defending the dead


April 20, 2017

Season Seven of "The Walking Dead" is a wrap, but it remains a hot topic of discussion on the fanboy sites. Probably because it's been, by far, the most controversial season of the hit series (even before it got started).


Surprisingly, many of the plot points and characters of the TV show that have divided fans (extreme and casual alike) are based on the most popular era from the source material: the comics.


Frankly, I don't get it why Season Seven has gotten (and continues to get) such a bad rap. Maybe I'll understand it better if I address some of the more common criticisms head on:


How dare they end Season Six with a cliffhanger?


I mention this first, because it is by far the most baffling. The producers of the show have taken so much guff about last season's cliffhanger that they clearly felt compelled to reassure viewers that Season Seven would not conclude the same way.


Why are cliffhangers off limits to "The Walking Dead?" Counting the minutes to see how our hero escaped imminent doom was a popular staple of our movie-going fun since the serials of the 1940s and 50s. George Lucas re-introduced the movie cliffhanger in "The Empire Strikes Back."


More recently (and relevant) on TV: "Who Shot J.R.?" introduced the nighttime soap TV season-ending cliffhanger. "Star Trek: TNG" brought the tradition to sci-fi when Picard was assimilated by the Borg. Point is, no one cried bloody murder when these and other shows used season finale cliffhangers year after year. "The Walking Dead" does it once, and suddenly loyal fans are threatening to boycott. Huh?


Less gore! More walkers! 


Again ... huh? Don't these two things go hand in hand, so to speak?


Beware SPOILERS from this point forward.


Okay, to be specific: Many fans (myself included) were horrified to see Abraham and Glenn's heads bashed in (quite graphically) by that blood-thirsty bee-yotch Lucille, at the hand of her brutal owner, Negan. But many viewers called "foul." How could something this bloody appear on basic cable? My response: Where have you been the previous five seasons? There's been plenty of blood and guts, both human and zombie alike, over the years.


As to the other argument: The scares brought on by the walkers have been pushed aside in favor of the drama of the survivors in their various settlements. This seems like an odd point of view. Current and former fans alike seem to appreciate the complexity of this world's zombie apocalypse, and the evolution of society gone mad. If you want the simplicity of zombies knocking on the door, and the humans trapped inside being picked off one by one, rewatch one of the great George Romero "Dead" flicks. (Besides, how can anyone who saw Rick and Michonne mow down about 1,000 walkers with two cars tethered together, and still complain there aren't enough zombies?)


A recommendation: "Fear the Walking Dead" might be the solution for those seeking more zombie activity. While not as good as its parent show, you might want to give it another chance if you gave up on it early.


Kill Negan!


The biggest "huh?" of all! This guy is simply the best thing to happen to "The Walking Dead!" A truly multi-faceted, fascinating and terrifying antagonist. Dare I suggest ... Negan is the "J.R. Ewing" of TWD. The man we love to hate! If TWD needed a creative boost a year ago, Negan fit the bill.


Two possible reasons some fans are calling for Negan's demise: (1) The emasculation of Rick (more on that later); and (2) Began is a one-dimensional, cartoonish, moustache-twirling villain. On the latter issue, it's simply not true. Negan has a tremendous back story, even more compelling than the Governor. All I can suggest is ... stay tuned!


Rick is such a wuss now!


Look, we all expect more from our movie and TV heroes than we expect from ourselves. I've joked that I wouldn't last five minutes in the zombie apocalypse. But Rick Grimes isn't Superman. He isn't even Batman. He's a courageous and compassionate protagonist, who is also flawed and trying to make a life for himself, his children and his followers in a dangerous world.


In the Season Seven opener, Rick met his match with Negan, and sacrificed much to secure the safety of everyone (even as those he loved, and TWD viewers, judged him harshly). Thus began the season-long journey for Rick to get back the upper hand against his new nemesis. The essence of classic drama is the evolution of the protagonist. The character of Rick has been re-invented effectively many times, and this was most effective in Season Seven. 


Too many "filler" episodes. Too slow!


All serialized seasons should be viewed as a whole, and the episodes treated as chapters in a novel. So long as every episode serves a purpose and moves the plot forward, the season as a whole is a success. 


Granted, some episodes can be clunkers. But this complaint has surfaced every year since Season Two. (Remember, the whole year was spent on Herschel's farm?) But by season's end this year, all chapters helped in the fruition of the satisfying whole.




This one is really perplexing. There have been many who have called for news about the series ending! When will the show go off the air? When is the final episode? The questions are posed to build renewed anticipation. 


I don't know about y'all, but I like my favorite shows to go on for a long time. I was overjoyed to learn that "The Big Bang Theory" has been renewed for two more season (11 and 12). I have no desire to hear that it will end its run after that.


Like others, I don't want a show to overstay its welcome. But TWD is still going strong. The Season Eight opener will mark the series' 100th episode. At that point, many series are beginning to fade a bit. But there's still a lot of life left in this old girl, as well as it's comic book source material. Personally, I think the forthcoming seasons will kick butt!


Having said that ...


I do have some thoughts on how TWD can be made even better. Hopefully, these suggestions will be regarded as constructive criticisms, and not fall into the currently popular "haters gonna hate" category.


Reduce groan-inducing lapses in logic and character consistency. When fellow fans ask me why Negan doesn't punish or kill those who make attempts on his life, I have no answer. Example: Rosita takes a shot at Negan, and he lets her go, giving her another chance to blow his brains out later. This kind of unpredictable reaction can enhance Negan's character, but not to the point of being reckless and, yes, stupid.


Continue to thin out some of the more useless characters. Yes, they had to release Sasha (or rather, the actress who played her) since Sonequa Martin-Green is the lead in the upcoming "Star Trek: Discovery" series. But truth be told: Sasha had served her purpose as a character. Likewise, the soldiers killed who were part of the Kingdom. They served the story, and now they're gone. Who should be next to go? Gregory, current leader (and I call him "leader" loosely) of the Hilltop. Keeping characters lean and mean will keep storylines tight and exciting.


Use the time jump from the comics. Season Eight will be the "all-out war" began in this season's finale. Following the guide from the comics, there should a time jump of a few years after the war. This will show us more of the evolution of the world after the coming of the zombie apocalypse.


Ground Carl! How many times has Rick's No. 1 son resulted in mayhem and near-disaster, because he was allowed to wander off unsupervised? Time to put the kid on lock-down for a couple of weeks and make him think about what he's done!


Bring on Season Eight (and Season Nine, etc.)!


As of this writing, a Writers strike may delay the scheduled October start date of Season Eight. Lord, say it isn't so!


Regardless of when Season Eight begins, we'll have to see how it's received on the fanboy sites!