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It takes a lot for me to break up with a television show. Even when a series isn’t firing on all cylinders, I tend to cling to the show’s good times. I remember the great episodes of the past and remain convinced that the show can once again reach those heights- particularly if the show retains the majority of the same actors and the same showrunner as it had in better days. The Walking Dead has become one such show for me, and I’m on the verge of walking away for good.
I know that the quality of the series is on a massive downward spiral (if someone out there can convince me that the introduction to Negan hasn’t been a jumbled mess of awfulness with one ray of hope during the Kingdom-based episode, I’ll gladly listen), but the major players in the show’s best days are still involved in the show, which gives me hope that it can return to form. But in order to do that, the show absolutely must get rid of Negan, and reboot the major characters.
Now, I know the show has no plans to ditch Negan, so this is just a pipe dream (one shared, if you do a quick search through reviews for the series, by pretty much every critic still spending time watching), but the show has to acknowledge at some point that maintaining the Negan status quo just isn’t working. Negan isn’t scary, and the other characters seem weak by thinking so. He’s not a good villain. He has absolutely zero complexity, no character, and poor Jeffrey Dean Morgan is absolutely lost within the smug, layerless shell that is Negan. This week’s episode did nothing to change the character, despite Angela Kang and Corey Reed trying their very best to add some shading to the character in the Carl scenes.
Negan learning to apologize for hurting people’s feelings was comical rather than a major character moment that added depth to his character. It was similar to watching a show about a robot who is trying to learn to act human- almost like watching those hosts over on Westworld start grappling with how to interact with actual humans outside of their programming. It was awkward and funny.
The way Negan has been crafted is as a psychopath rather than a sociopath (the difference between Negan, who just does whatever awful thing he wants because it aligns with his warped set of rules and morals, and The Governor, who was perfectly able to interact with polite society while still contemplating and carrying out atrocities). And having a psychopathic character is all well and good, but you can’t imbue him with any nuance, and you can’t created a complex and layered character from that starting point. Which is a major problem when you want to stretch that character out over two seasons (which, apparently is the terrible plan).
Perhaps spending time with Carl will change Negan. Or bring out a backstory (Dead family? Dead kid? Something remotely sympathetic that could add some semblance of complexity to the character?). But I don’t think I can take another seven episodes listening to him grandstand and make smug quips before raping or murdering someone. That harem he has put together? That doesn’t make him scary, it makes him even more creepy. I feel like it’s almost a refrain at this point, but we don’t need constant reminders that Negan is a bad guy. We know that. We need to know WHY he is the way he is. Show us who he was and how he became who he is now. That’s the interesting part of this story, and it’s the part the show is refusing to tell us.
Outside of the continued Negan miscues, nothing happened, once again, in this episode. Spencer is still the worst character and I’m actually actively rooting for Negan to kill him (which is not something I’ve ever wanted before on this show- for someone to be murdered, so good work getting me to that point with Spencer, writers). Rosita now has a bullet, and if the show follows Chekhov’s template, someone is going to get shot- likely next week (my guess- Spencer). Rick remains a mess, but he and Aaron are contemplating diving into a pool of walkers to get supplies. I’m sure that will end particularly well for everyone (meaning something bad will happen to poor Aaron). And then there’s Michonne, the only character who seems to be thinking on the offensive and actually making plans. While I can’t see her getting to Negan (especially since he’s at Alexandria), I’m just thrilled that someone on this show remembers how to fight and how to be proactive. It’s been awhile since that happened.
— Another pet peeve regarding “Sing Me a Song:” Extending an episode’s running time without a good reason. There was absolutely nothing within the episode to justify the extra 30 minutes (with commercials). And, I suspect the same thing will be the case with next week’s midseason finale (which will be 90 minutes as well). The extra time meant nothing and the episode easily could have been contained within its normal running time.
— While I appreciate that Rosita is in mourning, I was not a fan of her ragging on Eugene. Sure, he’s still not a warrior, but the man isn’t the same coward he was several seasons back. He’s growing and changing, and it was rough watching Rosita rip him apart.
— Oh Carl… So incredibly stupid.