Friday, April 7, 2017

TV Review - The Walking Dead Season 7 Part 2 (Episodes 11-16)

   WARNING : THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 7 EPISODES 11 through 16 SPOILERS BELOW!!!

The zombie carnival was a highlight of the back half of season 7!

  AMC’s The Walking Dead concluded it’s much anticipated seventh season on Sunday. didn’t care much for the first half of the season but the two month-long mid-season break brought two action-packed episodes that made me as enthusiastic about the show as I have been in a long time.

  I thought a lot about what it is that I like so much about the Walking Dead when I do like it and finally found my answer after watching 13 hours of the mostly angst-filled Iron Fist two weeks ago – I like action and a show set in the zombie apocalypse can provide action in droves by having a horde of zombies or a well-placed instantly appearing zombie or two at the most inconvenient time. I like to see the protagonists in the direst of circumstances and I don’t mind the most improbable of escapes since it is a television show after all and I can see it all over again the next week.

  The action is enhanced if characters I care about are participating and the Walking Dead has always done a good job of getting me acquainted enough with the intrepid cast of zombie apocalypse survivors to make me root for them in their never ending fight against zombies and other apocalypse survivors but around the time the group arrived in Alexandria the show went from mostly action with some character development to almost non-stop character development interrupted by a little action here and there.

  I had high hopes that the show would become more action-oriented after the arrival of the villainous Negan and the Saviors at the end of season six but the first half of season seven was filled with our survivors collective angst at Negan murdering Abraham and Glenn in the season opener as well as their new subservient status to the Saviors. The action was limited to Negan’s random acts of violence which would be inevitably surrounded by Negan’s lengthy monologues.

The Negan-centric episode 11 substituted tension for action...

  The first two episodes of the second half of the season were full of action but the pace slowed to a crawl in the third episode which was mostly concerned with cowardly Eugene’s adjustment to being moved to the Saviors compound. Luckily the action picked back up in episode four with Rick and Michonne battling a zombie carnival full of armed soldier zombies which allowed our heroes to get some of the guns they promised the weirdo trash people in return for their help in fighting Negan.

  Sadly this was the high point in the back half of the season until the finale as the next three episodes featured Sir Richard of the Kingdom conducting some palace intrigue to try to get the Kingdom to fight Negan and a half-baked plot conducted by Rosita and Sasha to kill Negan. Sahsa (who was on kill watch once she was named to be as a star on the new CBS Star Trek show) was promptly captured and spent episode seven being recruited by Negan to join his crew while Rick and company had an encounter with the heavily armed group at Oceanside which could have been filled with action but instead consisted of a few minutes of fighting with an awesome assemblage of barnacle encrusted zombie and an awful lot of discussion about why Rick’s group wants to fight the Saviors and why the leader of Oceanside wants to stay out of the conflict and keep her group hidden.

  And then we get to the finale which was 90 minutes long with the extra 30 minutes used as a Sasha-fest in which we are shown numerous flashbacks to her very brief romance with the departed Abraham and her brief time as Maggie’s BFF at the Hilltop. The first half of the episode was full of tense music as our group in Alexandria made preparations for Negan’s coming visit with their new trash people allies. Negan arrives and it becomes clear that the trash people were in Negan’s camp and turn on our heroes using the very guns that the Alexandrians provided as payment for their help.

  For some bizarre reason, Negan kept Sasha alive in a coffin to threaten Rick and when he opens the coffin out pops zombie Sasha, who has poisoned herself so she could come out as a zombie. Zombie Sasha attacks Negan and in the ensuing chaos the Alexandrians fight back along with some exceptionally timely help from Hilltop and Kingdom forces. The highlight of this fight was the appearance of Shiva the CGI Tiger from the Kingdom who mauled several Saviors. The rest of the CGI this season was lame but these tiger attack scenes more than made up for it. The fight scene was the best one since the prison battle with the Governor in the middle of Season 4. We got to see our heroes in all their glory shooting and stabbing and driving the Saviors and Trash People to a hasty retreat and then it was back to speeches and plans for the all-out war that will hopefully ensue in season 8.

An epic zombie apocalypse fight scene compete with Shiva the CGI tiger!!

  The ratings for seasons seven stabilized at the 10 million mark which while down from the 14 million viewers in season five is still the most watched cable television drama. Judging from the episodes in the back half of season seven I think the showrunners have found out that Negan is better in small doses than featured episodes and that the viewers want more action and zombies and less character development and intrigue. It doesn’t matter how contrived the scenarios our heroes find themselves in if there are plenty of zombies to slaughter and survivors to battle. I would also point out that there is probably nothing to develop or reveal character for our survivors and the lucky ‘red shirts’ that will become cast semi-regulars than to have to fight their way around, over, or through a zombie horde that suddenly appeared just before a commercial break. One part of character development I did like this season was how while Negan’s henchman are goons and Negan is a violent jerk, he is increasingly being portrayed as truly believing he is bringing order to the chaos of the zombie apocalypse. He has succeeded in bringing together the largest group of survivors to date and seems to give the communities that pay his Saviors tribute a large amount of autonomy as long as they follow the rules. Don’t get me wrong – I still think Negan is an unwatchable clown that talks way too much but showing his motivations makes him a little less unwatchable.

  Season eight is set up for a non-stop action packed 16 episodes. There will surely be some slow parts but our group of survivors will have plenty of adversaries to battle and the need for arms and supplies will provide many opportunities to head to new locations and fight loads of zombies. I’m looking forward to the next season more than I have in the past few years. Hopefully the show will be able to deliver on its promise of more action.