The Walking Dead- Midseason Premiere Thoughts

Season 7 was of The Walking Dead was originally one of my most anticipated since it would focus on Negan, one of my favourite comic book villains and the best villain that The Walking Dead comics have had to date. Season 6 introduced Negan and ended with a money-grubbing tease that left a bad taste in my mouth and made me skeptical of what season 7 would offer.

The season 7 premiere featured a drawn out encounter with Negan that was obviously done to pad screen time, but I was willing to overlook it for the first episode. Then the second and third episode focused on The Hilltop and The Saviours respectively. It has always bothered me when The Walking Dead does this, instead of cutting between the different stories. Shows like Game of Thrones have far more characters and locations to deal with and do a better job of giving each party their necessary time. I have no problems with Tara and Heath as characters, but giving them an entire episode was ridiculous.

Some may argue that focusing on one location gives more opportunity for character development and builds anticipation for other story arcs. In this case, I beg to differ. Cutting between different stories during an episode forces writers to be more concise with their storytelling, so that an entire episode doesn’t end up serving as filler. Instead of 40 minutes (without commercials), writers are forced to use tighter writing to express the same story in 20. Or they can possibly stretch the different stories over multiple episodes.

The way it stands, the eventual conflict with Negan gets dragged out to episode 9 since three episodes didn’t show Rick and Alexandria at all. Since The Walking Dead is sticking to longer seasons (the past few have been 16) it seems the desire to reach a certain amount of episodes, instead of just telling a story naturally, interferes with the storytelling. The Marvel Netflix shows have a similar issue, since Marvel makes them all thirteen episodes. I felt like Luke Cage, in particular, could have been shortened. The midseason break also seems like a move designed to keep The Walking Dead on air as long as possible, especially now that other AMC hits like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have completed their runs.

I never considered The Walking Dead one of the best shows out there, especially since the acting is inconsistent at best. It ranges from great (Lincoln), mediocre (Serratos) to awful (Riggs). With all that said, I was not that excited for the mid-season premiere.

Firstly, I am sure that Gabriel didn’t actually betray Rick since it would derail his entire arc as a more committed member of Alexandria. When he is driving away in the car, I thought I was seeing things, but online articles have confirmed that someone else emerges in the passenger seat. Earlier in the season, we saw someone spying on Gabriel at the wall and on Rick and Aaron at the boat. It appears that person reached out to Gabriel, and is probably aligned with the community that confronts Rick’s group at the end of the episode. I loved Rick’s smile; the look of a man who has found his army.

I thought the group might be Oceanside, but Oceanside was previously introduced as a female-only group. In the comics, the group is co-ed and Michonne joins them for a while. Unless they’ve added men since their last appearance in the show, this appears to be a brand new group that was never shown in the comics. If they are a new group, it almost comes across as a deus-ex machina, but I’ll reserve judgment until the next episode. The show better not focus on another group for the entirety of the next episode.

Some fans have had a hard time grasping why Rick’s group didn’t want to fight back earlier. Hopefully this episode makes it clear they were worried about their lack of numbers, relative to The Saviours.  Additionally, Negan has made sure to consistently put Rick in a bind by making the lives of others tied to his. Yes, Rick could have beaten Negan to death with Lucille when Negan visited Alexandria, but then The Saviours would slaughter everyone.

Like the comics, Gregory is content to stick his head in the sand and submit to Negan’s rule. Xander Berkeley chewed some scenery in this episode, and hopefully we won’t see too much of that in the rest of the season. If his arc follows the arc from the comics, we’ll be seeing him around more and this show doesn’t need more weak acting.

While Ezekiel is happy to join Rick’s alliance in the comics, he is hesitant here due to the risk of losing everything they’ve built. It is a fear that Rick had as well, and it is likely Ezekiel will change his mind. Ezekiel’s refusal also brings up another issue. In the comics, Dwight is actually a double agent who is working with Ezekiel to take Negan out. The show has already hinted at Dwight’s animosity towards Negan, for taking his wife and burning his face. We know that his motives for wanting Negan gone are there, but it looks like he may not be a double agent in the show. This doesn’t bother me too much, since his reveal seemed like a last minute decision in the comics. If Dwight was a double agent the whole time, why did he kill Abraham if he didn’t really have to?

Morgan reunites with Rick for the first time since Carol’s disappearance from Alexandria, and his own hesitation to go to war seems to have impacted Ezekiel’s decision. Although Morgan is willing to kill in self-defence, it seems the fear of all the lives that will be lost in the war makes him hesitate to join an all out war. The only positive thing to come out the meeting with Ezekiel is his offer of asylum for Daryl. This episode also made me wonder if Daryl will find Carol and convince her and Ezekiel to join the war.

While Rick doesn’t get what he wants from Ezekiel, he does came across explosives that he plans to put to good use against The Saviours. Rosita appears to have learned some valuable things from Eugene, and this appears to be the start of an arc that is meant to make us root for her character more. However, I still despise her character. Her sheer stupidity in trying to kill Negan with only one bullet got someone else killed and got Eugene taken away. Her attitude to Sasha also fails to make her endearing. Also, there’s the fact that she was in a relationship with Spencer of all people. The girl’s got poor taste.

Have to say I am more excited for issue #165 of The Walking Dead comic, than the next episode of this show.

The Walking Dead- The Return of Filler

It’s Walking Dead season, so I hope you can all bear more The Walking Dead articles. I have previously shared my very strong praise for season 7, and I still stand by my praise for the first four episodes of the season. I did not like the fact that episodes 2 and 3 were entirely devoted to one location and group, but I figured that could be excused if the show cut down on the rest of its filler. One of my biggest issues with other seasons were entire episodes devoted to more minor characters. Episode 5 got us back to familiar territory, with a focus on The Hilltop and Carl and Enid (my most hated couple on the show). Now episode six gives us an episode devoted to Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Heath (Corey Hawkins). I am happy to see Corey Hawkins on screen again after he killed it as Dr. Dre in in Straight Outta Compton, and Tara has consistently been one of the more level-headed characters on the show. This episode still comes across as filler.

I don’t have a problem with the time given to minor characters, I am bothered by the insistence on developing them in one episode instead of splitting it up among multiple episodes. Rick’s struggle with Negan is a central part of this season and we went two episodes in a row without seeing it because the show runners insisted on avoiding it. Just like the cliffhanger, this seems like a maneuver that is meant to guarantee higher ratings for later episodes.

Some may argue that the singular focus allows us to become more attached to the characters and let them shine. Firstly, if an entire episode is devoted to a character we don’t care about that much (relatively), it can make people care less about the episode and make them impatient for the return of a favoured storyline or character. Even though episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good, I couldn’t help but shake this nagging feeling as well.  Of course, if the episodes were edited differently we would still have the same runtime. However, I feel as if the desire for filler makes writers add more storylines and interactions that help to justify a full episode for a character. At least ten minutes could have been shaved off episode 3 without impacting the main takeaways from the episode. The same goes for episode 2. It’s the equivalent of padding an essay with flowery words and phrases to reach a word limit.

All characters and locations have been reintroduced at this point so let’s hope we get more concise storytelling from this point on. It’s disappointing to see a season start so strong, only to fall back to the same things that prevented the show from truly being great. There were red flags in the first episode as well, namely the dragged out encounter with Negan. However, I ignored it, blindly hoping that the show was getting the filler out of its system. I was wrong, and now we’ll see if this season gets up to the quality of 6,5 and 1, or slides down to 3 and 2.

What are your favourite seasons of The Walking Dead?