Whats Wrong with The Walking Dead
I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since it debuted on AMC in 2010, or more accurately, what’s starting to feel like sometime late last century.
Overall, it has been a fun series to watch, and, like its core group of survivors, the show itself has proven to be a survivor. Chewing through major characters as well as showrunners (TWD is currently on its third) like one of the “walkers” shambling through the world of Rick Grimes and Co., the series has been resilient in keeping its core audience watching. There has been some fluctuation in numbers of viewers between the season premiers and cliffhangers, but so far there hasn’t been a fatal dip in the ratings. In fact, most shows would kill for the weakest numbers The Walking Dead has put up this season.
After the brief six-episode first season, the series expanded to thirteen episodes, then sixteen by Season Three, split into two, eight-episode runs with a hiatus of a couple of months in between.
For me, this is where the problems began to arise.
This is where the “filler” episodes began to crop up, along with the current formula consisting of exciting season debut, a whole lotta not much, then a (usually) exciting “mini-cliffhanger,” hiatus, exciting first episode return, and so on.
Not that I demand non-stop action in every episode. Frankly, if the show were as simple and straightforward as the series of graphic novels it’s based on, it wouldn’t make for very good television.
I also enjoy good, dramatic acting, so watching the performances by the stellar cast in the quiet moments is just fine. The problem, especially in regard to the recently-concluded Season 7, is taking these interesting characters and sending them on either moronic missions that go nowhere or wasting more than half of an episode while they wring their hands over moral dilemmas. This is tolerable in smaller doses, but week after week it makes for a tedious and frustrating viewing experience.
Negan, the iconic, bat-wielding villain from the graphic novels is portrayed in the series by veteran character actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and he does a phenomenal job chewing up the scenery with a gleeful balance of wit and menace. No wonder he’s given pages of dialogue in several episodes!
That’s also one of the problems with Season 7.
Too much of a good thing.
By the time the showdown between Rick and Negan comes at the end of Season 7, Negan feels less menacing, and his jokes have gotten stale. And what’s with all the respect for members of Rick’s group? Negan respecting Carl made sense. Respecting Daryl made sense. The scenes where Daryl is locked in a room while the song “Easy Street” blares twenty-four seven in an effort to “break” him and convert him to Negan’s crew were effective.
But by the time we get to Sasha’s storyline (inane and senseless as it was in this season) and her entirely unnecessary decision to follow Rosita’s lead in taking out Negan, only to have their plan fail (predictable) and then sacrifice herself for nothing and for virtually no advantage to Rick’s group was the clearest example yet of the damage these filler story arcs can do.
We should’ve seen the problems with Season 7 coming.
In Season 6’s climax, we see the major players of Rick’s group on their knees before Negan, with one of them waiting to meet their fate at the business end of Lucille, the villain’s barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat. We never get to see who the victim is. What we get instead is a Negan monologue that drags on WAY too long before, from the unidentified victim’s point-of-view, we see Lucille arcing down as the episode fades to black with dopey, animated blood dripping down the screen.
Too much hype. Zero payoff.
The producers of the show obviously heard outcry from enraged fans and over-corrected by showing EVERYTHING in the Season 7 opener, in which we see Abraham meeting Lucille in grim fashion before Daryl punches Negan in the face, thereby sealing the fate of the beloved Glenn Rhee. The scene is delivered with such savage brutality that you could almost hear the collective gasp worldwide as it happened.
I had no problem with the brutality, and was looking forward to what was setting up to be an exciting – albeit extraordinarily dark – season. Flash forward to last Sunday’s season finale, which featured some fun moments – Shiva the tiger devouring the face of an unlucky Savior, the “filthy garbage people” double-crossing Rick, Rick staring down Negan, defiantly informing the leather-jacketed villain that he’s “already dead.” But those moments were weighed down by the tedious, flashback-laden Sasha storyline that, again, was ill-conceived and ultimately meant nothing.
While many fans were happy with the finale, I found the battle sequence less than impressive. I was hoping it would feel as epic as the Season 2 finale, or even the Season 4 finale with the fall of The Governor, but this one fell short. At least the stage is set for all-out war between Rick’s group and Negan’s Saviors, but I fear more of the same filler in store for next season.
Season 7 could’ve been wrapped up in eight episodes instead of sixteen, though I doubt AMC will shorten the seasons any time soon. I understand wanting to keep Negan around for two seasons, but at what cost? Having to sit through pointless filler only to see a few cool tidbits is getting pretty damn old.
The Walking Dead still feels like a zombie epic, but that epic is feeling like it’s made up of mostly the deleted scenes at this point.
The fans deserve better, AMC.
Thanks for reading, (Walking) Deadies!
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