Zombies stumble. They stink. They have poor vision and they lack a strong sense of direction. At one point or another, The Walking Dead has been guilty of all these things.
Unlike its now-departed AMC cousin Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, which kicks off its fourth season Sunday, hasn't always had a smooth ride from critics and fans.
While the zombie drama's first season was well-received, devotees of the ongoing Walking Dead comic book series bemoaned early on how far the show was deviating from the comics' plot.
And many fans complained how little actually happened through most of the second season, leading one online wag to create a clever mock-up of the show's promotional poster that retitled it People Arguing and Sometimes Zombies Show Up.
Last season went a long way toward redeeming The Walking Dead, introducing elements like the survivors' prison stronghold, the psychotic Governor and the sword-swinging Michonne, upping the action, drama and gore quotient significantly.
Still, this new season could be a make or break year.
If The Walking Dead falls back into focusing on a group of hateful, bickering survivors rooted in one place, or simply rehashes the conflicts of Season 3, we'll tune out and wander off.
Like the show's undead minions, we need fresh brains.
Here are five ways The Walking Dead can stay alive.
Use the Governor sparingly
Most everyone, including us, assumed the Governor (as played to evil perfection by British actor David Morrissey) would die at the end of Season 3, just as he perishes in Robert Kirkman's ongoing comic book series. That he got away is a bit problematic, and we'd be curious if that was what the producers had in mind all along, or if they decided to spare the Governor after the character became such a hit with viewers. The Governor being at large is fine, but he shouldn't be the primary antagonist of Season 4 -- we've been there, done that. Let him be an uneasy, uncertain threat hanging over Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the rest, but not the boogeyman who pops out of the closet when things need to be juiced up a bit.
Don't overwhelm us with newbies
With the Governor's rule over Woodbury broken, Rick and company must now shelter 50 newcomers who have fled the town to take up residence in the prison. This means lots of confirmed new castmembers, which in turn means lots of volatile new chemistry. And that's great, but even though the main cast has been considerably thinned out (see the next item in this list), introducing too many new faces at once could be a bit off-putting. This has to be a slow, deliberate process of letting us get to know each new major player, otherwise it'll just feel like we're looking at a menu and trying to figure out which of these noobs is going to be the next zombie entree.
Slow down the killing spree
One thing that makes The Walking Dead unique is that no character, with the possible exception of Rick, is truly safe. The majority of the major characters who were present at the start of Season 1 have since been killed off, and last season alone saw four regulars bite the dust.
This constant sense that any character could die at any time is part of what makes The Walking Dead special, but the show's producers might be going a bit overboard. Killing off too many characters that we're attached to is a sure-fire way of diminishing viewer interest, especially if the new characters being added to the roster turn out to be less interesting. (Although how anyone could be less interesting than Andrea is unclear.)
Get out in the world
As a title, The Walking Dead has always referred as much to the survivors as to the reanimated corpses that want to eat them. When it's the dawn of doomsday, how do you find the will to keep going? Something we need to see more of in this season are reminders about what's happening outside the confines of the prison. In post-apocalyptic fiction, nothing is quite as sobering as witnessing the homes, shops and other once-bustling bastions of human life standing empty and decaying. Remind us that the world as we know it has truly ended, and the horrible weight that knowledge exerts on these handfuls of survivors.
Feed off the comics
We understand that television and comics are two very different mediums, and that The Walking Dead shouldn't slavishly follow the plot of the comics any more than next year's X-Men: Days of Future Past movie should rigidly cleave the two-issue story arc from the '80s X-Men comics that inspired it (even if us diehard X-Men fans kind of wish it would.)
That being said, there's a treasure trove of ready-made drama just sitting there in the comics, waiting to be mined.
That's the thing that was especially baffling about Season 2 of The Walking Dead ... while it did introduce some of the characters from the comics, such as Hershel (Scott Wilson) and his kin, it chose to have the characters spend what seemed like an eternity just snarking at each other on Hershel's farm, rather than following the comics' considerably more dramatic twists and turns.
The material's already there. Why not use it?