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In the wake of the brutal, bloody, premiere of The Walking Dead season 7, there’s been no shortage of outrage at the apparent glee in the show took in breaking fans hearts.

The season opener has been described as “terminally stupid television” and “pointless, sadistic, and dumb” (Vox.com), grinding, nihilistic unpleasantness for its own sake” and “pure, concentrated human pain and misery (GQ.com) with The Daily Beast going so far as to claim the show “Just Isn’t Fun Anymore”.

It’s reached the point that long-time fans of the show are even threatening to quit watching the show entirely!

Having kept up with the show from the very beginning, however, I’m going to stick with it through season 7. Here’s why.

ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR EPISODES 1 & 2 OF THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 7

Brutal Deluxe

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Many complaints about “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” focused on the unrelenting brutality of the episode. For the first 20 minutes of the show, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan repeatedly taunted Rick’s group (and the audience) and put Andrew Lincoln’s Rick through a gauntlet of the undead before letting the audience know, in the bloodiest way possible that Abraham and then Glenn met their bloody fate at the business end of Negan’s baseball bat, Lucille.

The deaths of Abraham and Glenn were horrific and seem to be problematic for many viewers but at this point in the show, they’d have to be.
It’s been seven years since the world went to hell. No new order has risen from the ashes of civilisation and Rick and his companions have, for the most part, run roughshod over every threat that they’ve come across. They’ve lost plenty of friends along the way but nothing has stopped them for very long.

Enter Negan

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Negan is something different. Just beating Rick’s group wouldn’t do much. He would have to brutalise the psyche of the group to get them to fall in line. In Season 6 Negan’s Saviours proved that they could outnumber and out match the group, preventing them from reaching The Hilltop community to get help with Maggie’s pregnancy. Now he needed to prove he can dominate them completely, and that he did for an hour.

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As for the idea that Negan came across as overly cartoonish, like many charismatic leader Negan probably needs to give his Saviours a show. Most likely they’ve all been through a similar “orientation” as Rick’s; losing love ones before being inducted into the Saviours. Like some demented hazing ritual a perhaps they can only gain catharsis though witnessing the same happen to others. Unlike the Governor Negan makes no efforts to shield his sadistic side from his followers. To have gathered and maintained a group as large as he has, he’s probably had to provide a charisma and spectacle to keep them in line. I’m very interested in seeing how Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a skilled actor, develops his Negan once he’s no longer in induction mode. The second episode already provides some hint to where they could be going with this character with parallels to be drawn with the theatrics of Khary Payton’s King Ezekiel.

It Sucks we lost Glenn/Abraham

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Steven Yeun’s Glenn was one of the longest surviving members of the cast and one of the most the most popular. He also added some much-needed diversity to the show’s cast but in a way that never felt tacked on or unnatural.

On the other hand, Michael Cudlitz’s “dolphin smooth” Abraham may not have been on the show quite as long, but he had built up his dedicated following. It always sucks to see one your favourite characters on a TV show die, but this is The Walking Dead. By this point, I’m used to the idea that everyone, up to (and maybe, one day, including) Rick can die at a moment’s notice.

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It sucked when we lost T-dog, Sophia, Beth, Tyrese, Bob, Andrea and, to a lesser extent, Lori. Hell, it even sucked when we lost the almost completely unhinged Shane. That’s the show. What’ll keep me watching is to see how these characters death’s impact and inspire those who survive.

(I will concede that it might have been a mistake to wait almost 20 minutes to let audience now who Negan killed, but the revelation that he killed not one, but two of the group floored me.)

Now What?

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Leaving Rick and his team broken, alone but unsupervised the end of the first episode may have been a mistake (unless Negan has someone keeping an eye on them). For me, it’s going to be really interesting to see if/how Rick and the rest can recover and eventually counter this new threat.

Rick, Michonne, Maggie, Sasha, Carl have all been beaten in the past, but they’ve never been subjugated this badly.

They could just run away but where to? Negan seemingly has enough Saviours to block any possible exits. They also have dependents at Alexandria and the hilltop to consider.

The actions of Negan and his saviours have proven, to me at least, that after being a nebulous threat last season, they are now really a force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to see how Rick and the others handle them and despite what happens in the comics, I really want to see Rick fulfil his murderous promise to Negan.

The Walking Dead Season 7 airs at 9.00pm Mondays on Fox HD (Astro Channel 724) in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore & Indonesia