S7 of The Walking Dead is not its finest


It’s midway through the second half of The Walking Dead’s seventh season and my patience is running thin. Let me rephrase that – it is being stretched to the maximum, painfully and agonisingly.

The primary reason I’ve kept watching the series after Ep.1 of this season is because I want to see Negan die a brutal and horrible death. Or better still, die with his brain undamaged so that he’s damned to rise again and walk among the undead for a bit until someone slices off his head. Or better still, fed to the zombies. Wait … even better, getting bitten and mutating into a zombie while he still knows what’s happening. There you go, I’ve written in a few different scenarios for Negan’s end.

But we all know Negan isn’t going, not just yet… because Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays the chief antagonist from the closing episodes of S6 and right through this season, has already confirmed that he’s on board for S8. So, there’s more of Negan to come at the end of this year, when S8 is likely to air.

Little surprise, that S7 has been the series at its lowest ebb, creatively and in terms of audience numbers. After the stunning shocker that was S6’s finale – that left viewers tottering at the cliff’s edge – and the current season’s opening episode when two fan favourites – Glenn (Steven Yuen) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) – had their heads bashed into a bloody pulp by Negan and his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat Lucille, we’ve had to settle for watching paint dry for most part. Only the first half of S2 was as tedious, but at least back then, the series was still new and fans were willing to give it some leeway and allow the writers a free hand at structuring the narrative.

Yes, I am a fan, and a pretty damned dedicated one at that… I haven’t missed a single episode of The Walking Dead ever, and have put up with the occasional stretches of watching trees grow, because the idea of a zombie apocalypse has always fascinated me… for that matter, any sort of apocalypse. How such a scenario would tear apart the social structure and allow the feral underside of humans to dictate their decisions and actions. I’m not saying The Walking Dead answered those questions, but it tried and didn’t candy-wrap anything. I recall the words of my once-boss Davin Arul (played by Davin Arul), who tipped me off on this new zombie series coming our way back in 2010 … his exact words were, “I must warn you, it is bleak.”

Yes, bleak and miserable it has been… and now, after 12 episodes of this season, we can add laborious to the description. I also have a bone to pick over the relationship between protagonist Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his partner/right-hand woman, Michonne (Danai Gurira).

The recent episode focused 4/5 of the 42 minutes on just the two of them as a pair. I just don’t buy it – on screen, you could sense the sexual tension and/or chemistry between Glenn (when he was alive, that is) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in the early phase of their courtship … and you can almost believe that Rick’s right-hand man and the team’s hunter, Daryl (Norman Reedus), has something powerful, if unspoken, going with the recalcitrant Carol (Melissa McBride). But Rick and Michonne … the only time they’re good together is when they’re killing zombies, and yes, there was a bit of that in Ep.12, when for a few minutes, it was back again to the direct conflict between the survivors and the “walkers” (as they call the zombies in the series). The suggested sexual moments, the kissing … those fell flat for me, I can’t recall a TV screen couple with any less chemistry between them.

Critics have praised this season for its depth and character building through the first half, but I think there’s been enough of that already. And the less of it we get now, the better. I demand the end-game with Negan. Yes, like a game of chess, Rick is clearly placing his pawns and knights in place for one grand assault on Negan and his Sanctuary. We don’t want a check and a counter-check … we want the checkmate. Unfortunately, we won’t get it and I’m betting S7 ends in another cliff-hanger to keep Negan ready for the next season.

So what are we going to see in the next four episodes before S7 ends? Yes, there’s surely going to be a grandstand against Negan and his Saviours, as Rick forges a common if fragile bond between Alexandria, the Kingdom, the Hilltop Colony, the Scavengers and perhaps even Oceanside, which may well turn out to be the surprise in the pack.

And some interesting questions. Will Dwight (Austin Amelio) turn turncoat on Negan? He certainly has every reason to do this. Will Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), now out on an obviously stupid suicidal mission to nail Negan on their own, make it to the next season? Is it bye-bye Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and has he really turned to the dark side or was he just bluffing when he pledged allegiance to Negan? I’m guessing few fans will miss him if he isn’t on board for the next season – he’s been the weakest and least likeable character in Rick’s ragged band of survivors. And the series’ writers, as we’ve seen before, have shown no qualms about killing of even fan favourites.

And that Daryl-Carol thing … come on, you two, either just get on with it or leave it behind.

(STAR2)

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