also get a poor version of Allen’s family).
Overall, Season Two introduced few valuable characters and killed off essential characters, which added to the story’s poor adaptation.
As mentioned multiple times, Season Two’s choice to drag out so much from so little, killing off characters left and right, made a mess of the story.
The significant points remain:
- Rick’s crew fights to find someplace to survive.
- Carl is shot, and everyone meets the Greene family.
- Rick’s crew leaves the Farm.
Yet Season Two spent only a single episode on the first point. They then spent the rest on the remainder, finishing up leftover plots (like Shane), and throwing in unnecessary side stories.
A more accurate season would have started with introducing Tyrese, keeping the Martinez family (or introducing Ben’s family). This casting would have allowed the events of Wiltshire Estates to amount to more than a one-note nod in a single episode.
Carl’s near-death could have worked as the mid-season finale’s cliffhanger before introducing the Greene family in the next episode. Then the remaining episodes would involve the Farm until Rick and company are kicked off, leaving the discovery of the Prison as the season finale.
One crucial difference, as well? In the comics, the Farm is never destroyed. Instead, the Greenes (and Glenn) stay there while everyone else leaves, only rejoining Rick later when he tells them about the safety of the Prison.
And while we were all excited to see Michonne, the choice to separate Andrea only to be rescued by her led to a completely different mess of a story in Season Three.
The adaption of Season Two was one of the worst, not necessarily for the story but for the complete digression from the timeline and characters.
The pacing was horrible, spending what felt like months at a location (and story arc) that was over within several issues of the comics. Too much drama ended up with the deaths of critical characters, which would ripple through the plot choices in seasons to come.
The cast remained relatively close, even with the changes to the Greene family. Most disappointing was the complete lack of Tyrese, a crucial character early in the comics, and the lack of Ben’s family (or even a replacement for them).
When we return, we’ll look at a completely different mess in Season Three, which would rush two stories simultaneously and lead to story arcs ending on mid-season finales for years to come.