In the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, Negan chooses who he wants to kill, concluding the Season 6 cliffhanger. But does his choice prove the show’s lack of creativity?
Let’s start by saying that this isn’t a hate piece. I’m a longtime fan of the franchise, and I’m going to watch the show until the very last episode. It’s been an incredible journey seeing it play out on screen, especially as I came in as a fan of the comics.
But, therein lies the problem. In the original series, Robert Kirkman was always breaking new ground. I never knew what was coming next and he always found ways to shock me. That’s mostly because I hadn’t seen anything like it before when I first read them.
Earlier into the TV series, several liberties were taken with the story. Frank Darabont and then Glen Mazzara, the first two showrunners of the series, approached the show differently. Certain elements were lifted from the books, but mostly only as loose inspirations. Every major character who dies in the first three seasons goes in a completely different way than their comic book counterparts.
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Scott M. Gimple took over as showrunner in Season 4, and remains in the role to this day. He admits from the start to being a major comic fan and is open about following the source material more closely. He’s veered a little bit, but it’s evident he’s keeping it very faithful.
Now some of Gimple’s character deaths have been different from the books. But this seems to be only because he had no choice in these instances.
For example, Tyreese had already outlived his comic book counterpart when Gimple came in. So sure enough, Gimple writes Ty off with a new death scene. God forbid we see what he would do in Alexandria. Similarly, Dale was long dead when Gimple came on, so he substituted Bob for Dale’s comic death instead. If Dale were still around, he surely would’ve taken this same death.
For the most part, Gimple is far more faithful to the comics than Darabont and Mazzara. Unfortunately, this was what made it obvious to me Glenn would die in the premiere, as I predicted beforehand. To be fair, I didn’t realize he would kill two people, knocking off Abraham also. But honestly, that wasn’t surprising at all either, since Abraham dies very soon before Glenn in the comics as well.
Almost like Gimple thought, “Shoot, before I kill Glenn, I better kill Abraham too real quick.”
This was a chance for The Walking Dead TV series to do something just as shocking as that significant moment in the comics. Instead, Gimple plays it safe and sticks to the blueprint. While Glenn and Abe’s deaths were sad, they weren’t quite shocking or unexpected. Even most non-comic readers at least heard it was Glenn in the comics by the time the S7 premiere aired.
I was really hoping they’d truly surprise me and go in another direction. As horrible as this would be, imagine if Negan whacks Maggie instead. It’d be tragic as hell, but very compelling— I can’t help but wonder how Glenn would react to this. I don’t need to wonder how Maggie would react to Glenn— I’ve seen it already in the books.
The same goes for other possibilities, like Daryl or Michonne. Sure, there’s no comic blueprint to lean on when moving forward doing it this way. It would take a lot more creativity to come up with new scenarios if it were one of these other characters. And I guess that’s the problem— Gimple chose to ignore the challenge and play it safe, instead.
But for all of my whining, it doesn’t matter. I’m still watching the show every week anyway. I just wish they would realize that following the comics so closely harms the experience of the show. But maybe that’s just my opinion.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.