The highly anticipated premiere of AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ aired on October 23rd to near record ratings.
Fans of the show will know that this episode promised to resolve last April’s cliffhanger. That episode ended with our group of survivors being captured by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his followers, The Saviors. Negan was bent on revenge, after Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group killed some of Negan’s gang. Negan felt he needed to make a point. He had the group on their knees while he wielded “Lucille,” his baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. Giving a speech to the group declaring that he was in charge now and he wasn’t going to take this lying down, he swung the bat and struck one of the group on the head. We saw it in a camera shot from the point of view of the victim. The screen then faded to black and the season ended. So who did Negan kill?
The premiere revealed that the victim was Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), but he wasn’t the only one. After killing Abraham, Daryl (Norman Reedus) lunged at Negan and punched him. Feeling the need to prove himself again, Negan killed one more. This time it was one of the most beloved characters of the group, Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun). It was truly a shocking moment for fans of the show, not just in who was killed, but in the sheer brutality of the act.
The next day we heard from fans and critics that this show about zombies, that had a reputation for being the bloodiest and most gory show on television, had finally gone too far. There have been episodes in the shows history that have triggered this same feeling before, but not like this.
It wasn’t just the gore that people thought was over the top. It was the way that it was presented. It was the way the show almost romanticized the killings, lingering on the shots of the bat dripping blood. The way Negan took great pleasure in killing the two victims and asserting his dominance. Longtime fans have threatened to boycott the show. Parents groups have demanded the show be removed from the air. Children under certain ages should not be watching this show anyway. The show clearly posts warnings several times during every episode that “Parental Discretion Is Advised.”
Was it brutal? Yes. Was it disturbing? Yes. Was it extremely violent? Yes. But as far as the story of ‘The Walking Dead’ is concerned, it was supposed to be those things. The world of this show is a zombie apocalypse, where the remaining population is struggling to survive, and rebuild their lives and societies. This is a lawless land now. For fans of the show, it is unrealistic to think that people like Negan do not exist.
Remember that Negan thinks his actions are justified. To Negan, Rick and his group are the bad guys. Negan feels his actions are appropriate and necessary for his group’s survival. The same way that Rick’s group consistently feels about their actions.
Moving forward, the episode was meant to solidify Negan as a villain like you’ve never seen on TV before. A villain whose actions will impact the story for the rest of its run.
The producers, writers, and cast of ‘The Walking Dead’ gave us something that is increasingly rare in today’s TV landscape. An episode that made us, as fans, feel a whole series of emotions. This episode will be talked about for years to come and as a fan of the show, I agree that it was tough to watch. But in the world of ‘The Walking Dead’ it was a phenomenal viewing experience, one that I will not forget. THAT was what the producers were trying to accomplish. They succeeded. So did the show go too far? In this writer’s opinion, no it did not. It went just far enough.
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