7 reasons why The Walking Dead season 7 sucks

Mike GristTV 5 Comments

Mostly, it’s Negan.

Apparently viewing figures for AMC’s The Walking Dead have dropped off a cliff since the season 7 premiere- 17 million down to 11 million or so. Some attribute that to more people binge-watching on Netflix or Amazon, others say it’s down to the incredible violence of the premiere episode, while I say it’s because of Negan.

And that opens a whole bucket of worms. 7 worms, in fact.

1. The zombies are not the threat any more.

Wholly, squarely- the fault rests on Negan’s shoulders, and the reason for that is because, after Rick cleared Alexandria of zombies SINGLE-HANDEDLY in season 6 (an awesome episode), the entire weight of the show’s tension fell on his shoulders.

In earlier seasons it was always the zombies, and the zombies were implacable. They killed without any thought or reason, and every time we saw them there was a chance someone might die. Now we just don’t buy that. If any person now died from a regular zombie attack, we’d be dismayed. It would look ridiculous. They’re so slow. They can’t have eaten in years. You’d have to really back yourself into a damn tight corner to actually get killed by them. You’d have to try.

So we don’t fear them. They were always the go-to backup threat, if things with the Governor were chilling, if we were on the road to Terminus, if the prison-plague was getting you down, there was always the zombies. But not now. Now it has to be something else, and that something is Negan and his boys, and…


2. Negan is not the physical threat he should be.

There are so many reasons why Negan is failing us. Let’s take them one by one, stating with physique, which is easy. Jeffrey Dean Morgan used to be a bear of a man. In Watchmen he was huge. He had charm. Being huge AND having charm made him special. Being huge is important to physical power. But now he’s not huge.

He’s thin, like a hipster. He wears a scarf. He’s snake-hipped, dammit! Michonne could probably beat him in an arm-wrestling competition. He needs to impose with just his sheer mass. His childish taunts would carry way more weight if he didn’t look like such a boy delivering them.

If he had mass. If I believed for one second that he could stand down any physical threat from amongst his own people. Could Rick beat him in a straight fight? He shouldn’t be able to! That’s the whole point. But as is, my money would be on Rick. It’s that physical power PLUS the other stuff, the mental domination, that makes him scary. But on that note…

3. Negan is not the mental threat he should be.

In the season 7 premiere, Negan was amazing.

I could say that again, I so strongly believe it. It was awesome TV. After him mincing around at the season 6 finale, talking talking talking and killing no one, I thought he was a fail. Then he stormed in and killed two major characters. He mentally crushed Rick- all because he wanted to get that ‘look’ out of his eyes. He wanted Rick to be truly broken.

He knew what broken meant. He knew the importance of it. He insisted on it, dammit!

Then, pfft, that went away. What the hell, episodes 3 and 4?

The threat backing up his clown-act never materialized. The fact that Darryl kept eyeballing him, kept defying him, it’s just dumb. Hasn’t Darryl learnt a damn thing yet? I believe he would have. And I believe Negan wouldn’t have approached Darryl with his offer until Darryl really was broken. Did he really thing a few days in solitary would break a man like Darrly?

But they can’t let Negan do anything to Darryl. Or to anyone, it seems, certainly not to a major character. And that is a fault of the writers.

4. The writers aren’t writing Negan correctly.

It’s the only answer.

A true Negan would have killed a lot more people already. Look at this man and what we’re supposed to believe about him. He killed every male in a village, and for what? Almost certainly for lesser crimes than Rick’s group committed. He hung a guy off a bridge as an example to Rick in season 6. He said he would make Rick cut off his son’s arm just to get the look out of his eyes!

And then he does nothing. I know the argument – Negan is just fascinated with Rick because he’s so defiant. That’s why Rick et al are still alive. But that is such BS. It’s a huge inner flaw in Negan, too big and too obvious. It means our characters are not going to beat Negan- he’s going to beat himself, and where is the fun in that? Villains who self-collapse, it’s such a terrible bit of writing. It’s also not true.

The bad guy doesn’t just wilt and die because you want it. You have to beat him, to death, with his own bat. But the writer’s turbo-powered Negan so much, there is no way to beat him without weakening him first.

No. Make Rick et al stronger. That is the only acceptable way.

5. Negan should be far worse.

So what should Negan be doing? Look at the examples.

Darryl mouths off – He should already be on that walker fence, doing whatever those walkers are doing. Or he should have had his arm cut off. Negan should have made Rick do it, or made Darryl do it himself.

Spenser stink-eyes Negan at the gate to Alexandria – Are you kidding me? This guy is a no-brainer to die. Make Rick do it with Lucille. Obviously. Negan rolls up and sees defiance in some E-list dude. Look what he did to crush that look out of Rick- is he really gonna accept it from some nobody? He’d make Rick his lieutenant. He’d make Rick kill him. And Rick would do it. How much more awesome would that be? Give us a good reason to feel for Rick. A good reason to hate Negan even more.

Guns missing – Kill the stock room woman at once. Just kill her. Or get Rick to do it. Or have him cut off an arm. Then look for guns.

Carl shoots at Negan’s man – Again, are you kidding? Negan explained this whole thing once already. Carl loses an arm. It would happen. Clearly these people are not cowed. What Carl says- you should be afraid of us or some such guff, are you f-ing serious? Negan would be on that in a hot second. Carl on the ground, at minimum Rick cuts off his arm. At minimum. Instead he just lets it slide? It’s not the Negan of the premiere, not at all.

Rosita stink-eyes Negan and Negan’s men – Same thing. We know Negan doesn’t like hurting women, but we also know he has no problem hurting them emotionally- even reveling in their suffering when their male partners die. He obviously did it en masse to the Amazon ladies. He squeezed joy out of Maggie and Rosita’s suffering. Surely he would do something similar here. Just pick a random male to suffer for their stink-eye.

I can see the arguments against him being so hard in Alexandria. People will say this is his judgment, his finesse. It’s not always about violence. So that should be true. But the impression it left in the Alexandrians’ minds was of a guy they should be fighting against. Somehow, they didn’t get the message when Rick, the very hardest of them, came back broken.

Good judgment would tell him he needs to break them directly. He’s broken worse for less before. At least get them all to kneel!

6. Negan rolls to Alexandria not in force.

The trouble here is, he was in force. He had all his boys with him. But it would have been so easy for the Alexandrians to make a war of it, and win. They could have easily taken on Negan in that situation. Bunch of guys cooped up behind the gate, with an armory? They did it in Thermopylae with 300 against many thousands. Ask Gerard Butler. It can be done.

Negan should have had some plan to over-awe. Not just expect to walk in. It made our guys look weak. Negan who made such huge efforts to set up road blocks earlier, just turned up without any siege gear at all? Just knocked?

I believe he would have rolled up in a tank and broke open the gates. Just started firing shells randomly. Smash things up good and proper. Stop any thought of a possible insurrection right there. At least make as much effort as he made for Hilltop. this was pathetic. Any single person could have shot him. Carl had the gun almost in his face, boasting about how badass he was!

Negan is not invincible. Those were mistakes. Our heroes, if they were acting true to character, would have seen the slip and taken advantage. Or the writers/director should have made it look to us, the audience, that Negan had come better prepped. It really just looked like a dumb horde.

7. Negan never takes off the clown-mask.

Combine his lack of punishment with his childish, clownish taunting, and you basically get a clown.

That’s it. He seems ridiculous. He acts ridiculous. He doesn’t kick ass. What else can we say? The silly stuff only works paired with the sense of imminent threat. take the threat away and he’s simply annoying. We wonder why our heroes are all so cowed.

Though- in the piere- he did briefly take the mask off with Rick in the RV. It was great. It was threatening. It was an honest bit of leveling with each other. But he hasn’t done that again, not in a meaningful way. Every interaction he had with Darryl in episode 3 made him seem weak and needy.

How to fix it?

Retroactively, I’d make Negan kill and overawe every chance he got. Everyone on their knees as he passes. Any stink-eye and Rick needs to administer a beating at minimum. Turn up at the gates in an unstoppable way. Make every offense cost.

If that was done- it would give the show much more of a humming spine of tension. It could sustain all these trips away to establish the other settlements. As is, since episode 1 all we’ve seen are allies and help. There’s been no real obstruction or loss at all. We see Hilltop coming round to us. We see The Kingdom start to rebel. We see the Amazons with their few who’d like to fight. It’s all HELP.

We need that far better balanced with the threat of Negan. It’s nice to hear he killed every man there. What a legend! But we haven’t seen that Negan with our own eyes for hours of screen-time by now. We forget- especially since the fallout and grief from the loss of Glenn and Abraham was so glossed over. He’s the clown. And without zombies as a believable threat- there’s nothing left.

No spine. Nothing but a boneless Walking Dead flesh pudding, slumped on the pavement.

I hope they figure out how to present Negan soon.

Comments 5

  1. For a story to be compelling you have to care about the characters. The core group represented the good guys against a brutal world and season 7 is redundant violence at best.

  2. I feel like you’re spot on. The thing about Negan isn’t that he’s a blood-thirsty killer. It’s that he’s an enforcer. He made rules. He enforces them. If he was just killing willy-nilly, that would lead to anarchy. He kills to make a point. And, he also makes it clear that if someone messes up, other people have to pay the consequences (eg: making Rick hurt someone to show he has control over Rick, or if a person gets out of line then other people get hurt b/c of it since there seems to be so many self-sacrificing idiots in Rick’s group like Rosalita.)

    They have taken the teeth out of Negan. He came out strong. But, he has let everything slide since, so much so that it’s no wonder Rick’s group still thinks it has a fighting chance. Negan talks big, then does nothing. People look at him wrong, and he just does that shrug BS that he does and makes a joke about it. People defy him, and he says “oh, you’re a bad ass and I like that!” What?! No! You should HATE that! A guy like Negan HATES anyone defying him, b/c it gives a display of defiance that undermines his authority and puts it into peoples’ heads that he can be challenged.

    I feel exactly as you do. This guy shows up, he kills a couple of people with a baseball bat. Then he gets all kinds of grief from them and lets it slide. THEN, from the all-female village we find out this guy has gone to such lengths as to kill ALL the men, and ALL male children age of 10 or older. This guy has gone to great lengths to put people in their places.

    But, with Rick’s group… he’s broken Rick. I guess he expected Rick to get the message across to others, but he hasn’t. And Negan isn’t enforcing any of it.

    Also, the other major problem is that for a guy like Negan to work (the social structure he has built), HE has to be the asshole doing all the punishment. He can’t have his thugs running around making decisions to bully or torment others without his say-so. So, when his guys are beating up people, bullying them, etc.. that also undermines Negan as a threat.. b/c it says that these people feel they have the authority and autonomy to do it w/o Nega’s approval.

    A guy like Negan only works when he has complete control over everyone… from the people that produce for him to the people that collect. The people making collection runs to the outer towns shouldn’t be making a stink or hurt anyone, b/c it would make it clear they don’t have the authority to do so unless Negan says so. And Negan would keep two units separate.. you’d have the collectors that would peaceably interact with the producers, and then Negan would have an enforcement unit that would roll in and crack down if a producing town decided to get uppity. This enforcing unit would be the “shock-n-awe” he would show up with a town first-thing with.. destroy the shit out of things. Set an example. If folks don’t want that to happen again, then they go gather shit and give it to the collection unit next time they show up. If the collection unit says the producers aren’t producing, or are under-producing, or they dont’ show up… the shock-n-awe unit comes back… carrot … stick.

    When you have collection units of Negans rolling into town and bullying the producers, there is no incentive for the producers to even form a Stockholm Syndrome relationship with anyone. They get absolutely NOTHING out of the deal.

    Negan’s thing is that he doesn’t want to kill people. He wants them to produce. So, you would create an environment where the producers feel like they get SOMETHING out of the deal.. like protection. But, the collectors don’t protect them; they just terrorize them. And by doing so they make it clear Negan has no control over them. So, the producers don’t respect Negan even more… his folks terrorize him and he doesn’t keep his folks in line.

    One of the earliest things they could have done to set Negan apart was to shut down HIS OWN FOLKS from bullying some producers. Yes, Negan breaks potential producers to get them into the fold. But, he should have made it clear to the viewing audience that Negan has ABSOLUTE control. Nobody terrorizes anyone unless Negan says so. No wild cards should be running their own bullying campaigns on the side. This is the stereotypical “good cop, bad cop” relationship. Negan is an asshole, but if he shuts down his own people terrorizing / bullying some producers, then the producers start to develop that Stockholm Syndrome respect for him. Sort of a “yeah, he’s an asshole, but he’s also making sure he’s the only asshole, and that nobody else is being an asshole”.

    For a guy like Negan to work, he has to have absolute control over his troops, and make displays of power all the time. He has to let the producers know that he won’t take shit off his own troops being bullies. Negan has to be the only bully. That’s the only way it will work.

    The way they show set him up, they had Eugene talking to Rosalita about the repercussions if Negan was killed… that it won’t change anything. But, they way the writers have set up Negan.. it would. Negan’s power base is not one of absolute control. It’s just juvenile bullying and letting his troops do as they please. Since his troops are not absolutely disciplined to only do what he tells them (ie: they think they have the free will to terrorize people when Negan isn’t around), then if Negan was killed his entire empire would crumble under the in-fighting. Because the people that think they have enough autonomy to bully people on their own with Negan being present would start to turn on each other each vying to take the power. The entire power structure would split, and the entire empire would fracture into sub-communities of bandits and raiders, no longer being a solid, unified threat.

    So, even Eugene’s argument didn’t hold water.. I’m sure it did with the comic-book version of Negan… a Negan that was in absolute control, and that has a power structure and chain of command that was very disciplined in its action (since it feared Negan). But, his power structure in the show is weak, off doing its own thing, and obviously doesn’t care about him when he’s not around. And Negan himself doesn’t enforce much, instead sending mixed signals (rewarding people that defy him, like Carl, and punishing people that try to work with him, like Rick.) There is no consistent reward / merit / punishment / enforcement system with TV Negan, and that’s why you can’t take him seriously. A guy would only get into his position of power with a very strict, almost OCD-like reward / merit / punishment / enforcement system that was consistent .. so consistent that everyone would know when they were crossing the line with Negan whether he was present or not.

    So, he’s a weak bad guy. He’s be defanged and declawed… maybe they did it on purpose. An older Jeffery Dean Morgan is making it seem like this Negan is nearing the end of his life… he had his hay-day, but now he’s getting older, weaker, and letting things slide… and as a result his power structure is starting to do its own thing, people are defying him b/c he doesn’t check that shit as much as he used to .. he’s an old dog past his prime that still thinks he’s top dog, but doesn’t realize he’s near the end of his road. Maybe that’s where the writers are trying to go with TV Negan. In the comic book they made him seem like he was in his prime. But, TV Negan seems like a guy that’s past his prime and too egotistical to know it yet.

  3. Post


    I’m intrigued by your take that- in order for Negan to have absolute control – he needs to be the only one handing down punishments. I think it can absolutely work the other way, just like it does in the army. I feel a man like, if he was in his rule-making and enforcing prime, would definitely have generals, and lieutenants, and a huge hierarchy stretching all the way down.

    Some of those would have the power to enforce. They do so in his name. They also have the power to reward. I think the key there though is- a clear structure. Maybe there is one, maybe Negan has a chart on the wall of his office of everybody’s current rank.

    But I doubt it. I think you make a good point that Negan is an enforcer and wants people to produce, and that is what drives all his decisions, but I’d take issue and put something else as his primary driver- the need to serve his own ego. This is also how Negan-supporters can argue away his mistakes, why he lets Rick et al lie, etc… He just does whatever feels good to him at the time.

    If feeling good requires rule-keeping, great. If it requires rule-breaking because he finds Carl fascinating, also great. It’s all on his whims. And I would have agreed- and said a person like that, so inconsistent, could never keep and hold power for long. But, looking at what’s happening in the world today, maybe that is naive. Powerful figures, powerfully driven by the moment, emotions and moods, can absolutely attain power.

    Which all makes Negan incredibly timely and relevant. Perhaps we’re all learning something.

  4. Season 7 is just stupid and insulting to the viewer’s logic.

    Look at how well armed the Alexandrians truly are. When Negan makes his first visit to the “Safe Zone”, the Saviors are sitting ducks while outside of the gates. Negan’s group has no chance if Alexandria fights back then and there. FFS…Negan, the genius, gave them an effing week to prepare for “the visit”. Who does that? Who would really do that? Goddamn…Negan brutally slaughters Glenn and Abraham, terrorizes the group, and then says, “you can now go home and we’ll see you next week to pick up our shit”. GTFO with that tripe.

  5. Everything that happens late in season 6 and all of season 7 is a betrayal of the characters who made it to season 6. There is no way that the people we’ve been watching for 5 1/2 seasons would be as stupid, undisciplined and weak as the same characters at the end of season 6 and all of 7. My daughter and I are watching in 2020, and the only reason we’re still watching is to see Negan die. I stopped watching at this point the first time through. Does the show ever recover?

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