The Walking Dead has the same problem now as it did when the show began–its characters aren’t interesting. In seven seasons there has been a total of one person I’ve looked forward to seeing: Shane, and he’s long gone.
Yet I’m still watching. Partly because it’s one of the few shows my wife and I will watch together, and partly because I enjoy seeing someone split a zombie in half. Walking Dead is good at creating hilarious gory moments (how are they still coming up with new methods of dismemberment?). It also does tension well (though less than it used to). But it still can’t nail character. Although I get the impression that the show seems satisfied with its cast. Sometimes it appears to revel in its characters, thinking viewers must love them. They’re frequently wrong.
Which brings me to Negan.
Negan isn’t a horrible, unwatchable, or misjudged character. He’s fairly nuanced compared to others. But the show loves him far more than it should. Season six’s finale and the opening episode of season seven were longggg moments of Negan monologue, thankfully interrupted by all-too-brief moments of horror. This felt like the writers going, ‘Man, the audience is gonna love this guy’, and me going, ‘Can someone tell this guy to shut up?’. If I was Darryl I would’ve gone for him too. Not for what he did, just to stop him speaking.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan does well with the role and seems to be relishing it (although someone has to speak to him about his weird bendy body and skinny legs. How does a grown man end up with the body of Morph?). But season seven could’ve done with more zombies, or more fighting, or more something, so we could have less Negan.
I can’t say I like Ezekiel, but I’m probably more a fan than many. His lines might seem cheesy and out of placebut, remember, that’s all part of his act. As he explained to Carol in seemingly forgotten moment early in the season, the people of The Kingdom needed a leader, so that’s the role he assumed. It’s appropriate that we first see him in a theater.
As well as Ezekiel being a king from the Old Testament, we have Saviours, a beardy man called Jesus, and a priest called Gabriel. The show is piling in these religious references but seems to be doing nothing with them. Any undertone I can find is probably me finding meaning where none exists. People need someone to follow? A disrupted world needs religion or it defaults to anarchy? Or maybe Walking Dead is how Lost wasn’t. Perhaps they’re all dead, and this is a fight for control of heaven. Maybe? No? Alright then. I’m away up the road.
The last few episodes of season seven were like a game of Cluedo. Seemingly every character had a personal plan to kill Negan. Would it be Sasha with the machine gun in the warehouse? Eugene with the poison pill in the drink? Dwight with the Arrow of Treachery? I imagined a finale in which a dozen people have the chance to kill Negan, but all get in each other’s way and he escapes.
I enjoyed how the show treated Sasha’s ending. Showing her in heavy close-up, out of her face with her earphones in, and flashing back to the Abraham era while we weren’t quite sure what was happening, that was pleasantly original.
There’s no obvious timeline in the show that I’m aware of, but a good few years seem to have passed since Rick first wandered out of the hospital and into Zombocalypse. So it makes sense that, by now, a number of organised groups would have formed. It’s also logical that a group’s biggest concern would now be other groups, not the ever-shambling zombies. Yet I miss the days where the sight of a single walker would be a traumatic event, not a routine occurrence to be quickly dealt with. Around season three or so, the opening episode showed how effective Rick’s peeps had become at dispatching the undead. They had gotten their reps in and had become a violent machine. All of this makes sense. But remember when just one walking corpse could rip out the entrails of two or three people. Ahh, the good old days.
Yes, long enough had passed for sects to form, but not long enough for them to develop their own dialect like The Scavengers had. Pretty much everything involving them was stupid, including Rick essentially reenacting the Rancor fight from Return of the Jedi with a spiky zombie.
Throughout the season, fans must’ve noticed how often a chance to kill Negan presented itself and wondered why it was rarely taken. But think of the potential consequences. You fail to kill him, he instead kills you and/or your friends. You do kill him, and behind him are dozens of his armed followers. Trying to murder him in his base would often be a suicide mission.
I feel like there’s some sort of economics lesson buried within the success of Negan and The Saviours. Something about economies of scale, or accelerating vicious cycles. Group A attacks and defeats Group B. Faced with choosing death or enlistment, B’s survivors join A. Now with more people and more guns, A can more easily defeat Group C. The process repeats until A is big and well-equipped enough to take on practically anyone. One conquest makes the next easier, and so on.