April 3, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Walking Dead”


THE WALKING DEAD is in danger of becoming TV’s version of The Phantom Menace: a gigantic hit that no one really likes.  The ratings, while still massive, were significantly down in Season 7, which premiered with the instantly-infamous episode that introduced villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who promptly clubbed two cast regulars to death with his beloved barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat Lucille.  What followed was a painstakingly slow season in which our heroes in Alexandria had to bow to Negan’s rule, and we were gradually introduced to new communities (the Kingdom, Oceanside, the Scavengers, in addition to the already-met Hilltop) that might–or might not–join a revolt against Negan’s Sanctuary and its throng of sadists and slaves.

The problem with Negan wasn’t so much that he was a bloodthirsty psychopath as what a familiar version of that cliche he embodied, the kind that has to do a cheery monologue before he brutally murders anyone.  Negan is no more than a B-movie villain, and since The Walking Dead isn’t really about zombies anymore, his presence at the center of the season brought the whole show down to his level.

There was so much nihilism in the first half of the season that recent episodes seemed to make an effort to emphasize the promise of insurrection against Negan’s rule.  Tonight’s padded season finale (note to AMC and all those in charge of The Walking Dead:  if there’s any show that doesn’t need 85-minute episodes, it’s this one), written by showrunner Scott M Gimple and Co-Executive Producers Michael Negrete and Angela Kang, nevertheless spent an hour on another round of Negan-is-always-two-steps-ahead to get things started, as Rick (Andrew Lincoln) saw his partnership with the Scavengers group and their leader Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) blow up in his face and witnessed betrayal by Eugene (Josh McDermitt), who’s gone over to Negan’s side.  Even when valiant Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) sacrificed herself so that she’d be a walker when Negan opened the coffin she was riding in to Alexandra, allowing Rick to launch an attack, we still ended up very deliberately full circle, with Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs) defiantly on their knees before Negan and about to be clubbed.  It was certainly satisfying to see the Kingdom cavalry show up in the nick of time, but even that scene was staged inanely by director Greg Nicotero, with the Kingdom forces–including their tiger!–apparently waltzing in during the calm after the battle without anyone noticing until the tiger was close enough to rip one of Negan’s aides’ faces off.

Sasha aside, our main heroes survived the episode, and The Walking Dead is poised for a Season 8 about the rebellion, which should be less distasteful than this season’s dark stories of oppression.  Still, the series features very little these days of the kind of horror action that originally drew fans, and while its focus on world-building could be a promising direction, most episodes still suffer from slow pace and less than scintillating dialogue.  Can Walking Dead stop the erosion, or will its viewers, like its cast members, fall away, eaten by other things to do on Sunday nights?  Lucille may be less deadly to the series than its own writing.



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."