Friday, February 24, 2017

TV Review - The Walking Dead Season 7 Part 2 (Episodes 9 & 10)


The mid season premiere started off with more talking...

  The Walking Dead kicked off the second half of its seventh season last weekend. The first half had a great start with the deaths of TWD original Glenn and fan favorite Abraham at the hands of super bad guy Negan but descended into an abyss of disjointed one-off episodes featuring one or two characters with little to no action. The show’s ratings plummeted from an all-time high of 17 million viewers in the season premiere to 10.5 million viewers for the mid-season finale which was the lowest in four years.

  I was not looking forward to the return of the show nearly as much as in past years and the second half premiere’s start gave me no cause for optimism as Rick Grimes’ intrepid band of zombie apocalypse survivors went to the Hilltop Colony and the kingdom of King Ezekiel to forge alliances to fight Negan, Instead of battles with zombies or between the groups of survivors we were treated to talk, more talk, and as a break from the talk there was some dialog thrown in. No alliances were forged and as the group headed back to their Alexandria base everything changed and the action meter went into overdrive.

But the action soon intensified!

  Our group happened upon an exit ramp blocked with cars and mined with dynamite and other explosives. Rick decided to take the explosives and the group started to disassemble the mines. Then they discovered that the trap was set for a massive herd of zombies headed straight for the group. While part of the group continued to set the explosives free, Rick and Michonne hot-wired a pair of cars that were holding a steel cable meant to herd the zombies towards the explosives and proceeded to drive through the zombie herd, cutting hundreds of zombies in half before heading back to Alexandria. It was a great action piece and something that was missing from the show since the zombies overran Alexandria in the middle of season 6. As if that wasn’t enough, Rick and company set out at the end of the episode to find the missing Father Gabriel only to walk into a trap near a landfill and be surrounded by hundreds black suited strangers for a cliffhanger to the next episode.

  Episode 10 got even better as far as I was concerned. Part of the show concerned itself with the goings on at the Kingdom with a tense standoff between the Kingdom and the Saviors and a vicious fistfight between Daryl and the Kingdom’s Richard in between more boring talk. The rest of the episode dealt with Rick’s group meeting with the new group that ambushed them.

  This part of the episode was my favorite Walking Dead of all time. The script was straight out of Star Trek except that it was set in a zombie apocalypse. The new group was odder than odd with a leader that communicated in vocal shorthand and hand signals to her crew. The group (which has no name) takes Rick to the top of the biggest garbage heap and the leader pushes him into a pit to battle a zombie clad in armor with spikes running through him and a spiked metal helmet to protect his brain.

The critics hated this scene but I think it doesn't get better than this!

  This fight was great and had me glued to the set. It was just like Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise battling an alien to free his crew or save his ship. And just like the classic Captain from 50 years ago, Rick prevailed using his brains as much as his brawn and even makes a deal with the new group to become allies (provided Rick’s group gets guns for the new group).

  I read some reviews and listened to a couple of podcast reviews and the actions scenes at the landfill and highway were almost universally panned as contrived while the scenes at the Kingdom were lauded for their character development (Here is an example from Forbes'). I agree that the action scenes in the first two episodes of the half season were contrived but I say SO WHAT? We are talking about a zombie apocalypse after all which I think makes almost any scenario contrived. Anything the showrunners do to give a fresh take on the civilizations sprouting up from apocalypse survivors and new ways to fight and kill zombies are more than welcome in my book.

  The Walking Dead television series loosely follows the comics and the current conflict vs. Negan may be the high point of the comics but on television it leads to too much talk about fighting Negan and too little action. The battles with zombies and the special effects they lend themselves to are what makes the television show special. If I wanted to watch shows about rival gangs fighting there are any number of cop, vampire, or super hero shows to give me that. I watch the Walking Dead to see our group of survivors battling to survive and the most visceral threat to their survival comes from the zombies that seemingly appear out of nowhere and must be disposed of. Other survivor groups are curiosities and get boring when they take up too much screen time. The cannibals of Terminus and Wolves were terrifying and didn’t stick around long enough to have to spend a lot of time talking and explaining themselves. The Saviors have been around for a season and Negan for half of that and I’m already bored of them.

  The first two episodes of this half season were action/adventure oriented and most importantly fun to watch. The Walking Dead is best when the survivors move from place to place and are driven to accomplish short term goals like raiding a food pantry or finding medical supplies or fighting their way through groups of zombies. When they are stuck in one location like the prison, Herschel’s farm, and now Alexandria the show bogs down with too much talk because the show stops being about the short term and starts focusing on civilization building and character development which is nice in small chunks but is better left for soap operas. It appears that the next episode will be Savior-centric but hopefully the rest of the season will show Rick’s band of survivors on the road gathering what they need to win a hopefully short war against the Saviors.