Before I even begin this review, warning there are spoilers below, if you haven’t watched last night’s The Walking Dead don’t read any further.
Last season, along with its finale of The Walking Dead promised the comic’s most devilish villain Negan. All season long they stretched out his reveal and even into the season finale they stretched out the episode in order to create a forced cliff hanger.
Last season we watched for near 60 minutes as Rick and the gang drove from one road block to another (many of which they could have easily taken out Negan’s folks but did not) to eventually get captured and lead before Negan. Then after all of that we get a first person camera view as to hid the reveal of which character died so we’d all tune in to the premiere this past Sunday.
So when the episode begins do we see who died? Nope, we get a close up of Rick and Negan talking with Rick boldly saying “I’m going to kill you”. Then Negan asks for Rick’s hatchet, teasing that Rick will lose his hand, a hand the Governor took originally in the comics but the show did not follow suit. The episode hints at Rick losing his hand but never follows through and won’t because of the cost of CGI’ing his hand out, which is what the producers said originally when asked about why the Governor didn’t take Rick’s hand, which also stole from the suspense of end of the episode with Rick having to cut off Carl’s arm.
So after teasing with Rick losing a hand Negan takes Rick on a road trip in order to break him. During this Rick has an opportunity to kill Negan but didn’t. I know what you’re saying, “he went for the hatchet and Negan pulled a gun on him and ended that. Well that was before Negan was driving, and Rick could have done something while Negan was driving but didn’t. If he was tied up or something then it could have worked, but he wasn’t, he could have acted, but didn’t.
During this road trip we have the show continue to tease out who died by showing Rick having flashbacks of everyone which didn’t make sense. If they didn’t die then why is he imagining that they did. Again, he’s only doing this to tease us the viewers because the show thinks we’re idiots. In fact we’re past the 30 minute mark by the time we see Abraham get a bat to the skull, but because of this drag out of the episode (not to mention the way the season finale ended) I had lost all care for whomever it was. I felt like at this point I just wanted to get it over with so I could go to bed.
This was honestly the worst way they could have done this. When you drag a character’s death out like that it takes away from it because as viewers we’re just waiting for it and preparing. Maybe to me the two best deaths (if you can call it that) were Beth and Noah. We didn’t see it coming, it was sudden and impactful because we weren’t ready for it. When you have an entire spring and summer to think about it, then the episode drags it out we lose sympathy.
The show thought it was being crafty with Negan killing Abraham instead of Glenn, as if it was saying “see we don’t have to follow the comic!” But that’s not really true, since last season’s arrow through the eye of Denise was actually supposed to be Abraham so we were just making his death last a little bit longer, and then Daryl goes nuts and that’s when Negan keeps his promise of squashing that by beating in Glenn’s head. As if to say “TWO DEATHS, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!” though not really. Pretty much everyone guessed it was going to be either of those two. Also, Glenn’s death had less of an impact because of his “false death” last season. A lot of viewers had already gone through that and now that he finally died, in this dragged out manner it had less of an affect.
Here is what I would have done in the matter of Negan. I wouldn’t have ended last season with us not knowing who died, I would have shown it then and the cliff hanger would have been how would the group would react and this method would have worked well considering that the show runners’ idea of “shock” was two deaths. Also, killing of Abrham, a character who lasted an episode longer than he did in the comics was kind of a cop-out. If the show wanted teeth, if it wanted to have not only an impactful death from the characters and the audience than a different character should have been picked, one no one would have guessed, especially since everyone was guessing Abraham and Glenn.
Rick was obviously out as someone who they could have killed since he’s the “main character” and this show isn’t written in a way where we feel “no one is safe”. There are certain characters who are “safe”. We also knew Maggie and Carl were safe in this episode because they wouldn’t kill a teen who was a main character and wouldn’t kill a pregnant main character. Also we know the show doesn’t have the balls to kill off their most popular character in Daryl, a character who doesn’t appear in the comics and his death would be a surprise to the viewers and readers alike.
Glenn’s death was the first death of character from the first season we’ve had in a while. Every other death has been a character recently introduced and has just seem to be there for fodder. His death could have held more weight if, like mentioned above, we didn’t get his “fake-out death” a season ago, if issue 100 of TWD wasn’t so big and that we all know he died in that issue, and if it wasn’t dragged out. Having him die in the season finale we would waited all off-season to digest it, and wonder how Rick and the Gang would have handled it. That way we have Glenn dying like in the comics and then at the start of this season Daryl freaks out and gets Abraham killed. The show runners get their double Negan deaths and we the viewers get two better paced episodes. The worst part of the season finale and last night’s premiere was the fact that they were 60 minutes each but in reality were just stretched out 10 minute episodes, much like how last season stretched out Negan’s reveal. The show drags along the viewer with a carrot dangling and lately that carrot has been “who dies next” instead of an actual on going plot.
Back in season one the show had a focus thanks to show runner and director Frank Darabont. He had a plan and focus for season one. It was at first about Rick finding his family and then once he joined up with the group it was about getting to the CDC as a permanent home and a possible place to find a cure. In fact he had a great plan for the opener to season two involving the zombie tank driver Rick encounters in Atlanta. However AMC, the show creators didn’t like the path Darabont wanted to take the show (because a direction for a dramatic series is frowned upon I guess) and fired him. So now, we’re treated to seasons of either the cast wondering from location to location or having to face a “big bad”. Wash, rinse, repeat and you have The Walking Dead since season 3. Not to say there has not been a few gems in there, the Governor’s redemption episode was one of the best in the series, but the last two seasons those moments are few and far between. The show has lost focus on character and is more about shock factor now than ever and it’s hurting the show.
In the end if you get past the “Glenn died” factor of this episode, a death we saw coming a mile away, then you’d see it for what it was, a premier that dragged itself out to 60 minutes when what it covered could have been done in the opening segment and we could have gotten more this episode and sadly I see that happening for the entire season now. In the end I give this episode a 5 out of 10.