It’s getting real up in here, folks. Let’s be clear, this is less of a review and more of an opinion piece – my opinion on why the show went where it did, and why it had to be done. The season 7 premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead drew in over 17 million viewer. Are you one of the handful of people that haven’t seen the episode yet? If so, what the hell have you been doing for the last 48 hours? Stop reading and go watch it.
Note: Oh, you thought I was kidding? No, really! There will be spoilers throughout this review. You may want to stop here and return after watching the show.
Last season set up the cliffhangers of all cliffhangers. Who was going to be on the receiving end of Negan’s bat? If you aren’t caught up, Negan is played horrifically wonderful by the amazing John Winchester… I mean Denny Duquette… I mean Jeffrey Dean Morgan! Well, we knew someone was going to get cracked by Lucille (Negan’s bat). Then there were rumors of two regulars getting beat to mush. But who would it be? There was wild speculation. Everyone had an opinion and reasons why. Well, Sunday night finally brought the answer in the episode titled “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” And all I’ve heard since has been “Why?”
So who was it going to be? Going in, I had my own opinions. But it didn’t take long to get the answer…
*CRACK. Abe took it like a CHAMP! He went down swinging with his very last breath, just as one would imagine he would. I missed it as I was a blubbering fool, but The Husband caught that peace sign he flashed to Sasha. Going back, I watched the scene looking for that. How amazing was that? The couple had used it in the past – just a quick sign to say, “Hey, it’s all good.” And how very Abe it was that he would try to reassure her and the others. You got the feeling that he was ok taking the beating if it meant they wouldn’t have to. (SHIT! I’m going to cry again!) Those moments with Abraham and Negan were stellar. Eye contact was made, eye contact was never broken… and, in the end, Abe got in his parting shot. (Only Abe would go out with such a line.)
I loved the character. But that couldn’t be the extent of tragedy in this episode. I knew Abraham wasn’t big enough to bring on the heartbreak we had been teased with for months from the stars and the crew, the media, and within our own minds. Now, a case could be made for any of the characters, though in the end it came down to just a handful that would have the emotional impact we were assured was going to come – Maggie, Glenn, Daryl, Michonne, or Carl. Since Carl has some truly epic moments coming up, I wrote him off. Michonne would have been a gut punch. Daryl would have been a true game changer. However, since the character isn’t in the comics, perhaps it was his time. As for Maggie, she looks like she was about to keel over anyway.
And then there is Glenn. Though it pained me to admit it, I knew Glenn’s time was coming. On The Talking Dead, actor Stephen Yeun said it perfectly. He knew Glenn’s death would bring the appropriate amount of devastation to an already breaking family. They needed to carry it out. And they did… and it did.
Personally, I really thought Abe was going to get a pass, not only because that’s what I’d hoped (Michael Cudlitz, you will greatly be missed in our house), but because of some things Robert Kirkman (the writer/creator of the comics and graphic novels) had said about the character. I won’t give it away, as it might spoil what’s to come, but look it up if you are intrigued. As for Glenn, I felt it could have gone either way. Killing him would bring us back to the original storyline set up in the comics, and sparing him would be a surprise to those that are familiar with the comics, yet leave us with a father-to-be with a heart of gold.
Disclaimer: I’ve read a couple of the comics and graphic novels, but for the most part, I stick solely with the show. My sons keep me regularly updated on what goes on in the other media.
The issue for many was the gore. For those likening this to torture porn kinda tells me they don’t know what torture porn is. Though I’m not a fan of the movie (not because of the gore, but because it wasn’t quite effective enough for me), Hostel (2005) sets it up perfectly – torture porn is gratuitous violence for no other purpose. The movie portrays people paying to torture people. Why? We don’t know. They just do. That is the definition of torture porn. Yet this episode of TWD had a purpose.
Here’s why I found it necessary. We needed to see the fight. We needed to see the pain. We needed to know just how much those two men loved these people for whom they were dying. Yes, we got to see how vicious Negan is. We got to see it up close. The Husband even said they didn’t need to show all that for us to get it. I disagree. I think they did. Abe’s skull was caved in. He was going to die, yet he had more to do, more to say. He needed to tell the woman he loved that it was ok. He knew that it had to be this way. And he had to get in one last shot. Glenn suffered the same fate, yet we needed to see that despite the fact that his skull was split open, and the blow was so devastating it knocked his eye out, his last thought was for his wife and child. To understand what the show was trying to do, we needed to break too.
Is this making sense? Let me try to explain.
Our beloved Ricktator has at times been an effective leader. Sometimes he is a pompous ass, occasionally he was borderline cray cray, but he was also a leader. Those that knew him looked up to him, some feared him, and some dismissed him only to be brought down later. Nonetheless, to those of us watching we got it, he was their leader. Now, let me remind you that this show isn’t about zombies. It is about destruction and what comes after it. At it’s core this is survival of the fittest. And up until now, Rick and company have been pretty fit.
Then along comes Negan. This is a man that not only gets the new world order, he is thriving in it. He doesn’t just want to survive, he wants to rule, to dominate. And to do that when the world is burning down around you, you have two choices. You can do what Rick tries to do, rally those around you and work to create something – anything! Or you rule with an iron fist – or in Negan’s case a bat and barbed wire. Negan is the worst kind of leader – he intimidates, he ruins, and he destroys. Yet in the aftermath of an apocalypse, it is men like this that will survive and thrive – for a while at least.
Now, if you watch The Talking Dead, interviews with the showrunners or cast, you know this season is designed to reset the series in some way. They want to flip the story over and/or start over, and the only way to do that effectively is to destroy what was built. To do that, we needed to know exactly who and what brings about that destruction. Had Rick given in too soon, people would want to stop watching for that reason. Had the show not lived up to the hype it created with that cliffhanger last season, people would be pissed. Instead, the show lived up to the hype and then some, and yet people are still pissed?
“It went too far.”
Did it? I say if you think that, you haven’t understood the show up until now. We’ve seen countless heads bashed in. We’ve seen beloved grandfather types (I still miss Hershel) killed in front of his daughters. We’ve seen children murdered by another child, and a woman take justice into her own hands to stop said child. We’ve seen walkers ripped to pieces, and I’m sorry… NOAH! Did people forget that?
“Oh, but Noah wasn’t people on people violence.”
Umm… Walkers are people too.
So, what I’m hearing is this… The issue is because it was someone we’ve grown to love in the show, a character (or in my case characters because ABE!!!) that was integral to the show. So somehow it’s different? It isn’t. Don’t let the details confuse you. This episode, or rather this season, isn’t about the death. It’s about the aftermath of those deaths. It’s about repairing what Negan broke. Now, some people say they hated seeing Rick broken, yet most movies do this. The hero needs to be humbled, he needs to be hurt deeply if only to find himself and his true strength. Problem is we want instant gratification. We want everything fixed in three hours or less. We don’t want it to drag out for an entire season or maybe three. But that’s what this show is.
Abe was a badass. He was loyal, funny, and you knew he would always have your back.
Glenn was truly the heart of the show – caring, a loving husband, and soon to be father. And despite everything he’d faced, he remained hopeful.
They will be missed, but they will also be avenged. And if you don’t stick around, you’re gonna miss it.