The Walking Dead is nothing if not suspenseful. Their focus on distressing reveals and vague cliffhangers has definitely given the show a strong following, and has also made for some really invested fans over the years. Personally, I’ve never been as invested in a TV show as much as I am with TWD. Regardless of my growing agitation with this season’s progression, I remain hitched to the bandwagon. There has definitely been a change in the winds since the arrival of Negan. In many ways this is adding some important themes to bring the show into that next era of the apocalypse, but in many ways it’s becoming a bit ridiculous. Spoiler Alert!
This entire season strolled in off the momentum of a six month wait for the big reveal. Everyone wanted to know who the victim of Negan’s justice was. However, instead of kicking off season 7 with that long awaited moment of closure, viewers were forced to sit through another half hour of repetitive Negan speeches and pointless tests of loyalty. The entire episode basically made fans feel like they were being tortured along with Rick. This was fine for about ten minutes, but the song and dance became stale towards the middle of the episode. It’s becoming more obvious by minute that TWD writers are leaning too heavily on their info rationing. This is causing fluff writing to make its way on screen.
Sure enough, the opening episode served as an accurate indicator of how the entire season would behave from that point on. Most of the episodes jumped from character to character, barely resting on the main cast. Since last year we’ve been given nothing but long, silently dramatic screenings of this person from the hilltop, and that person from the Kingdom, and these people over at Negan’s compound. The time we did get to spend with the Alexandria crew was mostly concentrated on people like Morgan, Gabriel, and Tera. I’m not saying these characters don’t have backstory to tell, but when that’s all you’re getting you start to feel cheated. This backstory trope has become a signature move for the show that’s starting to feel far too routine. In the most recent episode, “The Other Side,” we were given a whole lot of background on Rosita. The big issue here is that she has been around for quite some time, and is just now getting that exposure. Most fans have probably gathered that she isn’t that strong of a lead character from her developments following Abraham’s death, so it forces the question, “is this really important?”
In the midst of this underwhelming season we’ve experienced some real eye-rolling moments as well. In the 8th episode, “Hearts Still Beating,” Negan pays an unexpected visit to Alexandria. As the episode drags on, Negan naturally finds cause to take out a few members of the community. Rosita decides to put her weak assassination plan into action, firing a lone bullet at the tyrant. Of course, the scene cuts to black before we know what happens; as if we can really be fooled into thinking that Negan is going to be taken out that quickly, with no huge developments happening beforehand. However, since this was not technically the end of the episode and the scene returned moments later to reveal that the bullet was blocked by his trusty companion, Lucille, the trick was forgivable.
What was not forgivable came in episode 12, “Say Yes.” Rick and Michonne, while scavenging for supplies, come across an abandoned school fair. When an attempt to shoot a stray buck goes wrong for Rick, he falls from his ferris wheel perch to the ground below. He is quickly overcome by walkers, causing Michonne to abandon her task and run to his aid. When she arrives she sees the walkers feeding on a corpse, which she assumes to be Rick. I have to ask, after all this time, after seeing every fake death and plot twist this show has to throw our way, is there any way the average viewer would fall for this obvious and desperate scare tactic? It was insulting and possibly the corniest scene I’ve witnessed during my time watching The Walking Dead.
If I analyze the season thus far, It looks to me like they’re trying to take 3-4 hours worth of content and stretch it to 16 episodes. So much time is spent on overused dialogue, long bouts of scenery, and half-baked subplots that make it feel as if they didn’t really plan out what was going to fill in those extra 12 episodes. This time could have been devoted to developing Maggie’s struggle with Gregory as the Hilltop leader, or the people of Alexandria figuring out how to cope with the new arrangements. I would have even been happier if there had been more interaction between the original members of Rick’s group. Many of them had been separated from each other in the beginning of the season, so seeing more of Rick and Daryl catching up and swapping ideas would have delivered a sense of familiarity through these compatible characters. In the end I think the show is trying to fight against its own predictability and this is causing them to resort to tricks and maneuvers to throw us off the scent. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy a lot of the season. There were some interesting dynamics to witness and now that we are reaching the climax it certainly looks like the wait will be worth it. I just hope the creators decide to change lanes for the future of this show.