When you think you know The Walking Dead (TWD), when you start to become settled within its semi-predictable violent cycles, like a zombie dog it turns round and chews your arm off. A hell hound is a nice image for our new psychopathic villain ‘Negan’ revealed at the end of season 6 who plays a sick game of eeny-meeny-mini-moe with our survivor’s heads. Let’s face it – every day since the season’s climatic finale we’ve all been trying to guess who got the boot (or the bat), picturing the angle and the trajectory of the swing from Rick’s point of view. You may have even been as cold and calculative as me, mentally listing the characters in order of who was least valuable to lose (and consequently the most likely to go). But if you have been a fan of TWD since the beginning, all our survivors are precious.
“Andrew Lincoln continues to amaze with the depth of emotion”
There is no other way to describe the premier of season 7 as torture; not only do they tease out who gets the sweet kiss of death from Lucille, the show’s creators spare us no details when we see it. Andrew Lincoln continues to amaze with the depth of emotion and trauma he expresses with his eyes alone. It makes me think back to the introduction to the first TWD comic where writer and creator Robert Kirkman wrote, “You guys are going to see Rick change and mature to the point that when you look back on this issue you won’t even recognize him”. This is unbelievably true of the show too. All of the characters are broken into an unrecognizable bloody pulp, some literally and some metaphorically, so the show almost recreates itself.
“the stakes have been set especially high for the first episode of the series”
The question is, “Where can it go from here?” Each time you think you’ve seen the worst possible crimes of humanity and time and time again you are proved wrong. But the stakes have been set especially high for the first episode of the series. TWD has a history of lulling in plot and action part way through seasons before a brain-melting end that hooks you back in again, and it becomes a little formulaic. The walkers are no longer terrifying and barely a threat. And yet, I think Negan will be, in a twisted way, the hope to fly out of Pandora’s Box. He is no ordinary, conscienceless villain but a force of evil that will force our heroes to change, either for good or for bad, through blood, splatters and tears.