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Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

‘The Walking Dead’ Season 7 Review

Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Waking Dead Season 7.

I love The Walking Dead.

My Media Medusa co-worker, Louis Martin, has said that the violence in The Walking Dead premiere didn’t bother him because he doesn’t think of The Walking Dead characters as anything but shallow caricatures. Bullshit, Martin! Those people are my friends! Glenn was there in the first episode! I feel like Glenn helped me to move into the practical points of the zombie apocalypse. Sure, I didn’t love Abraham, but he had levels! And phrasing! “Mother dick!”

Anyway, the first thing you should know about Martin is that even though this is all virtual, he’s the guy who leaves the smelly organic mush in the fridge that makes everyone else’s food taste like gym shoes from the ‘80s smelled.

In other words, I’m here to tell you, fellow The Walking Dead fans, that the violence in the premiere bothered me a lot. The show went very far out of their way to make the death of Abraham very, very disturbing with minutes and minutes of bad guy Negan whacking an already smashed head. I can still hear the sound effects! My wife, the lovely Kelly, was traumatized by how revolting it was. And then, THEY DID IT ALL AGAIN when they smashed in poor Glenn’s head, reveling in it, whack, whack, whack, very disturbing.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

If you don’t know what I’m taking about, The Walking Dead spent their season finale and subsequent premiere showing us that Negan and his Saviors were not only bad dudes, but also legion. Rick tried to find a way around them, but kept getting caught up in their net, until Negan had him and his merry band of survivors on their knees waiting for the psychotic leader of the Saviors, Negan, to make an example of one of them. Negan chose Abraham, killed him, and then when Daryl cold-cocked Negan, Negan killed Glen.

So, first I’m going to give the show some credit.

They made me feel something I rarely have felt watching a television show, traumatized. The story was full-on David Lynch, more interested in making you feel something than telling any kind of coherent story. By the end of that show, I was ready for Rick to submit to Negan. And I felt like I had too. But like many a Lynch movie, the show did it at the expense of story. I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare, but that’s the whole show anyway! There are zombies! The show felt like it had to really underline that if Rick didn’t submit to the Saviors, every one of his group would be killed.

And okay, I buy it for the moment. But I feel like all the hard work on the producers was kind of dumb. I don’t think anyone out there thinks, okay, Rick is going to be under Negan’s thumb from now on. They had a good run, but now it’s a show about a group of people who have to work for a psychopath. No one believes that. It’s still, “How are they going to get out of this?”

And back to the disturbing death of Abraham and Glenn, “too gross” can be bad. I’m not sure where the line between good taste and bad taste is on a zombie cannibal show, and maybe this line doesn’t exist on The Walking Dead. But trying to find moments of class is especially important for the The Walking Dead since they have the chops to make the show as gross as it can be with some of the best effects ever on TV. The special effects guy, Greg Nicotero, is one of the producers. He does a great job and the episodes he directs are often the season’s highlights. But I imagine Greg is always thinking of grosser and grosser things. And I didn’t like the extended melon smashing. Remember in Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal Lecter would, say, flense someone, but you couldn’t quite see it? I’m not saying that The Walking Dead needs to be Remains of the Day, but they could very easily become The Toxic Avenger if they don’t show some self-control on gross stuff.

Danai Gurira as Michonne - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

But my issue is not that the episode was gross, it’s that the tail was wagging the dog.

Remember last season’s finale? The whole episode was designed to show us that the Saviors were badasses. There was a lot of driving an RV and finding out that the escape route was blocked. And then the first episode of this season was all showing that Negan beat Rick, and that Rick was well and truly part of the fold. But, oddly, that’s almost too arty for the show, taking two hours of TV to establish what the character would do. We need some plot! The plot was, Rick tried to get Maggie to another settlement for medical attention, his path was blocked, and then they were stopped by Negan. So I need more to happen.

So how was the rest of the season?

Oddly, I think the show is at it’s best when it’s working as a soap opera. Not necessarily in the sense of who is hooking up with who, but rather why do people do things and for whom? Obviously, a lot of what Rick does is for Karl and his baby, Judith. That’s the kind of relationships I’m interested in. And it’s possible that The Walking Dead Season 7 has given me way too much of that in subsequent episodes. They just keep introducing new places, like the Kingdom with their tiger-taming leader, King Ezekiel; gyno-centric Oceanside with their traumatized leader, Natania; we even visited the Saviors as the show attempted to get us to see that Dwight wasn’t such a bad guy. Nice try! He’s the worst. I don’t care if he was sort of nice to his ex-wife! He delights in other people’s misery!

We also re-visted the Hilltop community and Alexandria to see how their lives were under Negan’s thumb. In short, the whole rest of the season has just been piling up plot as ambiance. I really enjoyed the snapshot of the Kingdom, but I’m going to forget who all those people are if we don’t see them again. The Walking Dead Season 7 is obviously building up to some epic TV. But they are doing so brick-by-brick with no subtlety as story tellers.

And that’s weird, because the show is really setting the quality bar high on production values, acting, and directing. The Season 6 finale and Season 7 premiere offered a unique television experience, just building and building tension and disgust. But they need to get story going again! I like that Jesus and Carl are on the truck, but it was frustrating to not find out anything at all about them during this last episode.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Griffin Freeman as Mark, Tim Parati as Dr Emmit Carson - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

One thing about The Walking Dead is that even though it’s one of my favorite shows, if someone hasn’t watched it, I almost never recommend it as a binge.

So much of what happened over the years was preposterous and I only stuck with it because I didn’t know what was coming and by the time I realized it had been bad for five episodes, they had usually course-corrected.

But the bottom line is, the The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere did bother me and it made me sick. But not so sick that I’m going to stop watching. And I agree with my esteemed colleague, Martin, that the show is trying to raise the bar on disgusting and I wish they didn’t feel like they had to do that. I enjoy the show pieces, the downed helicopter on the roof of a store leaps to mind, but don’t need for them to think of more and more disgusting ways to kill my favorite characters. The deaths themselves are traumatizing enough. We don’t need to dwell on the details.

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Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

‘The Walking Dead:’ How Far Can We Go?

A lot has already been written about how grim and disgusting the Season 7 opener of The Walking Dead was. There are plenty of things that I find disgusting and the older I get, the longer the list gets. But this episode did not really bother me in the same way that it has bothered most. Spoilers follow…

We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Armageddon

Certainly, seeing Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) get their heads bashed in was gross, but it was not the gut punch that others have described. I believe that is partly because these are not “real” characters to me. I’ve written in other reviews about my hopes and disappointments with this show. In short, The Walking Dead has fallen far short of creating characters with depth that resonate with me.

So in moments like this, I tend to be detached from the on-screen action, thinking about actors’ choices and what was said in the writers’ room. On this show I often wonder if the writers see it all as over-the-top, giving a wink and smirk at the camera. But then I think the actors get these ridiculous and extreme situations and try to play it straight, taking it all too seriously.

As a result, I was watching Glenn and feeling more sorry for Yeun who was trying to play the scene straight, wearing the most ridiculous horror makeup, and trying to connect with his fellow actors.

A lot of this boils down to a tone that is part comic book/horror film sensibility–with tons of gross-out and nuh-uh moments–and part melodrama from the silent film era.

Nobody throws their head back and brings their wrist to their forehead to communicate despair, but it gets close sometimes.

What is disturbing to me is a continuation of a project that began in horror films but is now mainstream entertainment. That project is: how far can we go? I get the feeling that some TV producers are sitting in a conference room wondering how they can one-up The Walking Dead. Now that they’ve beaten two main characters to death with a baseball bat in terrible, gory detail, what’s next?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Michael Cudlitz as Sgt. Abraham Ford, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee - The Walking Dead Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

There’s no crying in baseball!

I remember in the 1980s, there were two movies that used the crushed skull for effect. In Platoon, inexperienced Taylor (Charlie Sheen) watches Bunny (Kevin Dillon) pummel a disabled villager with his rifle butt. After a blow to the man’s cheek, the camera cuts away, and Bunny says, “Did you see that fucking head come apart?”

I think me and everybody else was horrified and rightly so.

This was a movie based on real experiences, and director Oliver Stone wanted to bring an authentic experience to the screen. Even at that age, I had seen a lot of disturbing stuff, but I still cringed and was revolted by the violence and the sadism.

The other movie was The Untouchables. Even before I saw the movie, I heard about the infamous scene of Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) killing a man with a baseball bat. This was also one of the most violent scenes of the decade in a mainstream movie. Again, it was based on real events, but Capone was cartoonish and exaggerated. Still, after the last bat swing, viewers are left with an overhead shot of man laying on the table, a pool of blood quickly spreading.

Both of those scenes seem quaint now.

Needless to say, The Walking Dead went much, much further with crushed heads, gross sounds, and plenty of gore. Somewhere on a schoolyard, a 14-year-old is telling his friends, “Oh man! It was so nasty! You should have seen it!” His friends now must test their mettle by watching the scene as soon as they can watch it surreptitiously behind their parents’ backs.

That doesn’t bother me as much as a producer saying the same thing to his showrunner. They are wondering how their next gross-out scene can “go viral.”

What is more troubling is how many people are anxious to plumb the depths with them. How far can we all go?

Michael Cudlitz as Sgt. Abraham Ford - The Walking Dead Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Please, suh, may I have some more?

I have really enjoyed a lot of AMC’s original programming like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, two shows that have a place in TV history. But every so often I remember that American Movie Classics was known for showing Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies and appealing to senior citizens.

Now it regularly shows scenes of extreme graphic violence that are far more explicit and horrific than the most violent scenes I can recall from 1980s R-rated movies. And I sit on the couch watching, nonplussed. It does give me pause.

The Walking Dead Wallpaper

5 Worst ‘The Walking Dead’ Scenes Ever

I’m looking forward to The Walking Dead returning this fall, but I’m also bracing myself for ridiculousness. The Walking Dead has a long history of plotlines building to climactic moments that are puzzling, bizarre, and just plain stupid. This got me to thinking about the five worst The Walking Dead scenes ever in zombie apocalypse history. Here are mine.


#5 Don’t you hate it when your wife leaves the lights on?

Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln)

Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) / ‘The Walking Dead’ / AMC

Right out of the gate, I was about to turn this show off when Rick and Shane (Andrew Lincoln and Jon Bernthal) had some guy talk when they were still just a couple of Georgia cops before the dead were walking. The two of them talked about the challenges of marriage, and it seemed to boil down to: wives leave the darn lights on even when they get up and leave the room. Why the heck can’t they just turn the light off? The scene left me wondering whether any of the writers, directors, or actors had ever been married or had ever talked to married people. Perhaps this was to exaggerate the banality of life before the zombies, but it just came off as stupid to me.

#4 Did Beth just get shot?

Emily Kinney as Beth Greene - The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Emily Kinney as Beth Greene / ‘The Walking Dead’ / Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

I think this moment bothered me more than most. Beth (Emily Kinney) spent Season 5 held against her will in “Slabtown,” a hospital taken over by a tyrannical cop named Dawn (Christine Woods). And just when the heroes were about to whisk her to safety, Beth decides to stick it to Dawn, literally, which causes Dawn to shoot upwards, killing Beth in the process. Everything about this was frustrating to me—the motivations of the characters, the pointlessness of the plotline, and the execution of the action. Sitting on my couch, I literally said, “What?”

#3 Zombie in the well.

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) - The Walking Dead - Season 4 _ Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) / ‘The Walking Dead’ / Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Much has already been written about the regrettable time we spent on Hershel’s farm. Not only did we have to rehash the same arguments with Rick and Shane and Lori over and over and twiddle our thumbs while we pondered the meaning of life after the zombie apocalypse, but there was also some riveting problem-solving. Now, I’m one who tends to like figuring out how to survive in the apocalypse. I would actually enjoy an episode about the challenges of, say, building an irrigation system with primitive tools while fending off the walkers. But spending an entire episode trying to get a zombie out of a well only to have it break in half and pollute the water supply? Ugh.

#2 Glen under the dumpster.

Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 7 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee / ‘The Walking Dead’ / Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

This is a no brainer. Did anybody really think Glen (Steven Yeun) was actually dead with their sleight of hand photography? When the camera zoomed out, I scoffed. I don’t watch the after shows. But I understand that there was some mock sadness from producers, etc., about Glen’s death, as well as some hints that he might not be dead—or something like that. But this show is about trying to make the characters seem expendable and putting them in peril in order to build suspense. When you fake out your viewers like this, it cheapens all the other moments when you hope to have them on the edge of their seats. It will be some time before The Walking Dead viewers fall for it again.

#1 The Governor kills his own army.

The Governor (David Morrissey) - The Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Governor (David Morrissey) / ‘The Walking Dead’ / Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

This was classic The Walking Dead idiotic storytelling. We spent so much time building up to the big battle, building up the evilness of the Governor, building up the threat to our heroes, and building up their vulnerability to an attack. Would they survive? Then, it was almost like AMC took another look at their bank account balance and said, “How much is a big battle going to cost us? Wouldn’t it be just as cool if the Governor ‘s army questions the wisdom of attacking and then he just guns them all down?” No. It was not just as cool. It was one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in a long time. And it was made even dumber by repeating the whole plotline the next year and having the big battle scene then.

The Walking Dead Season 6 was really good. They did a lot of the things that we’ve been hoping for. They had plots that more or less made sense. And they built up to another climactic moment—although they kind of bungled that by having the climax wait until minute 1 of the first episode of Season 7. But I’m really hoping that I don’t have to revise this Top Five Worst The Walking Dead Scenes list anytime soon.

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Are these the 5 Worst Scenes from 'The Walking Dead'?

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