December 12, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Midseason Finale Review: “The Walking Dead”


In the best case scenario, this first half of THE WALKING DEAD‘s 7th season has been a necessary evil.  While ponderousness has been built into the show’s DNA more or less from the start, Walking Dead has never before been as oppressive as these 8 episodes.  Part of that is sheer length:  AMC has gone full-out FX this season, allowing Walking Dead to regularly roll far past its supposed 1-hour running time (and presumably happy to sell the additional commercial spots); the last 2 episodes alone have totaled nearly 3 hours.

More fundamentally, though, the problem has been the shift of gravity caused by the arrival of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who’s made even the flesh-eating Walkers fade into the background.  Negan may be the show’s most fearsome antagonist, but in a most traditional and even old-timey way.  Negan is the post-apocalyptic version of that slow-burn, superficially genial sociopath familiar from decades of movies featuring urbane Nazi monsters–perfected, perhaps, by Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds–and more fanciful supervillains.  (Instead of a pussycat, he carries his spiked bat Lucille.)  Morgan extracts all he can from Negan, but the character is barely one-note, and Negan sequences take forever, because he has to deliver pages of gentlemanly patter before beating someone to death or disemboweling them, while the other characters just stand around gaping at the horror of it all.  Tonight’s season finale, written by Co-Executive Producers Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell, and directed by Michael E. Satrazemis, followed that pattern with Negan’s extended visit to Alexandria, the deaths de jour being pathetically scheming Spencer (Austin Nichols) and Olivia (Ann Mahoney), who finally made her date with a tombstone that was set for her several episodes ago.

All of this, of course, is set-up for the insurrection to come, and in the final minutes of the midseason finale, those pieces started to be put in place, as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) got his mojo–and his gun–back, Daryl (Norman Reedus) made good his escape from Negan’s Sanctuary complex, and both reunited with the Hilltop group headed by Maggie (Lauren Cohan).  While the episode had Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James), over at the Kingdom, resisting revolt, that isn’t likely to last much longer, and it can’t be a coincidence that we also spent an episode at the Oceanside settlement, a fellow victim of Negan’s tyranny.

So the back half of Season 7 should pick up the pace, or so at least one may desperately hope, and add some juice of rebellion.  Meanwhile, this we’re-in-no-hurry structure has taken its toll on Walking Dead, and while the show is still the highest-rated non-NFL programming on TV, ratings have been steadily falling.  That’s certainly nothing to worry about at this point, but it could affect AMC’s desire to creative a Walking Dead franchise universe spearheaded by the successful but far less buzzy Fear The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead itself has never been awards-caliber drama, but at least it’s been drama; this half-season has been more like an ordeal.  The showdown with Negan can’t come quickly enough.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."