Why I’m Done with “The Walking Dead”

the walking dead

I’ve been a loyal and devoted fan of the hit AMC TV series The Walking Dead since the very first episode. I’ve even hosted viewing parties for my friends so we can share the thrills and adventure of the show. The Season Six finale (“Last Day On Earth”) was tough to watch, with its cliffhanger about which of the original group would be killed by the sadistic new character Negan (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), but I was eager to see it.

The Season Seven opener was last Sunday, and like many fans of the show, I was eager to find out what would happen in the story and slightly anxious about how the savage Negan would proceed. This time, however, I wasn’t pulled back into the Walking Dead universe. I was appalled and disgusted, both at the show and at myself for not having the strength to switch channels once it got really horrible.

The episode, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” was an exercise in unrelenting sadism, with Negan not only reducing group leader Rick (Andrew Lincoln) to despondent, hysterical tears and forcing him to maim his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), but also savagely beating two other long-time characters to death with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat—all in graphic, slow motion detail.

And it didn’t stop there, because the approach to storytelling in this opening episode included a confusing narrative timeline and quick dream sequences that created ambiguity as to who had been killed by Negan. This was a manipulative and sadistic method of story-telling that was perhaps perfectly matched to the crescendo of Negan’s rage and animalistic actions, but it was difficult to endure as a viewer and show fan.

As the episode progressed, however, I couldn’t help asking myself, “why am I watching this?” That was a question that proved tough to answer. The show is no longer gripping, thought provoking, or even entertaining. As “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” demonstrated, the writing team has created a sadistic relationship between the show and its apparently masochistic viewers.

I’m opting out.

Any action thriller has an element of voyeurism; think about the way a film like the sly Rear Window requires the viewer to contemplate his or her own voyeuristic role in the story. There comes a point in any story, however, when it’s time to stop and ask whether or not you want to revel in the sordidness of being a voyeur, or whether you would do better to spend your time on something else.

Modern media keeps pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable to portray on screen, whether it’s graphic sex or graphic violence. It’s difficult to imagine how much further shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or Girls can go to tease and taunt us, given how extreme they have already become.

In shows from the early years of television, for example, the scene would change as soon as the couple walked into the bedroom. By the 1970s and 1980s, the camera was following them into the bedroom as they shed clothes or helped each other undress while laying on the bed. By the twenty-first century, it seems like the camera is never kicked out of the bedroom.

The same holds true for the portrayal of violence on screen. Where once characters were killed off camera, today they are torn apart savagely after being horribly tortured in Technicolor detail. The improvements in makeup, prosthetic effects, and computer graphics mean nothing is left to the imagination. There’s even a sub-genre of horror movies known as “torture porn” built around these hyper-realistic depictions of violence.

Which brings us back to The Walking Dead. Yes, it’s a show about a group of people trying to survive both the zombie apocalypse and the savagery of other people in a world without laws. But the core question still remains: Is it fun to watch? Is it a good use of my time? Is it entertaining?

Unfortunately, with the storytelling, character violence, and unrelieved sadism of the Season Seven opener, the answer for me as well as for many other viewers is a resounding “No.”

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  • josh dollar

    I will always love the first season of The Walking Dead. It was a great story told well. The gore in season one was always to benefit the story, and never to overshadow the story. Halfway through the second season the quality of the show dropped. I still enjoyed season two, but I think I stopped watching sometime in season three.
    Season one is the only season I will ever re-watch.

  • Tbh? The second episode of this season was everything the first wasn’t.

    • Johnny Wadd

      True dat … it was like the Hills Have Eyes (minus the cannibalism) suddenly becoming Xanadu.

    • To be clear, I didn’t have a problem with the story. Zombies are fundamentally fairly uninteresting antagonists because they’re not smart. Not even in the splendid World War Z. What I was really repelled by was the sadism and cruelty of the storytelling style itself. As I said, it just made me ask “why the deuce am I watching this? Is this really what I find entertaining?”

  • Curt Pangracs

    Typical of the millennial mindset – reject anything that makes you uncomfortable and ignore the undertones and story threads. Here’s the unvarnished reality here, kiddies – in a zombie apocalypse, where it is excruciatingly simple to kill the zombies, it’s the LIVING who are the real enemies, just as it was BEFORE the apocalypse.

    How some of you go through life so utterly clueless frightens me for the future of this earth.

    • I’m a millennial? That’s news to me, Curt. 🙂 But you are welcome to carry your baseball bat of judgement and criticism. I’ll just choose to step aside when you swing…

      • Curt Pangracs

        You are too stupid to step aside…

        • I should keep in mind just how rude people can be here online. Feel better about yourself now, Curt?

    • saltysailor

      Aww, you went and bruised the snowflake, Dave Taylor.

  • bchristian85

    I stopped watching at some point during season three. The first and second seasons were great. Like all serial dramas though, they can only have so many twists and “shock moments” before it becomes ridiculous and cheap. The Walking Dead has followed the same formula as shows like Prison Break, 24, and Lost before it. What start’s out as a great story with a gripping first couple of seasons becomes ridiculous and unwatchable.

  • Drunk Uncle

    I just started watching a couple years ago and don’t know anything that happened in the first few seasons. I think episode 1 of this season was the best one episode I’ve seen. It wasn’t easy to watch, but in the end it made me want to watch the show. The good guys had it too easy and were quickly turning into the bad guys. Now there is a new big dog and I want to see how it plays out.

  • Ed Shapiro

    I’ve been with the WD since the beginning. I understand it’s not a zombie show, but a show about human drama when faced with adversity. I personally liked the early blood and gore when it came to fending off “walker” attacks. However, the violence of human vs human is a little off putting.

    We all see Rick and the gang as good guys. However, I’ve started seeing them as the bad guys. Everywhere they go, they either want to take over or cause havoc. I always wanted to see the story tellers viewpoint of survivors outside of Georgia. I got my wish with the horrible Fear the Walking Dead. I was done after three episodes of that stinker.

    Anyway Dave… I get your point and probably wouldn’t be too sad If I followed your lead and gave up on The Walking Dead.

    P.S. Carol’s story line/acting in last Sunday nights episode was beyond horrible.

  • Zakn

    It’s too bad. You missed a really good Episode this week with the introduction of The Kingdom. Also some great character development by Carol (Who is amazing!)

  • Sniglet66

    Totally agree. We’ve bailed on the show at our house. It’s gotten boring. Look at a show like “Breaking Bad” – full of amoral, sadistic drug dealers yet very little graphic violence.

  • It was disturbing for sure. Took us a while to recover.

    I’m not quitting. The second episode was back to normal WD.

  • Chris Prestridge

    So the writer stops watching b/c a show reflects what is most likely actual human behavior in an apocalypse. Actually we don’t even need that, we only need war to see such violence. Difficult to watch? Sure. People quitting the show b/c of the violence is indicative of why we haven’t been able to close out a war since WWII. I say this as a four tour combat veteran (11B). Humanity, when it is do or die, is the most brutal species ever to exist. While the show is obviously fiction, the violence and overcoming extreme odds is indicative of exactly how humanity would react. There will be extreme evil, there is extreme evil, there is also good that will have to become violent to defeat evil. It’s humanity.

  • jonathanzacharias
  • Robert McGrory

    Complaining that TWD is too violent is like going to Cheesecake Factory and whining about the calories in the desserts.