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’s Ratings Dropped Drastically-And For Stupid Reasons Apparently

Warning: Spoilers for Season 7

The Walking Dead season 7 premiere drew the show’s second biggest audience, with 17 million viewers. I am sure that the cliffhanger contributed to this. I originally did hate the cliffhanger but have grown to see some purpose in it, aside from getting more ratings for the premier. A friend at work mentioned that people’s hate for Negan is, for lack of a better word, “fresh” now. We didn’t see who he killed last season and have months to discuss it. We tuned in one sunday night to see Abraham and Glenn die.

The first death hit me hard since Abraham was one of my favourite characters. The second death is what caused a real firestorm online. After the infamous dumpster incident earlier in the season, Glenn undoubtedly met with death in the season 7 premiere, with a gory death pulled straight from the comics. Watch any reaction to the episode on YouTube, and you will see how people were dismayed that Abraham died, but became nearly hysterical when Glenn met his end.

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Since I read the comics, I was almost looking forward to the death. It is a sad, but pivotal moment for readers, driving home the danger Negan represents.

Episode 7.5, “Go Getters” experienced the lowest ratings since season 3, before Daryl’s fangirls were in full effect. Obviously, such a drastic drop is a huge development. When I came across the news the first cause that came to my mind was the issue of filler. Episodes 2 and 3 were pretty good but I could not help but feel like they were dragged out. One focused on Carol and Morgan, one focused on Daryl. In both cases, the episodes could have been condensed to show more characters and stories. Episode 4 thankfully features less filler, but then episode 5 brought back more filler and more of the Carl and Enid relationship: a weak love story with zero chemistry and two of the weakest actors.

The comments in this Yahoo article feature some complaints of filler, but the majority of them don’t blame that for the ratings drop. They blame the death of Glenn. It was to graphic and mean-spirited. It eliminated a fan favourite and made fans lose interest. One person even says that it will be looked back on as the moment the show jumped the shark.

Firstly, I was almost amused to see that the comments echo my comic book stigma article. People who watch this show, which is based on a comic, refer to the readers as basement dwellers. They’re not losers like us so what happens in the comics doesn’t matter. I find this argument to be nonsensical since the television show would not exist if it weren’t for the comic. The show you love, the character you are mourning over, would not exist if another “basement dweller” didn’t love comics and decide to write his own one day. An adaptation rarely follows its source material note for note, but I think it is fair to hear fans out on one of the source material’s most iconic moments. I have to wonder if people would have as much animosity if the source material was a book instead.

Despite TWD consistently being a violent show, it appears that many people felt that this last episode crossed the line. Perhaps because brutal violence was inflicted on a main character this time. This brings me to my next issue with these complaints. If characters are going to come across dangerous situations, whether it’s from humans or zombies, where is the dramatic tension if we know that our favourites won’t die? Do you want the show to keep introducing red-shirts to get killed instead? Glenn becomes one of the first people from the original group to die in a long while, and his death served the same purpose on the show. Do the show writers have to keep killing off ancillary characters like Denise?

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Yes, it sucks that Rick and Daryl are submissive for the moment. People are wondering why they don’t fight back. Remember that they did fight back when Negan’s men originally gave them the terms. That resulted in them being surrounded. Daryl fighting back is what led to Glenn’s head getting turned into ground beef. Daryl feels guilty for that, but so does Rick. Rick assumed Negan was just another threat they could overpower, and he was wrong. He referred to Negan as nothing but “hot air” in the comics and quickly found out he was mistaken. Carl could have shot Negan. Rick could have beat Negan with Lucille, but what would that accomplish in the long run? Negan’s men pillaging Alexandria and killing everyone in it. Bad guys win sometimes, and good guys lose sometimes as well. Rick won’t be like this for the rest of the show but people need to grow up and realize entertainment can’t always give us happiness.

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All of these complaints about TWD being too mean-spirited remind me of how people always criticize DC comic book films for being too bad because they’re too depressing. Maybe people would like it more if this post-apocalyptic tale just became all sunshine and rainbows and nobody died anymore. When Negan swings his bat it bounces off people’s heads like rubber, but gives a nasty headache. That way there is still some danger but not too much.  This rampant mentality is the reason I knew Daryl wouldn’t be killed by Negan. The fangirls would stop watching because they’d lose someone to drool over during episodes. The show is meant to be bigger than any single character. The only character that is arguably an exception is Rick Grimes, since the series starts with his singular perspective.

Another complaint I have to address is the mantra that “this show is supposed to be about surviving zombies. Not your fellow man.” I could write an essay on how poorly thought out this argument is. Firstly, the show would become boring if every single season revolved around the zombie threat alone. If people are complaining about Rick’s group finding one bad group of people after another, how do you think they would react to Rick’s group killing zombies again and again or trying to avoid another herd? The zombie apocalypse represents a breakdown in civilization, whether in terms of institutions and nations, or in terms of people’s relations with one another. With zombies running rampant and humans split up into pockets, you can rest assured that people like The Governor and Negan would emerge. Some of the comments question why people would fight against one another in such tumultuous times and I have to ask what world these people have grown up in. People will fight and scheme against each other for the same things they always do: power and resources. Spencer is trying to paint Rick as a bad leader because he wants to rule Alexandria like his mother did. He feels like Rick stole his birthright. Negan simply craves power, which is manifested by his desire to control the communities and their resources. People aren’t always rationale. They can be petty, immature, greedy, selfish beings and that doesn’t change whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or not. Ask yourself, would you honestly prefer 7 seasons of the group just fighting zombies? Would you be interested in the show if the group came across one dangerous situation after another, but everyone always made it through alive unscathed?

The Walking Dead: Season 7 Thoughts

I got around to watching episode 7.2 on friday and just uploaded a YouTube video with my thoughts on it. I wanted to use this blog post comment on episode 7.2 but also season 7 and The Walking Dead as a whole. So far, this season has the makings of a great one and has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best.

Seasons 1 and 5 rank atop my list for the moment. I didn’t hate season 2 as much as many others did, mostly due to Jon Bernthal’s performance as Shane. However, there were a lot of other things that left much to be desired. Andrea and Lori were absolute cancer to the show and it generally got better once they were gone. The Governor was a pretty strong villain and the prison showdown is one of the show’s greatest highlights. I wasn’t that big a fan of The Governor’s continued story in season 4. The show returned strong with the group finding Alexandria in season 5, demonstrating the contrast between Rick’s battle-hardened group and the sheltered Alexandrians. This aspect of the show resulted in some of the best conflict since it wasn’t necessarily a single villain. There was Pete of course, the alcoholic, wife-beating surgeon who was suspicious of Rick’s intentions with his wife. However, the entire season did not revolve around this conflict. Rick’s group, and Rick in particular were simply the target of widespread mistrust. The Wolves came across as filler and were very forgettable villians imo.

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Obviously reading the comics prior to watching some of these later seasons impacts my perception of them. I am not one of those people that will bash an adaptation if it is slightly different, but I think it is fair to call the writers out on changes that I believe did not improve the show or serve any functional purpose. Season 5 could have been the same, if not better without The Wolves. Their biggest impact was bringing the herd to Alexandria, since they caused the truck crash that led the walkers to the community. However, this could have happened another way. If I remember correctly, the herd in the comic is only brought to the community by the sound of gunfire, which could have come from the internal conflict that permeated season 5.

Season 6 built on this mistrust but also added a love triangle and teen drama with Pete’s son, who was a weak actor and a whiny brat character we have seen numerous times before. This subplot brought the show down greatly, with the only good result being the loss of Carl’s eye. I always wondered if the show would ever go through with this development, and although I felt bad for Carl, it was great to see it happen. Carl’s appearance plays a big part in his more pessimistic attitude in the comics and his relationship with Lydia in the comic’s Whisperers storyline, which follows Negan’s. We will see if the show ever incorporates this relationship.  The highlight of season 6 was “No Way Out”, where Alexandria must confront a herd. This episode also gives us another allusion to Negan, with an appearance by The Saviours. The season then ended strong, with the first appearance of Negan.

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All this is to say that the quality of the villains significantly impact the quality of a season. Many of the season 2 supporters I have spoken to say they liked the season mostly due to Shane, even if they found other aspects of the season dull. Season 1 mostly focused on the zombie threat and the characters adjusting to their new world, which is often one of the most interesting aspects of apocalyptic stories. With season 7 we get an introduction to Negan that is dragged out in relation to the comics, but is still very powerful. We do not only see Negan beat people’s brains in with a bat, we also see him break Rick mentally. What I always liked about Negan is that he may seem like a raving lunatic, but he is also very calculated and methodical. In the comic he made sure not to kill Rick because he didn’t want to create a martyr that could inspire the others to fight back. He realized the leader needed to be broken. We see Negan do that with finesse by the end of the episode, showing a guilt-ridden Rick who is at one of the lowest points we’ve ever seen him in.

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One thing that continues to bother me about the show is the way they will often focus on one character, set of characters, or location for the entire duration of a show. In “No Way Out” the show switches between Glenn and Enid, to Sasha, Abraham, Daryl, to the rest of Alexandria. With good editing and writing, the show can seamlessly transition between these stories of varying interest and bring them all together at the end. Instead, we get a focus on Negan for the first episode. The dragged out confrontation then comes across as filler that is meant to hold us over to the next episode. The second episode focuses on Carol, Morgan and The Kingdom. Judging from previews, the third will focus on Daryl and The Saviours. When a show has this many characters, it simply does not make sense to spend a whole episode on one or one group. Shows like Game of Thrones may do this at times, but GOT characters weren’t all together at one point. GOT isn’t following a group that got split up, it is following different characters with different goals. With TWD, focusing on one character per episode forces you to pad the season with extra episodes that could easily have been condensed. Of course, more episodes, means more opportunity for ratings and more money. It is the same logic as the season 6 finale. The show runners knew they wanted to condense the action when it came to “No Way Out”, but they seem content to drag out the opening of this season. I am hoping that the desire to maximize profit doesn’t continue to yield filler and nonsensical subplots. If those two things are kept to a minimum this could possibly be the best season of The Walking Dead.

Vicious Cycle

Hello everyone. Below is my latest post for comicommand.

A Vicious Cycle

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After reading The Boys, I decided to check out Invincible due to a friend’s recommendation. Invincible follows the exploits of Mark Grayson, the teenaged son of one of Earth’s greatest heroes, as he discovers his powers and begins fighting crime.

I have previously discussed how the most popular superheroes, such as Superman, can serve as archetypes for future creations.  With their 1930s and 1940 origins, Superman and the members of the Justice League were not only some of the first superheroes, but they have become a benchmark for future creations. These heroes helped to create the superhero comic. Their powers became part of the prototypical image of a superhero, super strength, flight, super speed etc.

The Boys and Invincible both feature versions of The Justice League. The Boys has “The Seven”, while Invincible has “The Guardians of The Globe”. The Guardians of The Globe are so similar in that they are undoubtedly a homage to the Justice League. Their appearance, as well as their powers mirror heroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. One such hero, Darkwing, has no powers but uses gadgets and fighting skills to combat crime.

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The Seven is lead by Homelander, whose costume has a similar colour scheme as Superman’s. The Homelander also has similar powers, including heat vision. The Seven were all created through genetic modification, but all have cover stories that are given to the public. The public believes the Homelander is an alien who crash-landed on earth as an infant.

Queen Maeve’s cover story is that she is Empress of the Netherworld, similar to Wonder Woman being a princess of the otherworldly Amazons.

While these examples are glaringly obvious ones, which were intended by the creators. Invincible and The Boys are both satire and deconstruction of superheroes. The Boys shows a world where superheroes are morally corrupt celebrities, and Invincible features a twist on the Superman origin story that has tragic consequences for the its protagonist. Since the members of The Justice League came first, it can be hard to create heroes who lack any similar powers or tactics. The most interesting part of the archetypes is seeing how these archetypes created an ideal of morality that led to many subsequent creations.

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Antiheroes such as The Punisher and Deadpool were created to be a marked contrast from the shining pillars of heroism seen in the early comics. As time progressed, every character underwent arcs where their image was altered, in order to keep them relevant to a changing world. Superman: Birthright featured a version of Pa Kent that was reluctant to see his son use his powers for good, knowing the fear they could generate. Batman comics may have been campy at times but the character has now evolved into the quintessential dark superhero. Meanwhile, Superman still has the image of a light-hearted hero, even though decades of comics offer much more variety.

Characters created in the 1930s and 1940s still shape superhero comics, whether they are being admired, criticized or deconstructed. Arguably, comics that don’t revolve around superheroes might not be as popular if it wasn’t for the large slate of comic films. When people feel like a market is congested, they often seek something new. Comics are a world of their own, where praise and criticism can still feed the same cycle.

The Old and The New

Hello everyone,

Below is my latest past for comicommand

 

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The popularity of Marvel and DC Comics almost leads to word association. Superhero comics are often tied to one of the two behemoths, since they are the oldest producers of superhero comics. However, it is this longevity that leads to one of the biggest issues of the big publishers. The plethora of comic book titles, events, authors and timelines for each character can make jumping in seem overwhelming for prospective readers. Not to mention relaunches such as the ultimate comics for Marvel, and rebirth for DC. These relaunches can serve the practical purpose of giving newcomers a fresh start, but that impact quickly fades once the new series reaches a certain point. In the case of the ultimate universe, catching up with sixteen years of comics is better than fifty, but can still be daunting. In the case of DC, I have heard great things about Rebirth, but it appears some of the most poignant moments I have heard of would not be as effective without some prior knowledge of certain story-lines. Entries on this site, such as the lists by the Commander, acknowledge this problem and are meant to provide recommendations for tackling the medium. However, the fact that lists like these are necessary attests to the issue.  Before readers get their pitchforks, I want to clarify that I am not trying to criticize the format of superhero comics or their rich history and diversity. I am only saying that, objectively, it does lead to of the strengths (in my opinion) that smaller imprints such as Vertigo and Image Comics have.

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The last comic series I read was Vertigo’s Y The Last Man, a post-apocalyptic story where all male mammals spontaneously die, except for Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. I heard about the comic, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take another series on. What convinced me was seeing that it was only sixty issues. One weekend later, I binge read the entire series. It wasn’t only sixty issues because it got cancelled, but because that was the end of the story. Yorick’s journey ended, and the series ended with it.

I am also currently reading Image Comics’, The Walking Dead. Although the series is longer, currently on issue 155, it is likely to be a more straightforward read than decades of comics from other characters.
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Marvel and DC titles do of course have graphic novels, or certain series for each character, like The Dark Knight Returns and the ongoing Injustice series. These stories can either be an alternate version of a character or simply an isolated story arc. These can provide a great introduction to characters but can also lose some impact for new readers. In the case of Injustice, the set up to the story is rooted in references to Doomsday and Scarecrow. If someone reading the series didn’t know the characters, then the story could lose its effectiveness. Some of these self-contained stories, do not really function as self-contained ones, still requiring some level of knowledge from other comics. Of course, this is typically only an issue for more popular characters like the Justice League, with (relatively) smaller titles such as Transmetropolitan being truly self-contained.

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With The Walking Dead and Y The Last Man, all of the world building is done within the series. There are no related tie-ins, background info or even general comic knowledge that needs to be consulted. The story can simply be followed with one issue after another, with no need to switch between events. I do not have a problem with burying myself in the history of DC and Marvel. I know that for many people, the sheer variety is what draws them to comics. They look forward to seeing how a new writer handles their favourite characters. They don’t dread having to catch up, they look forward to it. The success of Marvel and DC Comics makes it clear that many people may not even see the limited stories of Vertigo and Image as a strength. I do look forward to reading more DC and Marvel comics, and getting more caught up with the stable of writers and stories available. This viewpoint is very subjective, I only hope that readers may be able to understand my point of view.