On Sunday, October 23, 20.8 million people tuned in to watch AMC’s Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead: ratings that shattered even those of NFL’s Sunday Night Football that night. Having left its audiences hanging in perhaps the most cruel and terrifying cliffhanger in TV history, the post-apocalyptic drama returned with a gruesome, sickening hour long episode that left viewers, even many veterans of the already gory show, reeling.
The show began chronicling the adventures of ex-cop Rick Grimes and his ever evolving band of fellow survivors in 2010. Audiences were easily captivated and drawn into the struggle of the show’s characters as they struggled to navigate the savage, zombie infested new world, attempting to forge a new civilization amongst the remnants of the old. With its superb character development, top notch writing, themes of hope, charity, and innate human depravity, the drama consistently tugs at the heartstrings of its viewers—and leaves them bereft when favorite characters meet tragic and usually bloody fates.
With such an impressive discography under its belt, it seemed as if The Walking Dead could do nothing but keep drawing its viewers in further and further into the lives of its characters… well, until the kicked off the much anticipated Season 7, that is.
The finale of season 6 left all its viewers waiting to see who the new villain, Negan, would randomly choose to kill off. After toying with audiences for a few minutes in the Season 7 opener, the big reveal finally came, as Abraham, one of the show’s more mildly popular characters, was beaten to a literal pulp. Then, after a reckless action by fan favorite Daryl, Negan proceeded to brutally execute yet another victim by battering his head with a wire-covered baseball bat: Glenn, one of the original band of characters. He leaves behind a pregnant wife to whom he chokes out one last, pitiful line: “Maggie, I’ll find you.”
Though things have been bleak before, the main protagonist, Rick has never bowed to anyone. His fighting spirit has always propelled the group through, but in the new episode, Rick appears utterly defeated. Every minute of the entire hour overflowed with hopelessness, fear, and brutality.
For many viewers, it pushed their limit. Thousands have expressed that they intend to quit watching the show, as the internet blew up with people criticizing the episode for being over the top.
By killing off Glen in such a way, the show prompts viewers to ask “What’s the point?” What purpose was there to years of faithfully following the show and caring about a character, only to ultimately see him meaninglessly slaughtered before the end? With this episode, The Walking Dead establishes that no one is safe— not even the oldest, most loved characters. It also seems to be completing a transition in the show. No longer is it about people just trying to survive and come together amidst a bunch of zombies, hoping to find a cure and a safe haven, but features a conflict between factions of people. Enough time has gone by for powerful new world orders to emerge, and the conflict now revolves around which of these factions will assert its dominance over the others. The new question is whether “good” people even belong in this new world.
Though I understand the concerns and disillusionment of many fans, I actually see a lot of merit in the direction the show seems to be heading with this new episode and season. Personally, I have never seen a show that depicts man’s inherent sin nature more accurately.
In a time where evil, cruel, animalistic people seem to roam unchecked through the world with abandon, stamping out the innocent and pure, we, as Christians, are left sometimes to wonder: what now? Is there hope for this world? Is there purpose and reason for the toils of those who strove for so long to uphold and establish the values of the church and culture? Will everything just crumble down around us, leading to an unavoidable downfall?
The Walking Dead resonates with so many people—myself included—for a reason. Yes, losing Glen is very, very sad, and the violence is somewhat excessive at times, but the show still has so much to offer. It is intriguing to see where the show will take the remaining characters next and where they will end up. It makes us think about our own lives:what we value most in this world and why we keep going. These are questions that people need to think through and ask themselves, and though the show may be grueling, it is not void of purpose. As Samwise Gamgee so beautifully put it in Tolkien’s The Two Towers: “There’s some good left in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”