I caved. I caved and I’m sorry.
The plan, after the abysmal sixth season and even worse finale of THE WALKING DEAD, was to wash my hands of the whole thing and move on. I had wasted too much time on this. That was the plan. However, my morbid curiosity got the better of me. After all, I had put so much time into this and I wanted to see if they could pull a rabbit out of the hat, I wanted to see if they could correct the mistakes of years past. I mean, who knows, perhaps they realised the error of their ways — they had been getting a lot of flak for last season. So I caved. I gave in and I watched the premiere. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but it did grip me.
I wanted a Don Quixote. That’s what I asked for. The show needed someone or something to come along and save it from itself. The show needed someone to come along and trim the fat. The show needed someone to help wipe the slate clean. THE WALKING DEAD needed a savior, a Don Quioxte. That is what had to happen. It’s what needed to happen for years.
Well, it appears our hero has arrived. When Negan started swinging his bat however, I momentarily regretted my prayers. “Not like this”, I thought to myself as Abraham’s skull caved in on itself. “This is too much”, I muttered as Glenn’s eye jutted out from his broken face.
The extreme violence and gore worked as an excellent cover to mask the real issues at play here. Firstly, it clouded desires for what we all know needed to happen and secondly, it provided a distraction from the shows previous failures. However, no matter how grotesque Negan’s slaughter of Glenn and Abraham was, it didn’t change the fact that heads had to roll and it doesn’t change the fact that TWD has failed us time after time.
I’d rather I hadn’t seen the horrors on display, but this was a step that had to be taken. TWD has lacked the gumption over past seasons to make any real decisions. It’s lacked the bravery to kill of its main heroes, so in that sense, Negan’s actions are most than welcome. Is it enough? No, not by itself. Backsliding is still a possibility. In fact, it’s large probability. The evidence doesn’t suggest things won’t go back to the way they were before. TWD clearly doesn’t care about resolution (by itself not a bad thing) or character satisfaction. If they did, they wouldn’t have strung characters like Glenn along, constantly teasing us only to brutalise him later for no reason. What happened here was only to placate us, we were pandered to with blood and viscera in order to keep us quite, a token of apology for the show’s past sins. We were thrown a severed head so we would stop remarking about the shows effete nature.
So if this was just a gesture, why should we believe that anything has actually changed? Why should we believe that this anything more than a potemkin offering? Well, we shouldn’t. We need evidence. TWD has to — and I say this begrudgingly — keep the Negan war path going. There is fat still to be trimmed. To its credit, this episode did surprise me. I was at a place of such disillusionment that my faith was zero that anything worthwhile would be accomplished here. A character death of the stature of Abraham was the best I could hope for, the fact they actually went through with the slaying of Glenn was a shock.
I didn’t think they had it in them. This had an instant cause and effect. When Negan was threatening Rick to maim Carl, I actually thought it could happen. Something that would never have been possible only became comprehensible because of what had just transpired. To go that step further and have Rick take that swing at his son perhaps would have sealed the deal, but at least going forward, we will now have that fear factor, that hint of doubt over what might happen. This was imperative to achieve, this feeling had to be brought back for the show to survive. So kudos to them, but work is left to do.
I am still to be wholly convinced, the next few episodes will tell much. I have a feeling things will go quiet for some time and a fear that nothing of this like will arrive again. But at least there is something to fear. The zombies have long since posed any real threat; the show needed Negan, so hopefully he is utilized correctly. One problem however, is if you introduce a character operating at ten, there is nowhere to go but down. If he continues in fifth gear, his actions will become numbing and meaningless. His character has revealed all his cards.
Perhaps Negan needs to be a sacrificial lamb, whose only mission should be to cleanse the show of its failures. Whatever they decide to do now, whatever direction they take, they have my attention again, for now anyway. They have taken the right step, it is far too long overdue, but at least they have taken it. I’ve been burned so many times; I am now nothing but charred skin. THE WALKING DEAD can’t hurt me anymore, but they can win me back, though it has to happen now.
A lot has been said about the violence during this episode, about how extreme it was, about its gratuitous nature. While yes, it was shocking and hard to watch, this for me is an absolute non issue.
Violence should always be violent. To make violence not violent is to down play its seriousness and to be immoral. Violence should disturb you, it should upset you. Violence is an awful thing and must retain its power over us. This must always be the case.
There is so much ‘violence’ in film and TV these days and nearly all of it is neutered, lacking blood, seriousness and any real impact or effect. Sure, TWD went about as far as you can go with this, but this is always preferable to the opposite. Violence is violent. Fact. To depict it as anything else is reckless and irresponsible.