For those of you NOT caught up on the most current season of The Walking Dead, be warned… spoilers ahead!
We’ve all seen the posts stating that the past season of The Walking Dead was losing viewers at a rapid pace. In fact, it was reported that the season 7 mid-season finale had the lowest viewership numbers since season 3. That being said, it’s still the highest rated show on basic cable. It’s a troubling phenomenon, especially since The Walking Dead is still one of the best horror properties currently running on TV.
Why the loss of viewership? Frankly, I think the show is becoming too bleak for some. Many people these days are more concerned with an hour of mindless entertainment, than something that may challenge your cushy worldview. Those of us that have been with the comic since day 1 know that this show is more about mans “inhumanity to man” than zombies themselves. Hardship builds character, and strong characters. I agree that some of the cliffhangers may have been excessive and annoying. That part I understand. Ditching the show because the “good guys” are facing adversity that goes by the name Lucille…not so much.
The introduction of our latest antagonist, Negan, needed to be strong. We were promised an explosive introduction after a brutally long hiatus, and in this writers humble opinion, it delivered in spades. Negan reared his cynical (and charismatic) head, and demolished two of our beloved characters. Anyone familiar with the comics knew that Glenn was on the chopping block. Then, just to add a little icing on the cake, Abraham was also obliterated in graphic fashion. Let the backlash commence…it went too far, too fast, and too violently. The Internet exploded with crying fans, and outraged parents. I thought this was an apocalypse show that has featured themes of rape, cannibalism, and all sorts of nastiness? Is the bludgeoning of a human being where the line is drawn?
It’s disappointing that people unfamiliar with the source material could be so offended. It’s even more upsetting for the long time comic readers, especially since Season 7 has seemingly been torn from the pages of the comics almost beat for beat. I hope that the showrunners ignore the naysayers and keep the vision alive for those of us who can handle an adult oriented program. Many viewers were very quick to dismiss the on-screen violence and also insult those of us still hanging in there. Tastes differ, and so do levels of tolerance towards violence. It was recently revealed, then retracted, that the showrunners opted to tone down the violence. True fans like myself were outraged, until the executives clarified that the violence wasn’t toned but rather that the series was now moving into a different direction. The extreme level of violence was needed to establish a hierarchy of evil.
Now for my (potentially) unpopular position on the matter. It was necessary. Rick & Co. were getting a little too big for their britches, and something drastic needed to cut them down to size. Enter Negan. A villain so powerful and far reaching, he also seems invincible. His introduction wasn’t supposed to be likeable or family friendly. It was supposed to remind us that “man” is the real evil here. Not the zombies, not the food supplies, not your petty relationships. The reminder was clear that humans can be cruel to each other, and power corrupts. Mission accomplished. I think the strong reaction was proof that the show is on the right track. Emotional involvement in your characters is a special thing. Cherish it, because yes, all human life must end…more brutally for some.
So I ask…why all the outrage? This show has always been something that has pushed the boundaries of basic cable for some time now. The source material has always been extreme and bleak. If anything, the show has to dial back in areas the comic doesn’t fear to tread. Isn’t it a refreshing experience to have a show that challenges you? Is it better to stick with the safe, mundane & formulaic nonsense that passes for television? Now that Rick & Co have returned, it seems that they are finally ready to take on Negan and The Saviors. I just hope that the show sticks with the folks that brought them to the dance in the first place. The first episode of season 7B seems to be more in line with what the “fair-weather fans” are hoping for. I’m not disappointed, I just don’t want the vision to get watered down to keep the casual viewers. I say good riddance to anyone that couldn’t handle the build up. We’ll see what the show has in store as the gang ramps up for all out war. I ask you fellow viewers, what say you?