Rick’s cocky confidence literally brought him to his knees by the end of season 6. He led his crew straight to that charismatic sociopath, Negan – and his crazy lady, Lucille, the barbwire-wrapped baseball bat that knocked a couple of fan favorites out of the series.
Every Sunday night, when the show is on, my now girlfriend (friend at the time) hosts what we call Walking Dead Sunday Dinners. She crams her sister and I in her small apartment, along with some of our friends, and we spend an hour or two on dinner & cocktails. We talk nerdy, and sometimes even play a game, like Joking Hazard (which I highly recommend, if you’re open to/or have a sick, vulgar sense of humor).
By 9pm, we rearrange the furniture, collect our beverages, kill the lights, and gather around the flat screen for the main event. This is followed by dessert and cordials during Talking Dead with Chris Hardwick, which we also watch.
When we began the new season (season 7), knowing that somebody was going to get their head smashed, we all thought it would be a fun idea to take bets. We did this during our pre-show dinner, and we called it The Walking Dead Pool (which is a costume I have, but I digress). The biggest question after the season 6 cliffhanger, despite what the comics say, was: “Who did Negan kill?” A question that I was repeatedly asked, when I sported my Negan cosplay at New York Comic Con last October.
I had a theory.
If you follow the comic, you already knew that Lucille took Glenn’s life in issue 100. But, from a TV Producer’s perspective, you wouldn’t want to remove a beloved character that has a fan base. You don’t want your ratings to drop. Instead, you would want to remove a slightly less dominant, yet likable, character that most people would shrug off. For me, that choice was Abraham.
That being said, in the midst of our wining and dining (champagne and White Castle, by the way – classy), we went ahead and cast our vote. We wrote our selection on a piece of paper, folded it up, and tossed it in a bowl. The winner got to collect the five dollars that we threw in a TWD gift box (yes, there were five of us and we were cheap about it). But, for whatever reason – maybe it was the champagne – I changed my mind last minute. I talked it out. It’s not Glenn, because that’s obvious . . . It’s not Abraham, because that, too, is obvious . . . I got it! It’s Daryl! He wasn’t even in the comic; he was created for the TV series. Plus, his death would have a tremendous impact. It would introduce Negan the way he is meant to be introduced; feared by both Rick and us, the audience.
I lost my producer thinking-hat in that moment, with the whole “can’t kill off a character with a fan base” theory . . . I bet a whopping one dollar bill on it, too, only to discover that it was in fact Abraham who lost his head! But, it didn’t affect me.
Okay, so that’s that, I thought. But, then Daryl had to go ahead and mess things up further, costing them Glenn’s head! Holy sh#%! Okay, now I’m affected – regardless of what I knew from the comic!
Despite the unfortunate situation, I felt the season 7 premiere episode was well crafted. It took the show to another level, and it introduced a great villain, played perfectly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. It had intense conflict and consequence . . . and, in my opinion, it was probably the best episode yet. Kudos to Scott Gimple for penning it – and, of course, Greg Nicotero for his directing.
But, overall, it seems a lot of fans lost interest after this episode. The ratings dropped, and I can see why . . . They are probably disappointed by the loss of two fan favorites; they probably despise Negan . . . Or, maybe they don’t like seeing Rick as a coward, and Daryl being treated like a dog . . . Or, if they’re like me, they probably don’t like it when they drag things out with boring filler episodes. I’d personally prefer 6-8 tight episodes, à la Netflix, and get down to the nitty-gritty. None of this 60-minutes of Tara on the beach crap. I want the meat and potatoes – and, I’m a theoretical vegetarian!
Okay, getting back to our Walking Dead Pool . . . My girlfriend picked Glenn and my buddy picked Abraham, so they each became a few dollars richer that night, when we witnessed Negan in full swing (sure, pun intended). But, is Negan really that bad?
In comparison – when you really think about it – Rick is way crazier than Negan. Rick would kill a dozen people in their sleep, out of paranoia, whereas Negan would only punish you for your wrong doings. Everyone fears and obeys Negan because of his superior confidence and sadistic charm. The man’s a wolf.
In life, there are leaders and there are followers. Negan is a leader . . . Although, by the end of the mid-season finale last December – when everybody reunited with their ten minute session of smiles, hugs, and nods – it seems Rick’s leadership has returned, along with his Colt Python (thanks, Daryl).
They are revved up and ready to go kick Gregory in the nuts and feed Negan to Shiva! Or, not, but maybe!
AMC’s The Walking Dead returns on February 12th and we are ready to kick off season 7B (or, 7.5 – whatever you wanna call it) with some Chinese take-out.
Let’s start the insanity.