[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS GENERAL, MINOR SPOILERS FOR SEASON 7 OF “THE WALKING DEAD.”] I loved Sunday’s season finale of “The Walking Dead” — it was well executed, well performed (especially by Andrew Lincoln), and well written. It was even beautifully scored. (The closing narration and montage, combined with the music, were surprisingly moving.) It had some great twists, unexpectedly good CGI, and some nice callbacks to the original comics. (One surprise we see actually occurs with respect to another major character in the books.) Towards the end of the episode, I was riveted.
The finale, however, can’t really redeem Season 7 as a whole. I would honestly rate the season a 7 out of 10. This was definitely one of the lesser seasons; I believe it would be the one I liked the least, if not for the inexplicably poor Season 2.
Maybe I was a little grumpy about “The Walking Dead” even before the season started. Like a lot of viewers, I felt that the “cliffhanger” where Season 6 left off was absolutely manipulative on the part of the writers. It pissed me off, and I went into Season 7 with reservations.
Then I was reminded about some of the smaller complaints I had about the show in the past. I strongly differ with my friends about this show’s character development — I think it’s inconsistent at best. And “The Walking Dead” seems to have so many characters that it can’t seem to decide who is a major character and who is not.
There’s a bit too much cheesy melodrama, like the schoolyard dynamics among the good kids, Maggie and Jesus, and the meanie, Gregory. (This subplot was drawn from the comics, too — but it played out there in a far more adult fashion.)
Then I had a new quibble or two — one was a lack of proper minimal exposition. We know extremely little about Jadis and the survivors in the garbage dump, despite the major role they play in the story. They seem … sort of like a cult, and sort of like a performance art group, but that’s all I could tell you about them. (The Internet tells me that some fans refer to them as either “the Heapsters” or “the Garbage Pail Kids.” I find both appellations pretty funny.)
My biggest complaints about Season 7, however, were that it was too much of a downer, and that it was too slow.
We start the season with a front seat to Negan’s gory, merciless punishment of Rick’s de facto family. And then the victimization of our favorite characters simply … continues for the length of the season, until the last episode’s climax. You see that cool image at the bottom of this blog post? The advertisement depicting bad-ass Rick and his allies getting ready to “RISE UP?” (It actually looks a lot like the posters for the “Walking Tall” films.) Well … we don’t see much of that until the final episode. I told one friend that “The Walking Dead” was disappointing me because it had grown tiresome “seeing Negan beat everyone all the time.”
And some episodes felt like filler. Yes, there were some nice “milieu” -type stories — it was actually a lot of fun expanding the show’s world, to see other settlements, like The Kingdom, The Sanctuary and Oceanside. But I think the plot needed to move forward more quickly. (For a far better discussion of these issues, check out Ryan Roschke’s excellent review over at Popsugar.)
Hey … I’m still a fan. I’m just not as satisfied a fan as I used to be. I certainly looked forward to “The Walking Dead” every week, and never missed an episode.
And this season did have its high points. Dwight emerged as quite an interesting, compelling character, thanks in no small measure to Austine Amelio’s portrayal of him. The character interaction among him, Daryl, Negan and Rick is great stuff — I find myself wishing that the lion’s share of the season was devoted to those four. I am finally starting to understand that Norman Reedus is indeed a really good actor — his performances were strong throughout the entire season, but must notably upon his return to Alexandria and his embrace with Rick.
And there were moments of nice action and horror as well — the sand-buried walkers pursuing Tara and Health spring to mind, not to mention the neat trick Rick and his group use to dispatch an entire herd of zombies on the interstate.
Let’s hope that Season 8 will pick up a bit, now that “war” is underway.