The Walking Dead: Did the 100th episode live up to the hype?
The season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead marked its 100th episode, ahead of which the cast and crew promised a deeply different and unpredictable season. This follows a notable decline in viewership over recent seasons, as well as a fair amount of backlash from both fans and critics. Moreover, a number of the producers, including comic creator Robert Kirkman, recently filed a lawsuit against AMC.
The series has been problematic for a variety of reasons and is undeniably suffering from fatigue. A brand new season and a milestone episode seems the perfect opportunity for the creators to break new ground and improve the quality of the show. Something they’ve plainly claimed ahead of the premiere, going so far as to declare the 100th episode a “thank you letter to fans“. A statement like that indisputably boasts confidence, but did the premiere live up to the hype?
Spoilers ahead from the season 8 premiere as well as minor comic spoilers.
The various communities have banded together and devised a complex strategy to eliminate Negan as a threat, hooray! There were good moments, plenty of explosive action, and a couple of fun nods to previous seasons. Unfortunately the plot was a bit muddled, and I’m not even touching on the nonlinear narrative. That part I genuinely enjoyed, however some of the writing choices have left me more than a little mystified.
Last season Rick’s group spent a fair amount of time on a desperate (and unbearably tedious) search for weapons and ammo. And although they eventually had a degree of success – by forcibly taking everything belonging to Oceanside – the combined communities now seem to have an abundance of both. So much, in fact, that firing hundreds or possibly thousands of rounds into the windows of the Savior’s compound is evidently no big deal.
I imagine there’s some strategic reason for this maneuver that I’ve overlooked – such as compromising the integrity of the structure, drawing walkers, or what have you. Or perhaps the communities had a stroke of luck between seasons and now possess copious amounts of ammunition, but without that knowledge it seemed needlessly wasteful and perplexing. Particularly when reflecting on last seasons heavy focus on the lack thereof.
And yet, it was less baffling than Rick not taking the opportunity to kill Negan. Even after literally bringing the war to his doorstep, having him in plain view, and proclaiming him to be the one person that needs to die. I’ve read the comics, I know Negan is unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon, so Rick’s speech wasn’t fooling me in the least. Though that’s really beside the point, because why would the writers have Mr. Grimes take that angle and then not even bother to fire at Negan when he painstakingly created the very moment to do so?
Instead our fearless leader opted to give Negan’s crew the chance to leave peacefully. An alternative he did not offer to the Savior’s at the outposts, who were simply and brutally eliminated. Which actually made sense, as they could have potentially warned others. So why bother sparing anyone when the chance to eradicate Negan was immediate? Ultimately, Rick didn’t fire at his nemesis until his view was obstructed, which makes very little sense based on his own strategy. Furthermore, his poor timing jeopardized his plan and put himself and others in danger.
Part of the extensive plot to take out Negan included drawing a massive herd of walkers to the Savior’s compound. While there’s a degree of logic here, it’s not their first attempt at using this method, and it hasn’t exactly gone as planned in the past. One would think it would be a last resort, though it’s possible they learned from previous experience. All in all it seemed to go a little too smoothly – and those walkers sure were moving at a good clip given that they were more or less keeping up with Daryl’s motorcycle.
Nitpicking much further is a moot point, the gist of what I’m getting at is that their tactics made very little sense. Sure, it was an entertaining viewing experience to a degree, until you start contemplating the choices and actions of the characters. It begs the question – why not devise a much simpler and more rational plan?
They have Dwight positioned as an inside man, who’s clearly willing to betray the Saviors to the point of allowing them to be killed. Negan’s harem of wives aside, he can probably get closer to their leader than just about anyone. It would seemingly be far more logical to have Dwight eliminate Negan and have a strategy in place for dealing with the aftermath of such an action.
Granted, that’s not how the comics play out. And I’m well aware that this is an adaptation of the “All Out War” comic arc. Still, the writers have strayed from the source material on numerous occasions in the past, for better or worse. This feels as if it would have been an apt time to make some interesting creative choices with the narrative. Albeit, maybe not as exciting, but I’ll take sound writing over nonsensical action anyday.
Moving on from some the aspects of the episode that I found inadequate, there were certainly things I liked well enough. I thoroughly enjoyed Carl’s gas station scene, which was an befitting callback to the opening sequence of the series. It also introduced a new character, who will more than likely turn out to be Siddiq from the comics. Seeing characters come to life on screen is always an intriguing prospect.
It was also refreshing to see the communities band together to take action, a welcome change from the pace and tone of last season, which was often lackluster and underwhelming. Morgan and Carol appear to have transformed in a manner that makes them far less insipid and considerably more interesting. And as ever, Ezekiel was an absolute delight – even in spite of his awkward theatrical nature, he never fails to amuse.
And I can’t neglect to mention Negan’s crew, who are currently among the most captivating characters of the series. Dwight, Simon, Gavin, and Eugene are all enthralling in their own ways. I find myself riveted whenever they appear and can’t help but enjoy their wildly unpredictable nature. Though I don’t expect they’ll all have longevity, I look forward to whatever screen time they’re granted. Even Gregory, who’s now team-Negan, thrives at being an engaging character.
One of the more interesting facets of the episode was the placement of Gabriel within the Saviors camp, despite Negan’s absolute worst dialogue to date (pee-pee pants was mildly amusing – shitting pants is just atrocious). Though it’s probable that this scenario could lead to the Father’s demise, I remain hopeful that it will play out in unexpected and intriguing ways.
And finally the most compelling aspect of the premiere – the various timelines. Though somewhat confusing, I’ve always enjoyed nonlinear storytelling, as it challenges viewers in exciting ways. I won’t get into their meaning here, as I’ve already shared my view on the flash-forwards of old-man Rick. Though that’s a potential topic for another time. What I can say is that fans can expect this method of storytelling to continue, perhaps even as far into the season as the mid-season finale.
Despite being deeply flawed in a number of ways, the premiere was admittedly better than I anticipated. Though in all honestly, that’s not saying much, as I didn’t buy into the ballyhoo and my expectations were nil. Frankly, I only watched the premiere out of sheer morbid curiosity, and all but envisioned myself finally quitting after doing so. And yet, in spite of myself I’m intrigued enough to keep watching, at least for now.
That being said, in my humble yet jaded opinion, it most definitely did not live up to the hype created by the cast and crew. It could be that the inner turmoil between the creative team and the network is having an unfavorable impact on the series. And realistically, how could it not? Notwithstanding, it was a fairly solid start to the season, so here’s hoping for the best going forward.
Did the season 8 premiere live up to your expectations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Image credits: AMC, FOX