I wasn’t going to watch it. Ever since the (pathetically weak) Season Six finale of The Walking Dead last Spring, it’s been clear that the show was determined to re-enact the storyline that made me stop reading the comic book. I therefore vowed that I would skip the Season Seven premiere, read about what happened on Facebook, and then decide if I wanted to watch.
But my wife Renee and my son Christian wanted to watch, so I grabbed a beer and a stack of comic books, and said, “Okay, I’ll be in the room with you.” Before the show started, we had our weekly Facetime session with my son, Ethan, who now lives in South Carolina. He wasn’t sure if he was going to watch, but, since we were, he fired up his AMC app and got ready to join the fun. Understand that the four of us have been Walking Dead fans since the series first aired. In Ethan’s case, he’d read the comics for a couple of years before that.
We signed off with Ethan and turned on the show.
My promise to be in the room lasted 21 minutes, including commercials. When Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character chose his victim and lashed out with the first strike of his stupid, “named” murder weapon, and then began to recite his character’s sickening words from The Walking Dead comic book, issue #100, I left the room.
God! I don’t know what I hate more: that the stupid murder weapon has a name, that the industry insists on marketing the murder weapon, or that fanboys just won’t stop stroking themselves every time the murder weapon is mentioned.
I stomped up the stairs to drown out the sound of the show, went to my bedroom and tweeted that I’d be damned if I’d watch the swill I’d been duped into reading four years ago. Then I left my bedroom and went to my office to resume ripping some CDs I’d just added to my collection. After telling iTunes that, yes, I wanted to rip that CD, I texted Ethan to say that I’d tapped out.
Before he could respond, I heard two simultaneous cries of “Oh my GOD!” from downstairs. Let me point out, at this juncture, that we are not a family who yell at the TV. Well, Christian yells while he plays video games. I yell when the news is on. Neither Renee nor Christian yell at dramatic TV shows. About fifteen seconds later, I heard Renee say, “I’m not watching this,” and I heard her footsteps coming up the front stairs.
Someone came in my office. I looked up, expecting to see Renee. Instead, I saw Christian, his mouth hanging open. He said, more than once, “That is not okay.”
Ethan texted to say that his AMC streaming app had started 20 minutes into the show, instead of at the beginning, so he saw the first blow of the stupid murder weapon with no buildup.
Someone tweeted that there had been a second death. I read that out loud to Christian and Renee, who was now in the room. They told me who else had died, and that it was the second death that caused them to turn off the TV.
Ethan texted to say he had decided not to watch, but had heard there was a second death. We resumed our Facetime session. We told Ethan what had happened. We talked for a while about how a show we had once loved had turned into something we did not want to see. Then Renee wanted to see Talking Dead, because she wanted to see fan reaction. So we watched an hour or so of that.
Shrewdly, AMC had steered this episode of Talking Dead largely away from fan reaction. Poor Yvette Nicole Brown was as tight-lipped as I’d ever seen her, and a non-celebrity super-fan looked like he was just happy to be on TV. There followed a shameless parade of the stars of the series, brought on to tap dance and apologize for the shit show we had just watched. It was good strategy, denying fans their voice by showing them their idols. It probably worked for a lot of people. No one wants to be angry at these nice people who spend their days playing characters we love.
Closing this fan family’s reaction, I’ll leave you with Renee’s analysis: “It’s too hopeless. It’s too much like what’s happening in America today. It’s just like this election. You get beat over the head with the fact that you have to accept evil, and they keep hitting you until you give in and do as your told. This is not an escape.”