Monday, October 24, 2016

The Wrath of Negan

Spoiler's ahead. But mostly criticism. Lots of Criticism. 

I'm in the minority, I know; my favorite season of The Walking Dead was season two. All the characters I liked were alive and what it lacked for in blood and gore, it filled in with story progression and character development. By the mid-season finale of season six...well, I'd pretty much given up on the series (as evidenced in my lack of blog posts).

But what kind of fan just gives up because of one poorly executed season? Not this girl. On October 23rd, I settled in to watch the season seven premiere in hopes that my loyalty would not be in vain. Season seven. What can I say about season seven? If last night's show was indicative of the season as a whole (which Kirkman's interview on The Talking Dead inferred), I would describe it in one word: Disappointing. That's the first time I've said that about the premiere episode.

At this point, it's all about the money for these clowns. The Talking Dead. Fear the Walking Dead. Those stupid one minute things during the commercial breaks. All. The. Merchandise. Don't get me wrong, I think they should make buttloads of money - as long as they continue to tell a compelling story. Sadly, they don't.

Let me give a comparison. The Walking Dead seasons 1 - 5 vs seasons 6 and 7 are like Tangled vs Frozen. Stay with me. Tangled came out in 2010. It took them six years to make Tangled and tell Rapunzel's story. From the original German tale, they took a character with two sentences of dialogue and gave her depth and a couple of songs. Though isolated and emotionally abused, Rapunzel is industrious, quick thinking, caring, loyal, trusting, and lovably quirky. Her one-page source material is beautifully orchestrated into a 100 minute coming of age story that hearkens to the Disney Renaissance. Then there was Frozen. Frozen is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen where a brave, young girl ventures out to save her dear friend from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen (a weather-controlling, child-abducting faerie) where she overcomes three villains before her daring rescue and escape.

Here's how I think the planning for Frozen went. Marketing went down to the production department and said, "Hey, The Princess and the Frog was a wash and Walt's kids are mad they can't buy that 5th island this year. You have two years to make something new - and don't forget to appease the feminists... and go." Then they barfed up a story, removing anything resembling a decent story and character development, wrote way too many songs (earning themselves a ton of awards for lyrics like "Don't know if I'm elated or gassy but I'm somewhere in that zone!"), then they marketed it to death. I can't stand Hans Christian Anderson's writing and it was still 1,000 times better than Frozen. Frozen was just lazy. The worst part? Nobody cared. That's what Kirkman did to The Walking Dead. At some point someone said, "Hey, lets just follow the comics. Our fans are loyal. They'll stick around as long as we keep throwing Olaf t shirts blood and gore in their faces." 

So about last night's episode: they took Negan - this presumably most sadistic of evil men - and gave him a bat and a cliff-hanger. They marketed it for months. Then they killed off Abraham. I could deal with that. His character is by far the most intimidating and it would make sense for Negan and crew to take him out first. Abraham went out in true Abraham style - stubborn, strong, and cursing. Yeah, it would've beem nice to have time to develop feelings for Abraham, but whatever. This is a world where tomorrow isnt a promise for anyone. But after overplaying the whole suspense angle all spring and summer, they couldn't just leave it at that. They had to kill off someone else. Couldn't be Daryl. He's too much of a fan favorite. 

It wouldn't be one of the girls because, lets face it, it's the apocalypse and without affirmative action, girls are only useful for one thing. Samiches...Can't be Rick or Carl because then the show would be over. So they kill off Glenn because cannon.

In previous seasons, the comic's story-line took second seat to a well written story. I mean, Billy and Ben become Mika and Lizzy to propel Carol's character and Judith is still around because she gives the survivors hope and a reason to keep fighting. Andrea died way too early (thank goodness) and Daryl wasn't even a character! Now? Even if it doesn't translate well to the screen and even if it's boring and predictable, the comics are adhered to with the faithfulness of a Harry Potter fan.

Now a good story is at the mercy of the sacrificial pillar of comic fanboys. You wanna know what would've made a better story? Killing Glenn under the dumpster part way through season six. That would've been better. Better still? In season two Maggie calls Glenn "walker bait" after he fishes out the well zombie. It's a nick name that then-meek Glenn opposes. But Glenn is now a better man. A fitting and more touching end to Glenn's story arc would have been to save Maggie and their infant son by sacrificing himself as walker bait. Instead, they took the anticlimactic route and offed Glenn at the business-end of Lucille - just like in the comics. Then they added a cool prosthetic eye and threw in some flash backs and dream sequences via Rick so the common core generation wouldn't get too confused. 

The Walking Dead was once a story of Hobbesism,  where, without the all-seeing eye of authority and social mores, conscience and kindness die and the living fail to differ from the monstrous dead. Now it's blood and gore and jump scares because intellect, it would seem, has already been killed by the mindless hordes of the walking dead.

*Update. I was waiting very impatiently for Rob Bricken'a take over on Gizmodo. I love that his posts are more than just a recap because, duh, I already saw it, and I love the insight he has.  Anyway, it's a good perspective over there and the comments are the best on the internet, really. I wanted to say that, yes, I picked up on the Rick/Carl:Abraham/Isaac component. Alluding to ancient and commonly known stories is an often-used writing device. Keep that story in mind, it may come back at some point.  One more thing, I'm pretty sure Maggie and Sasha took the truck and everyone else took the RV.

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