SPOILER ALERT: This article speculates about Season 7 of AMC’s The Walking Dead as well as discusses the comic books the TV series is based on. There are spoilers for both the show and the comic book in this article, especially the latter. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.
If you’re a fan of AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead, then there’s good news and bad news on your plate, so figure out which one you want to slowly chew through first. The good news is that the official trailer for Season 7 will come out later this month, likely full of misleading plot promises and a heavy focus on side characters so that we have no idea who Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), our newest antagonist, killed in the Season 6 finale “Last Day on Earth.”
The bad news? Season 7 is likely to play things safe the exact same way Season 6 did.
That may sound harsh, but we truly have hit a rut with arguably the most popular show on television. As thrilling as the story can get and as fun as it is to watch Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) find new, innovative ways to dispatch of the undead, things have just gotten stale as the idea of playing things safe continues to pop up in the production of each episode.
When we last left off at the Savior’s camp, Negan was bashing Lucille, his baseball bat covered in barbed wire, into the head of an unknown victim over and over again. If you ask me, my money is still on Abraham and Glenn both dying, but I could very well be wrong — and likely will be. Regardless of who dies, the senseless murder of a member of Rick’s family will send the former sheriff into a rage that signals only one thing: war.
Or, to be specific, all-out war, as that is the next comic arc the show is set to attempt replicating. With war comes many casualties and many losses, but in a show like The Walking Dead where the amount of impact deaths have been so few and far between in recent seasons, will All Out War essentially be just a minor skirmish?
Again, I want to emphasize that the following section is full of both speculation and spoilers concerning The Walking Dead television show and graphic novel. If you are not caught up on either the end of Season 6 of The Walking Dead or issue #156 of the graphic novel and wish to stay away from spoilers, turn back now.
The first problem with All Out War, and this goes for all parts of the TV show too, is that there’s just too many main characters of the Alexandrians that we’re emotionally invested in. I’ve made the case before on social media that one of the biggest downfalls from the first half of Season 6 was the amount of subplots either ignored or introduced…then promptly ignored because there’s so many characters alive and so much going on.
Just for comparison’s sake, let’s look at the active members of “Team Family” at the time Volume 17, “Something To Fear”, officially begins. Why Volume 17, you may ask? The first issue of the volume, issue #97, is when Rick and friends first start dealing with The Saviors (for you TV people, this would be Episode 12 of Season 6).
Comic: Rick Grimes, Carl Grimes, Michonne, Andrea, Glenn*, Maggie Greene, Sophia, Abraham Ford*, Eugene Porter, Rosita Espinosa, Heath, Father Gabriel Stokes, Aaron.
TV Show: Rick Grimes, Carl Grimes, Judith Grimes, Michonne, Daryl Dixon, Morgan Jones, Carol Peletier, Glenn Rhee, Maggie Greene, Abraham Ford, Eugene Porter, Rosita Espinosa, Tara Chambler, Sasha Williams, Father Gabriel Stokes, Aaron.
Note: Asterisk (*) denotes character was killed during this time frame. Italics denote character was already killed in opposite version or did not exist.
So in the comics, we go from really 13 characters of the main group (though in reality, only about 10 or 11 are of real importance by that stage…sorry, Gabriel and Aaron!) to 16 in the show — all of whom have gotten enough development and screentime (though not enough in some case) that we care about who they are and what happens to them. Plus, that show list doesn’t count fan-favorite characters who have made an impact with our main group like Paul “Jesus” Rovia, Enid, or Tobin.
That TV show group is our Team Family, the cast we’ve been following around since Halloween 2010 and who we’ve laughed with, cried with, and hunted squirrels with. For as much frustration fans have about the show’s obsession with having Daryl on the screen at all times, you have to give AMC some credit for how they’ve at least taken efforts to make Rick and friends feel like actual human beings.
Take a character like Rosita, whose role in the comic book really is for sex appeal and to be the girlfriend of Sgt. Abraham Ford; now while one could argue she’s on there in the show for sex appeal, think about how much screentime she’s gotten. Think about her friendships with Tara and Eugene or her actual characterization and placement after Abraham dumps her for Sasha. Think of how many words not relating to her appearance you can use to describe Rosita: sassy, smart-cracking, brave, hardened, maybe even a bit cocky. What is there to describe comic book Rosita as if you don’t factor appearance into it?
But for as good as it is to put effort into your characters, you run into a slight problem when you have so many characters that are so highly adored and respected. Look, no one wants to kill off a character and rob an actor of more time on a show they’ve worked so hard on — we’ve all heard the interviews and read the articles where actors admit to crying when they read the script and see who’s next to bite the dust– but beloved characters eventually have to go…unless, you’re The Walking Dead.
What was so unfortunate about Season 6 of The Walking Dead is that when it comes to deaths, the writers seem to want to play it safe and kill off redshirts rather than characters that we actually care about. Nicholas commits suicide and causes Glenn to fall down into a horde of walkers? Turns out he survived via a dumpster! A massive zombie herd infests the Alexandria Safe-Zone? Don’t worry, the most notable death will be of Jessie, Rick’s…girlfriend? Did they even have enough time to make it official?
My favorite, though, has to be when Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham first meet up with Bud (Christopher Berry) and Negan’s group. You’d think that this would be a perfect time to establish how dangerous the Saviors are by seriously wounding — or even killing — one of the three Alexandrians, right?
Deus ex machina, much?
If we’re going into a war, right, then it makes sense to assume that people would die because…well, that’s what war is. How can we as fans expect good things out of the Alexandria-Saviors war on a show that hasn’t had an impact death since Tyreese passed in “What Happened and What’s Going On” back in Season 5?
Some have argued that it’s because the writers are afraid of losing viewers if they kill off a fan favorite like Daryl or Carol, but risks have to be taken sometimes. You may lose a casual fan here or there, but chances are the hardcore, die hard fan isn’t going to quit because of one death.
On some shows, going an entire season without a big death works if you build everything up right and don’t hesitate to get the action going in the next season — Season 4 of The Wire did that perfectly, though one can argue that there was a death that fit under big — but on a zombie show? One where the characters keep getting into situations where survival seems near-impossible but get saved by characters going “big damn heroes” at the last moment?
And to be fair, this problem has been going on for a few years now. Remember when the Governor attacked the prison and every one of our main cast — with the exception of Hershel — managed to miraculously survive? I hate to say it, but that doesn’t happen in the comics because not only does Hershel die, but Billy (his son and stand-in for Beth), Tyreese (who is the one that got the beheading rather than Hershel), Axel (a prisoner-turned-ally who was killed much earlier in the show), Patricia (Axel’s girlfriend), Lori Grimes (Rick’s wife…obviously), and even Judith are all killed in the prison massacre from the good side. That is a huge, huge amount of deaths, and it provides a huge impact on our characters from there on to the point where Maggie even tries to kill herself.
The same, to an extent, happened in the graphic novel with the walker herd in Alexandria as we lost both Morgan and fan favorite Bruce in addition to the Anderson family and Douglas Monroe (the comics’ version of Deanna). Besides those last four — well, three in the comics, as Sam doesn’t exist — what non-redshirts do we lose from Alexandria in the show to that huge walker herd?
The answer is zero, and my fear is that the same will be the case for All Out War. Even with whoever Negan ends up killing, we’re still going to have so many characters that you have to really start wondering when things are going to change? Are we really going to have that two-year time skip from the end of All Out War to A New Beginning without any major deaths?
I won’t try to spoil too much about All Out War in the comics because there aren’t many notable deaths (Dr. Denise, who died in Season 6, is probably the biggest casualty along with Shiva the tiger), but this is a time for the show when heads need to roll. If you keep serving the same meal with no different sauces or sides, we’re eventually not going to want to eat it.
Right now from an unbiased point of view, I could very well see the plot calling for the deaths of Tara, Rosita, Morgan, Aaron, and even Daryl, but will the writers take that risk? We’ll definitely start figuring that out later this month when the official trailer for Season 7 is released at Comic-Con in San Diego, California and more news starts leaking.
But for now? We just have to grab our peanut butter protein bars and wait…
[Image via AMC]