***This article contains spoilers, so if you haven’t finished watching the most recent season of The Walking Dead, turn away now!***
Did you hear that god awful sound on April 3, 2016 at approximately 8:15pm GMT? That was the sound of a collective 15 million Walking Dead fans screaming at their television. The producers of the show just took the most iconic moment from the comics and turned it into a cliffhanger. Viewers were being forced to wait over 6 months to find out which one of their favorite characters met their demise at the hands of the villainous Negan. After a season of fake-out deaths and a story line that went all over the map, the cliffhanger was the final straw and made many viewers claim they were done with the show once and for all…
Until they all returned to watch the season 7 premiere. The resolution to who met their end by being beaten my Negan’s barb-wired bat, Lucille, was quick and brutal. We lost not one, but two, fan favorite characters within minutes of each other – and it was gory and intense. The level of violence on display was extreme, but honestly it wasn’t worse than many of the random zombie kills in every other episode. Yet for some reason, many viewers found the deaths unnecessarily graphic, and this time they did stop watching. Personally I believe they left in protest due to their favorite character being off the show.
The loss of Glenn and, to a slightly lesser extent, Abraham was felt all season. It pushed Rick to the breaking point and he ceased to be the fearless leader he was in previous seasons and Daryl was completely lost. Carol became a shell of her former self. While the men took quite the beating, the women hit a turning point and became more kick-ass. Maggie, Rosita and Michonne were hellbent on getting revenge for the murders.
Things dragged for pretty much the first half of the season. Watching “wuss” Rick wasn’t exactly riveting television. With only 8 episodes in the first part of the season, there was too many story-lines to balance and many characters were absent for weeks at a time. In the mid-season finale, which had two more regular characters get knocked off, started the show on a much more exciting trajectory. The deaths of Olivia and (thankfully) Spencer caused Rick to get his mojo back, and the final stretch of episodes was the group uniting and trying to recruit others to take on Negan and his saviors. This all built up to a truly exciting season finale that led to all the heroes fighting together. Unfortunately, there was casualties as well. The loss of Sasha was devastating, but her sacrifice will make sure her friends stay united against the enemy.
One of the biggest issues I’ve had with the show over the years is that ever since the group left the prison in season 4, way too much time has been spent keeping core members of the group separated from each other. I fully understand that when you’re trying to balance a cast of over 20 people, you can’t have every person in every episode. I also know that some of the episodes focusing on only 1 or 2 of the characters are among the best of the series (the Carol/Tyrese episode in season 4 is still my single favorite hour of the show to date). The major problem this season was that there was six separate locations: Alexandria, The Kingdom, Hilltop, The Sanctuary, Oceanside and the Dump. All characters were scattered among these places for every episode except the finale, so it would be impossible to cram everyone into every episode. Now with everyone together, hopefully the next season can focus on only one or two main plots and not jump all over the place.
The Walking Dead is still my favorite show on television, hands down. It would take a lot to get me to tune out, and we’re nowhere near that point yet. The exciting back half of the season more than made up for the slow paced first 8 episodes. I love that the producers keep coming up with new and grosser zombies for us to be disgusted by, and this season had some of the best yet. The kills, both human and undead, were beautifully gory. New cast member Jeffery Dean Morgan brings just the right amount of menace to his portrayal of the villainous Negan. In the end, the 7th season ranks smack in the middle in terms of quality. Now, if season 8 lives up to the promised non-stop excitement, maybe we can get those missing viewers back.