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Breaking Up With ‘The Walking Dead’

Last Sunday, AMC finally aired the Season 7 premiere of its hugely popular series, The Walking Dead. For six long months, fans and casual viewers alike had speculated about who among our ragtag band of misfit protagonists would feel the wrath of Neegan, the egregiously charismatic leader of the Saviors and the series’ newest and so far most compelling baddy, after the  Season 6 finale ended with Rick and his acolytes lined up before their foe as the latter prattled on about killing one of them with his pimped-up baseball bat, “Lucille”. With a classic use of the “guess which main character has to die so that viewers can retain interest in the series?” device, the Season 6 finale ended before revealing who Neegan chose to kill, in what many fans have since called an epic dick move on the part of the show’s writers and producers.

In the few days since this episode aired, viewers have proclaimed their generalized sense of shock and outrage at its unprecedented level of gore and graphic violence — even by The Walking Dead standards — across all corners of the Internet, making my task of providing a fair and balanced review of the Season 7 premiere all the more difficult. So, instead of simply adding my voice to the chorus of the malcontent with regards to the violence and gore that many of us are still trying to shake off, I will instead show the consideration that the series’ writers and producers withheld from their legions of loyal fans, and just say what many of us are already thinking:

Unless The Walking Dead can fill its allotted time slot with more substantial material than graphically gross and emotionally manipulative vignettes of post-apocalyptic humanity’s inhumanity towards the living, the beloved TV series might well be on its way to jumping the proverbial shark.

That the last season ended on a cliff-hanger is not my primary gripe with how the seventh season began. Indeed, other shows have famously pulled off the  “who got killed/who killed or tried to kill a main character?” trope with deft artistry in the not too distant past. The Season 6 finale of The Simpsons, another critically acclaimed, long-running series comes to mind, with its now-classic”Who shot Mr Burns? Part 1″ episode, for which the animators produced several alternate endings to keep the outcome a secret.

However, the use of the “who got killed” plot device in the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead (which also featured a series of alternate head-bashings, in what might have seemed to many viewers over the age of 35 like a deliberate nod at The Simpsons’ own masterful Season 6  cliffhanger) just felt like a lazy, unoriginal attempt at keeping the viewers engaged after a long run of increasingly banal — and tiresome — zombie-smashing in the desolate wilderness of the Southern United States.

With its disjointed narrative and atrocious pacing, the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead hinted at the possibility that the writers had no idea how to keep the viewers interested for the entirety of the episode, which is likely why the identities of Neegan’s victims were revealed well into the second act. In filling the time with cringe-worthy scenes where Neegan made our hero Rick his figurative bitch, the show’s writers forgot the cardinal rule of cliffhanger episodes, in that whatever lingering mystery had been set forth in the previous installment must be resolved swiftly in order to further the plot and usher in the new chapter. The Walking Dead‘s Season 7 premiere failed miserably in that regard, trolling instead the viewer with something as close to snuff media as prime time television will ever allow, for one long, excruciating hour.

It thus comes as no surprise to this reviewer — and soon-to-be former viewer — that any further investment in this series might prove, at best, to be a waste of precious leisure time.

For the sake of my continued friendship with throngs of superfans and other assorted Walking Dead Heads, let us hope that I am wrong.

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9 comments

Matt De Azevedo October 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm

“Unprecedented level of gore”??? People are UPSET by the amount of gore? WTF? That’s hilarious. The gore and special effects this episode were fucking great.

I’ve never been in love with the show, I’ve actually found it to be borderline bad for a large portion of its run, though it has had some high level episodes as well. Overall I’d say it’s a decent show, not worthy of all the praise its gotten over the years. With that said, I think last season’s finale was one of the worst episodes of TV I’ve seen, but this season’s premiere was one of the show’s best episodes, maybe the best since the pilot.

Negan’s character, so far, has been really well done. Giving Rick a seemingly impossible choice, and then NOT forcing him to go through with it was genius. Had he made Rick go through with the act, he would of lost him forever; Rick would of always had revenge on the forefront of his mind, but driving him to the brink and then pumping the breaks was great, he broke him. It’s obvious that Rick’s group will eventually rebel, but Negan’s motivations and tactics were really on point.

Ricky D Fernandes October 28, 2016 at 11:05 pm

I can’t believe you think this is one of the best episodes. I think it is really well made but poorly scripted. My problem isn’t the gore. I just think they spent way too long teasing the audience. Like an hour of wasted time. The Walking Dead is a show in which we sit around and wait for characters to die. They all die so why the hell do you need to waste 60 minutes to kill off two characters. Just get it over with.

Matt De Azevedo October 28, 2016 at 11:17 pm

60 mins to kill 2 characters? Come on man, the deaths of those 2 people was not the point of the episode. This episode was about breaking Rick, and establishing the kind of person Negan is, and that’s done really well. The pace was intentionally lethargic, and I loved it. I didn’t feel like I was being teased, I was actually genuinely intrigued the whole way though, which is amazing for an ep of TWD (usually I’m browsing the net on my phone or falling asleep while the show plays, lol). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this was a masterpiece of TV or anything, but by TWD standards it was far above average, so I’m kinda surprised by this article. But, I’m sure the show will take a nose dive as early as next episode… I wouldn’t be surprised if the show doesn’t get back to Rick’s group till like episode 4, lol.

Ricky D Fernandes October 29, 2016 at 4:15 am

Funny thing is I read similar articles across the net. A lot of critics have decided to stop watching it.

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