This article comes from Den of Geek UK. This article contains major Walking Dead spoilers…
It seems like only yesterday that The Walking Dead viewers were anxiously waiting to be put out of their misery and find out who had suffered a sticky end at the hands of Negan and Lucille, the villain’s trusty baseball bat. Yet here we are already at the end of the midseason break for season 7 and it’s safe to say that, yet again, the show continues to divide its audience with the way it structures itself, delighting some and frustrating others.
With the midseason finale, things finally look set to kick into a higher gear, so we thought it was time to have a look at how events are shaping up for the future of Rick Grimes and his ever decreasing band of misfits…
“We’re putting the band back together.”
The closing moments of the finale saw a much needed reunion for the gang this season, which finally brought with it a rare glimmer of hope. Since Rick’s spirit and resolve were broken, we’ve seen him spend the last eight episodes paralyzed by fear, and that’s taken quite a heavy toll on those around him, as well as on viewers such as myself, who swore allegiance to the Ricktatorship long ago and have stood by him ever since.
Investing so much in the lead character means that any time Rick has suffered a major blow (the loss of Lori, the Governor pounding, the near rape of his son – to name a few) it’s hard going waiting for him to rally. There was a certain hubris to the attack on the Saviors, waging a war on an unknown enemy, guns blazing, but certainly not enough to warrant the losses he’s suffered since, especially as we are now completely clued in on what utter bastards they are – at least with the residents of Woodbury, the rot was mainly spread outwards by one man.
Mercifully, Rick has just snapped out of his trance and has confessed to Maggie that she was right all along and that they must take the fight to Negan and his men, regardless of whether Rick’s group live or die. When season 7 started, it seemed like their situation was hopeless, but since Carol and Morgan have discovered the Kingdom and Tara has found the armed and all-female community Oceanside, there’s a chance that when combined with Alexandria and The Hilltop they’ll have the numbers to take down the Saviors sprawling complex and everyone in it, though who knows how many outposts they still have.
More importantly though, Rick and Daryl are now back together, sharing a reunion hug that made this die-hard fan of both characters well-up quite unexpectedly. The downside, of course, is hat Mr. Dixon’s stabby escape will have Negan making a sharp U-turn to exact his wrath in an even less forgiving mood, leading to the inevitable…
Traditionally, The Walking Dead has suffered criticism for its pacing, with the current season being no exception. I’ll almost always argue that the build up is worth the pay-off (with a rare exception being the road to Terminus, which took an age to get to and was then very quickly done away with, even if it was at the hands of an explosively awesome Carol), and while episodes two to seven took time to build up the surrounding world, that move has turned some viewers off. I’m of the opinion that I’d much rather TWD labored the groups’ fragmentation, as it makes their coming together that much more emotional and we need to spend time with a host of new characters, as there’s no way of knowing how long anyone will be around for.
It’s what I call the Hershel defence – people bemoaned season 2 for spending its runtime in one location, but by the time season 3 rolled around, Hershel, who initially debuted as a frustrating addition, had evolved into a beloved member of the group and I’m fairly certain that wouldn’t have been the case if we hadn’t been allowed quality character development time with him over the 16 episodes.
What’s going to be critical now for the show is how quickly war breaks out – it’s the kind of event that would normally be saved for the season finale, but at this point Negan hasn’t wasted any time in dealing with problems, which means there’s a slim possibility that the second half of season 7 could balance out the first half, if it’s fuelled by a lot more action – I for one am chomping at the bit to see Shiva tear chunks out of the living and the dead, so that better happen, logistics and effects be damned.
However, as I predicted with this seasons’ opener, we were always going to have to wait to find out who was dead, despite rumblings it would happen immediately, so I’d wager that the next handful of episodes will be spent army building on both sides. For starters, we haven’t spent much time with the Kingdom, arguably the biggest contributing factor to overthrowing Negan, and Ezekiel is by far the most likeable new addition to the line-up and we’ve spent precious little time in his company. Rick also needs to meet Ezekiel and form enough of a bond for them to share a belief that a war will end favorably for them.
There’s also the small matter of the war claiming one, big victim…
“I just slid my dick down your throat and you thanked me for it!”
Bearing in mind The Walking Dead’s last major villain, the mighty Governor, was in everybody’s crosshairs and still lasted a season and a half, that so much of the shows’ current focus is on Negan, the character fans had been waiting years to appear means he’s unlikely to snuff it any time soon.
Ever since Jeffrey Dean Morgan led The Losers (a movie much beloved by this site), he’s been marked as an underappreciated talent, so getting to watch him finally get the kind of high profile role he’s long deserved is too much fun. The writers have taken time to make him almost likable, with his one-liners and Morgan’s innate charisma resulting in his jovial psychosis lighting up the screen every time he appears. Negan is a wicked foil to The Walking Dead’s bleakness, even when he’s the cause of it, so killing him by season 7’s end of play just doesn’t seem like a possibility – I’m only versed in the TV show, not the comics, so will be curious to see how his fate is handled.
“Lucille is thirsty…”
Whatever Negan’s fate may be, it’s a fairly solid bet that at the very least, one more person will have their skull reduced to mush. Since the infamous opening episode, where poor Glenn and Abraham formed a duet of victims, the show has wisely pulled back on letting Lucille go to bat again, with Negan using a range of other weapons to inflict suffering, including his most recent disembowelling of Spencer (resulting in a cry of “at last!” in our house).
With so few notable Alexandrians left alive, the show will have to tread carefully with its usual cast culling, as losing two central and popular characters in one go has been a real blow (no pun intended). If I had to pick a selection of the most likely candidates left to make an impact with their deaths, Sasha, Morgan, and Carol are at the top of the list.
Sasha has yet again lost a person she was falling for, so her sole focus at the moment is Maggie’s wellbeing, but even pregnant Maggie is pretty spectacular when it comes to taking care of herself (see: tractor rampage), so how Sasha progresses from here will be interesting, now that the rest of the gang have returned to the Hilltop. She’s also another person that’s placing herself at risk by plotting a murderous revenge against Negan. It also doesn’t fare well for her that Sonequa Martin-Green has just been cast as the lead of the new Star Trek TV series…
Morgan could go either way at the moment – his recent forced kill has broken his long running streak of passivity; and with war on the horizon, I suspect he’ll have little choice but to wade in. It’s his growing affection for Carol that’s a concern for both of their lives, as romance has long sounded a death knell for anyone who dares to dream on The Walking Dead. If Morgan relapses into a murderous frenzy, perhaps in the wake of something happening to Carol, that places him in a very dangerous position.
Likewise, since Carol has decided to Obi-Wan herself away from the world, there’s nothing more her character can offer the show unless she tools up for one final Rambo moment of vengeance. For if Carol puts herself back out there, even if she physically survives the war, psychologically – as has been shown in season 6 – she’ll most likely suffer a full mental breakdown.
“Hey! Do not make me kill the little future serial killer.”
While we’re on the subject of breakdowns, it seems that the potential for young Carl Grimes to finally assume some form of psychotic state is still being groomed. A few years ago, when I wrote an article speculating on what delights season 4 might hold, I was convinced that Carl was heading towards an evil fate, sooner rather than later.
That character arc seems to have taken a backseat up until season 7, with the above quote from Negan recognizing Carl’s possible career path, and now Negan’s actively trying to seduce the young Anakin-alike with a display of power and a slew of glamourous women at his beck and call, the effects of which have yet to be seen.
With Rick now back on track to wipe out the Saviors, there’s a chance for father and son to bond once more over some quality killing and possibly keep Carl in line with his dad’s rule for a little longer. However, if there’s a key to Carl’s salvation, and equally his corruption, it’s Enid and their tender young romance, but as mentioned above, relationships have a nasty habit of raising the fatality odds. If Enid was to die as a result of Rick, or any other member of the groups actions, it will most likely snap Carl towards the dark side. Either way, his most pressing concern right now is to get a damn haircut.