The season 6 winter premiere of The Walking Dead decided to not open with a whisper but a bang, quite literally. The episode opens on a tense confrontation between our heroes and men from the mysterious Negan’s gang. It all ended in a glorious explosion as Daryl used his new toy rocket launcher and blew the men to pieces. It was rousing and crowd-pleasing action moment but it wasn’t the only multiple death scene of “No Way Out”.
While the winter premiere definitely had its moments, there was a scene halfway through the episode that left a very bad taste in my mouth. The Walking Dead is no stranger to gruesome and horrific death scenes, nor should it be, it the end of the world after all. The “big” death scene of “No Way Out” however was so disgusting and gruesome, it left me to wonder if this is the season when The Walking Dead finally crosses the line.
Spoilers obviously follow for episode 9 of season 6, “No Way Out”…
Child Murder Is The Walking Dead Approved
The scene in question comes straight from The Walking Dead comics. Jessie and her son’s death being caused from a break in the zombie chain. The same goes for Carl losing an eye, though the cause was remixed slightly for the show. Just because it originates from the source material though doesn’t exactly make it acceptable. The Walking Dead has never been a slavish recreation of the comic it is based on.
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There’s really no getting around that Jessie and her sons, especially Sam, where absolute nightmares of characters. You’ll be hard pressed to find any Walking Dead fan mourning their deaths, let alone ones who actively enjoyed them when they were alive. This is probably the crux of what made their horrific death scene so unsavory.
The Walking Dead seemed to take an almost perverse pleasure in showing Jessie, Sam and Ron be killed. Everything slowed down and the audience was given an up close and personal look at Sam, an annoying terror of a child but still a child, having his head be devoured by undead monsters. The Walking Dead is not a stranger to killing children.
One of the very first deaths of the entire series was Rick killing s zombified little girl in the pilot. Another big Walking Dead moment was Carol mercy-killing Lizzie. Children, unknown and named, have died all over The Walking Dead. Rarely though has the show taken such pleasure in a death of any character, let alone a very confused (and yes, irritating) kid. There’s something very wrong and immoral about it. The Walking Dead should never be rooting for or condoning the actions of the zombies.
The whole sequence feels like a very misguided response to the outrage Glenn’s “not-death” caused in the first half of season 6. The problem with Glenn’s “death” wasn’t that it made the Walkers somehow less fearsome and threatening. It was the self-congratulatory matter of the twist on The Walking Dead‘s part. Combined with the sense that the stakes for major and minor characters are very different on the show.
The Walking Dead is very deadly so characters die all time. There hasn’t been a shocking death of a main character in a very long time, if ever. Shane’s death was a long time coming. Lori’s death was foreshadowed heavily. There was also a fair number of writing on the wall before Tyrese, Hershel and even Beth met their demise. Glenn’s death would have been that shocking, brave death. If Glenn would’ve died the audience really would’ve had to consider the survivability of their heroes and beloved characters. It was all a fake-out.
Jessie, Sam and Ron’s deaths do nothing to fix this problem. If anything, it makes it worse. “No Way Out” was a classic example of the show killing off a large volume of characters with no emotional investment. The characters that die on The Walking Dead are more often than not, people you don’t care about in the slightest.
Carl getting shot in the face is a huge moment, but “No Way Out” couldn’t even leave the episode without letting the audience know that Carl is still alive. The whole Carl getting shot sequence felt very perfunctory too. It was a thing that happened because Rick needed to make his (stupid) decision to take on hundreds of Walkers on his own. There was no real sense that Carl wasn’t actually going to succumb from his injuries, at least I certainly never felt that way.
If you needed further confirmation for The Walking Dead‘s reluctance to kill big characters, you just need to look at Glenn in the winter premiere. The sequence where Maggie discovers Glenn is alive as he tries to fend off an army of zombies and save Maggie’s life was very emotive and heartbreaking. As the zombies surrounded Glenn and Maggie looked on helpless to watch there was real investment in that scene. I’ve never really cared for their relationship and even then my heart was breaking for them. Of course it was all another big tease.
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Sasha and Abraham arrive and miraculously mow down every zombie around Glenn with machine gun fire. Somehow though Glenn escapes without a scratch or bullet wound in sight. The Walking Dead fans knew that Glenn was already impervious to physics and logic from the last time he almost died. This was extending things out to the point of ridiculous.
Cycle of Violence
AMC’s The Walking Dead is not a happy show. Anyone expecting a happy ending to all of this is probably in for a very rude awakening whenever the series finale rolls around. Still “No Way Out” was a microcosm of what can be wrong with The Walking Dead.
It was gratuitously bloody and grotesquely violent. It reveled in its own misery and gore. Ultimately there was no real sense of consequence and stakes. People died but they weren’t people we knew or even liked. The Walking Dead is not a fun time but there’s only so long the torture can go where things stop being interesting and start being repetitive.
But what do you think of the winter premiere of The Walking Dead? How did you feel about Jessie and her family’s deaths? Is The Walking Dead on the edge of creative disaster?
The Walking Dead season 6 airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.
(Images courtesy of AMC)