Did The Walking Dead finally go too far?
I’m pretty sure that most of you have heard that the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead was brutally horrifying. So horrifying that some die-hard TWD lovers swore off the show, citing it as too violent and too disgusting to keep watching. The Parent Television Council has even started narrowing in on the show, citing it as too graphically violent and are calling for “changes to be made” in terms of its ratings.
Needless to say, from this point further, some pretty serious spoilers are ahead for those of you who have managed to not hear about them already. So, beware of spoilers.
The reason I am so late on this post is because it has taken me a little while to process what happened in the episode. I had to let my mind dissect it all, because it horrified me, even to the point of losing sleep over it (good job, TWD. It is not easy to disturb me like that). It led me to question if the show had gone too far in its depictions of violence, and it led me to wonder what exactly made it so damn traumatizing?
As TWD fans, we are routinely exposed to violence on the show. We have seen innards fly as zombies feed on the living, we have seen faces chewed off (RIP Noah), and we have seen cannibals feasting on human body parts. When you get right down to it, having your head bashed in is almost tame compared. But, that was certainly not my reaction to the scene, and not the reaction of a lot of other people who called the violence gratuitous. But, looking at the trends of the show, it has long been getting more and more graphic. We started with just routine human vs. zombie violence in the first couple of seasons, which began to escalate to human vs. human violence. The death inflicted by the Governor on Hershel was brutal and horrifying, and from that point forward, some the deaths continued to get more and more brutal, and confrontations of all sorts continued to escalate. Take Noah’s death scene, with his face being eaten off right in front of Glenn. The graphic content of that raised eyebrows and led people to question if the show was going too far, even in the fifth season. It seems that the natural progression of the show is to get more and more graphic. It’s TWD world, after all. Everything continues to get worse as the world degrades, as an article at Popsugar points out here.
Using that logic, what can we expect? Deaths are going to get bloodier and more horrifying. Even so, when I get right down to it in my mind, I am really not sure that it was the violence itself that got to me, even though the hanging eyeball was pretty bad. I think it was so damn awful because of who the characters were, not so much how they were killed off. Think about it. If it was Rosita and Eugene who met the same exact end, would it have been nearly as disturbing?
So, let’s start with Abraham. He was one of my favorite characters on the show. I loved how loyal he was to the group, and I especially loved his zany personality. I was crushed (sorry, bad use of words) to see him go, but his death could be rationalized in my mind. He was a threat to Negan, someone he knew could not be converted to the new way of Savior life. Therefore, In Negan’s mind, he had to be eliminated, which makes sense using apocalyptic logic. On the other hand, Glenn. There is no doubt he was my favorite. He brought a lightness of spirit, a sense of caring and compassion to the show, and was the person who retained the most of his humanity when the world went to hell. He was a character that we saw develop over six years, and someone we were really invested in, especially from the soon-to-be father story line. So, for him to meet such a dehumanizing end was tragic. It was almost like watching a friend being murdered in front of us, because of how well we knew the character, how attached we were. His murder did not hold the same meaning as Abraham’s, and too much meaning at the same time. It was harsh for another fan favorite, Daryl, to be responsible for causing Glenn’s death. It was harsh for Glenn to have met his end as random punishment, as a way to crush Rick’s spirit. It felt like he was simply a pawn in a madman’s scheme. And, isn’t that the most brutal truth of all? That no matter how good you are, how much you have to live fo, you are not sacred, not untouchable from the hands of death.
That reality is a little shocking to us all.
In essence, the show succeeded in flipping to a new chapter, albeit with a jolt. It succeeded in showing who Negan is, that his arrival changes the way the group lives, and this episode makes it very clear what life is going to be like under his rule. The violence here makes sense, stays true to the comics, which are equally disturbing as the show, from what I found.
I might have been disturbed by the episode, and I lost sleep over it. But, I don’t think it went too far. It spared no gory details, but it stayed true to the overarching story, and with what we could expect from the show. I don’t think the TWD was being unnecessarily gruesome, but it was the characters they killed made it more upsetting and unsettling than it otherwise would have been. Either way, I think we can all agree that this episode leaves us wondering, how could things possibly get any worse, and what shocks are in store for us in the coming episodes?
Just a few other points, comments and complaints about the episode:
They really had to kill Glenn? After the fake out last season with his death, it almost seems to be in poor taste that they would kill him off…again. I was not sure I was too happy with that, and I do have to agree with some of my fellow TWD fans that it almost seems manipulative of the writers to have killed our favorite character off twice.
The scene after Glenn’s death, where the group is sitting at the table with Glenn’s child on his lap, was a million times worse than the actual death scenes. That was also manipulative of the show for showing us such an unrealistic, romanticized scene that would never take place in a zombified world, but made me want to cry my eyes out.
Abraham deserved his own death scene. He was a good character, one of Rick’s most trusted group members. He did not deserve to die in order to make Glenn’s death more surprising. I did not like that.
Stay tuned this Sunday at 9:00 pm for the second episode of TWD.