Season seven of AMC’s The Walking Dead began with the bat and it looked like things might end that way too.
We began, back in October, with the group at their all-time low point: they had been outmaneuvered at every turn; out-planned; out-manned; and were on their knees in front of the newest TWD villain, Negan—and to top it off, we knew one of them, one of our central characters, was going to die by baseball bat. It was the big season six cliffhanger. [SPOILERS abound beyond here] And then things got lower, and TWD killed not one, but two of our heroes. Brutally, and with a measure of pacing that kept it going long enough that turning your head away from the screen would not diminish the impacts [sic].
Even prior this violent, and onscreen double execution, some had dubbed TWD torture porn. It’s bleak. Death follows death. Betrayal follows betrayal. And failure follows success. Just when things seem to be going well for our heroes, they go to hell, and as TWD has progressed, so has the brutality in which they are dispatched.
Season six builds continuously to the emergence of a new villain, one that producers of TWD promise will be bigger and badder than any before, and season seven delivers in all its glory. There are moments of brutality interspersed throughout that highlight just how real this world is and can get. Sure, after Lucille’s bloody introduction, the pace settles low. Rick is brought to a sniveling subservience. Things plod along. More groups are introduced. Characters are sketched out. Negan lurks like the malevolent shark from Jaws, always out of sight, but never out of mind. But he only surfaces for quick kills and maimings, just enough to remind you that he’s there, but not so much as to lose half the viewers. And then, Rick gets his groove back. He’s back on mission with a plan. Alliances are made, bonds forged. Debts paid. All so that Alexandria, and our group, can defeat Negan, with the help of Hilltop, The Kingdom, and the Scavengers. The finale promises a showdown of epic proportions.
Only, we know Negan can’t die here, like this. He’s been built too big, too high and mighty to be brought low so easily—and in the episode predating the finale, we learn that he’s aware of Rick’s schemes and may very well be making his own counterschemes. He is Negan, after all. Oh, and then there is the matter of Sasha, whom Negan considers his ace in the hole: manipulating others into submission through leverage is a specialty of his.
So, when Rick, group, and allies greet Negan and his three measly trucks of Saviors, with overwhelmingly superior odds and firepower, it’s not all that surprising that the Scavengers (or Garbage people as Negan dubs them—Negan has several quintessential Negan moments throughout the episode—moments, that despite his despicable and vile nature allow him to be a character that people like) have double-crossed Rick and the Alexandrians.
A standoff ensues, as the Alexandrians know Negan has Sasha. But wait, Sasha has other plans! Turns out, despite telling Eugene that she’s not going to use his poison pill, she has. And the clips of her we’ve been seeing throughout the episode are flashbacks. She’s already a zombie, and a-hungry for Negan-burger!
At the point the Alexandrians see that Sasha is already dead, all hell breaks loose, and Carl caps 2 or 3 people from Team Negan instantly, proving he’s once again the ultimate badass (as Negan seems to think); by comparison, Rick kills no one, doesn’t even draw his weapon, and not only gets captured, but shot as well.
Depsite it appearing that Team Rick is kicking butt in the chaos, things quickly prove otherwise as we end with several extras dead and Rick and Carl on their knees in front of Negan, again. And this time, as Negan warns us, this is no warning, it’s punishment. Carl and Rick aren’t getting off the hook. Lucille is thirsty.
And here’s where the introduction to Season Seven comes into play. Torture Porn. A tipping point for audiences perhaps grown tired of the never-ending doom that is TWD—for all those that consider whether the title refers to the zombies (walkers) or the people still left “alive.” As Rick tells Negan, “You’re all already dead.” It’s true! On more than one level—we know their just zombies in incubation; zombutterflys ready to spring forth from their breathing chrysalises. And for me, personally, I’ve contemplated giving the show up, at several points. Earlier in its history because I found it boring, and at times, slow-paced. That’s no longer so much an issue, but the absence of hope is. And so, when things seem at their worst, when Negan is literally swinging Lucille for Carl’s head, we are given hope in the form of the arrival of Hilltop and The Kingdom emerging from off-screen to save the Alexandrians.
And finally, at long last, we have tiger kills! Thank you Shiva! I feel like a little Shivablast (reference courtesy of The League).
And with hope, I can await next October’s return of TWD in season eight. I can await more bloody devastation, and twists, and deaths, but quite possibly, some good news too. Maybe just one or two helpings, doled out through what promises to be, as Negan says to a newly ensemble army to close the episode, “a war.”
– There were some truly Negan Negan moments in the finale: Negan bringing Sasha breakfast with a pancake with a blueberry smile; Negan telling Sasha he’d still feel the same way about her even if she had a dick; and Negan giving Team Rick the finger as he escapes out of Alexandria in a big truck.
– The leader of the Scavengers offers to “lay” with Rick—he seems to turn her down.
– Dwight seems to have not lied to the Alexandrians (as he’s kept up an end of his bargain, and left Daryl a love note saying he didn’t know about the Scavengers’ betrayal). Curious to hear your thoughts on this–Will Dwight prove to be a real ally, or fall back to his old ways?
– The episode’s final shot is a close-up of Maggie’s hand as she’s holding the watch owned by Hershel (her father) and then Glen. We’ve done a complete 180 since last season’s finale—and you should feel good about this: torture porn doesn’t have high notes, even rare ones.