(Image copyright: AMC)
[SPOILERS FOR LAST NIGHT’S THE WALKING DEAD] So, The Walking Dead returned last night with its much-anticipated season premiere which promised to answer the question: Who did Negan kill?
As you surely recall, Season Six ended with a cliffhanger that (to put things lightly) didn’t go over well with fans.
The show spent all season teasing one of the comic’s most memorable and shocking moments, the death of Glenn at the end of issue 100, and ended with …
IT ENDED WITH NOTHING!
They showed Negan beat SOMEONE to death with a baseball bat, but the screen faded to black before they revealed WHO.
Which more or less pissed EVERYONE off.
Of course, fandom being what fandom is, people wrote reasonable pieces detailing their disappointment.
No, who am I kidding?
Fans pretty much rioted, threatening to NEVER WATCH THE SHOW AGAIN!
I was among the disappointed, though I wasn’t freaking out like other people.
But Idid think it was a huge mistake to end the episode without giving fans what they were expecting. There was an implied promise throughout the season, Negan (and his bat) is coming! And someone (Glenn) is going to die.
But instead of showing us who Negan killed, the show faded to fucking black. The worst fade to black since The Sopranos season finale had people wondering if their TV went out.
So last night,TWD returned to answer the question on everyone’s mind.
WILL PEOPLE ACTUALLY WATCH THE SEASON PREMIERE? (Of course they will!)
Well, that and who did Negan kill?
I pretty much figured Abraham was going to get it. They spent so much time the last few episodes building up his storyline, so it was kinda obvious.
But would the show also kill Glenn off?
I mean they already pretended to once earlier last season, and judging from the fan/hater response, you would’ve thought they had Daryl and Eugene put Baby Judith on top of a dumpster for target practice.
So would the show kill Glenn for real this time?
Or would they switch things up and kill Daryl?
That would’ve been brave!
That would’ve shocked people!
So, of course they weren’t going to do that.
The way I figured, they did that unsatisfying cliffhanger at the end of last season because they were going to kill someone that people expected, or didn’t care too much about.
Otherwise they would’ve ended with the death.
They’d already burned the audience with the fake Glenn death, and nobody really cares that much about Abraham. I mean, yeah, he’s a great character, and I loved his back story about wanting to kill himself after losing his wife. That was some good shit.
But he wasn’t a Tier One character. Someone that was gonna break your heart if he died.
So instead of ending last season with the death(s), they made us wait.
HERE’S WHY THAT’S A PROBLEM:
You lose all impact when you kill main characters off in your season premiere.
There’s a build-up needed to really convey the impact of Glenn and Abraham’s deaths.
That build up was all last season.
Bur then you’ve got a huge wait from April to October, where people move on, people stop caring.
Most people were so pissed off at being manipulated into watching the conclusion (as if they wouldn’t otherwise), that they only returned begrudgingly.
“Okay, fuckers, show me who died.”
The deaths were no longer a surprising exclamation point, but merely a period to an ineffectual paragraph.
Who is Negan going to kill? Abraham and Glenn.
It wasn’t the huge statement that it should’ve been.
HOLY SHITBALLS, NEGAN IS GOING TO KILL ABRAHAM AND GLENN!!!!
It wasn’t even a particularly emotional moment.
If they ended last season by killing Abraham and Glenn, I would’ve been not only shocked, but crying like a baby.
I LOVE when TV shows break my heart!
But last night?
I felt nothing.
Literally, I was thinking: Okay, that happened. What’s next?
Hell, I felt sadder when they killed Kenny on South Park.
Which is a shame. These characters deserved more. They deserved our tears.
And the fans deserved to feel the loss.
And before you accuse me of being a hater, I fucking love TWD.
I even like a lot of the episodes other people don’t.
I defended the “slow” episodes because those were some of the best character-driven ones.
I defended some of the out-of-character decisions the show made because I had faith in the overall story, even if they took unlikely paths to get where they’re going.
I felt bad for the shit storm that the creators and even Chris Hardwick experienced after the season finale. They deserved a lot better from so-called fans!
BUT THIS CLIFFHANGER, I CAN’T DEFEND
If you DO defend the cliffhanger and think it was effective, consider this: remember when Sophie was missing and then she came out of the barn at the end of an episode as a zombie? That was powerful, right? I cried for 20 minutes!
Now imagine if they cut to black before we saw who came out of the barn and made us wait a week?
Not even close to the same heartbreaking impact. Right?
Of course I’m right.
Last night’s episode should’ve been the Season Six finale, not the opener for Season Seven.
It would’ve been a heartbreaking gut punch of epic proportions, especially to people who hadn’t read the comics and didn’t know Glenn was living on borrowed time.
And it would’ve had people waiting to see what happened next.
But they failed.
And I’m not sure why the show runners did what they did.
Was this just a poor decision by the powers-that-be? Or was the network interfering, trying to avoid the potential loss of fans that killing Glenn might lead to?
I love AMC and can’t imagine they’d screw with the creators of TWD. They’ve given shows like Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul the time and space to tell their stories the way the creators wanted.
I’d think if any show had carte blanche to do whatever the hell they wanted, it would be TWD!
And if TV’s highest rated program doesn’t have carte blanche to follow their artistic vision, what hope does ANY OTHER SHOW have?
I might be wrong on this. I hope I’m wrong on this! But the thing that makes the most sense to me is that SOMEONE at the network or within the show didn’t have faith in their fans.
SOMONE feared that fans would get pissed when Glenn was killed.
And maybe they were right. A lot of people would’ve bitched. But you know who those people are? The half-assed fans and haters. Not the REAL fans of the show. Not the people who respect powerful storytelling.
THE TRUE FANS
While I get that ratings matter, and you want as many people watching as possible, you can’t worry about the haters and pseudo fans. They aren’t the people who helped build the show. They aren’t the people giving the show the great word-of-mouth buzz it’s been getting all these years.
They aren’t your core audience.
In trying to prevent pissing off these non-fans, they alienated the people who really matter — the true fans.
Now having talked for some 800 words about how disappointed I am in the season finale/premiere, I’m not writing the show off just yet.
I still trust the show runners. I still love AMC (as they’ve got some of my favorite shows and give creators the space to really create their vision, unlike so many networks!).
TWD can still hit you with some powerful moments. Last night’s moment with Rick being forced to do something horrible to Carl in order to save everyone else was pretty freaking intense.
And there’s no doubt that Negan is going to make things very interesting for at least this season.
I’ve also come to love Carol and Morgan, who have had some of the best “quiet” episodes of the series.
But I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit less invested in the show than I once was. It robbed me of feeling the sadness I should’ve felt for Glenn and Abraham’s deaths.
It made me feel not like a viewer looking into these people’s worlds each week, but rather a manipulated viewer.
I’m not angry over the cliffhanger, or even last night’s premiere. In fact, I don’t feel much of anything.
And frankly, Glenn and Abraham deserved more.