The Walking Dead season 7 has ended and as Negan declared in the season finale, it is time for war. From its divisive season premiere to its final moments, The Walking Dead has been widely criticized for season 7 being too slow. Yet in a recent interview with TVLine, Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple promised that season 8 would be much faster-paced than season 7. This is only can be viewed as a positive because The Walking Dead is at its best when it is in the thick of the action and nothing but a terrible chore when building up to that action.
The Difference Between Slow Build and No Build
Every episode of The Walking Dead can’t be as action-packed as the final quarter of the season 7 finale. The budget can’t handle all that gunplay and those war scenes only work on TV if they’re eagerly anticipated by the audience and the show. The Walking Dead has a serious problem though with dragging out the build-up to its big action scenes so much that it stops being necessary and becomes torture by boredom. The Walking Dead loves to beat a dead horse with its plotting and this was incredibly obvious in season 7.
From the moment that Negan bashed Glenn and Abraham’s skulls in, an event that was itself dragged out too long, it was obvious that it would come to war between Rick and the Saviors. It wasn’t just that it happened in the comics, but also that The Walking Dead set up Negan as the biggest threat yet and one that needed a lot of (literal) firepower to take down. Yet it took entirely too long for not only Rick to realize he needed to fight Negan but to get to the group to a place where they could conceivably take on the Saviors. It wasn’t at all natural. While it should have taken some time for Rick to amass his forces against Negan it shouldn’t have taken a whole season.
The Walking Dead not only took too long to get to the fight with Negan, it artificially lengthened the buildup so it became boring at best and aggravating at worst. There was no reason for The Kingdom to not immediately join Rick’s crusade against the Saviors besides the fact that the battle was meant to happen with the season finale and not a second before that point. Events at The Hilltop were even worse as fans were treated to a repetitive cycle of Maggie being a sensible, smart, and capable leader and Gregory being a coward and useless waste of space.
Fool Me Once …
This issue isn’t just isolated to season 7. The Walking Dead has always gone on just a bit too long with their downtime between big action set pieces. Season 2 with the Greene Family Farm is the most infamous example but if you really look at that season there are a bunch of small interpersonal conflicts that justify the same location being used for the entire year. It’s with the last Big Bad, The Governor, that it’s obvious The Walking Dead has had trouble learning its lesson.
Though The Walking Dead made the (very smart) move to make The Governor into more of a fully-rounded character than villain, he was obviously a bad guy. It was just as apparent that Rick and The Governor would come to a bloody conflict as it was with Negan. Yet The Walking Dead also spent two years with him until they finally brought The Governor’s story to a close. It was honestly exhausting. By the time The Governor rolled up in his tank to the prison, the audience was much less invested in the villain than they were in his introductory season.
Scott Gimple’s revelation that season 8 will be “fast-paced” and “kinetic” is exactly what the show needs. While The Governor storyline took a bit long to reach its ultimate bloody conclusion, the character did demand a bit more time. Negan is not anywhere near as dynamic or deep as The Governor, who admittedly by the end was pretty one-dimensional.
The Walking Dead has made a few efforts to give Negan some depth by interacting first with Carl and then with Sasha but he hasn’t been much more than a monster on the show. Negan is a villain in every sense of the word. The only thing The Walking Dead has established for Negan is that he needs to be taken out. All that character deserves is all-out, never ceasing war against him and his Saviors, so he is taken out as soon as possible.
But what do you think? Do you want the show to have Negan as a villain as long as it can? Does the show have a problem with how it builds up to action scenes? What do you hope season 8 looks like?
The Walking Dead will return in fall 2017 on AMC.
(Image courtesy of AMC)