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Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Walking Dead 7x01: The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be


The Walking Dead is back with a new season! Yay?

All summer long people were waiting for this new season. Were people excited about what new direction Rick’s character may go? Were they excited for cool and new interesting characters to arrive? Were they excited about how Alexandria would progress as a safe haven?

No, they were excited to see what main character was going to die. Frankly, I can’t think of a better descriptor of The Walking Dead than that.

I’ve talked about the tiring, oppressive, relentless nihilism of The Walking Dead before and I’m sure I will again. But let’s focus the man this episode introduced us to: Negan.

Negan arrives on the scene and (after a big, villainous speech, of course) kills Abraham. Daryl objects and as a lesson to him, Negan kills Glenn. This is supposed to establish Negan as the mother of all villains. Unfortunately, killing main characters only establishes you as an uber-villain if you’re not in a TV series where main characters are killed all the time.

Something more is wrong with Negan, though. He’s supposed to be in charge of this big bad ass army but, frankly, I don’t buy it. Negan’s plan is to use his might to scare other colonies into giving him and his army a portion of their resources. A simple extortion scheme. I get that. However, I have two issues.

The first issue is about who Negan decides to kill. Negan kills Abraham and I kind of get that. He’s a big strong tough looking do. Doesn’t hurt to get him out of the way. But why kill Glenn when Rick is clearly the correct option to be offed?

Negan focuses on trying to “break” Rick (and apparently succeeds) but why go through all that effort? Wouldn’t the smart play, if you’re trying to annex all these colonies by force, be to kill the leader (Rick) and then put one of your men in charge (maybe with some extra bodyguards)? Then you have someone you can trust running this new colony instead of someone you're just hoping you've made subservient to you.

Instead, Negan wants to go down the risky path of psychologically breaking someone down. After putting them through some trials he sends them on their way hoping they just do what they’re told. And he expects them not to immediately plot against him once his men leave?

So, why did Negan opt for psychologically torturing Rick instead of just replacing him? Well, I’d say because he’s a sociopath but that’s only half true. Many sociopaths would bash Rick’s skull in and replace him. They just wouldn’t feel bad about it. No, Negan isn’t just a sociopath. He’s a sadist.

You know what? It’s fine to have a villain who’s a sadist. Everyone loves the Joker. Someone who enjoys causing pain for the sake of causing pain can make for a good foe. But this leads into my second problem I have with Negan. If Negan is a pure sadist, why would all these people follow him? (I could ask the same about the Joker...and I have.) He’s a dude with a bat wrapped in barbed wire, a leather jacket and access to some post-apocalyptic hair gel. Those are pretty thin credentials for being a gang leader.

I mean, sure, sadists have wielded power before. But usually those people initially ascend to power through predetermined means, like birthright. Or they at least knew enough to hide their sadism. And usually these sadists are surrounded and protected by people who know he’s crazy but are also in positions of power and luxury and thus want to protect the sadist so they can protect their own status in life. I haven’t seen much evidence that Negan’s lieutenants are living the good life, but I guess maybe we'll see evidence of it in future episodes.

But why, in the world of The Walking Dead, would so many people get behind a guy who takes glee with indiscriminately bashing in the heads of some people in and mentally torturing others? Sure, I could see a few crazies getting behind him, but an entire army of ultra-stealth ninjas? I’m just not buying it.

Maybe The Walking Dead will explain Negan’s backstory and how he garnered such a following. Maybe they’ll explain why none of his followers ever decided to just off this psychopath and run the gang themselves with a little bit more of a level head. But I’m not holding my breath that we'll get these answers.

In the end, I think The Walking Dead simply sees Negan as a cool villain who can use a barbwire-wrapped bat to kill people in gruesome ways. Awesome! But it shouldn't surprise me that that's all these writers want out of a villain because that’s all The Walking Dead is. Waiting to see which character dies next.

Other Thoughts:
My first thought was I wasn't sure I can handle an entire season of Negan. The I realized...it might be more than just one season!

I feel like Rick had plenty of opportunities to kill Negan.

Did Negan throw the hatchet on top of the bus or did it get up there by some other means? I lost track.

Oh, a villain who likes to make grandiose speeches and gestures to prove a point to a single person. How original.

They really teased someone getting Governored but I was skeptical. I doubt they want to spend the time and money to have a regular character missing a hand.

I was happy to see Carl give Rick the OK to chop of his hand, though.

I was wondering how, regardless of Rick's success, Negan planned to make it out of the zombie horde he drove them into. Apparently, I didn't count on Negan having infinite bullets.

So why does that blonde hair guy hate Daryl so much? I mean, I know he betrayed Daryl, which gives reason for Daryl to hate the blonde hair guy, but Daryl was relatively nice to that guy before that. So the blonde hair guy shouldn't be that angry. But maybe I'm forgetting something?

So, to keep the secret of who dies, they filmed every character getting killed by Negan. I guess they didn't want to waste that time and effort so they added some of those to Rick's hallucination...which were in the same format as his flashbacks...which led to some confusion on my part.

I will say, since everyone knew A person was dying, adding a second death was a good way to garner some shock from the audience.

If Negan put half the effort he puts into getting "tributes" from different colonies into just gathering resources himself he'd probably be doing a lot better than he's doing right now.

This entire episode just felt like torture porn. I know, as a sadist, Negan revels in the violence, but the show itself seemed to really enjoy it to. I just end up feeling like a worse person after watching episodes of The Walking Dead.

9 comments:

  1. I kind of like this Negan guy and have it exceedingly hard to ignore the implication that he with looking to have everyone under his authority and taking half of what everyone got and (assumably) using it to provide for those under his authority (the ladies in the previous season didn't feel like being ill-treated) and assuming the monopoly on violence, he's essentially setting his outfit as the closest thing resembling an actual state. The infighting and maneuvering among and between the city states like Hilltop or Alexandria may in the end be much more costly in human life than life under Negan. The violence is harsh but he really can't afford his authority and credibility undermined in a world like this. The sadism may be just for the show; Carl did get to keep his hand once the point got through.

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    1. To elaborate, it was the swift governing genius Mayor of Hilltop who put out protagonists up against Negan, and our lot without questioning much anything of anything sold themselves as mercenaries and saw little problem in rolling over the Neganites' fortress and murdering everyone there in their sleep. And after that we saw the Negan folks being quite normal folks really, if somewhat disillusioned in the world they live in, and again, everyone's dead after our guys are done. One could say Negan is being very lenient and understanding with them.

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  2. Do note that in the previous episode it was Glenn who did try acting up and Negan told them that the first one was free but that he would shut that shit down the next time, and now that Daryl tried the point was made with Glenn.

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  3. I suppose it might be interesting if Negan really isn't a sadist but simply wants all the colonies to just get along and thinks a few deaths on the front end saves many more deaths on the back end. It's just, his plan to intimidate everyone into cooperating and then just taking a cut of their resources feels a little too much like plain old extortion.

    I guess we'll see as this season progresses. Given The Walking Dead's history, though, I still feel like Negan will end up just being a guy who enjoys power and killing people.

    And it hasn't been lost on me that Alexandria pretty much took Hilltop's word for everything and started killing Negan's crew. Then again, I don't think Rick cared. If killing people, regardless of their innocence or guilt, got Rick what he wanted then he was prepared to do it. It's actually pretty odious.

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    1. Also, keep in mind, representatives of Neegan's crew did try to kill Sasha, Abraham and Daryl before Daryl blew them up with a rocket launcher, and that was before they killed all those Saviors in their sleep. So they had some independent evidence that Negan's guys weren't great people.

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    2. I've been thinking that quite a lot. The threats were there alright, and the biker dude would either have shot to kill or just to intimidate before all of them exploded. It certainly constitutes a strong legitimate hint of Negan's villainy in Rick's gang's eyes. Likewise, there were dead people left as example by assumably Negan's gang.

      But, the intel all in all was scarce and one-sided. We never heard the Negan folks' side of the story, if Hilltop or the others had been up to some Rick-like antics against the Neganites priorly. The Rickies certainly left a whole lotta of them dead and Negan still would only have had one life for it initially. You so easily forget to mention all the killings when meeting new people in TWD world.

      Paula's gang at least were kind of believable in their "You're not the good guys" quotable. The biker leader may have been a stupid Negan fanboy who thinks the point is just to kill folks and emulates without any idea about what Negan's really up to. The terminally ill older lady seemed to have the right idea; maybe Negan had trusted her with what he's attempting to do, it probably being hard to find a confidant among his more belligerent lieutenants.

      I don't remember what was the deal with those who stole Daryl's bike though, were they running from the Neganites or what.

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  4. It's just, his plan to intimidate everyone into cooperating and then just taking a cut of their resources feels a little too much like plain old extortion.

    With the kind of people he has underneath him, setting yourself as the biggest mofo is the only option. Any kumbaya stuff and everyone would be challenging you all the time. He obviously can't tell pretty much anyone his master plan and that they actually are Saviors.

    I guess we'll see as this season progresses. Given The Walking Dead's history, though, I still feel like Negan will end up just being a guy who enjoys power and killing people.

    I'm very afraid I'm setting myself up for a disappointment. I'm hoping that when Rick unavoidably will kill him at some point, Negan'll tell Rick before hos death that he (=Rick) has condemned the humanity to stay in stone age by shattering the saplings of a society and is the reason why everything is and continues to be fucked up.

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  5. Wouldn’t the smart play, if you’re trying to annex all these colonies by force, be to kill the leader (Rick) and then put one of your men in charge (maybe with some extra bodyguards)?

    Or kill Rick, then put someone like Glenn in charge - somebody from the group, who knows the people, but with their recently-deceased former leader as an example of not doing what Neegan says. Then just keep executing leaders until you find the one who's willing to play ball.

    But I’m not holding my breath that we'll get these answers.

    Ditto. It's just too much "fun" to have him simply bash people's skulls in.

    I doubt they want to spend the time and money to have a regular character missing a hand.

    Yeah. I know Rick lost a hand in the comic, but there's no way they're going to apply a handless prosthetic to a regular actor for every episode. Merle was one thing; he was never an "every episode" regular. Eye patches, on the other hand, are much more cost and labor effective.

    I will say, since everyone knew A person was dying, adding a second death was a good way to garner some shock from the audience.

    I do have to give credit where credit is due on that. If the only thing you have left in your bag of tricks is shocking character deaths, at least they were able to make them shocking. Plus, this way more people get to say they were right about their theories!


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  6. Still not watching this show, but I feel like if I was, I would've stopped here. You can't kill Glenn! He's one half of the show's heart along with his wife. (Or at least he was when I was still watching.) And I read that his death was particularly gruesome even by this show's standards, which is saying something.

    Too bad; I really like Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I wish he'd joined a show I watch.

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