Spencer Wright ‘20 / Emertaiment Monthly Staff TV Writer
With the season premiere now a mere 3 weeks away, The Walking Dead is escalating its advertising efforts in an attempt to stir fan hype. Of course, this isn’t hard to do given the gigantic cliffhanger that Season 6 ended on. With San Diego Comic Con trailer offering a first glimpse to fans in July and a newly released sneak peek of the premiere, the hit show may be heading towards fixing last season’s erroneous writing mishaps and returning viewers to a genuine, artistic experience.
No one can deny that Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) brutal murder of a hidden character was the most significant moment from Season 6. While many had fun deciphering who met the wrong end of the barbed bat, this cliffhanger is actually a huge disservice to the show. A gossipy cliffhanger should not be the most impactful moment in an entire season. At this point, it is a problem with the series as a whole. The writers, for whatever reason, no longer have faith in their audience to stay tuned-in, unless there are gimmicks and shocking moments in each episode. Nearly every single episode of Season 6 ended with a pseudo-cliffhanger, and ending the finale with the purposeful anonymity of Negan’s victim is an unfortunate culmination of this issue.
You’ll see many claim that irritated fans are just “whiners.” However, the cliffhanger issue is only a small part of the bigger problem: what was once a thought-provoking, dark drama now appears to be a gossipy ploy for ratings. The cliffhanger itself is not what bothers so many fans; rather, what’s so upsetting is what the cliffhanger represents from a writing and production viewpoint.
While many fans held firm in this opinion for the entirety of the summer–including an increasing dislike of the poor quality writing after the lousy Negan-obsessed Comic-Con trailer debuted–their frustration is subsiding as excitement for the show’s return begins to build. The new sneak peek released, which showcases Rick’s immediate reaction to the unnamed victim’s death, teases with the audiences’ theories of “who died.” But, in some ways, that still infuses the heart of the show into it.
At its peak, TWD has been a ruminating character driven drama that details a semi-realistic look at humanity after a horrific apocalypse. The sneak peek of Season 7 hints that it may be returning to its original ambition. Although the preview scene is obviously centered around the melodramatic cliffhanger, the dialogue, acting, and directing stay clear of cliche audience-shockers and instead offer a very raw look at grief and disgust.
The ending moment of the scene–with bloody brain matter soaking into the ground right beside Rick–accomplishes something that was virtually absent in Season 6: simultaneous horror and heartbreak. In Season 3, when Lori died in childbirth, or in Season 4, when Hershel was beheaded, these gut-wrenching-but-heartbreaking emotions were ever-present.
Though it is out of a sad excitement knowing that one or several favorite characters will meet their sickening demise, enthusiasm is higher than ever now that the show might regain its artistic integrity. Even though the mystery of Negan’s victim had a strong impact on social buzz, the larger mystery is whether the show will return to its dramatic form or not. It is a sadly more complex cliffhanger, one that will hopefully end in a more positive outcome.