October 23, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “The Walking Dead”



The Season 7 premiere of THE WALKING DEAD didn’t have a lot of goals.  The series managed somehow, in this age of spoiler culture and social media, to keep the off-camera victim of its Season 6 finale murder a mystery–no easy feat–and it had to pay off that cliffhanger in a way that would make clear that Negan (new regular Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the man with the spiked club named Lucille, was above and beyond all the bloodthirsty lunatics we’ve met already on The Walking Dead, that he was in fact the worst villain ever.

The episode delivered–sort of.  The biggest idea of the hour, written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple, was that there were two victims, Negan having followed the perhaps underwhelming murder of B-list character Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), which was the one we’d heard off-screen at the end of the finale, with a further slaughter of the much more beloved Glenn (Steven Yeun).  That was a legitimately ugly surprise, although perhaps not as shocking as the show intended, because Glenn sort of owed Walking Dead a death after his ridiculous survival of a swarming zombie attack last season, which made him one of the characters most rumored to be going.  Later in the hour, Gimple toyed with something more potentially horrific when Negan demanded that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) chop off the arm of his own son Carl (Chandler Riggs), but the script backed off that extreme, instead having Negan satisfied when it was clear that Rick was ready to submit to Negan’s awful order.

That was pretty much all the premiere had to offer.  Negan was out to break Rick, but we all know that although he momentarily did, the rest of the season will certainly lead up (verrry slowwwwly) to an insurrection against Negan’s murderous tyranny.  The script made no effort to give Negan any nuance for now, content to paint him as absolute evil.  Meanwhile, as is often the case on Walking Dead, the walkers were almost an afterthought, featured only when Negan’s campaign to humble Rick included sending him outside the trailer to fetch “his” ax amid a crowd of the hungry dead.

The episode was skillfully directed by Walking Dead vet Greg Nicotero to amp up the suspense as far as possible, and Nicotero drew strong performances from the two main characters.  Negan is a dream role that virtually begs the actor to chew scenery, and Morgan used his normally heroic charisma to accentuate Negan’s sadistically good-humored ruthlessness.  Lincoln had to do most of his acting with little dialogue, and he was powerful in shifting from initial fury to terror.

Now that Negan has been established and the requisite characters have met their fates, it’s not clear how Season 7 of The Walking Dead will be all that different from the stories we’ve seen before.  Of course, the luxury of being the highest-rated non-football programming on all of television is that there’s no particular reason to change the menu.  Walking Dead has already been renewed for Season 8, and the periodic culling of the cast herd aside, it’s likely to stay as single-minded as its titular beings.

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."