I think it’s safe to say The Walking Dead stumbled out the gate in Season 7. Ratings dipped for the first time in years and many longtime fans — myself included — packed up their fandom bags and hit the old dusty trail. But AMC hasn’t taken the exodus lying down. Instead, they’ve come out swinging with everyone from the producers to the cast promising the back half of Season 7 won’t be a nihilistic slog for the audience or the characters.
But I, for one, still wasn’t convinced. Then The Walking Dead released this teaser trailer entitled “Fighting For a Future” and with a single frame of footage, I’m back in. Carol (Melissa McBride) has a gun. Multiple guns. And she’s shooting someone (or something) with said guns. Which is all I really asked for.
Fans were confused by Carol’s abrupt personality lobotomy at the end of Season 6, when her character arc suddenly veered off course from domestic abuse victim to Machiavellian survivor with a weird pacifist streak. A wrinkle that could’ve added an interesting layer to Carol’s character instead became an abrupt transition that felt like a was hamstringing one of the best and brightest of The Group. Before he abandoned the show to its own devices, our own Alan Sepinwall summed it up well:
During all of the events involving the Wolves’ invasion and Alexandria’s walls toppling, Carol remained the group’s most hard-core member, willing to kill anyone or anything that threatened her family, and sneering at every one of Morgan’s suggestions that all life is sacred […] It’s such a sharp right turn for the show’s best, most complicated character – and one whose journey from house mouse to predator was chronicled step by careful step over multiple seasons – that I feel like we needed some kind of transition from the one to the other, rather than having the questioning begin while Carol was off-screen.
With the introduction of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the reasoning behind the pacification of Carol became clear: She wouldn’t stand for his nonsense. This is a woman who covered herself in zombie guts, hid in a herd of the undead, and single-handedly took on the population of cannibalistic Terminus. How do you think a monologuing caricature of evil who murdered two of her friends would fare if Carol had been herself come the beginning of Season 7? It’s the only explanation that makes sense. By rewriting Carol from a meek and broken shell of a woman into Zombie Rambo, The Walking Dead had written themselves into a corner. It would’ve taken all of one episode for Carol to put a bullet in Negan’s head and assume leadership over the Saviors. Which, in hindsight, would probably have been better than what AMC went with.
But there’s still time. Carol’s got a gun. Negan better watch himself.