Monday, October 31, 2016

17,000,000 viewers agree: That's Entertainment!

If nothing else, the seventh season premiere of The Walking Dead gave audiences a metaphor for the show’s methods: a bat to the head. Whunk! Whunk! Whunk! Splat! Goooosh! 

After nearly seven months of waiting, fans finally got to see which beloved cast members would get their brains bashed in by the post-apocalyptic warlord Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the preening thug leader of the Saviors. The unrelenting sadism of this episode was calculated to test audiences’ stamina, somewhat like the “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones.. . . .

The brutality was nearly eroticized, with loving inserts of the villain’s bloody weapon, lingering images of hostages’ tearful, terrified faces and low-angled shots that made Negan loom like a conquering badass hero. . . .

Happy Halloween!
All of which makes Negan a horribly perfect (and literal) poster boy for The Walking Dead as drama, and the parting image of a walker bending down to lick up the brains spilled by Negan a metaphor for audiences’ addiction to this series. There’s something deep in the collective American unconscious that wants to kill and maim and destroy the Other without guilt, while telling ourselves it’s a necessary part of life, that it’s about survival, that it’s for our own good, and hey, now let’s talk about how sad we are that we had no other choice, to show that we’re not just getting off on it. We get to do that week after week and year after year while watching AMC, and now there’s a spinoff.

I will never forget the time a couple of years ago when my washing machine broke on a Sunday afternoon. I took my kids to the local laundromat. There were four TVs, and they were all playing The Walking Dead. The place was filled with individuals, couples and families, including young children. They washed and dried and folded while Rick and company blasted and fried and ripped apart walkers, spreading their guts on the ground, splattering the foliage and each other with their blood. RRRRrrrraaagghhh! Blam! HhhhnnUUHHHHHGGG! Blam! Blam! Splat! Gush! Blam! This went on for an hour, with periodic pauses for heart-to-heart talks. This is our background now, the fabric of American life. We’re the real zombies.

– Matt Zoller Seitz in New York, October 24, 2016

Even after one of the bloodiest and darkest episodes in the AMC series’ history, The Walking Dead really does have something to celebrate about its Season 7 debut – and we’re not talking a fantasy sequence. With 17 million watching the October 23 premiere to discover who Negan would kill and 10.7 million among adults 18-49 for an 8.4 rating, the zombie apocalypse blockbuster had a very good night as the No. 1 show on broadcast and cable.

Deadline Hollywood, October 25, 2016

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