The seventh season premiere of The Walking Dead was the most controversial episode of the series. It’s an episode so violent that a number of shocked viewers quit the show (at least temporarily) out of disgust. Creatively speaking, however, it was not the series’ lowest point. That would come six episodes later with “Swear,” the only seventh-season episode to receive a rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes. IMDb also rates “Swear” as the worst episode of the series’ entire run, and it’s not even close.
Those who have forgotten about “Swear” can be forgiven. The entire episode focused on Tara and Heath, two characters viewers had not seen at the time of its airing in nine episodes — eight months in real time. It introduced the Oceanside community, and to date, it’s the last we’ve seen of Heath, who may or may not have died during “Swear.” What was so frustrating about “Swear,” however, is that it took the focus from fan favorites like Carol and Daryl and shifted the narrative away from the main storyline involving Rick and Negan. Instead, we had to spend an hour with two characters viewers cared little about, one of which many had forgotten even existed.
It wasn’t the first time, either, that the writers on The Walking Dead spent an entire episode on two of three characters in a huge ensemble drama. “The Cell” spent most of its time focused on Daryl, for instance, and because the season 7 episodes shifted between communities, we went long stretches of time last season without seeing Carol or Morgan or Jesus, among many others. Ezekiel was introduced in the second episode of the season, but we didn’t see him again after the midseason break in episode nine. Spending that much time away from characters can be frustrating for viewers, and by rotating storylines, it prevented the season from gaining much momentum until the back half of the seventh season.