Quite simply, this is by far the most shocking hour of television I have ever watched.
The much anticipated season premiere was filled with twists and turns from start to finish, not allowing you to even draw breath before the next game changing moment had taken place. From the outset we knew this was going to be an episode intended to tug on the heartstrings. The tense ending to Season 6 had already set this up where one member of the group was brutally murdered by the newest antagonist Negan (portrayed exquisitely by The Good Wife alum Jeffrey Dean Morgan), along with his companion Lucille, the barbed-wire bat. The question on everyone’s mind though, who?
This question is comprehensively answered half way through the episode as Abraham savagely gets beaten to a pulp in what has to be one of the most brutal death scenes known to TV. No harrowing music, no slow motion montage, just the sound of brains on bat accompanied by uncontrollable crying. It was at this point I thought to myself, have they gone to far? Then after what happened next I knew they had. In what was another shocking twist in the story, Negan picked a shock second victim, the beloved Glenn. Seeing the character that we’ve come to know and love be diminished to a literal and clearly visible pile of mush on the floor was where this has surpassed the category of drama or suspense, perhaps being closer to becoming unnecessary psychological torture for the audience.
Whilst The Walking Dead has always been proud of pushing the boundaries of violence on TV, something I appreciate adds to their unique aesthetic, this was a completely different level. It was simply distressing for the viewer, but both in a positive and negative way. In terms of storytelling it was shrewd, you were always gripped and sutured into the narrative, never given a minutes rest and your attention was held to the end. However, this made it seem like the constant barrage of deplorable acts was merely there to keep the viewer present and spark controversy by leaving the audience with their jaws on the floor. It left Rick and the group of survivors so completely devoid of hope that you almost don’t want to tune in next week as you sense more of the same barbaric torture.
Nevertheless, despite some of these more controversial events from the season premiere there’s still hope that next week brings some much needed order and structure to the chaotic proceedings. So, yes, I will continue to watch and love the show, even if the thought of Glenn’s stammering caved-in face keeps me up at night.