by Coop Cooper
Sometimes coming up with an article topic or weekly review becomes a difficult process. I watched the Tom Cruise sequel “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” with the full intention of reviewing it, but here is the short version: It’s a mediocre action movie only for fans of either Tom Cruise or the Jack Reacher novel series (2 and ½ out of 5 stars). I also wanted to review the newly released third season of the Netflix sci-fi anthology series of “Black Mirror” which focuses on stories about how technology could make our world a living nightmare. Here’s my quick assessment on that: Ep. 1 “Nosedive”, Ep. 3 “Shut Up and Dance” and Ep. 6 “Hated in the Nation” were brilliantly frightening while the other three episodes were derivative misfires… although Ep. 5 “Men Against Fire” showed potential in concept.
Instead of going in depth with either of these items, I need to address the event on Sunday which has caused a frenzy of heated discussion on the internet. “The Walking Dead” ended its previous season with one of the most infuriating cliffhangers imaginable. The ‘heroes’ – sometimes a loose term on the show – were captured by the sadistic army leader Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and one of these ‘good’ characters was immediately executed in a brutal fashion by Negan and his barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. The episode ended before we found out who was eliminated and fans were forced to wait for several months until the seventh season premiere to find out who was going to live or die. The backlash for this excruciating wait was severe and the creators of the show promised the wait would be worth it. Fans speculated if their favorite ‘untouchable’ character would die or if it would be a minor character which would be a cop-out but would also make the pain of the moment less harsh.
It would seem that no one was fully prepared for the brutality of the season premiere episode. They knew something horrific was coming but not THIS horrific and as a result, many fans are exclaiming that the show went too far and that they are done with it. If you are a fan of the show and still haven’t seen the episode for whatever reason, stop reading now because I will be including **SPOILERS** from the next paragraph forward.
Negan kills two characters instead of one. He randomly chooses the likable minor character Abraham (Michal Cudlitz) and beats his head into smithereens. The second, surprise death comes as a consequence from Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) attacking of Negan after Abraham’s execution. This results in Negan randomly choosing major fan favorite Glenn (Steven Yeun) to also beat to death in front of Glenn’s pregnant and ailing wife, Maggie (Lauren Cohan). Theses kills were a bit more graphic and sickening than I, and most viewers, expected. But it doesn’t get better after that. Negan takes the hero leader, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), to an area swarming with the undead, forcing him to play mind games and fight for his life in order to prove who is in charge. When this fails to break Rick, Negan brings him back to the group and commands Rick to chop off Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) arm with a hatchet or everybody dies. Since Carl is Rick’s teenaged son, this breaks Rick completely and before he can swing the blade, Negan stops him, knowing that he has won. The group must now submit to him and provide him with regular supplies or face more torture and death. Negan takes the grieving Daryl as a hostage/collateral, leaves the rest of the survivors behind and the episode ends with Maggie still not receiving crucial prenatal care that sent the group into dangerous territory in the first place.
This was the cruelest episode of “The Walking Dead” ever presented and the single most horrific episode of TV I have ever witnessed. I almost can’t blame people for not wanting to continue with the series after this. Fans are so emotionally invested in the survival of the characters in the show, AMC has devoted an entire talk show after each episode, known as “The Talking Dead”, so people can discuss it and decompress their emotions. This episode was so unforgiving and ended on such a bleak note, it’s hard to want to move forward after it. What’s worse is revenge will not come quickly. Negan has yet to be eliminated in the comic book the show is based on, which is still years of issues ahead of the show.
The controversy won’t go away quickly. People are too upset and outraged and I suspect the discussion about this episode might go to high levels of discourse amongst fans, the media and even political figures as to whether the show went to far… or to try and determine how far is ‘too far’. I bet some people will even claim to have been genuinely traumatized by it and take action against the show.
I’m not giving up on it, but I hope the creators of the show have plans to balance out the bleakness with some hope. They’ve done it in the past, but they are going to have to give us some truly satisfying heroism quickly to make up for putting us through the tragic atrocities in this episode.