This week I take a break from vampires and take a look at ZOMBIES. Or, more specifically, why the season 7 opener of The Walking Dead may well have killed the series…
I’m just going to get this out of the way right off the bat (erm…no pun intended):
SEVERE SPOILERS AHEAD, TURN BACK NOW OR FOREVER KNOW
THINGS YOU MAY NOT HAVE SEEN YET!!
Right, now that’s out of the way. I thought I’d take a break from my usual vampiric fodder this week to discuss something equally undead but far less pretty: ZOMBIES.
Yes, The Walking Dead premiered its seventh season a few weeks ago, and as episode after episode slides by I find myself increasingly fearful that the events of the season 7 opener have signed the series’ death warrant.
To surmise: the end of season 6 saw our heroes…well…
I’ll let you watch for yourself…
The world was abuzz for months with the question of who was on the receiving end of that barb wired bat. Some were convinced the series would stay true to the comic; others felt it couldn’t possibly kill off Abraham, and in particular Glenn, as the comics did and would, instead take a different path.
LAST CHANCE, I’M ABOUT TO TELL YOU WHO DIED!
Well season seven swiftly confirmed that the series would, in fact, remain true to the comics. Abraham and Glenn bit the dust in bloody, brutal fashion. Abraham, to be fair, is a character that I never warmed to and one I felt was obviously going to be short-lived this season whether Negan killed him or not.
Glenn, however, is another matter.
Killing Glenn may well have been the beginning of the end for the show. While many fans have felt he was the hapless idiot, bumbling around and lucking his way out of one dire situation after another, against all odds, he was beloved by many. And the thing about Glenn is, he’s the Every Man of the group.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the Every Man, you can read this article I wrote for The Huffington Post which explores the concept. Simply put, an Every Man character is someone who is heroic but simultaneously relatable. He’s the guy everyone can see themselves being, given the right situation. He’s the guy who, no matter how far fetched and insane the plot of a story becomes, reacts in a reasonable way, reacts like a normal person would, and somehow perseveres without using superhuman strength or, well…magic.
Glenn has always been The Walking Dead’s Every Man. Right from the start. He was the pizza delivery boy with a knack for slipping in and out of places unseen, for finding supplies, and for generally acting like a normal person in the face of utter insanity.
As Rick grew more and more brutal and savage in order to protect the group, Glenn somehow managed to avoid killing another human being until near the end of season six, and when he finally did, he did so humanely, and with serious remorse. He felt guilt. He regretted it. The fact he had to then gun down some other guys in a far less polite way also, clearly, weighed heavily on him.
Glenn has ended up in a lot of scrapes and had a lot of near misses, but that was kind of what we loved about him.
He lucked out.
He gave us the one thing that is absolutely essential in a series growing more and more violent and bloodthirsty: hope.
We lost all hope that Rick would avoid becoming something of a tame monster long ago. We accepted the fact that, in order to lead and protect people, that was something he had to do. But the notion that this is the case for all of humanity is too much to stomach. The thought that there is no way good guys can survive an apocalyptic event and remain, consistently, thoroughly good guys, is really not something we’re wired for.
Glenn was the character who kept us hoping, who reminded us that even in the face of horrific zombies, and humans so warped by the new world that they’ve become monsters themselves, it’s still possible to be a decent, ordinary person.
Just an ordinary guy.
More than that, the relationship between Glenn and Maggy has been central to the series since season two. It filled a void that was quite blatant in season one: the total lack of a functional relationship. Lori’s affair with Shane screwed up the relationship between the main man and his woman. Yes, they got back together; yes, Lori kicked Shane to the curb fast enough to give you whiplash when she realised Rick was alive, but there was always something about her that didn’t quite sit right with a lot of fans.
She was the woman who had a shady affair with her husband’s best friend, right after he died. From the start, she was presented as a woman out for herself, with questionable feelings for her husband. She wasn’t grieving for him when she thought he was dead, and there was a distinct sense when they were back together that she was with him for practical reasons, for survival, and for the sake of her son.
We never questioned Rick’s love for her, but it was far from a good relationship.
Aside from that we had Carol, and her abusive husband, gracing our screens during season one, and a few minor characters with seemingly healthy relationships who came and went – either because they died, or because they left.
Season two brought us two core relationships for the season – Daryl and Carol, who may or may not get together at some point – and Glenn and Maggie, who fight like hell for each other, always find their way back to each other, and very clearly love each other without question.
They have been central to every season, and the one thing that kept us going in the face of an increasingly darkening series. The only other positive couples to emerge have been cruelly torn apart (Sasha and Bob, Tyreese and Karen).
Even in a series centring on horror, death, and violence, there must be some uplifting elements, some positive events, some respite from the constant brutality. Otherwise it gets tough to watch, repetitive, and dull.
Glenn was the uplifting factor. Together with Maggie, he ensured a little levity, a little light heartedness, an a whole lot of luck.
Season 7 opened with The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be. It wasn’t the show’s strongest outing, despite the extreme hype that had built up concerning who had died, and the loss of two major characters. Negan went from being monstrous to monotonous very quickly, because his tirade of ‘do what I say, or I’m going to f*** you up’ just went on for too long. The whole episode in fact.
He made his point when he bludgeoned Glenn to death, but it was strung out for a full forty-five minutes.
It grew painful to watch, not only because we’d lost a beloved character (…and Abraham, I suppose), but because it just didn’t go anywhere.
The episodes that have followed have been similarly lacklustre. The show is getting darker and darker, with increasing emphasis on the evils of men and less on the actual zombies.
And there’s no longer any hope. There’s no longer any Glenn. In a sense we’ve lost Maggie too, because she’s lost the last person she cared about, and arguably the person she loved most. She weathered the loss of her sister and father because she had Glenn.
Without him, she’s looking to end up as dark and twisted as Rick…