I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still processing last week’s trippy episode of Twin Peaks. Okay, I get the impression most of you aren’t watching David Lynch’s revival on Showtime. Fair enough. It’s not for everyone. But trust me when I say it is unlike anything else on television. Since Twin Peaks is taking the holiday weekend off, I figured I’d take the opportunity to check in on this season of Fear the Walking Dead.
The stakes were sky high for the season finale of The Walking Dead. No, not so much for the characters. They were just involved in a poorly plotted skirmish with Negan and the Saviors that wouldn’t actually resolve much of anything. No, the real stakes were for the show itself. The sixth season finale ended with an infuriating cliffhanger that alienated much of The Walking Dead’s loyal fanbase. Since then, AMC’s crown jewel has been shedding viewers. This season needed to end with an episode that didn’t send viewers into a rage. The result was an overlong episode that mostly chased its own tail but at least it didn’t actively troll its audience. That counts as a win, right?
When the Oceanside community was introduced, it was obvious that sooner or later Rick was going to show up and take their guns. It was the only reason for them to exist. Episode after episode, we were reminded that Rick needed guns. Conveniently, here was a community with guns to spare but without the will to use them. Sure, Tara promised not to reveal their location. But that promise was never anything more than a stalling tactic. She may as well have promised to keep their location a secret until the penultimate episode of the season.
Well, at least we got that out of the way. Ever since The Walking Dead arbitrarily created the Sasha-Abraham-Rosita love triangle, the show set itself on a path towards an episode in which the two women work through their feelings. It all feels less urgent since the meat in the Abraham sandwich got his brains splattered all over Negan’s bat in the season premiere (which feels like a lifetime ago) and the truth is this story arc was never that interesting to begin with. But at least the show’s writers have played it out and we can theoretically all move on to not caring about Enid.
It’s appropriate that an episode titled “Bury Me Here” includes a couple of characters dying. I’ll hold off revealing their identities until after the jump. One of these characters went to the trouble of digging his own grave in advance and posting a sign so as to make the purpose of the hole clear. Signs are a theme of the episode as Morgan flashes back to the days when his grief turned to madness which resulted in him posting warning signs all around him. The writers of The Walking Dead have been posting signs too. Every episode is loaded with signs spelling out exactly what is going to happen before the season finale. If anything that happened in this episode surprised you, you haven’t been paying attention.
It’s date night on The Walking Dead. For Rick and Michonne (“Richonne”), that means hanging out at a nearby fairground with Greg Nicotero and a bunch of extras in zombie make-up. Wacky, gory hi-jinks ensue. The show’s writers managed to milk an hour-long episode out of that thin premise. Let’s see if I can get a 500-word article out of it.
Imagine a TV show based on the Wizard of Oz. On this hypothetical show, the audience watches the Cowardly Lion overcome his fears and cheers as he discovers his courage. Almost immediately afterwards, the character reverts to being a sniveling coward seemingly at random. Viewers watch the Lion repeat the same story beat over and over again. That’s what’s happening on The Walking Dead with Eugene playing the role of the Lion. He even has the mane.
The Walking Dead has been ridiculous for a long time now. But lately, the show seems to be in on the joke which has made the last couple of episodes much more enjoyable than the first half of the season. When The Walking Dead takes itself seriously, it just keeps hitting the same depressing notes over and over again leaving viewers little choice but to focus on the glaring flaws in the narrative. But when you’ve got an episode focusing on a group right out of Mad Max complete with a Thunderdome battle between Rick and a zombie in spiky armor, there’s enough entertainment value to not sweat the small stuff.
As we move into the back half of the seventh season, our “heroes” are in trouble. No, I’m not referring to Rick Grimes and his scrappy band of apocalypse survivors. I’m talking about Scott Gimple and the gang responsible for creating the top-rated show on cable. Over the first half of the season, The Walking Dead‘s ratings have been in decline. While the show remains popular, this is a trend that needs to be reversed and the show-runners know it.
For years, they have shouted down any and all criticism of the show. But in the face of slipping ratings, they have changed their tune. Producer Gale Anne Hurd has acknowledged that the show will be toning down the violence. Apparently she attributes the decline in ratings to the over-the-top violence in the season seven premiere rather than the show’s numerous creative failings. Whatever the case, the message was clear. “We’re righting the ship.”
“Hearts Still Beating”, the mid-season finale of the seventh season of The Walking Dead, wraps up all the ongoing stories introduced in the season premiere and resets the stage for the back half of the season. Over the course of 90 minutes, the episode checks in with all of the regulars. Maggie is still pregnant and the likely next leader of the Hilltop community, Carol still wants to be left alone, Morgan still won’t kill except when the plot demands that he break his oath, Spencer is still insufferable, Carl still needs a haircut, Tara’s Oceanside community still doesn’t matter, Eugene still likes to watch and Negan still likes the sound of his own voice.
Hearts are still beating (except for Glenn and Abraham’s) and the status quo remains largely unchanged after eight episodes (three of which were extra-long).
“Sing Me a Song” is the penultimate episode of the “A” half of the seventh season of The Walking Dead. It’s an extra-sized 90-minute episode which I think we all know has more to do with ad revenue than it does story-telling. This episode doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know from the last over-sized episode. Negan is a bad dude. He puts on a smile and he never shuts up. So far this season, we have probably spent more time listening to Negan prattle on than we have spent with any other character including Rick – the show’s de facto protagonist. In “The Cell”, viewers got an extended look inside the Savior’s compound from the points of view of Dwight and Daryl. This episode is more of the same as seen by a recently captured Carl.
Last week’s extra long episode focused on Negan grinding Rick under his boot for roughly ninety minutes less commercials. “Go Getters” does the same thing with a Negan surrogate (a henchman named Simon) and Hilltop leader, Gregory. Gregory is a sniveling coward. In theory, he’s a weak-willed leader that stands in stark contrast to our hero, Rick. But at the end of the day, the result is still the same.
Boy, that sure didn’t take long. When The Walking Dead finally introduced the charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the villain Negan, it gave the show a much-needed jolt of energy. By this point in the show’s long run, our main cast has encountered so many malicious groups that they have all become kind of faceless. Morgan’s confident, sneering strut was at least memorable. But after less than a handful of appearances, Negan’s already worn out his welcome.