That’s it. I’m done. Tap me the hell out. Pack my bags and send me home. The season 7 premiere was an hour of sadism, misery, and over the top violence stitched together by padding and shouting. I don’t care what happens next, where Carol and Morgan are, or even how that damn tiger from the commercials will come into play. I. Don’t. Care. There are better ways to spend Sunday night.
After rewatching the season 6 finale, I realize my review gave the episode far more credit than was due. Knowing that the ep would end without revealing who Negan kills, the wheel-spinning becomes frustratingly obvious. There was no reason for that ep to be 90 minutes when there wasn’t even enough material for a standard 60 minutes. The whole episode, the whole back half of the season was nothing but delays and filling just so the writers could avoid revealing who gets a personal meet-and-greet with Lucille. That trend continued in the premiere, much to my chagrin. The suspense of who’s going to die next was never the fun part. They’re all going to die. That’s kinda the point of the zombie apocalypse. Abraham was the obvious Negan choice, but Glenn died in the comics and every now and again the show remembers it has source material. Glenn’s death would’ve been acceptable, but only if they hadn’t wasted the emotional impact of it on that dumpster fake out last season (not to mention him almost getting brained by that baseball bat-wielding cannibal in Terminus).
Nothing that happened in the premiere merited that season 6 cliffhanger or the delay in the season 7 premiere. Killing Abraham makes sense as the culmination of a season’s worth of wasting Michael Cudlitz on go-nowhere love triangles and wheelspinning. But doing Glenn in like that was unnecessarily cruel. I’ve sat through a tremendous amount of brutal bullshit on TWD but this was the first time I had to look away not because I was grossed out but because I truly did not want to see it. Glenn’s murder held no artistic or dramatic value. It happened for the same reason Zack Snyder killed off Jimmy Olsen in Batman v Superman: because it could. I know, I know, the point is that there is no point. But I also know that every single second of the seventh season premiere was an affront to my soul. I don’t need that image in my mind of Glenn’s head bashed in and eyeball popped out. As soon as I finish writing this review I’m going to binge on Atlanta and You’re The Worst just to get the taste out of my mouth.
As for the rest of the ep…actually, there isn’t a “rest” to talk about. Negan takes Rick out to a zombie horde, throws his axe outside, demands Rick go get it, shoots at Rick for not getting it fast enough, then drives him back to his group. Ostensibly, Negan is breaking Rick’s willpower to make him a compliant employee, but it’s really because the show can’t kill off its main character. The pointless side trip also serves to delay the big reveal about who Negan killed. Once they return, Negan threatens to make Rick cut off Carl’s hand but steps in at the last minute in an obvious play at Abraham and Isaac.
At this point Negan is all cipher. Everything he does is a plot device rather than organic character development. Rick doesn’t die because Andrew Lincoln gets top billing. Carl doesn’t get his hand cut off because that’s an expensive and time-consuming bit of makeup to put on every day. Delaying telling us who died is supposed to build Negan into a fearsome creature, but that’s a trick that only works if we hadn’t just spent 5 months on a frustrating cliffhanger. Yeah, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a hoot as Negan, but he’s a hoot in every role. No amount of scenery chewing makes any of the premiere worthwhile.
Whatever happens with Negan moving forward, Rick and enough of the core cast will survive long enough to escape his clutches and hit the reset button. As each new big bad is more brutal than the last, Rick and co. must up their own violence to take them down, which brings them to a nearly equal playing field as the villains. Carol has murdered at least half a dozen people in her group under the guise of protecting the whole and Rick has gotten killed countless people enacting his ill-conceived plans. For crying out loud, Rick slaughtered a pack of Survivors in their sleep last season, and that’s after invading Alexandria, dethroning its leader and declaring himself in charge, a move that isn’t all that dissimilar to what the Governor tried to do at the prison. Rick may not take as much glee in slaughtering people as Negan does, but that doesn’t make much of a difference to all those corpses in his wake. Not that TWD is interested in telling that story when they could keep telling the same old story on repeat.
Ultimately, the nihilism has worn me down. Without The Walking Dead franchise, the darkest show on my rotation is Arrow, a show which hasn’t exactly embraced the patented Zack Snyder grimdark DCEU mentality. TWD isn’t just dark, it’s unrelentingly dreary in tone, characters, and plots. Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse is designed to never end. While that seemed exciting in the first season, in the seventh it’s become a repetitive cycle of find a sanctuary, bicker with those already living there, get attacked by outsiders, destroy the sanctuary, spend time on the road, find a sanctuary, and on and on and on. In the absence of thematic tension, character development, or emotional growth is empty shock and torture porn-esque gore.
With every episode I find myself increasingly frustrated, irritated, and bored. TWD wants to be an introspective show about the struggle to survive in the apocalypse and the morality of survival. But it also wants to be a horror movie where people die in spectacularly gory ways because why else have zombies if you aren’t going to use them? It succeeds when picking one tune and sticking with it and fails when it tries to play both simultaneously, i.e.: the premiere. Over the years the gap between plundering the creative potential inherent in the premise and falling back on blood and guts for shock value has steadily grown. As has been proved time and time again, TWD writers wouldn’t know a good plot if it bit them on the ass.
Frankly, I might have lasted another few seasons of The Walking Dead despite its awfulness had I not sat through two seasons of the even worse Fear The Walking Dead. I can tolerate a lot of crap. Hell, I’m still watching Supernatural and that show hasn’t been the same solar system as good in at least seven seasons. But the one-two punch of FTWD and TWD both burning their premises to the ground sapped me of what little enjoyment I still got out of Robert Kirkman’s zombies. In this day and age, there is soooooo much good television on that there’s little excuse for holding onto something this unpleasant.
I’ve long said that once I stopped finding the fun in The Walking Dead I’d stop watching. Well, folks, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” is that moment. TWD is neither fun nor interesting nor unique, so what’s the point? Life is too short to spend it grimacing through a show as stupid as this.
- Did you know the CW has a show about zombies called iZombie? You should watch it, it’s fan-frakking-tastic.
- Ooo, and the BBC produced this sweet, sad little zombie show called In The Flesh that is streets ahead of anything TWD has done.
- Need a Sunday night replacement? John Oliver has a comedy news show on HBO on Sunday night called Last Week Tonight and it’s just great.
- Or, you know what? Instead of watching TWD, go stand outside for an hour. Hang out with friends. Call your mom. Read a book. Catch up on the news. Anything at all. The world is your oyster.
Alex Brown is a teen librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.