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By Andrea Peyser
October 28, 2016
The apocalypse has come to your television — and consumers of modern entertainment are freaking out.
“The Walking Dead,’’ the zombie-infected TV hit about flesh-eating, undead ghouls and humans who dodge being turned into Chicken McNuggets, has gone the way of Fonzie on water skis. It has jumped the shark.
Or, as former fan John Hocevar tweeted, it far exceeded the “Happy Days’’ leap over aquatic animal life — “The Walking Dead didn’t just jump the shark, it pulped it.’’
That doesn’t begin to express the feelings of anger and betrayal experienced by people all over, including me.
The Season 7 premiere that aired Sunday night, after a cliff-hanger that had show-followers desperate for months to learn who would die, was brutally violent to a pornographic extreme — even for a comic-book-based series in which a group of antagonists aims to munch on warm brains.
Worse — the sense of decency that had guided the hardy band of survivors led by former Georgia cop Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) has been lost. I’ve loved this show obsessively ever since the first reanimated corpse, known in “TWD’’ parlance as a “walker,’’ turned a man’s leg into Spam. Can it be saved?
With two days until the next episode airs, fixing it any time soon will be tough. But it can be done.
Here’s what outraged so many viewers of the new season’s inaugural episode:
The seeds of awfulness were sown in Season 6. After valiantly defeating all manner of foe, from mad, charismatic The Governor (David Morrissey) to a bunch of human cannibals who sought to serve up roasted people parts on a buffet, Rick & Co. were low on supplies. So they made a deal to get food from another group of survivors — in return for murdering members of a rival squad called The Saviors.
They did it as The Saviors slept, and by taking lives in their most vulnerable state, our heroes lost their souls.
“TWD’’ was never really about zombies. It’s about power and morality.
It is impossible not to put oneself in the shoes of an apocalyptic survivor, to imagine what it’s like if the electric grid goes down, Fresh Direct stops delivering, money becomes meaningless, and law and order is replaced by survival of the fittest.
We got a small glimpse of this in real time a week ago, as a cyber attack across the United States took down or messed up Internet-based necessities from Twitter to Spotify. Some who thought themselves hardy panicked at the temporary inability to log into Reddit.
Now, put yourself in a realm in which such things are unlikely to return in your lifetime. How far would you go to keep going?
Rick’s crew went way too far.
The Saviors’ leader is an overly talkative villain named Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who took homicidal revenge, I think justifiably, in the season premiere by crushing the skulls of two of the Grimes gang’s members with a barbed wire-covered bat he calls Lucille.
The first to go was ex-US Army Sgt. Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), whose dying words injected the only levity into the bleak proceeding — he spat out an obscenity about oral sex.
The other was fan favorite Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), whose left eye popped out of its socket. He choked out his final words, “Maggie, I’ll find you,’’ to his post-Zombieland pregnant “wife’’ (Lauren Cohan) as she sobbed uncontrollably.
Establishing his dominance, Negan nearly persuaded Rick to chop off his son Carl’s left arm. Then, never mind! He decided Rick was sufficiently neutered and let him off the hook. It was excruciating to watch.
How to repair a show that’s screaming into the abyss? Here are three tips:
1. Shut. Negan. Up.
This is one annoyingly verbose baddie. “You bunch of p—ies, I’m just getting started,’’ he threatened the gang. “Lucille is thirsty. She’s a vampire bat,’’ he said, nearly boring them, and folks at home, to death.
2. Rick should issue a heartfelt apology to Negan for leading followers to kill his disciples. It was wrong. It was awful. Then he should take out Negan and get back to leading. Fair is fair.
3. Don’t mess with Daryl! The hottest character on “TWD,’’ Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), was thrown in the back of a van and kidnapped by Negan at the episode’s end. I can deal with Rick dying. Or Maggie. Or everyone else. But the loss of Daryl would spark a fan revolt and send me straight to the remote control.
“The Walking Dead’’ was too good to die a death of a thousand bites.
It must come back to life.