We’ve made it, folks. Six days from now, we will finally learn who Negan introduced to Lucille, how Rick plans on handling the new Savior threat, and whether or not Eugene and his mullet will hook up with Rosita. Over the course of sixteen weeks, prepare to see a war unlike any other we’ve seen in television history because after over six months of waiting, the world travels back to the suburbs of Virginia for Season 7 of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
More good news came Sunday night for Robert Kirkman’s masterpiece, as Deadline reported that AMC has announced both The Walking Dead and Talking Dead, the companion talk show hosted by Chris Hardwick, will return for an additional Season — 8 and 7 respectively — in 2017. AMC’s Charlie Collier gave the following statement, even taking a note from Negan in the process.
“Eeny, meeny, miny, more. What a joy to partner with Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple and some of the hardest-working people in television to bring The Walking Dead to the fans. And, most important, thanks to those fans for breathing life into this remarkable series right along with us.”
But, not all fans are happy about the return of TV’s most popular post-apocalyptic show; go on social media or message boards and you’ll see long-time viewers proclaiming they’ve given up on a show that has given us so many memories over the years.
The thing is, these fans aren’t leaving because of the possibility their favorite character may be killed, but they’re leaving because of what the show has become. Between the cliffhanger at the end of season 6, forced romances and subplots that aren’t really ever explored, and what can kindly be called atrocious writing by the staff, people are pissed about where The Walking Dead stands right now. For years, we’ve heard the jokes about “Kill Daryl and We Riot,” but could anyone have seen the fanbase actually starting to break up with The Walking Dead?
More importantly, even with a Season 8 being renewed for 2017, is this The Walking Dead‘s last chance to prove to their fanbase that they’re still capable of telling an emotional, human story, or are they just too far gone?
First, let’s take a look at what has contributed to what fans can argue as the “downfall” of The Walking Dead, but let’s stay away from opinions here (i.e. no screen time for this character or an early death for this character). Now, there will be a couple of things that are opinionated, but they’re also backed up by facts; let’s not play the “they haven’t made Rick and Daryl hook up” card.
- Ratings hovered around the 12 million mark for most of Season 6, with eleven of the sixteen episodes being below 13.30 million viewers and eight being below 13 million entirely. Compared to Season 5, where only one episode (‘Them’) had under thirteen million, that is a serious drop — and it gets uglier when you realize that in the second half of the season, The Walking Dead isn’t going up against the NFL and Sunday Night Football.
- The fear and inability by writers to kill off major characters, as we explained in July when talking about the all-out war arc.
- Poor pacing when it comes to the sixteen episodes, something prevalent in Season 6 where the fakeout with Glenn and the dumpster happened in Episode 3 but wasn’t answered until Episode 7. What did we get in those following three episodes? Morgan’s backstory (necessary for 6A, but could have been used a couple episodes later), a filler episode with the
ShatneriansAlexandrians (one that many view as one of the worst episodes in the show’s history), and an episode where Daryl meets Dwight and some Saviors (a good episode with some great Abraham moments, but didn’t fit with the pacing). Unlike similar cases such as Carol’s exile in Season 4 or Beth’s kidnapping that same season before a return in Season 5, this lacked any ambiguity and seemed to be done more for shock value.
- Shock value by trading the “anyone can die in a zombie apocalypse” trope used so successfully in the past — thanks to storytelling, foreshadowing, and a need for the character to die (i.e. Hershel’s death in the Season 4 midseason finale that showed Rick he could no longer play the role of farmer) — with more of a “kill for a shock” decisions in the past two seasons. This was most seen with the death of Beth and the near-death of Glenn, though this was improved upon in the second half of Season 6 with Denise’s sudden death via crossbow.
- Questionable decision making by AMC, including a potential lawsuit. They threatened the fan site Spoil The Dead with a lawsuit, as Daily Mail Online reported earlier this year.
Add in your own common thing that bothers people — the insistence on killing off every black character, forced romances, zombie-related deaths that make no sense — and we have a divided fanbase on our hands — or, if you’re a Savior, on your knees.
Too soon? In all seriousness, Season 7 really is a make-or-break for AMC’s cash cow because if it’s more of the same — Daryl does things no human should be able to, romantic subplots that make zero sense, dialogue that makes people cringe — then those on the brink of quitting are just going to do it. We’re talking about a show that has built itself up with the idea of anyone can die, but we’ve gone an entire season and a half without a member of the main cast dying; this is a show that made a name for itself with what people become after civilization falls, but has pushed the idea down our throats like a social justice warrior at their keyboard.
If you go back and watch season 6 of The Walking Dead, it’s not as bad as I may be making it out to be; J.S.S. is a fantastic episode, the Morgan backstory one was extremely well-written, No Way Out is among the series’ best episodes even with Daryl’s magic RPG, and the second half of the season is one of the best eight-episode stretches in the show’s history. But, the little things — and sometimes, the big things — keep popping up and make fans who have spent six years watching walkers get shot, crossbowed, or stabbed feel underwhelmed.
The time for being a cash cow and thinking you can rely solely on previous success needs to end. Sunday’s documentary-like special, The Walking Dead: The Journey, shined so much on some of the series’ best moments and raised optimism that it can go back to the intellectual, emotional moments which made The Walking Dead one of the most influential shows in television history. From deaths that made sense to characters having realistic development, we as fans need to see The Walking Dead regain its pride and its confidence to make the best show possible before it’s too late.
If not, I’ll happily get to know Lucille. At least then, something The Walking Dead related that made my head hurt would actually make sense.
[Featured Image by Gene Page/AMC]