Robert Kirkman has said in more than one interview The Walking Dead comic book, and by extension the AMC series, is a what if the zombie movies we liked so much never ended? Seven years ago it was a good question. After seven and half seasons we know what happens when the zombie movie never ends-it drags on and on, gets stale, repetitive, and boring.
The season eight mid-season finale finds Rick and the gang on the run. Again. On the run from another super bad guy and another sanctuary being razed to the ground. We’ve seen the same thing happen more than once in The Walking Dead and we’ll probably see it again before the series ends. One would think safe shelters would be rare in a post apocalyptic zombie America, but we find ourselves in the SAME spot every two seasons.
Who was responsible for the farm…I mean the prison…shoot, I mean the town being leveled? Season seven introduced Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Supernatural), as the new bad guy. If the internet was on fire when AMC announced Morgan would be the baseball bat wielding bad guy it couldn’t shut up over speculations of which characters he killed in the season six finale. Full disclosure: Negan really didn’t kill anyone in season six. It was actually season seven, but showrunners did one of their tried, true, and played out rewinds to a few moments before cons so they could keep the kills for season seven.
From the moment the series introduced Negan he was set up as a superman, a Walking Dead god. There’s nothing he can’t do, can’t escape, and nothing Rick can think of that Negan hasn’t thought of already. It’s like he’s always one step ahead of Rick (insert evil cackle here). A Negan character gets old after more than a season. We don’t have to watch week to week to know Negan is still in the series and still in charge. A Negan character lacks imagination because we know he’s always going to win or find his way out of any situation. The character creates no tension because any outcome is a forgone conclusion.
We could argue if Negan were the first superman badass character in The Walking Dead that it was a fresh, original character for the series. Except, he’s not the first superman badass character The Walking Dead has inflicted upon us. It was only a couple of seasons ago the Governor was hacking off Hershel’s head.
Negan and the Governor are basically the same character. They both have practically the same back story. Both lost their wives to the infection and turned into psychopaths. Negan, like the Governor, leads a brain washed band of survivors who have been convinced Rick and company are the real bad guys. Sure, a lot of loved ones would be lost during a zombie apocalypse. However, the surviving loved ones aren’t going to all turn into mini dictators. The first time may have been original, but the second time is just lazy.
The only real distinction between the two pyschopaths is Negan’s love of cussing. Yeah, coming out of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s mouth some it sounds pretty funny. After the third or fourth episode though it starts getting old. How many more cute little quips like “I hope you got your shittin’ pants on because you’re about to shit your pants” are we going to have to hear? After a groundbreaking first couple of seasons cussing is the only thing Kirkman and company have to prove the series is still “cutting edge.”
Let’s say for the sake of argument Negan and the rest of his stock characters are defeated by the end of season eight, what next? The only thing the series can do is introduce yet another bad guy who will be around for another two seasons. It will be another bad guy who threatens everything Rick and his Merry Men have worked so hard to build.
A series like The Walking Dead can’t survive if it were about a group of farmers in a post apocalyptic America. As bad as the series is becoming a series about a bunch of hippie farmers would be even worse. When Negan is gone there will be the brief interlude of the gang trying to find a new home, but eventually another baddie will come along to overturn the apple cart. It’s the only option, short of ending the series (Hahahahaha! That’s not going to happen any time soon), The Walking Dead has to continue to seasons nine, ten, and beyond.
The Walking Dead has survived more on the characters it has killed off than actual story or plot. Viewers tuned in just as much to see who died as to know what was going to happen in an episode. Now we’re at the point most of the main characters that can be killed off have been killed off.
The show doesn’t have enough balls to kill off a main character. Without Rick there is no Walking Dead series. Daryl, a character who was created for the series, is so popular ratings would plummet to cancellation numbers if he were to be written out of the series.
Real candidates for the chopping block would be characters like Morgan, Aaron, or Tara. Characters close enough to the core group their death may mean something, but would not fundamentally change the nature of the series. More importantly for the series killing off a minor character would preserve the illusion that the series is willing to take chances.
We’ve entered what I like to call the Ensign Red Shirt Zone. For those of you who don’t remember the old Star Trek series any ensign wearing a red shirt was killed in the first few minutes of the episode. Where they came from and who they were was never really an issue. It’s where we are now in The Walking Dead. There’s a lot of random people showing up out of nowhere so the series can kill them off.
This is the part where fanboys chime in about Carl’s bite. Let me ask you this, “When did Carl get bit in the season eight mid-season finale?” No one saw it happen, but we’re expected to believe a zombie bit him on the stomach. Let me ask you this, “When have we ever seen a character get a simple bite?” Compared to the other bites we’ve seen over the last seven and half seasons the bite mark shown is barely a flesh wound.
Is it really a zombie bite? Remember when the showrunners lead audiences to believe Glenn was dead? It was the biggest “fuck you” moment when we found out Glenn was hiding under a trash bin the entire time. I could be wrong, but I think the showunners are having another fuck you moment at the fan’s expense. When season eight starts back we’ll learn a human or an animal bit him.
The Walking Dead had a lot of potential in the early seasons. Big questions about humanity, a lack of humanity, and where society goes after everything ends could have been asked. Any pretense of meaningful storytelling was cast aside for explosions and cussing.
The Walking Dead showrunners have decided to repeat and regurgitate the same story and the same characters season after season. Then they get on The Talking Dead, the reach around show for The Walking Dead, and tell the audience what a great job they’re doing and how we should all count ourselves lucky we live in a time when The Walking Dead is on the air.
How many voice overs, how many flashbacks, and how many Super Negan’s are we going to have to endure? How many character are going to say “I don’t want to kill anymore” or “ Why are we fighting if we are going to end up like (insert bad guy of the season).” When are people going to wake up and realize Rick is a shitty leader? How many more plans are going to go bad because one of the characters think they have a better idea?
After seven and half seasons, I say no more.