Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.
Josh Jackson is on vacation this week, and so it’s my task to deliver you the final Walking Dead review of season seven all by my lonesome. If you’ve read our email exchanges for the past two years, you know it mostly consists of me shitting all over this show, which I firmly believe has deteriorated in quality to the point that it’s barely watchable—and that’s on a good week. So I came into last night’s finale weighed down with a heavy dose of pessimism, but still ready to be won over in the case of a miracle.
My verdict: There was no miracle. This was actually the best episode The Walking Dead has managed in quite a while, but it still made absolutely no sense, it still dragged its heels in a way that shows there was nothing learned from the debacle of last year’s infamous cliffhanger, and it did nothing to justify its continued existence as anything but pablum for viewers who don’t care about good writing or real characters.
Let’s talk about Sasha. As the centerpiece of an episode, I liked the flashback scenes with Abraham, where he underlined the idea that in order to maintain basic human integrity in the zombie apocalypse, you have to be willing to sacrifice for others—especially if those others carry the future in their uteri. That was nice, even though, like most pure dialogue scenes in this show, it went on way too long and became redundant. (And even though the way it kick-started each flashback with song lyrics was pretty ham-fisted.) But look—if you’re going to frame Sasha’s suicide-by-pill as the dramatic framework for an entire episode, it has to be worth something in the end.
Here’s what happened: After an hour of endless, repetitive build-up, she emerged from the coffin and DIDN’T KILL NEGAN. And I want to remind you that this whole thing was set up by the incredibly stupid assassination plot she and Rosita devised as a way to kill Negan in the first place. That also made no sense—it was a selfish, guileless act destined both leave Negan alive and bring his fury down on their communities—and now that we know it was a plot device to set up this suicide sacrifice scenario that DIDN’T EVEN GODDAM WORK, I mean…I just want to punch a wall, or something. What the hell is the point?
Let’s make that the central question of this whole review. What was the point of cutting down trees to delay Negan and his people, when all it did was warn them that Alexandria was preparing for war? What was the point of involving the weird landfill people, and the idiotic double-cross when Negan topped Rick’s offer by offering to teach them prepositions, or something? (And I know I’ve asked this before, but seriously, how the goddam hell did they lose basic language skills in like five years? I hate that detail so, so much.) What was the point of just waiting in Alexandria for Negan to attack, rather than taking the fight to them? What was the point of Negan’s whole coffin gambit, when clearly all he needed to do was just kill Sasha to make a point? Why would he negotiate with her, when she was his captive and he could use her as human bait without her permission? Why would he even want to keep Rick alive in the first place? Why wouldn’t he have neutralized the Hilltop the moment Gregory came to him? Why did nobody from Alexandria die when the battle started despite every single one of them having guns pointed at their heads?
WHY IS EVERY PLOT IN THIS ENTIRE SHOW SO IDIOTIC?
I’m not even going to complain about the Hilltop and Kingdom arriving at the perfect moment, just as Carl was about to get bloodied by Lucille, because that was the most fun part of the whole hour. I liked Ezekiel’s tiger just mauling fools. I liked Negan’s running monologue (maybe for the first time ever?) because it was hilarious in the midst of battle, as opposed to endless and frustrating when he’s trying to play it sinister. I think I even heard some banjo music, which was a great choice. The whole thing was absurd and silly and dumb—good job by Negan escaping as about 19 machine guns fired at him from close range—but zombie camp is a step up from the rest of this year.
Still, I have to insist that there used to be some humanity to this show, and it used to be a decent character study. If the best we can hope for today is a vignette out of the Dukes of Hazzard, then they have basically failed. The Walking Dead is dumb TV—there’s no way around it—and dumb TV should be way more fun, on a way more consistent basis, than anything they’ve offered this year. It’s guilty pleasure, minus the pleasure.