The producers of The Walking Dead are probably feeling pretty good about themselves right about now.
The Season 7 premiere just garnered the series’ biggest ratings to date, according to Entertainment Weekly, and that initial score didn’t even count the viewers who will watch via DVR or online throughout the week.
“The Walking Dead premiere beat the holy hell out of everything else on television…The ultra-violent seventh season opener of the AMC zombie drama Sunday night delivered 17 million viewers and an incredible 8.4 rating among adults 18–49.”
In fact, the ratings were so good that they even bested the holiest of grails: the NFL. The series premiere topped NBC’s Sunday Night Football in the coveted 18-49 demographic.
Warning: There are spoilers ahead!
But not all is right with The Walking Dead. Because despite these massive TV ratings, the show’s brutal Season 7 premiere scored just as much scorn from fans and media alike for its over-the-top brutality and five-month cliffhanger.
As reported by the Daily Mail, both critics and fans were aghast as Glenn Rhee and Abraham Ford were brutally beaten by Negan’s bat, affectionately referred to as “Lucille.”
The gory scenes were enough to prompt criticism from the Parents Television Council, a conservative group that calls itself “a non-partisan education organizations advocating responsible entertainment.”
“Last night’s season premiere of The Walking Dead was one of the most graphically violent shows we’ve ever seen on television, comparable to the most violent of programs found on premium cable networks,” the council’s president, Tim Winter, said in a statement.
Critics were also divided on the episode, with many upset that the Walking Dead producers – who made fans wait five months to find out who was killed – had the revelation dragged out an additional 15 to 20 minutes, making the episode unwatchable.
Forbes also cited the fact that the show had already teased Glenn’s death in Season 6, only to fool the viewers then. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.
“Cliffhangers are not inherently bad. But there are ways to do them right, and ways to do them wrong…not one based on deceiving the audience. Here, twice in a single season, The Walking Dead created artificial, unnecessary mysteries based on camera tricks, not plot development.”
— Slate (@Slate) October 26, 2016
Complex found similar fault in the premiere episode and even offered a better solution than simply dragging out a death for two-plus episodes, given the fact that the season finale was 90 minutes long.
“As long as that season 6 finale was, it managed to build a real sense of dread by the end…but TWD squandered that momentum by letting it remain dormant for six months. If one or both of the latest death’s came back in April, it would have been devastating. But now, and after the diversion that was Rick and Negan’s demented road trip, it was more like, ‘Oh yeah, hey, that sucks.'”
— ComicBook NOW! (@ComicBookNOW) October 26, 2016
But the Verge went a step further, calling the premiere episode essentially “torture porn” and asking their readers to quit the show.
“This wasn’t quality television, and it wasn’t suspenseful drama. It was torture-porn masquerading as storytelling, and AMC should be ashamed for airing it.”
However, the show’s director, Greg Nicotero, defended the episode, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, saying the producers simply executed the comic book faithfully.
“The haunting remnants of that episode was how I felt when I read the comic book and experienced that sense of loss. Rick Grimes is unable to stop this. That’s something we’ve never seen in the show. I think the violence and the brutality are a part of it, but seeing our hero completely crushed in front of us is more disturbing than the actual violence.”
What do you think? Did The Walking Dead cross the line in the brutal beatings of two of their core members, or was it simply following the comic book storyline faithfully?
[Featured Image by AMC]