The Walking Dead: How the series ended and why the final episode proved it was always great TV
TNowadays, mention of the Walking Dead is usually followed by an eye roll. Then a groan. And then the words, “This show turned out so, so bad!” This often happens with initially loved shows. Lost, hometown and HE were all wholeheartedly embraced in their early seasons before being met with lazy criticism as they progressed: “They made it up as time went on!”; “It peaked with the first season!”; “Not good for years!” But these complaints are not only unimaginative, they are also wrong.
What is true is that the Walking Dead started out as a medium-sized graphic novel adaptation and melted into a franchise as big as the horde of zombies that repeatedly tried to overtake its characters. It followed mad Men and breaking Bad as a firm, if unlikely, critical favorite for AMC. It enjoyed this feat for six seasons and was the most-watched show in the US at the time. Then came the seventh season.
It’s well-documented that the baselessly violent Season 7 premiere, which aired in 2016, halved the show’s viewership. The episode, which spearheaded a two-season arc about Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s baseball-bat-wielding antagonist Negan, was viewed by 17 million viewers — the highest ratings of all time. By its ninth season, only four million were tuning in each week.
This was announced in 2019 the Walking Dead would come to an end, and on Sunday (November 20) the final episode aired. It was a lightning-fast, nostalgic watch that certainly avoids being placed on those “terrible series finale” lists. But more importantly, the finale proved that those who abandoned ship were missing out.
People accept that quickly the Walking Dead stayed bad without checking if that was really the case. At a time when we’re overwhelmed by choice, viewers need reasons to cross titles off their watchlists and the Walking DeadSeason 7’s evil premiere armed former fans with a gun against it. But an episode of a series shouldn’t change a show’s legacy, especially when that series is regaining the spirit of its glory days and is once again something worth your time.
Under the guidance of showrunner Angela Kang, the series learned from its mistakes and confidently returned for its ninth season to its original mini-season-within-a-season format that had kept viewers on their toes for six great seasons. It even showed that it could survive without its two leads, Andrew Lincoln and Black Panther‘s Danai Gurira, who have departed as Rick and Michonne in recent years.
The good also came from the bad: The brutality that led to the shutdowns made for some of the finale’s most cathartic scenes as Negan ended the series as the Walking Deadthe most interesting character. Any other show might have resisted the idea of redeeming a character who committed such despicable acts, but the Walking Dead kept him in the game and never shied away from the impact his presence had on the characters who remembered his murderous habits. As a result, complex — and often challenging — questions surrounding forgiveness and redemption were raised in intelligently written showdowns that you’d think would have no place in a zombie apocalypse series. This was a final payoff, the impact of which was compounded by the length of those miserable seventh and eighth seasons.
Other moments in the finale, including shameless set-ups for future spin-offs, hit their mark due to the show’s sheer length. It began in 2010 and has been on screens for almost half of this author’s life; No wonder there were tears.
However, every viewer has their limits and the Walking Dead safely tested. I almost shut down after the show faked the death of Steven Yeun’s Glenn, only to bring him back episodes later to actually kill him in the most harrowing way imaginable. But then I wouldn’t have needed to see the five-year refilling time jump and the really frightening arrival of the Whisperers, a group who disguised themselves as hordes of undead by wearing masks made from the faces of dead strays.
It’s unfair to assume that the show always stayed as bad as some viewers thought it would, and that kind of thinking falsely validates people’s decision to stop watching. By no means am I trying to convince those who’ve given up to go back and catch up on the show — but I’ll call time when I say so the Walking Dead died a long time ago. It didn’t, and the old fans were actually missing out on some bloody great TV by not crawling back for more.
The Walking Dead is available to stream on Star on Disney Plus
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/walking-dead-ending-final-how-b2230235.html The Walking Dead: How the series ended and why the final episode proved it was always great TV