Sunday, October 23, 2016
The Day Will Come When THE WALKING DEAD Won't Be
THE WALKING DEAD kicked off its 7th season tonight with what should have been the ep that ended the last. Instead, season 6 wrapped on a pretty dire 90-minute snoozefest absent any real pay-off. Tonight, "There Will Come A Day When You Won't Be" turned out to be pretty dull too, but at least it brought a little diverting violence and sadism to the party.
This was essentially an episode-long continuation of Negan's already-long monologue from the end of that previous installment--before its last few minutes, there probably weren't four lines of dialogue by anyone else. It was a bottle episode--mostly just Negan and Rick in two locations, with everyone else as merely window-dressing. Such eps are done by tv series for budgetary reasons. Typically substandard by design, they're usually tucked away somewhere in the middle of a season where they'll draw the least amount of grumbling from viewers. I've never seen a show open a season with one. That seems a fairly bizarre innovation.
It's tempting to simply dismiss this one as just another example of TWD's writers stretching minimum effort to the maximum running time but the point of the ep--to show the psychological breaking of Rick--could have justified this if it was particularly interesting. The reason it isn't--and the reason that particular bit of business could probably never work with TWD now--is that we've already seen Rick psychologically broken. And seen it. And seen it. Not only has it already been done to death, it always brings out the most unbearable variant Rick, the sniveling, stuttering, glassy-eyed pussy, the one you just wish someone would put our of your misery. TWD has been doing little more than recycling itself for a while now. This doesn't just recycle an old beat, it's recycling a particularly bad one. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan makes for a great villain but it's all wasted when this is the point.
I'm interested to see how this ep will do in the ratings. Its big (and, in fact, sole) draw--finding out who Negan killed--is also the thing that seemed to alienate a particularly loud contingent of its fanbase, who, when Negan's victim wasn't revealed last season, took to their machines to howl their rage across the digital moors and swear they were done with TWD forever. The show threw a bit of a curveball tonight by killing both of the characters whose deaths it telegraphed last season, rather than allowing one of them to be a red herring. By delaying the reveal on who was murdered for nearly six months, it robbed those deaths of any dramatic impact they would have had if the killings had been shown at the end of last season when people were watching it week after week. I noted this at the time, as did Lebeau over at Le Blog, but it isn't as if this wasn't really obvious to everyone except TWD's writers. In this ep, the victims didn't get to do anything, barely got to say anything--Negan just walks up to them, after six months, and beats them to death. I've long expressed my contempt for a series that uses as one of its main draws the question of who will be killed next. Using this as a faux-cliffhanger was, I suppose, the next logical step in this effort to milk the deaths. Wouldn't it be great to instead have a TWD that had as its draw, say, great storytelling?
But that's a repeat beat of my own and TWD ain't listenin' anyhow.