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'The Walking Dead' Is Dead Itself

The Tragedy of Season Eight

I used to wait every Sunday for The Walking Dead to come on. I would literally shake because I was so excited to see the latest from the Rick Grimes gang. I used to compare it to Game of Thrones.

Needless to say, that’s all changed. The Walking Dead has been on the decline for a while. Whether it be rushing through cannibals at Terminus to get to episode after episode of walking aimlessly, or faking Glenn’s death in order to surprise us when he got killed for real, the writing has been severely lacking. The Walking Dead writes for moments that look cool regardless of story. It’s been upsetting for some time, considering how great earlier seasons were. By season seven I was getting seriously annoyed. Nothing mattered except the first episode and the last. However, I held out hope for season eight. This was the season where everyone was going to fight and it would be amazing. Season seven, boring as it was, was all about Negan destroying our group in the first episode followed by 15 hours of our main characters getting so angry at Negan that they all want to rip his head off. It’s a build up of rage for 15 hours that finally culminates in everyone coming together and deciding to end him once and for all.

That’s an exciting end for your season. The tagline for season eight was “All Out War” and we were ready for a huge fight between the two sides for the season. We’ll get to that tagline a little later, don’t worry.

Season eight was an abomination. It encapsulated everything wrong with the series. Again, they write for moments, for what looks cool. The first episode shows all of our heroes from Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom surrounding Negan’s compound with armored cars and automatic rifles. They have the upper hand, and this is when things go off the rails. The biggest problem I have is that this scene makes no sense with the entirety of the season before it. Negan saunters out of his compound with all his usual swagger. Fifteen minutes into the season, and things fall apart. As mentioned before, there’s so much anger and hatred toward this man. He’s killed Abraham, Glenn, Sasha, and Spencer. He’s tortured and belittled Daryl and Rick. Rick has made it clear that they’ll kill him immediately and without mercy. Which begs the question: At this point, Negan is out in the open. Rick or any of the others could poke out from their armored cars and shoot him. No one could do anything to stop them, and Rick and his gang already know that Negan’s people are nothing without him. They wouldn’t be able to fight or get a new leader to match Negan’s charisma and organization. Rick and co. know this and are focused on getting Negan. So why don’t they shoot him?

In context of the story, there is no reason. They should just shoot him if they’re that angry, which we know they are. The only reason they don’t shoot immediately and have a ridiculous back and forth conversation that amounts to nothing is just to pad the runtime. If they shoot Negan, we don’t get a war, or a season all about fighting this awful human being. Basically, the writers thought it would be cool to see this standoff without actually considering the logic of the scene. Rick does say they’ll shoot after counting down from ten to zero, then they shoot at seven or eight. That’s supposed to be them getting the jump on Negan, but they didn’t even need a countdown. It’s all for drama, but The Walking Dead universe isn’t supposed to be dramatic. It’s gritty and realistic, so why the fanfare?

I don’t like being able to pinpoint when a writer does something just for the sake of looking good and letting the story suffer for it. This moment still infuriates me to this day.

I wish I could talk about the rest of the season, but I honestly can’t remember it. That’s because nothing happens, unless it’s the mid-season finale or the actual finale. There are some inconsequential skirmishes until the mid-season when we learn Carl was bit. This kid, who was supposed to be the hope and best part of the series, is now going to die. They use it for shock value. That’s how we leave off during the couple months in between the mid-season finale and the premiere. Carl’s death was awful. Not as awful as Glenn’s, because that shock value was a disrespectful slap in the face to a character we love. Carl’s death is awful for a different reason.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why they killed him off. The directors say that it was to propel the story and the war. When it happened, I wasn’t actually too upset. I was mad that they killed the young future of the show to give us the same arc for Rick that we’ve had before; Rick loses someone and he gets all sad before getting furious and kill-crazy. Then he comes to his senses and becomes the moral leader again. Nothing new happens. With the recent revelation that Andrew Lincoln will finish with the show after the upcoming season nine, this death becomes even more puzzling. Carl could have carried it. He was getting so interesting, having a strange comradery with Negan and seeing everyone able to live in harmony. But no, we needed a big death to propel the stakes of the war.

When we get to the war at the finale, Carl’s death is even more infuriating. This finale was advertised as “All Out War,” as I’ve mentioned before. What the war ends up being is the two “armies” meeting in a field. Negan’s people have guns, and they all backfire thanks to Eugene, the traitor who, after this, I guess isn’t actually a traitor anymore, messing with the bullets. Then Rick’s people get them to surrender and Rick and Negan punch each other for a bit. That’s it. That’s the war. It lasts maybe 20 minutes. The way it ends is with Rick somehow nicking Negan’s neck with a knife in a way that doesn’t kill him but incapacitates him. Because Rick can somehow judge distance like that and know how deep to cut to do this, apparently.

Thanks to Carl’s hopefulness, Rick honors his memory by not killing Negan. This would be a good arc from the crazy kill-happy Rick starting the season to a more benevolent leader. If we hadn’t seen him do this after his wife died, or when he first came to Alexandria, it might have been compelling. The finale was terrible and anticlimactic. Besides this one minute fight between Rick and Negan, nothing happened. Everyone will now try to live in harmony, according to Rick, even though Maggie and Daryl are angry about it.

This cliffhanger is another instance of how season nine will likely be a repeat of season eight. The war ended up being a dud in order to foreshadow an infighting storyline for next season. It’s getting aggravating to watch finales that give up on the build up from beforehand just to tease something cooler happening in the next season that they want you to watch.

However, Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohen are both saying this is their last season. Maybe that means they’ll amp up the stakes and quality. Then again, when Cohen says her character isn’t going to die, just leave the show for now, and Lincoln’s fate in the air, it doesn’t leave much room for surprise. Sadly, I don’t care. At this point, everyone knows all you have to do is watch the season premiere, mid-season finale, mid-season premiere, and season finale. That should give you the whole story with none of the frustrating filler.

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