The Walking Dead: What Led To Its Jeopardy
The Walking Dead is, perhaps “was” now, my favorite show to always watch. Truly, one could catch me watching the show quite often. Ever since season 7 arrived though, the show’s captivating charm has lost its touch more and more. Three key turning points that changed the dynamic of the show are when 1) Glenn is killed off in a gruesome fashion (as well as that unforgivable cliffhanger), 2) Negan is given too much screen time that unnecessarily highlights his terrorizing regime, and 3) Carl is killed off (which I cannot emphasize enough was SO unnecessary for me). These are changes that clearly didn’t help the show gain more viewers, pushing them away instead.
Let’s Start with the Show’s Greatest Seasons (1-6)
From seasons 1-6, we saw some of the best episodes ever written for television. Season 1 brought us Rick Grimes’s overall mission, to keep his wife, Lori Grimes, and son, Carl Grimes, safe. Who can forget that very first episode on October 31, 2010, when Rick wakes up from a coma alone in a hospital, to an apocalyptic world full of walkers (note: the general term “zombies” is not used in the show, characters refer to “zombies” as “walkers”). He desperately searches for his family, and as the first episode rolls, we shockingly find out that Lori has been sleeping with Rick’s best friend, Shane Walsh, believing Rick actually died in a coma before society went to ruin. This sets up the storyline that follows on up to season 3. The show is off with an awesome start where we are eager and practically anxious to see how these characters, along with others, survive in a walker apocalypse world and on top of that, have to solve the love triangle between Rick, Lori, and Shane.
Seasons 2 gives us Rick and Shane’s relationship deterioration, unfortunately. Shane is unquestionably possessive of Lori and Carl, reaching a point where he is in a one-on-one fight against Rick. He even attempts to gun him down, in 18 Miles Out (season 2, episode 10). There is a moment when Rick himself considers leaving Shane behind to the walkers in this very same episode, but quickly changes his mind, because Rick is that good of a man with honor. Regrettably, Rick ends up killing Shane with a knife, when Shane leads him to the outskirts of the Greene family farm to murder him. This marks a huge turning point for Rick Grimes; he has just killed his own best friend. This is an intriguing part of the show, where fans are just crazed over how Rick handled the situation. The majority supported him, and it was clear he had no choice anymore but to end the messed up triangle that all started with Lori. As his group begins to question his leadership because the farm’s downfall, something in Rick snaps. Rick changes his leadership, stating coldly, frustratingly, and quite memorably, “This isn’t a democracy anymore” to his fellow companions. He delivers one of the best scenes with the most fitting soundtrack (that can bring chills to anyone) on The Walking Dead, as seen in the video below.
The audience starts season 3 off with a huge bang; we see time has passed, with Lori visibly ready to give birth at any moment (note: it is not clear who’s baby it is, Rick or Shane’s, but we all have a pretty good idea of the highest possibility), and Carl looking a little older than before. As the group conquers the prison and meets their very first truly dangerous foe, The Governor, the audience is eager for more each week, with ratings clearly going up the ranks of up to an average of 10.75 million U.S. viewers for all of season 3, much higher than the 6.91 million U.S. viewers from season 2, as reported by Nielsen Media Research. It is during the 4th episode of season 3, Killer Within, that we see Rick Grimes go through one of his toughest moments to date. Having had a very strained relationship with Lori after killing Shane, Lori gives birth to Judith Grimes, at the cost of her own life. As fate would have it, Rick was not there to help her go through the process. This scene caused so much talk over the following episodes, where many people felt bad for Rick never trying to talk to Lori about what they could possibly do to fix their marital situation. Audiences were mesmerized to keep tuning in even more with real-life issues becoming more present in the show, and what many may or may not connect with. What are the consequences of not talking to someone you have had the worst experience with? How do you get past that? The Walking Dead not only delivers drama in an apocalyptic world, but also has the huge ability to make audiences ponder on what is right, easy, etc.
While season 3 rolled on, we began seeing more diversity within the cast. It should be widely noted that actor Steven Yeun (aka Glenn Rhee), is one of the first few Asian Americans to be a main cast member, since the very beginning, of a widely popular television series. The addition of Danai Gurira (aka Michonne) to the main fold also helped build up that necessary variety to the show, which definitely attracted a wider, diverse audience as well. As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the television series is “closer than most to mirroring the diversity of America’s real-world populace.” As we move on to season 4, the show gives us even more interesting and dangerous drama when the whole prison falls in the hands of a dangerous flu that seems to be infecting rapidly by the slightest touch of someone infected. This adds to the already dangerous atmosphere in which humans live with walkers. One of the biggest episodes in the fourth season is when Hershel Greene, a clear fan favorite, unforgivingly dies at the hands of The Governor, by having his head brutally chopped off with a sword. While fans were truly heart-broken, they were very eager to see how the group would cope with this, which is clearly visible since the season 4 mid-season premiere drew in the highest number of fans for a mid-season premiere, 15.76 million U.S. viewers.
Season 5 is the perhaps the best season in all of The Walking Dead history, where we immediately open up the show with Rick and co. fighting to the death against Terminus’s members. Terminus was first viewed by our favorite characters as a sanctuary for all, which of course immediately led fans worldwide to point out that “it’s too good to be true”. At this stage into the apocalypse, it was a no-brainer for fans to immediately become suspicious of anything that may seem too good for our characters. After all the horrors fans have witnessed with our characters on the show, there was no doubt that Terminus was another dream. However, it was because of the impending and mysterious conflict that our characters were sure to encounter that made the season that much more enjoyable and exciting to watch.
During Season 5 premiere, fans have the ultimate joy of seeing Rick and co. successfully escape Terminus. To add to that joy, top fan favorite Carol Peletier finds Rick and co., after having been separated from them for quite a bit (see video below). Daryl Dixon, another top fan favorite, emotionally reunites with her first, running towards her. Rick and the rest follow suit. On top of that, fans rejoice at main cast members Rick and Carl reunite with baby Judith, after thinking she was long gone. The Season 5 premiere successfully drew in the highest number of fans to watch The Walking Dead to date: 17.29 million U.S. viewers, with a season average of 14.38 million, the highest average for any season of the show.
Further into season 5, Rick Grimes delivers one of the most iconic phrases for the show. He states “We, are The Walking Dead” (see video below at 1:33). Fans were ecstatic that Rick had said the very title of the show in the show ! This scene was one of the most impactful scenes the audience has seen since.
While Season 6 may have had a slightly less viewership average, 13.15 million, it was still very exciting to watch. About 10,000 fans had the pleasure of attending The Walking Dead Season 6 Premiere at New York City’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Even all-time fan favorites long gone from the show showed up to the great event. During the first half of season 6, viewers were longing to see how Rick and co. adapted to the Alexandria Safe-Zone. It is hard to easily forget the season 6 mid-season premiere, where Carl Grimes loses an eye, and we see two young boys and their mother die eaten alive by walkers. It brought many goosebumps to viewers, and still, viewership remained loyal to the show.
Seasons 7 and 8; Where The Show Starts Reeling Off
Season 7 starts off in one of the most violent fashions ever seen in television history; both Abraham Ford and Glenn Rhee are beaten to death with a barbed wire bat, named Lucille, at the hands of the new villain, Negan. Fans were already explicitly furious with the show’s writers, producers, and AMC during the season 6 finale, because it left them with the craziest cliffhanger of all time. Season 6 ended with Negan beating someone unknown to death, since the camera shows us the victim’s point-of-view. When fans saw that it was Abraham Ford who got the bat, fans were undeniably sad and yet still angry that they had to wait a good 7 months to see who it was. Many people argued that the show’s creators had become too money-hungry, wanting to forcefully draw in the highest viewership number to date, at the time. Then, the show’s creators deliver something even more, dare I say, disgusting. They kill Glenn Rhee, a few moments later, by having Daryl Dixon angrily lunge at Negan for teasing Rosita Espinosa (Rosita had dated Abraham). Viewers lost it. Social media platforms were streaming with angry, sad, and totally shocked posts from viewers. In the comics the show is based off of, Glenn is the only victim to die at the hands of Negan. Just when everyone thought he was safe on the show, perhaps imagining him having a chance to meet his future child, he is ripped apart with a bat in the most vicious, horrifying manner. While this episode may have brought on 17.03 million viewers, it was obvious that viewership was going to start going downhill after the season 7’s first episode. Now that everyone finally saw who got the bat, viewership went away little by little as the 7th season progressed. By season 7’s mid-season finale, viewership had gone drastically down to 10.58 million viewers in the U.S.
There is no question that The Walking Dead lost important viewership demographics and a huge fandom; Asian Americans and Glenn’s ultimate fanbase in general. One could say Abraham’s loyal fanbase also decided to leave, but there is no question that Glenn had a much bigger and powerful one. Had Glenn survived Negan’s brutal introduction, viewership would not have gone so low in such a quick amount of time (between episodes that followed the season 7 premiere). Glenn had been on the show since Day 1, when he benevolently rescued Rick Grimes in Atlanta and helped set the course for the show since then. With his violent and depressing death, it is no surprise many fans were taken aback and even felt insulted. Seasons 4-8 Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple, who practically all The Walking Dead fans blamed for this infamous story-telling, said to Variety, “I ask people to give us the benefit of the doubt that it’s all part of a plan, all part of a story. I truly hope that people see [the season 7 premiere] and they feel justifies the way we’ve decided to tell the story.” Of course, he could not have been more wrong in hoping for that; fans were outraged. During the season 6 finale, Gimple states on Talking Dead, “We reveal [in the season 7 premiere] who’s on the receiving end [of the barbed wire bat], that’s going to be the start of another story.” Gimple did not realize he made a huge mistake in assuming that a huge number of viewers would see things his way. Whether he wants to call it creative writing or not, not everyone thinks the same way, especially if not everyone is a television writer, producer, etc. Fans were not going to see the season 7 premiere as the start of a new story if they were left off without a conclusion. As reported by Psychology Today, “when given closure, we can re-structure our past, present, and future in a healthy way…When we are refused closure, however, attempts to understand what happened flood our conception of the past, present, and future.” If fans had been given both Abraham and Glenn’s deaths in the season 6 finale, perhaps fans would have had time to mourn their losses and been looking forward to see how Rick and co. would cope with the tragedies. Unfortunately, fans were not given enough time to process the end of both beloved characters and were immediately thrown more episodes that made them see Rick and co. at their lowest points ever, which they were not used to and could not bare to watch.
In addition, no one will ever forget how The Walking Dead’s writers purposefully (and disgustingly) made us believe that Glenn had died eaten alive by walkers (season 6, episode 3). This marked the unfortunate course the show’s writers decided to take; writing scenes that guide us in one direction, only to show us episodes later, that the outcome had been totally different. For Glenn during this occasion, it turned out he was able to escape the flesh-eating walkers by crawling under a dumpster. As reported by Mashable, “to further manipulate the audience, the show even removed Yeun’s name from the opening credits for several episodes, as it had previously done whenever a main character dies.” The writers’ purposefully toyed with fans a time too many with one of their top favorite characters, Glenn Rhee, and their need for a “creative story” did not justify it.
Negan’s introduction was, unfortunately, done in a very unwelcoming fashion. While it may have worked in the comics, it was not the same on the television screen. Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan portrays Negan’s tyrannical reign with great accuracy and a charm that is easy to even like (props to Dean). Of course, it is the writers’ fault that Negan is not sitting well with most fans. Season 7 is, unquestionably all over the place, literally. Viewers see all characters dispersed into separate episodes, and while this may have been something done before, it was too many this time, on top of having to try to adapt to the show without all-time favorite Glenn, and seeing Negan’s vicious reign. We have Daryl trapped in a room, perhaps worse than an animal, Rick demonstrating lack of action, Tara is off at Oceanside, Carl is running off in a foolish attempt to try to kill Negan on his own, we have new groups pop up that have faced Negan’s wrath as well, etc. Even more so, there are too many new characters introduced in season 7, far more than were introduced in season 6. This made it even harder to keep track of what all of them were up to and for the audience to have enough time to get attached to them. It is too many directions all given just one episode each, leading up to the season 7 finale where Rick and co. finally decide to act against Negan.
We now turn to season 8, which has caused the highest uproar in all of The Walking Dead history. Carl Grimes, Rick’s last Grimes family member and driving force to survive, is bitten by a walker. Of course, as the writers would have it, we are only given hints at first that Carl may be leaving the show. For a brief moment, we see Carl with a shocked look on his face as he saves new character Saddiq, from a couple of walkers early in season 8. It is when we get to the season 8 mid-season finale, that we see Carl show Rick and co. he’s been waiting to die all along from a walker bite (after he offers himself to Negan as long as Negan doesn’t kill anyone else in the war). Fans did not remain quiet. There were petitions getting started to get Scott Gimple fired for “killing off Carl”. Rumors began circulating, stating that AMC did not want to start paying Chandler Riggs (Carl) an adult salary, now that he is coming of age. Chandler’s father even posted a photo where he states that his son trusted AMC, having recently bought a house in Georgia (where they film), looking forward to future storylines for Carl.
In the comics, Carl Grimes is still alive. He remains an integral part of the storyline, and is someone who fans, while not always liking him, have him in their hearts for simply being Rick’s driving force. It is a huge mystery what direction the show’s creators are going to be taking from here on, since Carl Grimes is said to take the lead now in the comics after his father. After Carl’s death, there is little doubt that two more fanbases have decided to drop out; Chandler’s loyal fanbase and the The Walking Dead comics’ most passionate followers. Viewership for this past season has reached its lowest since seasons 2-3; about 7.82 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.
I cannot emphasize enough how unnecessary it was to kill off Carl Grimes. After many fans have unleashed their extreme anger and sadness over this decision, Scott Gimple spoke out stating that “[Carl] needed to be the person who pushed the world in a certain direction, who put out a certain message. That message might even be denied, but we wanted it to have the incredible weight of coming from this young hero in the most serious of circumstances. And [his] demise can show that this world is still the world of The Walking Dead, where these things happen. It couldn’t have had more gravity [if it happened to another character]”, reported by Collider. Of course, fans were still not satisfied with this explanation, and I fully support them. It is quite obvious that Carl did not need to die in order for Rick to change his mind about killing Negan. In the comics, Rick slashes out at Negan’s throat, but does not kill him. Instead, he decides to keep him locked inside a basement where he will not harm others and rule his tyranny. Carl still wants to kill him then, having constant moral conversations with Rick. The tv writers could have easily recorded this exact scene if they wanted to, but alas, they chose to delve deeper into how Rick chose to keep Negan alive. Here are the possibilities:
- They could have easily placed Carl in the middle between Rick and Negan fighting, and have Carl get accidentally hurt (not killed), which would have caused both Rick and Negan to realize that they could have killed Carl off accidentally, making both men stop in their tracks (they both cared for Carl).
- The writers could have killed off another character (since they seem so willing to kill someone off every mid/season finale) that could have had a huge impact over them (remember, Carl is too vital to the current comics and is Rick’s driving force – something they mercilessly chose to ignore).
- Carl could have wanted to have some peace for his relationship with Enid, and told his father that he would prefer if they stopped fighting and tried negotiating with Negan. There was no reason Carl needed to die in the act.
- Judith could have been the one to have been accidentally hurt, causing Negan to retreat and for Rick to want to have him in confinement.
As much as one thinks over the idea that Carl wants peace between them while he is dying, it truly did not need to come to that. It would have made for an even greater season 9 to have Carl and Judith interact more, and see how Judith’s upbringing compares to Carl’s. Carl Grimes was the last sole survivor of the Grimes’ family alongside Rick (blood-wise).
It has been made known that the show’s creators have been currently filing lawsuits against AMC, among them the show’s creator Robert Kirkman, Frank Darabount, and Gale Anne Hurd. This is due to the fact that they are not receiving a fair share of the show’s immense profits. For a television show to air, it needs a studio to produce it, and a network channel to air it. AMC Studios is in charge of creating The Walking Dead, to which AMC is stated to have taken advantage of since AMC Studios is part of their company. Apparently, AMC has not been paying enough fees and taking money from the show’s creators in the process.
Now, it has been confirmed that Andrew Lincoln (Rick) will be leaving the show, and he may wrap up during the season 9 mid-season finale. Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie Rhee, has been confirmed to leave the show as well. This is due to AMC not wanting to pay her the salary she deserves for being on the show for so long, which drove her to sign a contract with another television network. Many speculate that it is because Chandler left, that Andrew just doesn’t feel the same anymore. Others believe Chandler was unfairly fired and Andrew could not stand the injustice of it all. It is somewhat fishy how after 8 full seasons of being on the show, Andrew Lincoln decides to leave, considering how much he loves filming it. One might even consdier that AMC does not want to continue paying 2 actors (Andrew and Norman Reedus) very high salaries (for being in the show for so long), and chose to keep only one. If that is the case, then AMC is making a huge mistake, and may they feel the shame. Others have said that it is the emotional pain of having to fly off to Atlanta to film each year that has caused this. Leaving his family behind in England may have taken a toll on him, after 10 years. Alas, we will have to wait and see if Andrew Lincoln ever reveals the true reason behind his departure.
With Carl, Rick, and Maggie leaving, all series originals and fan favorites since season 1 and 2, respectively, marks the end of the best era television history has ever seen. Had Carl not died, perhaps things would’ve turned out differently. Had the show’s writers chosen to not continue to toy with viewers’ loyalty and emotions, viewership may not have gone downhill after season 6. Had AMC not gone money-hungry, the show could have continued being “something more” (AMC’s slogan). No matter how hard AMC tries to lure fans in now, it’s just not the same without a good number of the original characters, and that awesome writing and dialogue viewers used to get.
What do you think? Leave a comment.