First and Foremost: SPOILER ALERT!!! There will be MAJOR SEASON 7 SPOLIERS about AMC's The Walking Dead (TWD) in this blog; so if you have not seen the Season 6 ending episode and the Season 7 opening episode, then I highly suggest that you stop reading now. Seriously. STOP. READING. NOW.
Okay, now that this blog should be limited to just the people WHO HAVE ALREADY SEEN THE SEASON 7 OPENING EPISODE, I shall continue.
I like a good television series. And I like zombies. So the fact that I would like a good television series about zombies seems like a no-brainer. (No pun intended for the zombie genre. Well, maybe just a little.)
Anyway, there have been very few times when I have become completely disillusioned with a television series at the height of its popularity, but that has just happened with the opening episode of TWD's seventh season. Although to be honest, my dislike for the series started at the end of the previous season. But I have kept my silence over the past several months because I wanted to see how this new season would start out; and now that I have watched the opening episode, I'm done with the series.
To put it mildly, I wasn't just disappointed with the final episode of TWD Season 6, I was irate. I was angry. Infuriated. Enraged. Incensed. Those of you who have followed TWD since its inception know why, and for those that don't - for the final episode of Season 6, some Hollywood idiot decided that it would be funny to kill off a major character. That's not a big deal for TWD, which has always made it clear that it will kill off a major character with no mercy. But this series-killing poop-for-brains decided to end the show with a cliffhanger about who died - so TWD's message it fans was, "We just killed someone important, and it's probably a character that you love, but we're going to make you wait six months to know who it was. Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah."
But it was worse than that, because the pace of the show had slowed to a long, monotonous crawl toward that final scene, which was probably because some mentally-deficient Hollywood executive thought that it would create dramatic tension. But it didn't. What it created was apathy. This particular episode was easily a 60-minute show which had been dragged out to 90 minutes just to sell more advertising space, so by the final scene I really didn't care anymore. We fans knew someone was going to die; TWD is very bad about telegraphing that. Almost every episode where someone important has died on TWD has been incredibly predictable; that was also true for the Season 7 opener, but I'll come back to that later. (By the way, the TV series Lost was much the same way; it was blatantly obvious when someone important was going to die. TWD's creators should learn from Lost's mistakes, not repeat them.)
Getting back to the main point, when the death scene finally happened, it was done through the eyes of the victim, where the person being killed watches as the newly-introduced evil-bad-dude-Negan beats him to death with a baseball bat. I believe this cinematic approach to a character's death was also supposed to create additional tension; but once again, it failed to do so. It merely added to the annoyance. And hearing the evil-bad-dude-Negan continue to bash in the skull of the unidentified victim as people screamed in the background while the scene faded to black simply sealed the fate of this television show instead of sealing the fate for evil-bad-dude-Negan's intended target.
When that episode had ended, I was furious. I was exasperated. I was offended. However, within a few days it was a small consolation to learn that I was not the only fan who thought this was one of the worst season finales in the history of television; fans and critics alike exploded with thousands of angry reviews, blogs, tweets, etc. Here are just a few:
As you can see, there was no shortage of loathing for the way that season finale was envisioned and how it played out on screen. Things were so bad that one of the show's creators, Robert Kirkman, apologized to fans:
That was a half-hearted apology at best, but it reveals something very important about the people who are guiding TWD - they really do not understand their fanbase.
Let me put it this way, killing a major character in a television series is a big deal. When you're in charge of the creative vision for a series, you can kill off a major character when necessary, and you can make it a painful experience for your fans, but you have to respect your fans when you do it. The Season 6 finally could have ended with evil-bad-dude-Negan choosing his intended victim, then perhaps changing the camera view to the victim's eyes to see the bat extended at that victim's face (as in the original finale), and then cutting to black. That would have had the same cliffhanger effect, and a lot of fans would still have been unhappy about having to wait to see who gets killed. But the way the show actually ended - killing the character anonymously - was way over the top; it was extremely unfair to its fans. This was abundantly evident during the few weeks after the Season 6 finale had aired; my wife and I heard dozens of people exclaiming that they were done with the series, and we met dozens more fans who - like me - were ready to quit the show, but thought that they would at least wait to see the Season 7 opening episode to decide whether to stop watching. But now that I have seen that episode, I am done with TWD.
AND NOW I WILL REALLY DELVE INTO SEASON 7 SPOILERS.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Over the ensuing months, there was a fair amount of online debate over who evil-bad-dude-Negan was going to kill. Although for me, there was no debate; I knew that it was going to be Glenn or Abraham. Everyone else was easily ruled out:
- Some people were redshirts, (e.g. Aaron, and possibly Rosita or Eugene), so the audience wouldn't care enough if any of them died, and certainly not enough to warrant a cliffhanger death, so their deaths would simply have been a let down.
- It couldn't any of the women (e.g. Michonne, Maggie, or Sasha) simply because that just wouldn't be right; any of them could die in a different situation, and that might still happen, but not (SPOILERS!!!) execution style. (e.g. It was heartbreaking yet acceptable when Beth's, Lori's, and Andrea's characters died.)
- It is similar for Carl; an execution style death would be wrong. (Although killing an unarmed teenager would have amazing shock effect; but no - it's still wrong.)
- It simply wasn't going to be Rick or Daryl; like it or not, they are the show's predominate characters, and TWD's creators would have to be even stupider than they already are to attempt killing one of them. And besides, you can't kill Rick or Daryl... just because you can't.
That left Abraham or Glenn, and things weren't going in Glenn's favor since his death at the hand's of evil-bad-dude-Negan happened in this exact scene in the graphic novel upon which the television series is based.
But here's where the show's creators - once again - seriously screwed their fans. In an effort to keep their fans' unhappiness in check, the show's creators had promised in several interviews that they would reveal everything in the starting moments of the Season 7 opener; but they didn't. They didn't reveal that (SPOILERS!!!) Abraham had died until more than 21 minutes of the show had gone by. (That's if you count time for commercials, which I do since I watched the show live.)
Although at the beginning of the show viewers did see the aftermath of Abraham's death - because his brain and skull fragments were copiously littering the ground around the surviving protagonists. So not only did the episode not reveal who had died as promised, but the show's creators masked Abraham's demise in the most-gross fashion as possible.
Now, let me be honest here - if you are watching a show about zombies, you should expect there to be a lot of gore. There could be gore from half-rotting zombies walking around, or gore from zombies eating humans, or gore from humans killing zombies, or gore from humans killing humans. To reiterate, if you're watching a show about zombies, it's just going to be gross. And I will admit, over the past 35 years I have watched a lot of movies and shows about zombies... LOTS. AND. LOTS. OF. ZOMBIE. SHOWS. In addition, there was a time in my life when I wanted to be one of the the guys doing the makeup for zombies in these movies, and I have done my fair share of creating zombies for haunted houses in the past.
Having said that, when the show finally got around to replaying Abraham's execution in a flashback sequence, TWD's special effects department left out no amount of abhorrent minutia from viewers when the time came to show Abraham's death - you watched Abraham get hit with a baseball bat again, and again, and again, and again, again, again, again... for a total of 18 times over three minutes of spare-no-detail carnage, until Abraham's brains and skull were a gigantic mess of bloodied pulp lying on the ground next to Rick and the rest of the group.
THIS. WAS. TOTALLY. UNNECESSARY.
Seriously, there are a lot of other ways that this death scene could have been handled. However, as it was shown, this scene might have garnered an NC-17 rating if it had been played in movie theaters. As I said earlier, in a show about zombies, I expect a lot of gore, and this series has provided plenty of it. But this was too much. Way too much.
And then, surprise, surprise, the show's creator's decided to throw their viewers a curveball a few minutes later by (SPOILERS!!!) killing Glenn IN ALMOST THE EXACT SAME DEATH SEQUENCE. Once again, TWD's special effects department spared nothing from their viewers as evil-bad-dude-Negan hit Glenn with a baseball bat again, and again, and again, and again, again, again, again... for a total of 17 times over two minutes of let's-see-how-gross-we-can-make-this drama. In the end, viewers were treated with one scene of Glenn pitifully gurgling to Maggie with a half-bashed-in skull, and another scene of Glenn's skull and brains scattered randomly around the ground as his headless and near-lifeless body continued to spasm involuntarily while evil-bad-dude-Negan walked away with bloodied fragments of Glenn's scalp hanging precipitously from his baseball bat.
THIS. WAS. ALSO. TOTALLY. UNNECESSARY.
The amount of carnage displayed in these two deaths was so far beyond what was needed to solidify evil-bad-dude-Negan's character as the worst villain in TWD's television series that it borders on cinematic negligence. (Seriously, Hollywood would probably be better if fans were able to sue a show's creators when they've totally lost their vision. Are there any Castle fans reading this? If so, you know exactly what I mean.)
Let me explain something that TWD's intellectually-deficient creative staff does not seem to understand: well-loved characters in a television series are like family or friends to their fans; we invest a lot of time in these characters, we're happy to see them every week, and we hope that they will return each season. While it is painful to see a favorite character leave a series, we understand that these things happen; some actors are swayed by more-lucrative contracts, creative differences cause some people to leave a series, other actors like George Clooney and Charlie Sheen get too full of themselves and need to go, etc.
However, to gratuitously murder two beloved characters in such a prolonged, heinous and disgusting manner is inexcusable. Killing Abraham because you needed to kill a major character is sad but understandable given the apocalyptic setting of the series, and killing Glenn simply because most fans wouldn't see it coming was taking an understandable risk for the shock value, but it could have been done better. MUCH, MUCH BETTER. Neither Abraham's nor Glenn's deaths needed to show several minutes of cranial evisceration; Abraham could have died as the result of several blows to the head without the unnecessary level of detail, and I personally think that it would have been more effective if evil-bad-dude-Negan had simply spun around quickly and shot Glenn without forcing the audience to suffer through yet another long monologue from evil-bad-dude-Negan about why he is such an evil, bad dude. This would have resulted in a more-shocking and totally unexpected immediate death for Glenn, and I think no one would have seen it coming. However, in the episode that was aired, TWD once again telegraphed that Glenn was going to die long before evil-bad-dude-Negan had even swung the bat. How disappointing.
I know that the show's creators really needed to introduce evil-bad-dude-Negan since he is so critical to the graphic novel series and fans have been waiting for him to appear, but I should point out something else as a fan of TWD which is very important: I'm bored with the series. TWD is hideously formulaic; it used to be about killing zombies, now it's just about bringing in a new villain every season or two. JUST. LIKE. EVERY. OTHER. DRAMA. SERIES.
How about introducing something new? Like a new strain of zombie? Or someone who's learned how to control zombies? Or a discovery that there's a major collection of survivors somewhere trying to band together and eradicate all the zombies? Or how about people who are actually the "good guys" and they don't like Rick and company because they've actually been pretty awful characters for quite some time? Or maybe someone who's working on a cure? Or... anything other than yet another evil-bad-dude-villian. (Although a really evil-bad-female-villian would be great; sort of an anti-Michonne.)
However, the people in charge of TWD's production seem to lack the psychological fortitude that is required to take the show in a new direction, so it seems like Season 7 is just going to be more of the same; an evil-bad-dude-villian gets the upper hand, but eventually our heroes overcome all obstacles and they move on to the next evil-bad-dude-villian.
So as far as the Season 7 opener is concerned, I think the people who created it should be ashamed; and quite frankly, I think that this is the beginning of the end for TWD. I know that I - for one - have already removed TWD from my DVR schedule, and I highly recommend that others do the same. It was a good run while it lasted, but for all intents and purposes, it looks like The Walking Dead is over; I guess it's time to get used to it. While the series continues, I will periodically check the episode synopses on Wikipedia in order to see what happens to the characters about whom I am still interested; because I still care about these characters, but not enough to actually watch the show.