‘The Walking Dead’: Low blows

Fear the Walking Dead
“The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”
October 23, 2016

Abraham and Glenn.

There. Now you know. Are we done here? Are we good? Can we go home?

UGH. FINE.

We begin the episode in the immediate aftermath of the death The Walking Dead has been torturing us with for the past six months. Oh, what, you thought that they would open the show by immediately revealing who Negan killed and not make us all wait through a third of the episode, 20 minutes in? It is almost as if you have no idea what kind of sadistic relationship you are currently trapped in with this show, you sweet thing.

SO, after whomever it was dies, Rick is all, “REVENGE!” Negan thinks this is cute and asks one of his henchmen for Rick’s weapon of choice: his hatchet. Negan takes the hatchet and drags Rick into the RV, where he chunks the hatchet into the table, turns his back on Rick and takes the driver’s seat. 10 million fans scream at Rick to “KILL HIM. KILL HIM NOW!”

Of course, Negan’s not that stupid and he urges Rick to take the axe.

come-at-me-bro_babadook

And Rick does, only to have Negan pull a very big, very scary gun on him. Obviously.

They then drive down the street a while, Negan urging Rick to think about what happened, and to think about what could still happen. They finally pull to a stop somewhere in the fog, where Negan takes the hatchet and tosses it onto the roof of the RV before instructing Rick to “go get my axe.”

Just to pause here for a moment, it turns out where, exactly, Negan had tossed the axe was a point of contention among some viewers. I, for one, thought that he threw it into the fog, but then some redditor posted this gif showing that in fact he threw it onto the roof:

Considering how many views this gif has had, clearly I was not the only one confused by this detail. MOVING ON.

Negan shoves Rick out of the RV and into a horde of walkers that somehow Rick manages to navigate his way through so as to climb up onto the roof of the RV and be reunited with his handy axe.

twds7e1-rick-with-axe

There, Rick takes a moment to think back on what happened. You might want to grab a drink. Something strong.

So Negan plays his game of “eeny meeny miney moe” and lands on Abraham who sits up a little taller, flashes Rosita Sasha the peace sign — the same one they exchanged when they realized they had feelings for one another —

britt-crying-bachelorette

— and receives the first blow without flinching, prompting Negan to declare he’s “taking it like a pro.” In response, Abraham invites Negan to “suck [his] nuts.” Oh, Abraham. Negan proceeds to pulp Abraham’s head at which point my husband got up, declared he was officially done with this “assassination porn” and left the room. I applaud his choice.

Negan takes the blood-covered Lucille over to Rosita and demands that she look at “his dirty girl.” Negan comes to the realization that she and Abraham had been together, and agrees that it sucks, but that he took “six or seven for the team” so she BETTER LOOK AT LUCILLE.

Daryl, having had perfectly enough of this bullshit, jumps up and punches Negan in the face, which surprises and impresses Negan in equal parts. That twerp Dwight offers to kill Daryl with his own crossbow, but Negan tells him he’s not allowed to kill him, “not until [he] tries a little.”

Negan then explains that he has to “shut this shit down, no exceptions” and turns his attention to Glenn, whacking him over the head with Lucille. Glenn manages to tell Maggie, “I’ll find you,” before Negan reduces his head to squish. It’s horrific.

ellaria screaming game of thrones.gif

Back on top of the RV, Negan yells at Rick to bring him his axe, and begins shooting through the roof to encourage him to move it along. Rick leaps off the roof, catching that one walker that was hanging from the bridge. This is just not much of a plan. Negan shoots the walkers pawing at Rick, allowing him to drop to the ground. Crawling around looking for the axe, crawling around looking for the axe, crawling around looking for the axe. Rick eventually finds it, only to discover the RV door is locked, HAHAHA, cool joke. But then Negan flings open the door, pulls Rick inside and chunks the axe back into the table before climbing back into the driver’s seat.

Negan drives them back to group, but before they leave the RV, Negan cleans the axe with rubbing alcohol while explaining to Rick that he’s in charge now, but Rick can lead a nice productive life producing for him. Negan then returns Rick’s axe, adding that he thinks Rick is going to need it.

ramona rhony oh boy exasperated.gif

Negan drags Rick back out of the RV and returns him to the group where he explains the purpose of that little trip: he didn’t like the way Rick was looking at him, and he wanted to change that.

And Negan’s not quite done doing that just yet. Negan orders the Saviors to step behind the rest of the members of Team Rick and put a gun to the back of each of their heads. Removing his belt, Negan then orders Carl to come to him. Negan places the belt around Carl’s arm and orders him to lie down on the ground next to Rick. With a marker, Negan draws a line on Carl’s arm before ordering Rick to use his axe to cut it off. If he doesn’t, all of his friends and Carl dies, but Negan will keep Rick alive for a few years so he can really stew in it. Rick pleads with Negan, but when Negan begins counting down from three, Rick takes the axe and raises it. However, Negan stops him before he delivers the blow, explaining that Rick belongs to him now.

Negan orders Dwight to load Daryl up: Negan likes him, he’s not a little bitch LIKE SOME PEOPLE, RICK. And if Rick gets clever and tries anything, Negan will begin to cut pieces off of Daryl … or, better yet, he’ll bring Daryl to Rick and Rick can cut pieces off of him. Negan then announces that he’ll leave a vehicle with them as they’ll need something to bring all of Negan’s crap to him. He expects his first offering in a week. K BAI! It’s been real!

Oh and as the Saviors wander off, one asshole pauses to take a Polaroid of Glenn’s body which NOT OKAY, DUDE. SHOW SOME GOD DAMNED RESPECT.

Once the Saviors have left, Maggie is like, “Yo, we have to get back to Alexandria and get ready to fight these motherfuckers.” But Rick isn’t interested: the Saviors have Daryl, she needs medical attention, they are vastly outnumbered, it’s just not really the time. And then everybody weeps over their friends’ bodies before carrying them off I guess to be buried? Even though they don’t have shovels? I don’t know, the point is: R.I.P. Abraham. R.I.P. Glenn. You both deserved better than this.

game-of-thrones-for-the-homies-pour-one-out

But then as if all this wasn’t emotionally abusive enough, as Negan voice-overs that he bets they thought they would all grow old and have Sunday dinner together, we are given this:

twd-s7e1-family-dinner

YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK YOU, THE WALKING DEAD. YOU CAN JUST FUCK RIGHT THE FUCK OFF WITH YOUR MANIPULATIVE FUCKING BULLSHIT.

Ugh, this episode.

~deep cleansing breath~

Let me be clear, I am not mad at the show for killing off who they killed. Both Glenn and Abraham are dead in the comics at this point; Glenn, of course, being Negan’s victim in the comic. It makes sense that they would be the ones to die, to more align the TV narrative with the comic one. And I’m not mad that they killed two characters instead of one: in fact, that was the only truly surprising twist in the episode (even though Jeffrey Dean Morgan spoiled it and unconvincingly tried to walk it back later). I think a more interesting choice would have been to end last season’s finale with Negan killing Abraham, letting us believe that he was the only victim, only to begin this episode with Glenn’s death, but no one asked me.

No, I am angry — disappointed, really — at how unnecessarily graphic the deaths were. As noted, my husband called it “assassination porn” and a Facebook friend of mine (one Michael R. Martin) called it “atrocity porn” and the porn metaphor is not incorrect. The Walking Dead has always been one of the — if not THE — most violent and gory series on television. We all knew going into this episode that someone was going to be beaten to death with a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat, so no one can grasp their pearls too tightly when that exact thing happened. But the sheer revelry in the violence, the long loving shots of the gore, this is what happens when writers feel like the thing that draws the audience is not the story, not the character development, not the overarching themes and values, but the bloodshed. And so they feel compelled to give more and more and MORE. As with any porn addiction, what once satisfied begins to bore and the stakes have to be constantly raised.

 

And look, I get that the argument here that this episode had to be shocking because it’s about breaking Rick, a character who has been through some rough stuff already. But the fact that Negan is able to trap Rick and his people and put him in this vulnerable position, the fact that Negan then kills two of Rick’s best friends in front of him, the fact that Negan makes Rick consider chopping off his own son’s arm, this should be enough to convey the breaking of Rick. I agree that the violence to some degree was necessary, I just believe that the violence and, maybe even more specifically, the gore was so over-the-top and awful and focused upon that it took away from the sense of horror and instead just left me angry.

I am reminded of the scene in Game of Thrones that I referenced with the Ellaria Sand gif above. For those of you who don’t watch Game of Thrones, what is happening is she is watching her lover as a giant crushes his head through his eye-sockets with his bare hands. It’s gory, it’s brutal, it too features smushed heads and brain matter. But the difference is it manages to convey that horror and that gore in a matter of seconds and move on. We do not luxuriate in it, the way The Walking Dead did in this episode.

And while we are on the subject of Game of Thrones, I often see people comparing Game of Thrones to The Walking Dead as shows that are hyper-violent, and who kill off beloved characters for the sheer shock value of doing so. I am not sure that this is a fair comparison. The biggest difference between the two series is that Game of Thrones is a narrative that has a defined end point. Though the books are not completed, the showrunners know exactly where they are headed. Now, that ending might not be a happy one, but it will be an ending. Furthermore, the deaths that we have endured, though often heartbreaking and shocking, have led us towards that narrative conclusion. Yes, it was terrible when they killed (SPOILER FOR THOSE 3 OF YOU WHO DON’T WATCH THE SHOW) Hodor or Rob or Shireen — those were each brutal deaths, but they meant something, those deaths had purpose in the story.

With The Walking Dead, the comic series is not complete and there is no endgame planned. Thus there is no relief in sight from this darkness. We have no guarantee that once Team Rick survives this baddie that another one won’t be waiting to replace him (and in fact, there have been suggestions that they are already on their way). And once they do arrive, they’ll have to be even more brutal, even more violent than what came before, otherwise what’s the point? Why should we worry about Team Rick if they’re not? But worse, as we move from bad guy to bad guy, as the series becomes bleaker and crueler, all those deaths we have left in our wake are less and less meaningful. Yes, Glenn’s death is going to be a motivating factor for Maggie — that is until she’s killed, and then his death will mean considerably less. His death, her death, Lori’s death, Hershel’s death, all of the deaths so far, they’re each just one more stop on this downward spiral of misery that does not appear to have an end.

dear god is this what hell is like rhoc.gif

 

The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sundays at 8/9 p.m.

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3 thoughts on “‘The Walking Dead’: Low blows

  1. I thought about the level of exhibited violence during and after the episode and I was ok with it. And not because I’m a gore fan – I much prefer psychological horror to physical gore – but because as much as this was about breaking Rick, a guy that has crossed the humanity so often, he is not easily broken by violent death, BUT I think it was even more about us watching Negan luxuriate in the violence he was causing. This was an episode of TWD not to be viewed from Rick and the gang’s point of view but from Negan’s. This was his coming out party; his and Dirty Girl Lucille’s moment in the sun.

    After the punishing deaths and then Rick’s not so great adventure in the RV, Rick and everyone else now completely understand “Who’s Negan” (RIP Abraham).

    Liked by 1 person

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