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.
I believe we have hit a new low here when it comes to padding out The Walking Dead. The first twenty minutes of “The Cell” dealt with the making of sandwiches. This was done in order to draw a comparison between fan favorite Daryl Dixon (who was probably eating dog food sandwiches before the apocalypse) and his captor, Dwight. But the sandwich making went on so long I found myself wondering “where the hell are they were getting all this bread?”
The Walking Dead can be a divisive show, but I think just about everyone can agree on one thing: Last week’s season premiere was hard to watch. That episode was intended to break down the characters and the audience with an hour-long barrage of graphic violence, gore and hopelessness. Whether or not that is something of merit is up for debate. But I think most viewers would agree that you couldn’t follow up the season premiere with more of the same. So it comes as something of a relief that the second episode of the season switches characters, location and tone.
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.
The two-hour season finale of the second season of Fear the Walking Dead consisted of two episodes titled “Wrath” and “North”. Together, they essentially wrapped up the dangling plot threads of the second half of the season while setting up cliffhangers to be resolved in season three. Ultimately, it felt a lot like the midseason finale in which things went “sideways” (a term the characters on the show seem to be fond of) and the characters had to abandon their latest sanctuary. The details are different, but only moderately so.
“Date Of Death” is the penultimate episode of the second season of Fear the Walking Dead. You might expect the episode preceding the finale to set up some major conflict, but instead, this is a Chris and Travis story told largely in flashback. The outcome of the father-son struggle was apparent to us at the end of last week’s episode when we saw Travis all by himself. And yet, even as this episode ends, Chris’ ultimate fate is uncertain and we, the viewers, have learned nothing we didn’t already know.
I wasn’t really sure how to end last week’s Fear the Walking Dead recap, so I wondered aloud how the show would go about reuniting the scattered cast. There didn’t seem to be a logical way to reconnect the various plot threads, but clearly that would be the objective for the remaining episodes this season. Sure enough this week’s episode titled “Pillar of Salt” set the ground work for the expected reunion. And as expected, it did so in the laziest, most nonsensical way possible.