Its time for The Walking Dead to put up or shut up

first_img Top Movie and TV Trailers You Might Have Missed This WeekTop Movie and TV Trailers to Watch From SDCC 2019 At the end of this season, The Walking Dead will have given us 99 episodes. The season 8 premiere will be the 100th. When TWD producer and director Greg Nicotero gave that fact during The Walking Dead panel in a packed-to-the-gills Madison Square Garden (during this year’s New York Comic-Con), it struck me how little of this post-apocalyptic reality we’ve actually seen in that time; how narrow and frustrating a scope we’ve all been living in as viewers. In this great big world full of zombies, The Walking Dead has given us over 4,000 minutes of television and all we’ve seen is Atlanta, a whole bunch of Georgia forest, some small towns here and there, and now a chunk of Virginia. All following the same cast of rotating characters, picking them off conveniently when the plot needs a boost instead of tying them into something bigger.This upcoming season is set up to finally be different. I really, truly hope The Walking Dead is about to give us the kind of season showrunner Scott Gimple has been promising since he took the wheel and began righting Frank Darabont’s ship. After a clown car of inept showrunners steered the show far too deep into schlock and facepalming predictability, Gimple has done a half-decent job of bringing some depth, complex plotting, and actual surprises back to the show. But Scott, it’s season 7. It’s time to stop stalling. The Walking Dead is one of those shows that has somehow always managed to Godfather Part III me the handful of times I’ve been ready to give up on it. After the Sophia farm quagmire, the horde attack pulled me back in. After all that goddamn nonsense with The Governor, we got Terminus, the arrival of Abraham, and a much-needed infusion of fresh blood. After forcing Beth’s death in the show’s maddening m/o of developing a character just to ax them, Alexandria and the show’s larger end-game kept me invested. That end-game is what I want from season 7. Though before we even get to that, there’s Gimple’s crutch of stalling to deal with. What I want to focus on this season is the fact that the show has finally developed a post-apocalyptic world of warring, bartering city-states. After framing a show about the zombie apocalypse largely through tunnel vision with brief glimpses of a bigger picture, now we’ve got Alexandria, the Saviors, the Hilltop, disparate bands like the Wolves, and the introduction of The Kingdom (fyi: I’m not comics reader. I just know there’s a guy named Ezekiel with a big ass tiger, who isn’t a fan of Negan). I want to see a new society forming and fighting with zombie gore and well-drawn characters as the backdrop, not the soap operatic foreground mired in convention and pandering to what the fans think they want. If you want to kill Daryl, kill Daryl. Fanboys and girls be damned. Riot away.That means not pulling any more shit like the the Negan bat cliffhanger. Season 6 wasted a handful of episodes with cat-and-mouse stalling because Negan, his trusty bat Lucille, and a caved-in skull is what Gimple wanted to end the season on. It’s an iconic comics scene, or so I’m told, so I suppose I’m not going to begrudge holding it off. But to leave us on yet another cheap cliffhanger? After faking us out shamelessly with Glenn and Daryl in the few episodes before? Enough, man. I don’t even care who dies. I really don’t.Whether the opening scene of season 7 sees Glenn, Daryl, Maggie, Abraham (okay I’d be sad about Abraham, he’s a boss), or someone else entirely having his or her head brutally caved in with a barbed wire baseball bat, it doesn’t matter. Get it over with. Then get on with the business of fleshing out Negan and the Saviors, The Kingdom, and immersing us in the new world it’s taken seven seasons of wandering to build to. I have a piece of advice for Gimple and the TWD writers’ room: throw your old tricks and narrative crutches away, and treat every episode like a finale. No more stalling. Because if this season doesn’t turn UP and finally put all the pieces stacked on the board into grand motion, I’m out. The show doesn’t need my Nielsen blip. It’s already AMC’s ratings stocking horse and one of the most popular shows on television. But if you want the TV viewers budgeting in time for Westworld, Black Mirror, Atlanta, and a slate of much better shows this fall to make time for The Walking Dead this season—particularly that last bastion of discerning viewers who against our better judgment haven’t abandoned the show yet—this season is your last chance. Don’t squander it.Now, what say you, Gimple, Andrew Lincoln, and company:  Are you ready to stop dicking around?Gimple and the cast talk season 7 at NYCCIf you’ve made it through my opening soliloquy about why I think this is the make-or-break season for The Walking Dead, I thank you. I needed to let that out. At The Walking Dead panel in MSG during this year’s New York Comic-Con, we got some answers. Just a few, and cryptic ones at that, but the show looks to finally be expanding its universe…while at the same time clinging to its cliffhangersModerated by TWD super fanboy, felt-tied fake nerd/hipster jamoke, and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick, the panel was so big the chairs took up the whole of the stage. Andrew Lincoln couldn’t make it, but onstage were Gimple, Nicotero, producers Gale Ann Hurd and David Alpert, comics creator Robert Kirkman, and cast members Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yuen, Michael Cudlitz, Lauren Cohan, Sonequa Martin-Green, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Seth Gilliam, Austin Nichols, Alanna Masterson, and Negan himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Here’s what we found out:The universe is finally getting bigger: According to Hurd, this season the show finally has its own real universe. She and Gimple called out actor Khary Payton’s portrayal of The Kingdom leader Ezekiel in particular—and his pet tiger, Shiva—as a major step to broaden the world.We’re going inside the Saviors: Producer David Alpert and Gurira (Michonne) talked about how Negan is different from The Governor or any other villain the show has faced. “He’s the sign of a new world; a bigger, stronger bad,” said Alpert. Negan has a deeply entrenched infrastructure with multiple outposts, explained Gurira, and a culture around his people with the “we are all owned by Negan” philosophy of his followers. Gurira called the Saviors “a whole new order in which Negan reigns as a demagogue.”Morgan added that Negan believes he’s doing the same thing everyone else is in this new world order, he’s just doing it better. Plus, he’s doing it with showmanship. “The world is his stage, and he owns it,” said Morgan. “Negan comes in to flex his own brand of Barnum & Bailey justice.The walkers are getting…weirder? Against all odds, Kirkman said the show has come up with some even creepier, stranger, and more disgusting zombies this season. In keeping with the narrative thread of zombie bodies decaying more and more each season, this isn’t much of a surprise.Rick might be about to lose his right hand: In a sneak preview of a scene from the upcoming premiere, we found out that obviously, Rick didn’t die. In the aftermath of the beating, Rick, in shock, says he’s going to kill Negan. Makes sense. Typical Rick response.Except Negan doesn’t tolerate those kinds of shenanigans. After taking Rick’s axe and waxing poetic about the importance of “right-hand men,”  Negan drags Rick by the collar into a trailer brandishing the axe. Even if he Rick comes out with all limbs attached, he’s about to get his ass whooped one way or the other.The head at the end of the bat.  I’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning this damn cliffhanger, but at least it’s almost time to dispense with it.  When it came to clues to who it might be, the panel gave us one big red flag: Maggie.Giving credence to a theory from Dustin Rowles, one of my favorite entertainment conspiracy theorists, Lauren Cohan didn’t say a word until near the end of the panel. When she finally did, she couldn’t get a word out without crying.“I can never say how [Maggie] would have handled [Negan’s trap] differently. It’s jarring in that it was completely unexpected. We were knocked off our feet, and to the ground,” said Cohan.Maggie definitely fits the “right-hand man” profile, if we’re talking hierarchically. She’s the political face of Rick’s regime. The one he ceded negotiating power to because he trusts her and knows he’s too hotheaded. Losing Maggie would be a gut punch not solely because of the brutal, unforgivable violence against a pregnant woman, but because it’s also a huge blow to Rick’s leadership that gives Negan even more power over Alexandria.Cohan went on, through tears, to talk about how much this show and these people mean to her, and how privileged she feels to be a part of it. Read into that what you will, but given what we know about the gut-wrenching reactions the cast had to the scene, Maggie’s unfortunately not a bad guess.The kicker in all this is that AMC and The Walking Dead still deal in the currency of cheap twists, and here we are talking about the head at the end of Negan’s bat anyway. The whole charade is beneath where the show could be at this point in its run, and they still guard even hints of spoilers like state secrets.Before the panel officially started, the entire theater had to put their phones away. Why? So they could show some NEW PROMOS. One for each character shown back-to-back, starting with “Beginnings” and an early shot from the character’s first appearance, and then a dramatic “…is this the end?” Spaced out on TV the promos may have worked, but shown in overdramatic repetition, they were straight-up silly. Just like this “twist,” manufactured not from genuine plot development—that’s what got the gang on their knees before Negan—but by withholding information for all this cheap hype. Those promos were not worth putting our phones away for by any stretch, but AMC insisted.This season of The Walking Dead has the board stacked to realize the full potential of its premise and its cast of very talented actors. Although the way they’ve handled the Negan kill reveal makes it terribly plain that the show is still missing the point. Stay on targetlast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *