This is the second part in a continuing series. Spoiler Warning - although the comics often differ, there may be potential spoilers included.
Despite a few grievances, I am a committed fan of The Walking Dead TV series. My biggest applause for the series is how they've found a balance between staying true to the essence of the graphic novels, while also converting the stories to more compelling narratives for TV; and all the while, keeping fans of the graphic novels guessing. For the purpose of this series, we'll compare a few of the adaptations between the graphic novels and the TV series to see what has worked and what has not.
Second Up: Carol & Sophia, Daryl, and Tyreese.
Carol and Sophia - SOMEWHAT WORKED - 4 out of 8 zombie heads.
In the TV series, Carol and Sophia are perhaps two of the most altered characters from the graphic novels. In the comics, Carol's husband is already dead when they get to the camp in Atlanta. Carol starts out as a very friendly woman who keeps it together, at least through the prison storyline. Her initial stableness is due to the fact that she has a romantic relationship with Tyreese, who has been a minor character so far in the series. When she and Tyreese part ways, she unravels and becomes desperate to be close to other survivors. I picture how I would respond to a zombie apocalypse, and I imagine that I would be clinging on to my relationships with others as well. How else do you stay sane when the world is falling apart? Now, Carol started to ignore the most important relationship in her life, her daughter, but I appreciated how the graphic novels represented this dilemma in her. The TV series has blown past this storyline altogether, and as a result, Carol has barely developed as a character.
The series' writers gave Carol the circumstances to be interesting; she had an abusive husband, she lost her young daughter to zombie attacks, and she has a manly Boondock Saint that has shown an interest in her; but her limited dialogue and underdeveloped relationships with others have left her character flat. Throughout Season 2 she barely says two sentences each episode. Rather she's the woman who floats around despondently, first hoping for her daughter's return, then mourning her zombification. I've just started to care about her in Season 3, but I tribute this to the moment when Daryl was sitting in the prison hallway, banging his knife on the ground as he dreaded the thought of having to kill a zombified Carol. I hope they keep Carol around longer, but again, this is mostly because Daryl is one of my favorite characters and I'd like to see them progress to a more in depth relationship.
The main reason I say these characters have somewhat worked is because of how the series handled Sophia's storyline. Initially, the hunting for Sophia week after week became tiresome, and I was pleading for the writers to make a decision: dead or alive? I knew Sophia outlived Carol in the comics, and I assumed that the show was going to make Rick look like the hero for continuing the search until they found her alive. While many claim that they knew Sophia was going to be in the barn full of walkers, I'll admit that I was shell-shocked. The moment after Shane destroys Hershel and his family's hopes by proving to everyone that they have to start viewing the walkers as dangerous monsters, out walks a zombified Sophia, and even Shane falls silent and is unable to pull the trigger. In hindsight, the tiresome search for Sophia was worth the dramatic payoff. This episode is still one of my favorite in the series. But, it's a shame that the writers didn't use this episode's impact to make Carol a winning character.
Daryl - WORKED - 7 out of 8 zombie heads.
Daryl is not even a character in the graphic novels, but he is one of the few characters on the show who has survived long enough and been given enough of a storyline to develop over time. We root for him, and we root for Carol because of him. He has become a unanimous fan favorite of the TV Series, which I give much of the credit to Norman Reedus. He is one of the best actors on the show, and even with his character's "rough around the edges" traits, he is relatable and entertaining.
Daryl has a few unlikeable qualities, mostly his loyalty to his awful brother Merle, but the glimpses of his compassionate side (his attempt to relate to Carl over his mother's death, his protection of Carol, and his nickname for Judith) allow us to root for him all the more. Daryl has essentially replaced Tyreese from the comics as Rick's "second hand." It will be interesting to see what the writers decide to do with Tyreese's character, in conjunction with Daryl's role in the group, and with Tyreese's current placement at Woodbury in the series.
Tyreese - DIDN'T WORK (So Far) - 3 out of 8 zombie heads.
Daryl has worked as a replacement for Tyreese, but at the same time, Tyreese is a central figure in the graphic novels, and I was surprised that he did not appear on the show until halfway through Season 3. I am also a fan of Chad Coleman, mostly from his work on The Wire, and the Tyreese in the TV series has certainly been likeable to date. The writers made it clear that he is a "good guy" when he refused to go along with his group's plan to take over the prison by killing the other survivors.
However, I think many graphic novel fans were unnerved to see Tyreese in Woodbury in the episode "I Ain't a Judas". In the graphic novels, he is a righteous man who sacrifices for the better of the group, which is an increasingly rare trait among the survivors, and I don't think it will go over well with fans if he winds up fighting against the survivors at the prison.
PART TWO CONCLUSION:
Overall, I believe The Walking Dead series has done a pretty good job with the adaptation from its source material. Translating a book/comics to the screen is no easy feat, as witnessed by countless film adaptations that leave audiences feeling underwhelmed with how the story was told on screen: The DaVinci Code, Animal Farm, The Time Traveler's Wife...I could go on and on.
The biggest struggle the series has is its pacing and character development. The challenge here is that in order to develop the characters, the pacing and action need to slow down. It's difficult to get to know these people enough to care about them when they are constantly running from or killing zombies. At the same time, the action and suspense the zombie attacks provide are a big part of why viewers watch the show (the last 10 minutes of "Home" in Season 3 is a terrific example of one of the show's fabulous action sequences), and in a show with this kind of action, character development is not on the same priority level as it is in a show like Mad Men or The Sopranos. The Walking Dead may have its struggles in this area, unlike the graphic novels, but at least they have started to become more successful in the current season.
Check back next week as we look at three more members of Rick Grime's crew. In the meantime, if you haven't checked out the graphic novels click here to get started.