Sunday, April 9, 2017

(TV) The Walking Dead: The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16 TV Review

(Photo Credit)
The Walking Dead
Season 7 Finale
By Garrett Yoshitomi

I have this one friend, who, whenever the conversation turns towards TV, asks what's going on with The Walking Dead, specifically wondering if anybody’s found a cure, yet. Now, for the more fervent of fans, the idea of “finding a cure” is viewed as preposterous. “Robert Kirkman said there’d never be a cure!” They'd bemoan, “The Walking Dead is a show about how these people learn to survive during the zombie apocalypse. It’s not about finding a cure!” Blah, blah, blah. Fine, I get it. But this lack of a "cure," or anything resembling a wider overall storyline, is a pretty valid criticism for a show that too often stagnates with its plot and character development.

Shows need to have some kind of payoff in order to maintain viewer interest- we need something to root for, something to feel vested in. Even a show like Game of Thrones, with all of its Red Weddings and Sean Bean beheadings, manages to keep us coming back for more with the promise of an eventual epic clash with the White Walkers. But that type of overarching story arc just doesn’t exist for The Walking Dead; and for the longest time, it’s felt like the only reason to tune in each week has been to find out who dies. Talk about bleak. With all that said, the season seven finale finally gives us something worth cheering for, as our heroes finally score a win in what’s been a season of losses.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
One of the brightest spots of the finale is by far Sasha’s storyline- a rather surprising development given that she spent most of this season singing back-up to Maggie at the Hilltop. But, during the last couple of episodes, Sasha’s been swept up in a whirlwind of plot, placing her front and center in a pivotal moment for maybe the first time ever. If you squint just hard enough, you’ll find that the lead-up to Sasha's big scene seems fairly contrived. But, it plays off in a pretty satisfying way, and the action quickly segues leaving little time to dwell on just how absurd Negan's dog and pony show actually is. As far as supporting characters go, Sasha is one of my personal favorites, and she’s been around long enough/done enough during her time on the show, that her actions strike a true chord with both casual and hardcore fans, alike. It would have been a lot less impactful if say, a Tara or a Gabriel had taken her place in the storyline.

Unfortunately, I’m considerably less on board with the flashback sequences that intersperse with the majority of Sasha’s scenes. The actual content is enjoyable enough, in fact, it’s probably one of the best Abraham-Sasha interactions we’ve seen. (Although, it is sad that we have to wait until Abraham dies to get such a poignant moment between the two). For the most part, though, I found the flashbacks to be a little too ambiguous, and the transition between them and the present storyline, a tad jarring. I’m not exactly sure what the solution could’ve been because we do get some valuable character development for Sasha that I’d hate to see go away. But, I could also see some of this screen time easily getting tossed towards Rosita, who, other than a couple of lines at the beginning of the episode, largely goes unnoticed.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but I’m pretty surprised at the lack of screen time Rosita receives this week. She’s been the character (other than Maggie) most closely tied to Sasha this season, and even though Sasha stole her spotlight by storming the Sanctuary two weeks ago, this episode is ultimately the culmination of Rosita's season-long plan to assassinate Negan. I really would have appreciated more of Rosita’s reaction to Sasha's fate, especially since it so easily could have been her in that coffin, instead. It's just so strange that after a season of unprecedented levels of character development and narrative focus, Rosita retreats right back into the background.

Comic fans everywhere can finally rejoice knowing that TV Dwight is finally following in his comic book counterpart’s footsteps, defecting from the Saviors, and aligning himself with Alexandria as a double agent. It’s an interesting twist for the character, and one that most show-only fans probably didn’t see coming. However, there’s a lot to hold against a guy who literally shot Denise in the eye with an arrow, and I have a feeling that a majority of the fan base is going to have a hard time looking past his previous transgressions. Now that Dwight’s jumped ship to the good guys, it’s possible that we’ll never get to see him face righteous retribution, a staple in the character arc of Walking Dead antagonists everywhere. In the absence of such penance, I wish the writers would have made it seem like a tougher decision for the group to trust him. We do get an excellent scene between Dwight and Daryl (thanks largely to the brilliance that is Norman Reedus), but it’s hard to believe that this intense stare down is enough to convince someone as keen as Rick to trust Dwight.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
I'm not a huge fan of the amount of plot armor our heroes are afforded this week. Sure, I never expected anything to happen to the likes of Rick and Carl, but with the number of bullets whizzing in and out of Alexandria, you'd figure at least a handful of red shirts would get caught in the crossfire. There’s also a couple of misdirects sprinkled throughout that just don’t quite do it for me. The bulk of this episode’s build-up and action are compelling enough without the manufactured drama of a woman falling off a building that could be (but definitely isn’t) Michonne.

And just like that, another season of The Walking Dead is in the books. It was a rough start for season seven, dating all the way back to the tumultuous season six finale. In a lot of ways, the start of season seven was doomed from the start, as there was just too much finale backlash for most people to be satisfied with the season seven premiere. And ultimately, a lot of people were proven right, as the first half of season seven was nothing short of a disaster, featuring one of the worst stretches of episodes in the show’s history. Things certainly turned a corner during season 7B, as the March to War plot began to materialize more clearly, and the dominos, leading to this week’s Alexandria showdown, started to fall.

Going forward, it’s likely that we’ll never get a full, balanced season of The Walking Dead. The writers have shown, time and time again, that they’re just not capable of constructing an entire season that steadily moves the central plot along, while blending in quality filler to settle in the gaps. I predict that we’ll see more of the same for season eight, a mostly uneven first half with momentum destroying filler, followed by a much better second half of the season, with a more concrete narrative focus. At this point, though, I’m fine with accepting The Walking Dead for what it is, an average to above average show, with occasional moments of stellar drama and a lot of cool effects work.

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