The new half-season of The Walking Dead kicks off on Sunday and could everyone be less enthusiastic? I have the last two episodes of the first half season unwatched on my hard drive, and I’m going to have a hard time mustering the energy to watch them.
It’s not really the fault of showrunners Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple that just as the most violent and horrible season yet was kicking off, the world was plunging into a very real hellscape. The episode where Negan’s folks plunder and humiliate Rick’s Alexandria crew aired the week after the election, and just hit a little too close too home. After all those years of teasing Negan, the real world timing of a story about a fascistic autocrat who uses his own warped reality to impose order didn’t seem so fun any more, even with cuddly Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the role.
And for the first time, ratings began to dip. And keep dipping.
The showrunners know they went too far with the season 7 premiere that presented not only a groundlevel view of two brain beatings, but torture and extreme psychological violence.
At a panel at NATPO, producer Gail Ann Hurd revealed that the negative feedback to the episode had led them to tone down violence for the second half of the season. “We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence,” she said. “We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season. This is not a show that is torture porn.”
The show second half is about the masses rallying to unite against a lunatic and I can’t help but feel comparisons to our current political landscape. How does Trump’s election impact how you write Negan given the parallels there? Have you softened anything?
There’s absolutely no relationship there because so much of Negan is taken out of the comic, which was written years ago. There are diametric points of view at play here and a lot of separation. It’s both bringing people together and tearing them apart on both sides. There is no planning with current the political climate and there’s nothing connected there. There’s a theory about this thing called Ideas Space that [comic book legend] Alan Moore talks about — that there’s a collective unconscious that we all in some ways share this big huge meta story — and there’s also this projection where you have groups of people fighting and a world in conflict — and there’s a lot of conflict in this country right now. We’re trying to give people a departure from reality; we want to explore very general themes about life and being a human being. But we don’t draw specifically in the moment from the world; we really can’t because we’re not South Park. South Park can make episodes in real time but we’re months ahead.
Okay quoting Alan Moore? We’ll keep an open mind.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.