The Walking Dead, S07E16

The Walking Dead, S07E16

Apparently This is “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”. 

I Am Utterly, Incontinently Terrified by That Notion


I can’t do a typical write-up for this episode, recounting the plot and remarking on its significance, trying to parse out some thematic relevance in proceedings or discussing how the characters move from A to Z and what that means for The Walking Dead‘s future. It just… doesn’t feel right. Writing an actual, in-depth recap of this episode would be like penning a detailed travelogue on the last time I walked across the road to take a shit in my neighbour’s bushes: yeah, it technically counts as a review of what happened, but it feels unnecessary and gross.

Speaking of “unnecessary and gross”… (AMC)

Instead, let’s spend a few minutes talking about the fact that this was one of the worst seasons of television I’ve ever forced myself to sit through, how we got to this point from a show that was never great but at least middlingly entertaining and why there’s virtually no chance it will ever be able to pick itself up out of this stank puddle it seems to enjoy almost drowning in week after week.

When Season 6 ended on that infamously unpopular cliffhanger, with Negan clearly killing someone but the show refusing to reveal who, showrunner Scott M. Gimple defended the choice as something of a narrative bifurcation. In his mind, Season 6 told a story that ended with Negan showing up and killing someone… buuuut the reveal of who that someone actually was would be the beginning of Season 7’s story, hence the mystery. Now, was this a shoddy rationalisation to defend a crappy and ill-advised storytelling stall so as to ensure inflated ratings for the next season’s premiere? Un-fuckin’-doubtedly, but it at least instilled some measure of hope that the next chapter of this story couldn’t afford to be so properly unsatisfying. In the future, the show would have to stop being so withholding at the expense of its audience’s goodwill.

So, Season 7 began with Negan killing Abraham and then Glenn, a character who had been with the show since the offset, which at least gave the impression of some sort of forward progression. Presumably, the loss of one of their core members (and, I suppose, Abraham) was supposed to act as incentive for the others to strike back against Negan and the Saviours. I mean, obviously, we all knew this wasn’t how things were going to settle, with Negan having power over the Alexandrians for the remainder of the show. The problem was, with that inevitable pushback being so obvious to even the most dunderheaded viewer, spending sixteen goddamn episodes building to it is a surefire way to not only lose momentum, but essentially send your entire narrative careening off the road, gasping for air in a shallow, poorly constructed ditch.

If this show had a face, this would be it. (AMC)

For comparison’s sake, remember the Terminus arc on this show in Season 5? That was perhaps the most successfully handled instance of Rick and his followers coming up against a legitimate threat and dispensing with it, swiftly yet believably. After escaping from Terminus with the help of Carol (and her inexplicably good aim with fireworks), the main group led Gareth and the remaining Terminus denizens into a trap, confronted them and, after some terse words, flat-out murdered them all. That took four fucking episodes, and it was genuinely good stuff. But now, because the show has so constantly revisited the well of “a larger group with a Big Bad leader threatens the protagonists”, it seems to think that the only way to differentiate between these arcs is to spread them out into perpetuity.

Now look, I’m not saying it isn’t possible to have a good version of this show where Negan and his cohorts stick around for the long run. In fact, warring factions are the backbone of TV’s other most successful show, Game of Thrones, and can be harnessed to great effect over the course of a series. But – as we pointed out earlier in the year in a comparison piece about these two programs – The Walking Dead has always seemed too enamoured with the dynamics and rhythms it established in its first season to actually expand on any of these conflicts in a meaningful way. Think of all the different rivalries that make up GoT, across different clans, families and monarchs. This as opposed to those in TWD where – as per the Governor, the people of Terminus and now Negan’s Saviours – it all basically comes down to “them bad guys need to get got”. You have the occasional internecine dispute within the main group (usually someone disagreeing with Rick who winds up dead), but mostly it’s external factors threatening the core characters. Diminishing returns is one thing, but this is basically serving up the same empty plate to your dinner guests for every meal and expecting applause instead of implacable grumbling.

The strangest thing about all of this is that, at its core, The Walking Dead is supposed to be about the apocalypse, about haggard survivors enduring the trials and tribulations that come with living in a world gone to shit because of, y’know, the zombies. Yet my most generous estimation would be that this show stopped giving much of a fuck about that concept around Season 4. Yes, zombies are still a reasonably prominent feature and occasionally take up whole episodes to be dealt with when found in massive hordes, but for the most part they’ve fallen by the wayside as a plot point in favour of the much blander threat of Negan’s rampant sadism. This is a pretty big problem.

I swear to God, if you say “I got this”, I’m gonna yank on your prissy beard until you start being British again! (AMC)

Say what you will about the earliest seasons of TWD – and, no bones about it, Season 2 was baaaaad – but, episode after episode, it at least always managed to deliver on its most significant threat: zombie attacks and the gruesome spectacles that ensued. There’s a reason the first episode this year was one of the most breezy and watchable, being that batshit crazy but undeniably entertaining setpiece of Rick and Michonne mowing down a horde of zombies with a cable tied between two cars! That was the closest the show has come to reliving its glory days, of once again assuming the mantle of a show that’s inoffensively stupid and giddily enjoyable. But, in this iteration of TWD, there’s not enough time for moments like this because the main group is too busy trying to work out how to take on Negan, taking entire half-seasons just to get to the point where they can do it, all but ignoring the zombie plague around them every step of the way.

Of course, none of this abject repetitiveness and complete lack of surprises would be such a huge issue if the show actually had characters worth spending time with. Well-written and acted characters can bolster even the most average program, much like the good company in a shitty dive bar can lead to a decent night out. It’s worth mentioning, however, that stale plotting is not usually what kills a program’s momentum but, rather, characters becoming parodies of themselves over long periods of time. Even your favourite TV personality, after years on the air, will develop into a shrinking cycle of their own legacy, forever trapped by their developed traits and actions, constrained to be who they are by the demands of a longform narrative.

Now, that’s what can happen with good characters. So forgive me if I’m not all that fucking eager to spend much more time in this world with Rick “My Voice Is Gruff So You Know I’m Complicated” Grimes, his son One-Eyed Sad Boy, Samurai Michonne, Daryl the Hillbilly Saviour, Morgan and His Magic Stick and the panoply of backing characters who all basically exist to prop Rick up as a hero for whatever reason. And that’s not even mentioning the lumpy fuck-storm that is Negan, King of the Shit-Eating Grin While Leaning Back on His Heels and Talking… Like… THIS! Decry the shortcomings of Ramsay Bolton all you want, the dude was still at least interesting and varied enough to be worth hating within the context of Game of Thrones, not on the level of a shittily-written villain who made every scene he was in grind to a terminal halt.

Also, dude made me chuckle. Sue me. (HBO)

That’s one of the many reasons that The Walking Dead is unlikely to ever improve, that the players in its twisted game are simply not engaging enough to anchor it in the midst of endless wheel-spinning and nihilism. It’s certainly not the only reason though: returning to my earlier point, what ultimately made this season so horrendous – and will probably continue to plague the show for the remainder of its run – is Gimple and co.’s insistence on telling stories that never climax, that represent a build that constantly plateaus and then just continues building once more. The end of Season 6 pissed people off for this reason, but then Season 7 was promised as the payoff to that set-up. Well, in short, here’s what we got: Rick convinced the Kingdom and the Hilltop to join the fight against the Saviours, which lasted all of ten minutes with virtually no significant casualties on either side (unless you count Sasha which, obviously, you shouldn’t); then Negan told his troops to ready for war. So, essentially, Season 6 was all lead-up to a mass conflict in Season 7, which resulted in an extended story of everyone actually agreeing to be a part of that conflict, which is leading us into Season 8.

That’s as shitty a foundation for a TV show as I’ve ever seen. You can’t continuously sell your viewers on something that you deny them for the sake of longevity, or because you can’t figure out what to do next if you do actually commit to something like killing the bad guy. If I wrote this piece and filled every paragraph with, “You won’t believe how bad this show is, oh boy, I just can’t wait to tell you, I mean, it’s soooo bad, you’re gonna lose your mind when I actually get down to the details of it, I promise you’re just gonna go fuckin’ crazy“, then ended it with, “Read Part II, tomorrow”, there’s a point at which you’d you go, “Fuck that shit: unsubscribe, motherfucker.” Yet that’s exactly what The Walking Dead does, and has been doing for far too long now. Its very existence is a blight on the actual form and function of well-executed television: it continues marching forward while receding from itself, propagating a notion that it long ago abandoned in favour of furthering an enterprise no one understands anymore. Fuck me, will I be glad when it’s over.

Also, am I the only one who misses T-Dog? (AMC)


Quotes & Random Thoughts


  • I can’t be the only one who thought those constant, starkly-lit closeups of a sweaty, gasping Sasha were her rubbing one out. Can I…?
  • “If you had a dick, I would still have these feelings.” Negan, an equal-opportunity douchebag.
  • Maggie gives Judith the exact some look I initially do everytime she appears: “Who the fuck is tha-? Oh, it’s Judith. Right…”
  • Morgan’s little piece of chestplate armour is so stupid. It looks like he’s playing laser tag in a homeless shelter.
  • “So no one will suffer under their capricious malevolence ever again!” King Ezekiel still pulls off the fancy talk, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that whoever writes for him is constantly spamming the right-click>thesaurus function.
  • I already pointed this out when they first appeared, but all of the garbage people speak like foreigners in a Steven Segal movie. Why? Whyyyyyyyy?!
  • I feel like Rosita could have spared everyone the shock of seeing Eugene on Negan’s side if she had, y’know, just told them before the Saviours showed up.
  • The garbage people betrayed Rick. You know your show’s in trouble when something you didn’t see coming happens, and your response is to purposefully pass wind and shrug.
  • “You ever hear the one about the stupid little prick named Rick, who thought he knew shit but didn’t know shit…” Yeah, dude, I’ve been watching the same show as you for seven fucking years!
  • Sooooooooo, did Sasha’s entire plan hinge on becoming a zombie and attacking Negan, which would then provide ample distraction for the others to catch everyone else of their guard… but she didn’t know that they were planning explosions, which would’ve made that redundant… but then the garbage people betrayed Rick and the others, so it actually was a necessary plan… but then… Oh, fuck me, I don’t care.
  • “Maybe this is all… on… ME!” Negan, realising some hard truths.
  • Michonne’s squabble with that one garbage person was interminable and not a lot of fun.
  • “I’m gonna kill Carl now.” DON’T MAKE PROMISES YOU CAN’T FUCKING KEEP, NEGAN!!!
  • “Alexandria will not fall! Not on this day!” Holy shit, King Ezekiel, you actually made me feel something for a second there.
  • That closing montage had the exact kind of saccharine voiceover and collection of shots you would expect, the worst offender being Sasha and Maggie sitting on a log watching the sunset. Was it well-shot? Yes, but then so are most office screensavers.

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