SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Season 7 Premiere Episode of AMC'S The Walking Dead and may contain speculation for other moments in the season/series.
Last night, AMC launched Season 7 of their hit television series, The Walking Dead based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series of the same name. TWD is a show that has a lot of hype around it almost to hysteric levels not unlike Breaking Bad before it, and HBO's cash cow of the moment, Game of Thrones. The mindless masses are not unlike zombies themselves, needing something to fixate on and live-tweet about at all times. That being said, as an avid reader and fan of the comic books, I've enjoyed the television series however I have not enjoyed it to the degree that many of the fanatics do. I've preferred the comic books, novels (also written by Kirkman and co-authored by Jay Bonansinga), and of course the Telltale Games Video Game Series. I feel like I have a love-hate relationship with the television series and its subsequent spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead. Episodes of these shows, and sometimes entire seasons are either a swing-and-a-miss, or a total home run.
Last night's kick off of the 7th season of The Walking Dead was a home-run... quite literally. At the end of the previous season we saw the introduction of the series' current big bad, Negan, portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, known for a variety of roles including his parts on both Supernatural and Watchmen. When I found out Morgan had been cast as Negan I was immediately intrigued and excited because the man just plays these kinds of roles incredibly well and having had experience reading the comic books and graphic novels, I KNEW what kind of villain Negan is supposed to be. Before the episode aired, spoilers already hit the Internet and I knew who was going to die, and I didn't even care because I wanted to see how the episode would play out, and play out it did in what has to be one of the most powerful episodes of The Walking Dead ever filmed. And here comes the spoilers
Negan brutally murders Abraham in front of the crowd, proceeding to make jokes about it. At this point the average viewer who knows of the comics probably thought Glenn (Negan's sole victim in the comics) was safe. But then we get good use of "The Daryl Effect." Daryl is a character created exclusively for the television adaptation of Kirkman's TWD and so he's somewhat of a wild card in the television show as his existence alone creates situations and scenarios that aren't mapped out by the source material. Daryl can't take Negan's jokes and lashes out, causing Negan to remind the group "I said I would SHUT. THAT. SHIT. DOWN." And shut it down he does, by killing Glenn and destroying any hope the viewers had that Abraham's death was simply a substitute for the comic book death of Glenn.
What transpires is the EXACT scenario of Glenn's death from the comic book with virtually no deviation (other than the removal of the word "fuck"). The violent, vicious, brutal murder of Glenn happens on camera, and spares no visuals. It spares no poor taste jokes by Negan as it happens. What we get, possibly for the first time in The Walking Dead is raw, unfiltered, and unchanged events. And what a reaction it got. The Internet fans pretty much broke down. You have people claiming they are NEVER going to watch The Walking Dead ever again. You have people complaining about the level of violence in the series. You have the Parents Television Council pretty much outraged at what they have witnessed.
But then you have people like me saying "Good fucking job. Good fucking job, indeed." And to the rest of you who are infuriated by what happened, I have to ask you "why the hell are you whining about violence?" The Walking Dead isn't meant to be ballet. It's not meant to be an episode of The Muppet Show. The show is Kirkman's take on the end of the world at the hands of a zombie apocalypse. We've had blood. We've had gore as diseased rotten undead humans cannibalize the living. Did you expect it to be fluffy snowflakes and gumdrop dragons? It was never meant to be. In previous seasons, the television show had coddled the viewer. We appealed to the softskins by watering down a lot of the story arcs for the sake of "social justice." It's being said that Steven Yeun, the actor who plays Glenn, even said that he didn't want anyone else's death to replace the emotional and serious, somber ultimate fate that Glenn was supposed to receive - and to that, I say "good on him" for not wanting his fate just cheapened by being switched out for someone else to take it as we've seen far too many times in this series - examples include that Tyrese's death in the comic books was switched out for Hershel for race concerns. The Governor's story is told not chronologically but events are altered "sideways" to make him almost appear to be a redeemable character at some point as opposed to the violent sociopathic monster he is supposed to be. In fact, in the comic book series the character rapes Michonne, however since we live in a politically correct climate where television viewers "might be offended" by a white man raping a black woman, they instead created some watered down situation where The Governor "says mean things" to a shirtless (and white) Maggie instead. The viewers of the television show, quite frankly, were being coddled and it cheapened the universe in which The Walking Dead takes place in. Mind you, I'm not trying to condone rape, however, Michonne overcoming the horrific and traumatic events that befall her (and eventually even castrating the Governor in an act of defiance and vengeance) are part of what makes that character - and the only reason it didn't happen is because the average crybaby on Tumblr couldn't handle it. However, coddling viewers for so long may have made last night's violent depictions from the comic book even more raw, more visceral, and more explicit, and again I say "Good fucking job" - why?
Because it elicits a reaction.
Whether you are a fan of only the show, a fan of the comics, a fan of both, a casual viewer, a die-hard viewer, a fanatic - it does not matter because the show elicited a response mentally and/or emotionally. You have crybabies having nervous breakdowns, you have softskins appalled and traumatized by what they witnessed; I believe someone on Facebook said that the tone wasn't just about "breaking Rick and his group, but about breaking the entire audience," and thus the tone is set for the entire season. Negan is here to fuck. your. world. up. And to me, as a viewer for the first time in a long time, rather than wonder if the next episode of The Walking Dead is going to be a "hit" or "miss," I'm anxious to see "what are they going to do next?" Your outrage doesn't matter, your offense does not matter, your tears and emotional breakdowns over the deaths of fictional characters do not matter. At the end of the day, The Walking Dead season premiere shattered television ratings records. Those of you who say that the show is "too violent" need to grow a set and realize that THAT is the point. This is The Walking Dead and nobody here is getting a happy ending - in fact, some of that happy ending BS is referenced in the episode as we see Rick have daydreams about a perfect life in the zombie apocalypse.
But it's not to be. And the best thing about that is it's not just a wake-up call for television but for life. It's a glaring social commentary. The viewer isn't outraged about some violence. They're outraged at the fact it's an introduction to reality - that life does not give a remote fuck what you personally want. The world isn't perfect and shit in your world can go sideways in the blink of an eye...
...or in the bursting of an eye.
That being said, any reaction, any publicity is good publicity. On the same token, if you're really that outraged and offended, and if an episode of The Walking Dead made you some kind of mental and emotional wreck to the point you couldn't get through your day after seeing it, then your problem isn't a TV show at all. The problem is "you need to get a fucking life." Once again, thank you everyone involved with The Walking Dead for NOT pulling punches with this episode, thus making it one of the most powerful things I've seen on TV in recent history. And with Negan's ability to outrage the masses, who knows? Maybe he'll even run for president one day!