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The Walking Dead (2010)
Contrived and Frustrating
While the first season managed to be a reasonable, if not wholly original, portrayal of what has become a fairly familiar scenario: the zombie apocalypse, it all fell rapidly and unforgivably to pieces with the onset of the second season.
The ultimate problem is an intrinsic one to the zombie genre: length. Most zombie stories deal with the immediate aftermath of a world apocalypse scenario, typically following a band of rag-tag survivors as they struggle to adjust to their new environment and that's the problem big problem here, the adjustment.
It is famously said that 'what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger', which is to say that even in extreme situations people learn to adapt to their new environment - it's how as a species we've always survived. The characters in The Walking Dead never do.
Life is full of lethal hazards. From crossing the road to cooking a meal, almost everything we do has the capacity to kill us. Yet, in the vast majority of cases it doesn't. It's because we're adapted to those hazards and we navigate them unthinkingly. If zombies suddenly popped up tomorrow, the initial shock would catch a lot of us out, but those who did survive would soon adapt and, before long, learn to negotiate the walking dead in the same manner as most of do a busy intersection.
And this is what causes the frustration and contrivance. By the start of the second season, the characters are still as helplessly caught off guard by the titular 'dead' as they were back when they started out. They haven't developed any natural systems or approaches to dealing with what is arguably a fairly manageable hazard and it's there that you start to smell the contrivance.
The reason they haven't and they can't develop any strategies to reduce the zombies to a quotidian chore, is that to do so would strip the story of it main source of tension. So, in order to prolong the tension beyond the normal period of adjustment, which might reasonably make up a film or so, the characters have been reduced to bumbling idiots who move blithely from one scene to the next, jumping in absolute terror every time they see a zombie.
This is why so many zombie movies and series have some other kind of antagonist driving the plot forward: military groups, religious nutjobs or shady corporations add an extra obstacle - an intelligent and calculating obstacle that is harder to over come (even but-of-all-jokes franchise Resident Evil realized this).
The characters in The Walking Dead have no room to grow, because to do so would be to render the situation less profound. Human beings survive by adaption, both emotionally and physiologically and the fact that these characters stubbornly refuse to even 'learn' from their experiences ends up stifling any ability you might have to sympathize with them.
You can harp on about the acting and the budget and the special effects all you like, but the baseline failure of this series is the one that all the above rest on: the writing. The writers' lack the imagination to drive the story beyond the zombie survival archetype and end up walking in endless circles trying to recreate the sense of threat the characters encountered when they first awoke to world overrun with zombies and in doing so ignore the basic function of any character in any story: growth.