Here is Part 1 of my 5 part Walking Dead video essay. Stick around for Part 2!
Disclaimer: This article is entirely opinionated, and will contain multiple spoilers from the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. If you have not seen Season 7, Episode 1 of The Walking Dead yet, do not read this.
The extremely gruesome Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead set the Internet ablaze. Many long-time viewers withdrew their investment from the show, complaining that it went too far and perhaps crossed a point of no return. Following these complaints, the producers went on to tone down the violence for the rest of the season.
In a statement made by Gale Ann Hurd, he says, “We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence. We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season … This is not a show that is torture porn, [we want to make sure] we don’t cross that line.”
First off, here’s how I feel about the episode. I loved “The Day Will Come When You Went Be” so much that I ranked as #2 in my Top 5 all-time favorite episodes in the series. I commended the three minute teaser of Rick pledging his allegiance to kill Negan, with Negan responding by dragging Rick into the R.V. to go on a road trip. Almost the entire Internet forgot the fact that directors like to play around with their T.V. shows’ timelines, and that they are fully entitled to do so. Are we going to pretend like this is a new trend? Plenty of episodes throughout the series have opened with flash-forwards. The most notable example that I can think of is Season 4, episode 16 (“A”), where the first minute shows a battered Rick covered in somebody else’s blood. Fifteen minutes later, Rick gets into an altercation with the Claimers and rips out a chunk of their leader’s neck with his teeth, leaving us right where the episode began. So no, flash-forwarding definitely isn’t a new trend.
While violent, Season 7, Episode 1 served a purpose in driving the show forward. It established the character of Negan as a ruthless, cruel, sadistic, depraved, sometimes comical, unrelenting authoritarian leader who uses violent coercion tactics to bend people to his will. That’s precisely who Negan is. The scene where Rick almost cut his son’s arm off was intent on getting him as well as the audience to obey Negan unconditionally. Despite that Rick didn’t actually chop Carl’s arm off, the sequence demonstrated that in an apocalyptic context, it’s people like Negan who resort to extreme measures in the name of survival.
When it was finally revealed that, indeed, Abraham took the beating, I wasn’t all that surprised, yet I also hated to see him check out. The only complaint I have here is that Abe’s death, well, wasn’t as violent as I expected. It would have been nice to see Lucille convert his head into nothing but ground-up meat, but alas this is television and you can only get so violent before you create serious psychological problems for your viewers.
But Negan’s second victim really struck some emotional chords, and this is where things became controversial. Daryl, in a fit of blind rage, got up and punched Negan in the jaw, who then exacted further punishment on the group by turning around and striking a clean blow to Glenn. Here, what disturbed the audience so deeply was not Daryl’s blatant stupidity in trying to fight back, but the uncompromising reductive and degrading nature of Glenn’s termination. Glenn, one of the few remaining moralistic members of the group and a character that has been present in the show since the first episode, was reduced to nothing but another piece of meat, with his skull caved in and his left eye popping out. That’s messed up–really messed up. I was amazed at how AMC was allowed to get away with displaying such morbidity, yet at the same time, the ultra-violence didn’t bother me because I understand that this is supposed to be a horror show.
I’m infuriated that the producers toned down the violence. This is a show where people get torn apart and eaten while they’re still alive. It’s proven itself to be a lot more graphic in the past. Why should a few complaints ruin it for the rest of us? I’ve tried explaining that the reason Glenn’s death was especially traumatizing was because he had been in the show for so long. To watch him struggle to utter his last few words to Maggie with his left eye popping out of his skull was, and should be, scarring, but it shouldn’t necessitate a scaling back in one of the most fundamental elements of the show: the violence.
Am I just desensitized to gore and carnage at this point? Most likely. Either way, I’m looking forward to the second half of Season 7. I’m always excited for what Negan will do and say next.