Here we go again with this.
In case you somehow didn’t know, Sunday night brought with it the return of The Walking Dead (TWD from this point on). Whether you watch it or not, the likelihood of you being aware of the season 7 premiere is pretty high, it was everywhere the last couple of days.
Twitter, Facebook, the morning news, drive time radio, hell even sweet little old Mrs. Rosenbaum who lives across the street from your parents was talking about it.
But just in case you need the recap here is the more or less spoiler free recap.
Season 6 of TWD ended with the “good guys” on their knees as freshly introduced big bad Negan stalked back and forth playing the world’s most tense game of “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to select the individual who would get up close and personal with Lucille.
The season 6 finale ended with him making his choice and bludgeoning his victim but, in arguably the greatest bit of baiting a television fan-base ever, the viewers were left in the dark about who he killed.
Flash forward several months to a couple days ago and we got our answer in a big, brutal and disgusting fashion.
The first episode was brilliantly paced, stretching the reveal out over 15 minutes of actual show time before the skull cracking began.
The internet on the other hand waited all of five seconds before “He killed ______!!!!” started showing up, along with the standard asshole who can’t help but get offended that someone else called them out for being an asshole for posting the aforementioned tweet or status update.
I saw so many posts dripping with self-righteous indignation, as if the offenders had the right to be upset that people were offended with them:
“Why’s it matter if I said what happened?
“If spoilers are such a big deal why aren’t you watching it!?”
“Why are so many people upset about spoilers? It isn’t like knowing what happens ruins your enjoyment of a show.”
That last point is one I really want to address first.
Say it happens to be your birthday.
Say you happen to be really, really interested in virtual reality.
Say you also happen to be the kind of person who really likes surprises.
Say I approach you with a nicely wrapped box, pretty little bow atop it.
Say I hand you the box and immediately say, “It’s an Oculus Rift.”
I have lessened the impact of surprise on said gift. Sure you’ll still enjoy it but I will have stripped of the surprise.
It’s nearly Halloween.
Let’s say you love haunted houses, you love being started and surprised by people in costume jumping out at you from dark corners of creepy locations.
Let’s imagine that you and I go to one together.
Imagine that I have already walked through the haunted house before you.
Imagine that I start telling you every five steps where the scares are going to come from.
Still enjoying that nighttime jaunt through a creepy locale?
Get it yet? Have I beat the point into your head like a figurative Negan?
So back to Sunday night’s show.
Negan did his business in brutal fashion, handling things not quite exactly the same way his comic book namesake did. People where upset, beloved characters had met demise. It was probably was a surprise to a great deal of viewers as many of the people I know who watch the show have never picked up the comic book. I myself have only read up through the 98th issue, which is two short of this particular point in the story.
I unfortunately had the comic book equivalent of Sunday’s show spoiled almost five years ago during season two of TWD when a seemingly innocent article speculating on the eventual casting of Negan and would the showrunners have the guts to follow the book through Negan’s introduction.
So long before I started reading the comic, and only a couple seasons into the show, a major plot point was spoiled.
Having it spoiled again, before I knew if the show was going to stick to the source or make their own way, was irksome.
One of the beauties of TWD is that it often veers wide of the source. Characters that are long dead on the show are thriving in the book. Characters that did in the book are arguably doing fine on the show. Hell some of the shows biggest characters, the Dixon’s for example, have yet to be in the comics (if they ever show up at all). Being a fan of the source material is often used in the “pro-spoiler” argument but shows like TWD often deviate from the source, giving long time fans a chance to also be surprised.
TWD is not a perfect adaptation and is one of the best examples of how well that can work.
So even though I knew how the scene was supposed to play out in the book, I was anxiously awaiting the chance to see how the show would handle it.
After having the big reveal spoiled for me, I settle into my favorite chair and fired up the show on my Xbox Monday evening. As I sat right here and watched, I found myself enjoying the pacing of the episode, the writing, the shot composition and the effort to build tension the makers of the show put into producing it.
Notice I said “effort to build tension”, as I knew what was coming there was no actual tension. The episode had essentially been neutered. All that effort that went into making for a tense, edge of your seat experience going back to last seasons cliff hanger and through the fifteen minutes of showtime building to the big moment had been summarily executed.
Pardon the expression, but the impact of the scene had been removed. It was like the showrunner’s own version of Lucille had been replaced with foam bat wrapped in a feather pillow.
Yes the deaths were brutal but physically no more so than anything else we’ve seen in six plus years of TWD. Many, many people were posting that they were done with the show and it was too much and I kind of envy their experience because without the emotional shock of “I can’t believe this is happening/I didn’t see this coming” all it left me with was the disgust of what a barbed wire bat sounds like on a skull, a mild turning of the stomach at the fake gore and the “sadness” that accompanies a favorite character leaving a show (but a departure that had been given time to come to terms with before it happened).
One of the greatest things about watching a show you love for the first time is the great unkown. That moment when the unassuming character becomes the villain, when the hero appears to be facing certain doom, the character you love meets their end, when the bad guy finally gets his comeupance…all those things and more are at their most satisfying the first time you experience them. From the thrill of victory to the crush of defeat and everything in between, it is all so much more impacting when it finds you entranced by the unknown.
What should have been an impactful moment on the show became something I’ve seen before, before I actually got to see it.
Moving forward I will do my best to spend the rest of the season spoiler free as I feel some big things are no doubt coming and I’d like to experience them with the same sense of blind wonder and curiosity that so many had the chance to watch the premiere with.