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: 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.