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.
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?
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.
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?