In which Kim and Shawn reflect on the cruel torture dished out by both Negan and the writers.
Kim: After almost eight months of waiting, we finally got to find out who was at the receiving end of Negan’s wrath. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading now, because I’ve got some things to say about it. I’m going to start by saying I didn’t completely hate this season opener, but there are some really huge things that are not sitting well with me. There’s some seriously awesome potential here for this season, and I think we’ll see some of the best acting out of this group in the coming episodes. In fact, I think Lauren Cohan probably delivered some of the finest acting I’ve seen out of her yet in this episode.
So, we had to say goodbye to two characters. We knew it was coming, so the element of surprise wasn’t such an issue. The surprise was supposed to be who got whacked, but if you really think about it, that really wasn’t all that big of a shocker. We all knew that in the comics, Glenn dies at the hands of Negan, so that didn’t catch me off guard at all. Abraham? Well, he was in a place of contentment finally. We got to see his hopeful side last season, and we all know how that turns out. “Suck my nuts” will live on in our hearts as the last one-liner from the giant ginger who really didn’t give a shit about what you think of him.
So, what was shocking? The graphic nature of the kills. I mean, you knew it would be terrible. You were warned for months. Having said that, I feel like it went a little too far. You see, I didn’t shed a single tear for either of these losses and I really should have because I really liked the characters. What I did do was sit on my couch with my hand over my mouth and a sick feeling in my stomach. I think that the brutality could have been depicted in a different way. I’m not sure we needed to see all of what we saw. And in going for the shock value with gore, they missed the opportunity for a far more heart-breaking moment.
They could have shown less of our victims and more of our survivors’ reactions. They could have left some of the mangled piles of blood, guts, bones, and headless people to the imagination. In a show where graphic violence is shown weekly, this felt forced and so far over the top, that I can’t even formulate a complete thought about it. I just know it was too much.
Now, I have cried when nearly every main character met his/her end. And I just couldn’t do it on this one. I was horrified, but I was also extremely detached. That’s really a shame, because I was attached to both of these characters. Now, they’re gone and all I can think about is Glenn’s eye popping out of his head, instead of the hole that will be left in this group without these two. I did finally get teary-eyed at the very end when Maggie was struggling, but that was it. These two deserved more than they got, so in the words of Abraham, “Suck my nuts”, writers/producers. We deserved better.
A quick note about the likely inability of either of our victims to utter a single word with their head bashed in, but it happened. I’m sad to see the end of the greatest one-liners ever and I was also not a huge fan of Glenn’s parting words.
Other thoughts, really quickly. I’m really tired of the separation of our people. To me, this detracts from the way you can tell the story, because you have to go back and forth and I don’t ever feel like there’s any continuity. You have no idea of time passage and it only serves to slow the season down. So much can happen in a season, but by the time it’s all over, I feel like only a week has passed in each of their lives.
I’m also pretty tired of Rick’s emotional state. It’s beginning to wear on me. Now, I’m sure that being in the zombie apocalypse would mess up anyone’s state of mind, but more often than not, our “fearless” leader is having out-of-body experiences and, quite frankly, if he’s that batshit crazy, perhaps we should let someone else have poignant thoughts on the lives of our people.
Still, and I have to say it, this is a much better show than Fear the Walking Dead, which I abandoned halfway through last season. I just wish the audience would be given far more credit than the season opener handed them. We don’t need to be spoon-fed anything to understand it. Leave a little bit to the imagination - I mean we’ve been using it for six seasons already and it’s worked out pretty well.
Shawn: We knew we were in for something shocking. There was months of speculation. It arrived under the guise of "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be," and it delivered what it had promised in a way that we haven't really come to depend on with this show. We have left for seasons and half seasons and returned to tense bloodbaths like Terminus and we've returned to more pedestrian things like flashbacks and weird time jumps. I gave this one a day to sink in. I read a few thoughts on Social Media but the limitations of that format don't do justice to much beyond "I was flabbergasted" or "I'm never watching ever again until next week." I think I narrowed my thoughts down to a few salient points.
No one was happier when they got this script than Jeffrey Dean Morgan who plays Negan. Jeffrey quickly scans the pages - "So I talk for 45 minutes in this bad boy?" flips a few more pages, "And I have a leather fetish just so we get all the clues that this episode is essentially porn?" Cool. Bad guys like to chat it up. They like to reveal their plans and quote some literature or historical story as a way to prolong the torture and make the viewer tense. It's also the point where I almost expected someone to sneak up on him from the forest and save our group or Daryl to grab a gun and shoot the bat out of his hands. Negan was the version of the Joker that you usually only read in books. Maybe after he hit Abraham, the bat should have had a "Bang" flag pop out of Lucille. Verdict: Negan you talk too much.
The victims. Kim and I were having a short T&A talk on Sunday before the show and she convinced me that it was going to be two. We both pretty much agreed on Abraham because he had reached a crossroads in his development. If he died, it didn't feel like we were in the middle of anything in particular. We both thought Glenn because we had kinda been through his death before. There's the nod to the comic readers, too. I think that's short-sighted though. Once you've taken the path less traveled, I think you need to keep distancing yourself from the source material. The Game of Thrones template is to really just use the books as a general suggestion and then move on. Giving little nuggets to the readers like Glenn's violent death or hinting at Rick losing an arm is only like poking the readers now. We each had our "don't let it be them" characters. Kim's was Daryl and mine was Maggie. But if you really wanted to make the rest of the season about the ultimate revenge, you would have killed our pregnant Maggie and our hope for a bright future at the picnic table would be forever gone. Verdict: Safe choices in that they were "major" characters but not completely shocking choices.
The cruelty factor. The biggest discussion seemed to be less about the choices of who to kill as much as the sadistic nature of Negan and the killings. Were they too violent? Was it too much to show the results of getting hit with Lucille? I think Negan answered that at one point with his "You bunch of pussies" line. There's no doubt that this episode pushed the limits of torture, blood, and language for what we are used to seeing on AMC. We are conditioned to some pretty violent kills on the show but usually it is a zombie that we've disassociated as being human. If you pull apart the hanging body of a zombie like Rick does later on in the episode, it's not the same impact as a bat to the head of a human by another human. Zombies are predictable bastards. They don't say, "Suck my nuts," when they get hit. They don't defiantly sit there with an eyeball hanging out. Negan is unpredictable like humans. The "eeny meany miny moe" technique was lazy writing but effective for tension. Is the lesson that the real monsters are humans? Trite but valuable if we are going to hate him more than the Governor. The violence has to happen onscreen because it does with the zombies and we need the comparison to bring the point home. Verdict: Undecided. If we build upon the symbols set here, we have a villain to unite our group like no other.
The weird feeling afterwards. Two characters die violent deaths at the hand of a bat-wielding villain. Unlike most of the previous deaths on the show, they aren't ripped apart by zombies or killed offscreen, they are definitely dead and gone murdered and then beaten to a sticky, pulpy brain-matter mess just to make sure there's no coming back. First, I was upset about Abraham. You know, for like eight minutes. Then Glenn died, and Abraham became "the other guy that died." Two deaths is probably "upping the intensity" of the show but we are mostly numb to death on this show. Why do we viewers care about characters dying? Is it more surprising because Glenn has been around since Atlanta in the second episode? The deaths need to serve a great purpose by this point. We know people can die. We've conditioned ourselves to it. I hope there's a purpose to this other than just a crazy way to tell us that Negan is a worse guy than the other bad guys. It's time for the show to evolve. Don't just kill our characters and then cut to grieving music montage. This was the worst grieving montage yet for the show and what the hell was that picnic scene all about. Verdict: I liked both of the characters that died but I've liked other characters who have died before so this could be a complete waste.
The day will come when characters die for a reason. This is a story written by writers. This isn't like all the characters roll a die and everyone who rolls an 18+ on the 20-sided die gets hit with a bat. Make the writers work to keep this the best show on TV. I love the show. It's not the comic. It's a TV-show based on characters from a comic. Negan promised to be back in a week and I will be too. I think this episode will stand out as different from the rest of the season. But as Negan says, "This is some screwed-up shit."