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“The Walking Dead” Just Completed Its Best Half-Season Story Arc

It’s not about the individual episodes. It’s about the big picture.

This season of “The Walking Dead” has caught more shit from fans than perhaps any other. After a near record-breaking premiere that took the show’s horror to a whole new level of disturbing, ratings for the hit AMC series began to dip considerably – and think-pieces across the web announced that the series had become, in its seventh season, a shell of its former self. Of course, anyone who’s been around these past several years knows that none of this was new. The ratings always dip between premieres and finales, and viewers are constantly bemoaning the show’s slow burn storytelling.

But like always, “The Walking Dead” won many of those disillusioned viewers back with last night’s mid-season finale, which paid off all of the storytelling that began on the unforgettable night of October the 23rd. After spending the season fractured and apart in the wake of Negan beating in the heads of both Abraham and Glenn, our beloved group of heroes finally came together inside the walls of the Hilltop Colony, their emotional reunion kick-starting a brand new chapter in the saga. If you found your eyes welling up with tears when Rick and Daryl embraced, you sure weren’t alone.

The reunion was an earned moment of raw emotion, to say the very least, and as has always been the M.O. of the show, it only meant what it needed to mean because of the slow-paced storytelling of the previous episodes. Many viewers have spent the last several weeks complaining about the fact that the group has been split apart, but those with a patience for the show’s storytelling knew that was for a reason. Why were they apart? Because them coming back together was the overarching story being told in the first half of season 7. And when it finally happened, there was no doubt in this fan’s mind that “The Walking Dead” had just completed its most exceptional story arc to date.

We all have a tendency to review individual episodes of TV shows as they air, but the problem there is that episodic television is always about the bigger picture that those episodes collectively paint. You wouldn’t, for example, read the first chapter of a book and write a review of what you read, but it’s somehow become standard procedure for us to judge single hours of television. Sure, this season’s episode of Tara on the island of badass women wasn’t the show’s best to date, and maybe you were bored when so much time was spent on Rosita and Eugene’s mission to make a bullet. Maybe you didn’t even care for the Hilltop episode, which again took the focus away from what you wanted to see most. But as part of the bigger picture, it’s undeniable that those “boring” episodes meant something. They weren’t filler. They were all building to last night’s incredible finale.

Rosita’s heartbreaking attempt to kill Negan would have meant nothing if we hadn’t gone on her journey with Eugene, nor would we feel as connected to Tara if it weren’t for the episode that put the spotlight squarely on her. And without spending so much time apart, the triumphant reunion of the group wouldn’t have had the emotional power that it had last night. That’s storytelling. That’s how it works. And if you give up on “The Walking Dead” whenever it takes its time to tell a story, to give us horror fans something more than mindless blood and guts, then you’re doing both the show and yourself a disservice. The reality is that the series has always been story-driven, and last night was one of countless reminders that the writers damn sure know what they’re doing.

When the seventh season premiere aired back in October, many people seemed to give up on “The Walking Dead” because it had become too depressing. It had become, in their own words, “misery porn.” Indeed that episode was the show’s most truly depressing to date, but again, it was because of that fact that the winter finale, full of hope as it was, worked so damn well. Over the course of the past two months, us viewers have been subjected to as much abuse as the main characters have at the hands of Negan and his Saviors, and emerging from that darkness last night, if only just a little bit, felt like some form of catharsis. Seeing the group back together and once again confident in their united ability to survive was a triumphant moment as a viewer, and it was because it was such a far cry from the horrifying Season 7 premiere that it moved me to tears.

“The Walking Dead” has always been about hope. About having hope in the face of an utterly hopeless situation. Rick, Michonne, Daryl and all of our fictional friends embraced that hope once more last night, and it made for one of the show’s all-time best moments – a moment that wouldn’t have meant anything had the show not taken its sweet time building towards it.

From where I stand, the only real fault of “The Walking Dead” is that it dares to tell slow-paced stories in a time when nobody has the patience for storytelling. And thank god it does.




  • Matt

    Spot on assessment John, thank you very much. I can’t wait until February 12th for the story to resume. I think we’re in for some very exciting episodes. I’ll even take it a step further – I wouldn’t even mind if we end up with another cliffhanger. (I thought the one last season was great.)

    • Bobby Jones

      from what I know about the books, Rick makes a solid attempt at killing Negan. I’d guess that’ll be the season finale cliffhanger

      • Eastman420

        Thats what im thinking, gonna do the lineup again and Ezekiel Jesus shiva and others save their asses. Then Rick and Negan give their “we’re going to war” speeches. No need for cliffhangers this year.

  • Q.

    Finally, someone at BD gets it. Couldn’t have said it better. And the second half of the season will continue to build up to what inevitably will be yet another, stellar finale. Stoked. Love this show.

  • dsxy

    Too much filler and focus on poor or just poorly written actors. Anyway, season 2 took way more flack.

    • Breihan Dryden

      Because season 2 was a much worse season haha

  • SVSLee

    I actually enjoyed the Tara/Heath episode more than any other this season (not watched the finale yet).

    The constant bashing the show is getting in the media is getting a little tiresome now. Reminds me of around S2 and S3 of Lost when bashing that show seemed to be the fashionable thing.

    • J Jett

      i enjoyed the Tara episode too! but i admit it’s the only ep. of this show i’ve watched since the middle of season 6.

      • Eastman420

        You didn’t even watch the premier episode this seaso. Dude

    • DAWnofthedead 91

      I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it more than any other for this series, but when I look at the individual ratings of each episodes, I’m surprised by just how low that one was specifically.

  • Brett

    I enjoy the show, but you can go for home runs every episode – it can work. See “Breaking Bad” as the ultimate example. Here’s a show that swung for the fences every week, built an incredibly complex story over many years, and paid off in the end as well as any series I’ve ever seen.

  • J Jett

    even though (as i’ve said before) i no longer like this show i was channel surfing the other night and caught most of the Tara focused ep (i’ve always like Tara and the actress who plays her) and i really liked it (as well as the girl who helped Tara, etc.). i though..”MAYBE I SHOULD TRY GIVING THE SHOW ANOTHER SHOT”…and then tried watching last week’s ep. and turned to AMC just as the scene where Carl (being drawn/sketched(?) by Negan) wanted to put his eye patch back on and Negan said “when i want you to” (or whatever)…..and i immediately had to turn the channel to something else. from what i’ve seen (which i admit isn’t a lot) Negan is so ridiculously over the top that it turned me off from even giving this show another shot. the only thing missing with his scenes is him twirling his mustache like a cliche movie/tv villain. i’ve been reading various articles on many different sites also saying that thanx to a combination of the writing, Jeffrey Dean’s performance, etc. Negan is not doing the show any favors (whether or not those articles are accurate or not, i have no idea).

    • Q.

      …you tuned in and out too fast, there was no sketching or drawing.

      • J Jett

        well what was the Governor…oops, i mean Negan doing with Carl. just staring at him longingly?

        • Jesse Bickers

          Conversing. Negan likes Carl too much to kill him.

        • Breihan Dryden

          He was taking down notes on him.

    • Jesse Sikora

      Negan is by far the best part of the show right now. Jeffery’s performance is absolutely amazing in my opinion. Over the top ? Sure, but in a good way.

      • Workshed

        Still think Bruce Campbell (following on from his Reagan) would have made the best Negan, but then he’s busy on Starz at that time. 😉

    • Breihan Dryden

      He’s supposed to be over the top. The whole point of his character is that he’s an overly eccentric asshole. He knows what he wants and he takes it.

  • plutohiller

    First, you are the best Walking Dead reviewer John. Your take on the show is definitely in line with my own and one of the few reviewers actually thinking about what’s happening in the story, rather than just comparing the show to the comic or complaining about a lack of action. Second, while the show has dragged plot lines out too long some times, the big emotional events and WTF moments that have affected me, put the show on my favorite of all time list close to Breaking Bad. Rick saving his son from the bikers at the end of season 4 is still my favorite scene, but I think Neegan’s death with be intense.

    • Eastman420

      He’s not dieing anytime soon

  • Travis_Bickle

    Show sucks

  • Jesse Bickers

    I think everyone is aware of the ‘storytelling’ arc and, it’s not the slow storytelling that upsets them (me), it’s the predictability that comes with it… Everything that played out last night I saw coming a mile away. The Walking Dead seems to tell the same story every season; group finds peace, group faces adversity, group splits up, group reunites, group finds backbone — rinse, repeat.

    • Yeah, I don’t mind the slow pace. It’s just bothersome that they’ve done this “fractured group” plot numerous times now. That said, it was a strong mid season finale. I just wish they would maximize the “lesser” episodes…and I only view the movie as such because the creators present them so.

  • John Piccolo

    All the complainers are just winy little bitches who want to be spoon fed at everything and want things when they want it. These are the same bitches that complained when ” Lost ” was in reruns for a few weeks and wined like little bitches. These winy bitches would have never lasted years ago when all the major networks took 8 months ( Oct – May ) to show one whole season of a show with many reruns..Not every episode can be perfect. Not ever episode can have 100 % Rick in it or the winy bitches will then complain of too much Rick. Either watch or dont want. If you chose not to watch, then stop all the bitching and keep it to yourself

  • Eastman420

    I loved it, just wondering if all out war is gonna take place this season or start of next year.

  • Christopher Webster

    If I was on the fence this episode won me back.

  • don

    Huge fan since day one, but this season has been near terrible and not because it is boring. I see lazy poor writing and why do they insist on giving characters like Tara their own episode? They need to change things up, the same old formula is no longer working and many people have stopped watching.

  • They’d better ramp up the action in the second half of this season. I love the individual character episodes, but that had been pretty much every episode so far this season… I can understand why people are switching off at the much slower pace.
    I am wondering if the second half of the season will built to an all-out war between Alexandria, The Kingdom, The Women, and The Saints. That could be epic… I’d also love to see another zombie horde episode. One in which not everyone makes it out alive… they could do with a couple of ‘shock’ deaths – the problem with the Negan deaths in episode one is that we all knew that at least one was coming. They need to pull another Denise.

  • DAWnofthedead 91

    “From where I stand, the only real fault of “The Walking Dead” is that it dares to tell slow-paced stories in a time when nobody has the patience for storytelling. And thank god it does.”

    That’s what I thought about AHS’s fourth series, “Freak Show.” It seems that very few share that sentiment. I also say that about the last three series of SoA, and yet you couldn’t say anything positive about it on its message board during the last three years. I have a feeling that reason was also why “The Bastard Executioner” and “Feed the Beast” were cancelled and suffered horrible ratings (as well as rampant negativity).

    That being said, I think the premiere episode gave people the false impression that there would be a lot more steady action rather than a slow-build towards something potentially explosive. It’s probably more centred around relationships between the group and new outside variables than it has ever been before.

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