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The Walking Dead: The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be

twd-the-day-will-come-when-you-wont-be

I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say that the seventh season premier of The Walking Dead was the most hyped and anticipated episode in the show’s history.  The season six finale, now a distant memory, built up to a cliff-hanger that dared your to care about its resolution six months later.  Since then, AMC has spent half a year stoking the fires of fandom to make sure viewers remembered that someone was going to die this week.

There’s obviously going to be spoilers after the jump.  My guess is that if you didn’t watch the episode live last night, you probably aren’t too worried about being spoiled, but be warned anyway.

From the beginning, part of the appeal of The Walking Dead was that “no one was safe”.   Early on, the writers frequently reminded us that any character could die at any time.  Even if you had read the comic book the show was based on, you didn’t necessarily know what was going to happen next.  The general outline from the source material remained the same, but the details were always up for grabs.  As the series continued, the deaths became ever more predictable.  They had always been telegraphed, but repetition set in.  Even the least observant viewer could see The Walking Dead tipping its hand.

This was a problem for the comic book as well.  Robert Kirkman’s story hit its stride during the chapters that took place at the prison and Woodbury.  Unfortunately, the TV show badly bungled the best parts of the comic book.  That left little hope for its handling of the weaker follow-up tales.  The comic book fell into a pattern of essentially recycling the same plot points over and over again only more slowly each time.  The characters would find shelter, allow themselves to feel hopeful for a moment, things would go horribly wrong, rinse and repeat.

I remember reading issue 100 of the comic book series which serves as the basis for this episode.  By this point in the series, I was grumbling that the comics had slowed to the padded out pace of the TV show.  And just like the TV show, it resorted to shocking violence to try to jolt readers out of a stupor.  Except true to form, the TV show padded out the already overlong source material when it came time to adapt this story.

In the comic book, Negan arrived unannounced.  On TV, the characters have been aware of Negan’s existence for quite some time.  Rick has been over-confidently waging a war against an enemy he didn’t know.  In the source material, Rick tragically learned that the world he was living in was both bigger and more dangerous than he thought.  On TV, Rick foolishly stirred up a hornet’s nest and ended up getting stung as a result.

Not a lot really happens in “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” (yes, that really is the episode’s title) aside from the promised death and violence.  The Walking Dead tries to have it both ways; it revels in shocking gore while also trying to wallow in tragic loss.  But you can’t really have both.  The violence on display is outrageous even by the show’s standards which is fine if that’s the kind of show they are making (and it is).  But when you get close-ups of heads being reduced to hamburger, the show no longer works as a character drama (then again, it never really did).

The strength of this episode is Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  He’s clearly having a blast chewing the scenery with gusto.  For all the things The Walking Dead gets wrong, it usually hits the nail on the head with regards to casting.  In the comic book, the character was a funnier version of The Governor.  His salty dialogue was never going to make it past the censors on basic cable.  But since the TV show dropped the ball so badly in its treatment of The Governor, there’s a chance Negan will feel relatively fresh.  Especially with an actor like Morgan snarling with equal parts menace and charisma.

Unfortunately, Negan’s arrival also heralds the return of wimpy Rick Grimes.  The show has mangled a lot of characters from the comic book.  Notably Andrea and Dale went from sympathetic, three-dimensional characters to annoyances you couldn’t wait to see bumped off.  But Rick has suffered at the hands of the writers the longest.  They never seem to know what to do with their protagonist so they keep rebooting him in variations of one of two modes.  Rick is either the uber-capable leader who succeeds even when his plans make no sense or the sniveling coward with no idea what to do next.

The entire point of this episode was to break Rick down, but as jriddle points out in his write-up of the premiere, we have seen Rick broken down before.  We’re all familiar with Andrew Lincoln’s wide-eyed, slack-jawed looks of panic.  He stammers and spits and looks around frantically.  And we all know at some point in the future, he will get his groove back and kick some ass again.  Probably just in time for the midseason finale.

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Posted on October 24, 2016, in TV, Walking Dead and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. I was looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one, Lebeau!

    As I’ve mentioned earlier this year, I haven’t watched the show for a couple of seasons now, but I was curious to find out who Negan killed and to gauge fan reaction in the wake of the anger over last season’s cliffhanger ending.

    So, I didn’t watch this episode, but I spent some time last night reading reactions on a couple of different websites, and I noticed that overwhelmingly the response was negative.

    I’m really interested in seeing the ratings for the first couple of episodes. I have a feeling the viewership totals for this one will be high, but I saw a lot of people claiming they were finally finished after this episode. Will be interesting to see if that is actually the case.

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    • This was a big one, wasn’t it? Of late, the show seems to be testing the limits of what its fans will endure. For several seasons now, Walking Dead fans have defended the show no matter what they did. But it seems like the tide has been turning. I too will be interested to see if viewers really do stick to their proclamations that they have had enough.

      The thing that should have been obvious to anyone involved was that last season’s cliffhanger ending created a situation that could not possibly end in a satisfying way. They spend an entire season setting up a pay-off that was delayed for six months. Who does that? Not to mention the reveal that, yep, Glenn died, was diminished by the show essentially trolling fans with a Glenn fake-out for much of last season. They are violating some pretty basic tenets of story-telling.

      It doesn’t help that everything has to be padded out to a ridiculous degree. The episode has an entire middle sequence in which Negan torments Rick for no apparent reason. And to make matters arguably worse, the writers are knowingly teasing comic book readers with the idea that Negan will lop of Rick’s hand as was done (by the Governor) in the comic book.

      Time will tell if TWD’s antics have caught up with them. I’m more curious about that than I am what’s going on in the show itself.

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      • Yes, I think one reason I continue to read recaps and follow the plot line casually is because the show seems to have become a masterclass in how to squander goodwill by needlessly provoking a fanbase. It’s way more fascinating than anything Rick and Company is doing!

        I also thought the cliffhanger ending was a misfire from a narrative standpoint because really any solution was going to end up making that six month wait seem maddening and pointless. I also thought it was interesting that the show then continued to draw that out as much as possible by delaying the reveal for another twenty minutes or more.

        I was discussing this a couple of months ago somewhere else, but I think one of the biggest problems with the show–and one that is more evident the longer it is on–is the lack of any discernible narrative direction.

        Game of Thrones is a show that gets a lot of criticism for some of the same things TWD does (gratuitous violence, diversions from source material, etc.). I don’t always like the narrative decisions Game of Thrones makes and sometimes agree with the criticism thrown at it, but I still watch that show and am eagerly anticipating its 7th season, despite giving up on TWD years ago.

        I think the difference was that with Game of Thrones the point always has been “Who will sit on the Iron Throne?” And I think it really helps that no matter what else crops up, viewers are still motivated by curiosity about the ultimate outcome, and there’s enough foreshadowing that, in retrospect, some things make a lot more sense.

        In contrast, there seems to be no compelling endpoint for TWD. I remember early in the show’s run, I thought it was all leading up to revelations about what caused the zombie outbreak or even somehow someone finding a way to stop it or even just some philosophical insight into human nature. But the details about the origins seemed to stop after season 2, and after that, I never could see any overarching narrative. And the character development was so spotty and the philosophizing so painfully simplistic that the show lost any claim to being about big issues long ago.

        It’s just the gang drifting from one place to another, making the same stupid mistakes, and then dying. I watch a lot of pretty morbid stuff and am not opposed to some nihilism in my entertainment, but after awhile it all just seemed so pointless. And I also am not opposed to just hanging out with characters I like–am currently rewatching a very dark, disturbing show I just finished simply because I loved the characters so much that I don’t mind going through all of the emotional turmoil a second time with them.

        But I feel like TWD lost its character appeal long ago, too. I stopped watching the show because I stopped caring whether or not any of these people were eaten alive. I don’t think shows need likable characters to be good or compelling, but I think with all of its other issues, TWD really needs that because it is running out of other reasons for people to tune in.

        I noticed that AMC renewed the show before the seventh season even premiered. If the show starts bleeding viewers every week, I wonder if they will start to regret that decision. (I’m thinking specifically about the rate its sister show started losing viewers every week this season.)

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        • I knew the 20 minute delay was coming. And frankly, nothing TWD does anymore surprises me. When I read that season six was going to end on a cliffhanger, I initially couldn’t believe it. But then I realized that was the level on which the show was operating these days. They aren’t trying to tell a story anymore so much as they are trying to drive viewers to Twitter. They don’t care if people are complaining so long as they are buzzing about the show. That will not continue if they chase off all their viewers with stunts like this.

          The Game of Thrones comparison is apt. The shows share some of the same DNA. But Game of Thrones at least feels like it is going somewhere. TWD feels like it is spinning its wheels. I can’t remember any show that actively antagonized its audience like this one does.

          Robert Kirkman has said over and over again that the idea for TWD came out of frustration with the way zombie movies end. They always end with either a cheap happy ending or the end of the world. So he wanted to tell a zombie story with no actual ending. The problem with that is that stories need to have endings. Even long-running characters like Batman and James Bond have stories that have beginnings, middles and endings. The zombie genre has a very limited structure so when you delay the ending indefinitely, you just end up repeating the same story beats over and over again. It’s a problem for the comic which is even more apparent on the TV show.

          Liked by 1 person

        • There was a part of me that wondered if they were going to try to hold off on the reveal until the second episode, but I think even as tone-deaf as the showrunners are, they probably realized that was a bridge too far.

          Agreed on their emphasis on creating buzz! I think they have probably let the show’s success go to their heads and assume that audience will always be there. I think it’s causing them to ignore the very fair criticisms that are being leveled at the show and possibly even making them more stubborn in repeating them just out of spite.

          In a way the show reminds me a bit of Outlander–another show I stopped watching but still follow out of morbid curiosity because the narrative surrounding the show is more interesting to me than the show itself. It also started bleeding viewers this past season as critics who had previously praised the show started giving it bad press and viewers seemed to become more and more irritated with the direction of the show. That being said, I don’t think the Outlander showrunners are baiting the fan base as the TWD folks seem to be. I think they tend to blunder themselves into that position more than anything because they misread fan expectations whereas from the TWD team I definitely get the vibe that they know they are pissing off fans and they are enjoying it.

          I hadn’t realized Kirkman created it intentionally to not have an ending. I like the general premise, but I think a successful execution of that idea would require a lot better character work than what the show has delivered because that could have provided necessary story arcs. But even in the beginning, the show was all over with that and has only gotten worse from what I can tell.

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        • Apparently ratings (while still very healthy) were down last season. I think we’re starting to see some desperation here. Up the antics, gore and violence in order to get people talking about the show as much as possible. I don’t think it will work. Instead, they will alienate their remaining viewers. I have heard a lot or people asking “Why am I watching this?” or “Why should I care?” Good questions.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed! I’m going to be checking the ratings totals every week religiously for the first few episodes.

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        • I will definitely be monitoring those as they come out. I don’t expect a mass exodus. Just a continued slow bleeding away as people reach their personal last straws.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha! I don’t watch the show but I’ve read many of your articles and have other friends who watch, so I read just to find out which character died. Was that in here?

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    • There were actually two deaths. I think I glossed over the first. Negan first killed Abraham, the mustached muscleman who ran out of story last season and actually died earlier in the story in the comic books. His death was saved for this episode so people would think he was the big kill of the premiere. But no, they weren’t done yet. Daryl responds to Abraham’s death with defiance which prompts Negan to kill Glenn. Glenn is one of the show’s most beloved characters and a regular since episode two. So theoretically, his death should carry some weight. But execution is everything and here it just comes off as cynical manipulation.

      Glenn is slowly beaten to death in front of his pregnant wife. He stops midway through his beating to tell her that he will “find her”. All the while, his eyeball is popping out of its socket and the top of his head is caved in. Even fans of the show are complaining that this took the show’s trademark gore and violence too far. It doesn’t help that the show devoted a lot of time to teasing us with Glenn’s death just last season.

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      • I can understand why some would say the Glenn thing went too far. But in its defense they were very intentionally copying how he was drawn in the comic when he got killed.

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        • This is true. Although I should note that my initial reaction to that issue was that it also crossed a line. I actually stopped reading the comic for a time after that. Additionally, some things that are acceptable as black and white drawings on a flat page can cross a line when actually presented in live action. On the page, Glenn’s caved-in face was a static image. On screen, it just went on and on for what felt like excruciating minutes.

          Having said that, the gore is not my primary complaint. If that’s the show TWD wants to be, that’s fine. Be the best blood-soaked show you can be. But TWD also wants to be taken seriously as a drama and that’s where it falls on its face.

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  3. This episode for me boiled down to Rick being a moron. In that situation the last thing you say is “I’m going to kill you”. It directly led to most of the bad things that happened over the rest of the episode (though Darryl gets stupid points as well). You shut the hell up, say you will be obedient, then when Negan sends you back to Alexandria to work for him you start planning your revenge. Play along with his demands until you are in a position to strike.

    There is also no reason I can figure as to why Rick didn’t make a serious attempt to kill Negan in the RV. At first I thought maybe he was physically weak, but that proved to be untrue. The only time he tries is when Negan is specifically egging him on to do that and of course is ready. I saw several times before and after that Rick could have made a move.

    But if people made logical decisions and actions it wouldn’t be the TWD!

    That being said, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is such a good actor that his mere presence made it a compelling and enjoyable episode to watch.

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    • I understand Rick not making an attempt on Negan in the RV. Even if he succeeded in taking Negan out, all of his friends and family would still be at the mercy of Negan’s men. Why he initially threatened Negan or why Daryl thought it was a good idea to lash out when there was no chance of success is beyond me. Well, they had an hour to fill. But other than that…

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  4. I really don’t understand the very strong reaction some of the viewers are having toward the violence and sadism. That’s an interesting subject to me (and I may write some more about it) because this is one of the elements of the source material that the tv show has always watered down to virtually nothing in order to make it presentable to a middle-American audience. By this point in the comic, our heroes had done stuff arguably worse than anything that happened last night. When they turned the tables on the Hunters, they spent the rest of the night slowly torturing those people to death. I tend to welcome violence whenever it happens on the show because it is, at least, something happening. When I see the strong reaction from some, I’m wondering what they thought was going to happen. Did they not know someone would be beaten to a gory pulp? Did they not wait most of last season to see that very thing? Glenn’s death–the event causing all the fuss–is virtually a reproduction of his comic end and maybe people were just expecting it to be watered down like everything else.

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    • I left a comment at your site, but I think it may have gone up in smoke. Probably user error on my part. Regardless, good to see you covering TWD again!

      As for the violence, I think you answered your own question there. Where this is not that big of a stretch for the comic book, it’s way beyond what viewers are used to seeing on the show. Last night wasn’t what a lot of viewers signed up for. Of all the moments to do a faithful recreation for the show, I’m not sure Glenn’s death was the best option. As I said elsewhere, issue 100 got me to set aside the comic for a stretch. Imagine if you were used to the watered down version from the TV show and had never read the comic? Last night would have been a jolt!

      I didn’t have a massive problem with the violence itself except that it wasn’t in service of a good story. It was pure shock value and nothing more. That’s not very interesting.

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      • Yeah, I guess I’ll be with TWD to the end but I quit with FTWD. When it comes to this, forget the crowd–two is a mob. I checked my spam filter to see if your post ended up there but there’s no sign of it. I wish I could set up commenting without confirmation but I was getting robo-spammed all to hell when I had it that way before.

        I don’t know if I was right about people reading the ep based on what they bring to it re: violence. I listen to the Doctor of the Dead podcast with Arnold Blumberg and Scott Woodard and sometimes correspond with them. They were on Twitter last night and were absolutely appalled by this episode and both of those guys are seasons zombie and horror fans from way back. I’ve seen posts on the IMDb TWD board like that too. I thought maybe people were just upset that Glenn met such a horrible end but, again, what did they expect was going to happen? I wonder if part of the reaction may have to do with the fact that the series has been in decline for so long. People are already bored and grumbling and it’s all just dumb and repetitive and then you throw something else unpleasant at them at a time when there’s increasingly little to recommend the show. I don’t really know.

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        • It wasn’t much of a comment. Mostly just “welcome back and thanks for the shout-out” stuff. I probably jacked it up while multitasking.

          If you write an article about the reaction to this episode, I’m definitely interested to read it. You’re probably right that it has to do with the lack of quality on the show. I think even a lot of people who were defending The Walking Dead a year or two ago are starting to get frustrated with the repetition, etc. This episode read like a cheap attempt at shock value. Honestly, that’s how issue 100 felt to me as well, so it’s not all that surprising I had a similar reaction to seeing it on TV. But there was a definite sense of hollowness and of a line being crossed. I imagine different viewers came to the same conclusion for different reasons.

          Regardless, I am curious to see how the season proceeds both in terms of what happens on the show and how fans react to it. They already promised that next week would be “funny” so I’m bracing for tonal whiplash.

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  5. I don’t know how I feel about it, exactly. I’m of the unpopular opinion- at least in this crowd- that the episode was well done, but it would be strange to say I “enjoyed” it. I watched the death scene and I kept tensing and releasing my hands, squirming in my seat. It wasn’t as emotional for me than the reactions I’ve heard of people screaming or crying or leaving the room, but it was hard to take. The episode in general left me feeling rather numb and discombobulated. I wouldn’t re-watch it, for sure. I am interested in seeing how the group will get it’s shit together and what the eventual downfall of Negan will look like. I hope to see Carol push past all this milquetoast namby bamby nonsense and fuck everyone’s shit up, but it’s hard to say I’m excited, actually. The completely demoralizing tone of the episode might just have been too effective. That’s how I know I wouldn’t survive in this fictional alternate universe- and get worn out with all the unrelenting dread and just cash in my chips. Not even in a tormented or depressed way, just more of ‘yeah, this survival thing is more trouble than it’s worth. I think I’m done. Peace out motherfuckers.” I’m surprised more characters haven’t done this, or gone completely insane. Why’s everyone such a damn optimist in this crowd, or too stubborn to let go? Survival here offers no reward but itself.

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    • I’m going to use some potentially spoilery info from the comic in this paragraph, so skip it if you don’t want to be spoiled at all. The introduction of Negan kicked off a very long series of story arcs that formed one major arc about the conflict between Negan and several other factions. These stories fell into a very familiar pattern. Rick would come up with a plan to overthrow Negan, it would seem like the plan might work but then Rick would find out he had underestimated the extent of Negan’s resources. After the plan failed, Negan would teach Rick a lesson. Rick would play a long for a while, then come up with a new plan. This pattern repeated itself several times. Did Negan have a downfall? Yes and no. I wouldn’t expect him to “get his”. I stopped reading the comic a few years ago and from what I understand Negan’s still doing all right.

      Okay, spoilers over.

      As for this episode, it was what it was intended to be. It was supposed to be hard to watch and not a lot of fun. I can see why people who are invested in the characters had an emotional reaction. For me, the episode was as coldly manipulative as the show has ever been. And that’s pretty much all The Walking Dead has left. It’s out to shock you. But I don’t think they can take that tactic any further. I think they hit a wall with this episode, so I’m not sure what they do from here.

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      • Eh, I’m one of the few people who don’t mind spoilers, but I don’t really consider this a spoiler. I don’t believe this is the way the it will play out on the show, which has only intermittently faithful to the source material so far. The fans hatred of the character is so intense, no one wants to see Rick become his bitch, no one wants to develop empathy for him or see him integrated into the main cast. People have different emotion needs from a tv series’ narrative than a comic book; conflicts need to be resolved, villains need to be defeated, and evil can’t win. That will lose viewership for sure.

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