If you’re one of the 5 billionty people on this Earth obsessed with The Walking Dead, then you’re probably still reeling from last night’s episode. ‘How dare they do this to us?’ you probably thought. ‘I have work in the morning, you thoughtless bastards!’
A lot of crazy shit went down. And there’s a lot to talk about, not just when it comes to what actually happened on the show, but what lead up to it, and the advertising that’s been shoved down our throats for the last 7 months.
So, let’s talk.
SPOILERS. Obvi. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, get outta here. In fact, get off the internet. There are blatant spoilers everywhere, people are ruthless out here, they just don’t GAF.
Anyway. The season premiere hit us square in the face with not one death, but two. And while people everywhere are probably busy collecting money from their office-wide betting pools, I can’t help thinking about all the hype and advertising that lead up to this eagerly-awaited premiere. (Or maybe I’m just trying desperately to avoid the pain of remembering Abraham’s peace sign and Glenn’s eyeball and Rick sobbing on the ground. Whatever.)
So let’s shelve that for a while (so my heart can heal) and let’s talk about this build up. We all knew from the moment they ended last season with that godawful, no-you-really-just-didn’t, fuck-you-and-your-whole family-cliffhanger that this off-season was going to be full of some of the most aggressive, shameless advertising we’ve ever seen. And we weren’t wrong.
All those years (or months, whatever) we had to wait, the big question was, ‘Who did Negan take out?’ The real question, obviously, was ‘Who got their brains bashed out – you know, who got brutally murdered in front of their friends and family?’ But when you think about it like that, it just all sounds a little messed up- or, at least, something that you should maybe be tasteful about when advertising.
Anyone else vaguely uncomfortable with the optics here? Crying, bloody, scared victim kneeling at the mercy of a killer. That’s the reality of the situation, yeah, but it just feels so gleefully voyeuristic. Because I get that it’s supposed to make you uncomfortable, but when these ads started coming out, something about this whole thing started to feel like the more socially acceptable cousin of torture porn, and I think with the season 7 premiere, we landed firmly in that territory. And it all started with the decision to end season 6 with a cliffhanger.
Don’t get me wrong; I love a good cliffhanger.
(That’s a lie I fucking hate cliffhangers). There’s just something tasteless about reveling in the question of it – asking people to join in you in spending 7 months going ‘I wonder who got their head bashed in’ and teasing it so joyously. It felt tacky, and like a disservice to the show and the story they’re trying to tell. Just tell the damn story. Don’t be cheap about it.
But is that just what happens when money has to factor into how creators choose to tell a story? The Powers That Be end up resorting to gimmicks and camera tricks just to make absolutely certain they’ve drummed up all the interest (which equals money) that they possibly can. And due to the strength the of the original story, the connection viewers already feel to these characters, and the brilliance of the actors (and the Emmy goes to Rick’s real AF snot bubble!), we’ll still care and we’ll still watch, no matter how much of a circus things become between episodes.
Even The Talking Dead is starting to feel a little too big for itself, in my opinion. A little too serious, maybe. Like, was it an intentional plan for some of the guests to dress like they were attending a funeral? I know we lost some characters, but let’s all dial it down a bit with the somber tones, guys. (But I understand that Hardwick made the conscious decision to stop being weirdly enthusiastic no matter what because he was getting hate for it, and I respect it.)
I suppose this is all just a side effect of telling a story through the medium of television and not, say, a book or whathaveyou. It’s the reason I prefer not to watch a show as it airs live if I’m really invested in the story. Imagine trying to read a really good book and someone’s hawking fancy new cars, other books, and fucking sandwiches every 10 pages or so. It just cheapens the whole experience, but good for AMC for making bank on Sunday night with all those commercials, I guess?
Sometimes TV shows get criticized just because they’re TV shows (and therefore not as smart or worthy of attention or analysis as the stories told in books), but I recognize the format as a powerful storytelling vehicle, one that’s perhaps even more impressive to succeed in when you consider these very obstacles that writers and creators have to contend with just to tell a good story (and get a paycheck). So I get why the decision-makers probably felt like the aggressive advertising was necessary; I disagree, but I get it.
But man… The way this episode played out just left a bad taste in my mouth in a lot of places. All the literal skull bashing, over and over, with the camera returning far too often to linger almost lovingly on the piles of gore? That was..a choice.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t have shown it at all. If shit is getting real, then don’t shy away from it: make us watch this shit go down because these characters have to watch it. But must you revel in it? It just felt a little gratuitous at times, which took me right out of it and had me rolling my eyes.
Can we just..chill out a little bit, guys? Maybe stop yelling at me/the audience about how fucked up this is did you see this omg go tweet about it look at this fucking close up of these motherfucking brains holy shittttt and just let the story unfold.
And when it comes to Negan especially, I feel like the “Show, don’t tell” rule needs to be applied, and heavily. Stop telling me what a monster this guy is (I read the comics, I know, damn). Just let his work (*obligatory shudder*) speak for itself and stop hyping him up so much, because you honestly had me sick of his ass before Jeffrey Dean Morgan even showed up on the screen.
But anyway. Back to the real star of the season 7 premiere: that fucking snot bubble though! I see you Andrew Lincoln, putting in that work.