My Breakup With The Walking Dead
CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD
Ya, I know this is normally my spot for poetic stuff, and the occasional dark story, but forgive me today for using it to talk (rant) a little TV. I used to work for a TV magazine and I miss the days when 10 raised-on-80s-sitcoms nerds would stand around every morning rehashing, trashing or praising whatever happened to be on the night before. It was a long time ago. Netflix wasn’t even a thing. But I still miss the TV babble. My hubby indulges me a little with the incessant post-watch analysis, and I love him for it. But last night he wanted to sleep, while I kept spinning my feelings — or lack of feelings — about this show around in my brain.
Then, this morning, my dear friend texted me that the episode gave her mild PTSD. An understandable reaction shared by many fans. When I admitted my boredom (yes, boredom) with an especially graphic, gore-filled episode that killed off two very beloved characters, she was a little stunned. And then she made me laugh, heartily, by saying, “Maybe this is how Donald Trump’s friends felt when they realized he was a psychopath?”.
It does feel a little crazy to give up on a show that I’ve invested six years in. I am usually quite loyal to my shows. I’m one of those seven people who actually liked the Lost finale. There was once a deep love in my heart for The Walking Dead, too — even as I could admit that every season had its share of silly writing and plot holes you could drive a semi-full-o’-walkers through. EVEN AFTER the “Them” episode in Season 5 when the miraculous tornado kills off a horde of zombies but, of course, spares our plucky gang of survivors. EVEN AFTER Rick’s supposedly impassioned speech to rally the troops included the ridiculous line: “We are the walking dead.” I mean, c’mon! But, still I stayed, because of the characters. I loved those characters. Well, most of them — I cheered inside when Lori and Andrea died. But I still miss Hershel. And I think the performances on this show are, for the most part, stellar. If anyone could ALMOST pull of the cheesiest line ever written for cable television, it’s Andrew Lincoln.
But last night, the super anticipated episode….who will the big boogeyman Negan kill? What will be SO SHOCKING in this episode that made that ridiculous Season 6 cliff hanger worth all this wait? For weeks leading up to the premiere there was chatter about who was and was not safe, contrived remembrances of what all our heroes have gone through so far, articles every fricking week in EW promising us that Season 7 is SO RIVETING and OOO….NEGAN IS THE WORST. VILLAIN. EVER. And I tried to go along with it because “Ya! This is The Walking Dead! I love this show!” But instead I started ignoring all the hype. Instead, I sighed in annoyance at how long it took to delete all the TWD marathon episodes that showed up on my PVR. Instead, I woke up yesterday and saw all the anticipatory chat about the season premiere on Twitter and was like, “Oh yeah. That’s on tonight.”
But still, I sat down with my snacks, about to hit play after the kiddos had fallen asleep. I told my hubby that I thought it was Abraham who’d be the goner, or maybe Glenn or Maggie, because the show never likes to let people be happy for too long, and then I realized that I didn’t care. At all. I didn’t care if it WAS Glenn, or Maggie, or even Michonne, who has always been my favourite character. I found myself hoping it would be Daryl or Rick (even though I knew that would never happen), just to shake some stuff up. And as it played on I thought to myself, “Hmm, this is interesting…I am completely ambivalent about this show now.” I am totally repulsed, but not all emotionally stirred, by this villain brutally bashing the skulls of two characters I used to be so fond of. I know he’s supposed to be terrifying, so why do I find him sort of folksy? I see Glenn’s disgusting, bulging eye, and his heartfelt last words to Maggie, and I think, “OK, then. Maybe this means Steven Yuen can be in some other cool roles now!” I watch the snot dangle from Rick’s nose as he pleads with Negan not to make him chop off his son’s arm, and I think “Get on with it.” I actually laughed a little when Carl said “Just do it, Dad” because yeah, just do it. Just do it, Rick. Just do it, show. Just do it, AMC. Just end it so I can go to bed. Maybe this is sorta how people feel when they roll over one morning, look at their long time partner and think numbly, “I just don’t love you anymore.”
Raising the stakes is essential in any good story. When you can do it more than once, and keep the viewers moving right along with you, that’s awesome television. Breaking Bad did this. My current favourite show, The Americans, does this. In this age of super-amazing-creative-tense-superbly acted television, many shows do it. Who has time for the ones that don’t? The Walking Dead doesn’t do it for me anymore. It hasn’t in quite some time, but the loyalty outlasted the emotion. Maybe it was just one cheap plot device or death-tease too many. Or maybe it’s because the “real world” we’re all witnessing right now is a million times more tense and terrifying, and I want to invest my hope for redemption in real world heroes. There are many reasons why this affair should end.
But honestly, I will probably let it drag on for at least a few more episodes, just so I can read the hilarious love-to-hate-it TWD recaps every Monday on FunnyOrDie.com. It’s like going to couples therapy, falling in love with the therapist, and keeping the relationship going just so you can get some thrill out of those weekly appointments. A terrible reason to stay in a loveless union. But after six years, it’s something.