It’s a nasty business that’s fueled countless headlines and stories. But once that moment has the shock has subsided, executive producers have teased, the show’s universe with noticeably expand. But as soon as Rick’s people and the story itself resume their usual scrabbling to Just Survive Somehow, how much will that matter?
The audience for “The Walking Dead” is a devoted one and includes two Salon staffers, politics writer Chauncey DeVega and TV critic Melanie McFarland. But a viewer’s loyalty and passion for the show aren’t always present in equal measure. “The Walking Dead” is a survival tale at first blush, but over the years it has also fomented discussion and debate over its depictions of race, class and gender, especially in terms of the group’s power dynamics and the producers’ choice of which characters’ storylines receive deeper attention.
As viewers brace themselves to find out which characters are safe and who’s out, we took stock of our feelings about the series itself, debated its thornier issues and flaws and, naturally, traded speculation as to which survivor fell.
Melanie McFarland: The return of “The Walking Dead” has been hyped since, well, the sixth season finale. Everybody is looking forward to the true introduction of Negan beyond a few minutes of posturing with his barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat Lucille.
It’s extraordinarily sadistic for any drama to get so much mileage out of making its core audience wait for six months to find out which one of their favorite characters was brutally murdered. But let’s explore that later. Right now I’m wondering if you’re looking forward to tonight’s premiere of “The Walking Dead.” I’m not sure if I am. And what are your general feelings about the series at this point as it goes into season 7?
Chauncey DeVega: As a fan of the comic book and an ambivalent viewer of the TV series, I am excited to finally see the introduction of Negan. The universe of “The Walking Dead” has many defining moments that will have great implications going forward. Negan is one such stop. There are moments of dialogue when Negan is introduced in the comic in which — and I think the comic has been very transparent about this — questions of race and identity and gender are so salient and raw that I hope AMC and the show’s writers and producers have the nerve to include.
My feelings about the comic and the series up to this point in season 7 are pretty much aligned — how much longer will these characters have to suffer? We know that in the zombie genre — one that I love and have so much affection and appreciation for going back to the godfather of it all, George Romero — that it is the people who are the real threat, not the undead. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the survivors are in many ways the real monsters, and the true “Walking Dead,” in this universe. What comes next? Negan is that test. There are bad and dangerous people in “The Walking Dead.” Negan will show Rick and his band of survivors just how great those threats are. They will be humbled and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
What are your thoughts on the show? Have you read the graphic novel? Has the show made you more or less likely to? Of course I would recommend that you do so. The TV show and graphic novel are quite different in some important ways.