It’s been a shaky seventh season of The Walking Dead, sixteen episodes over the course of six months that have put viewers through the wringer. So much has happened in the real world that it feels like Glenn and Abraham’s deaths were of a different era. The U.S. election hadn’t happened yet. Heath wasn’t starring in the Fox reboot of 24. We barely knew who Negan was.
It was a more innocent time.
For better or worse, the deaths of Glenn and Abraham have colored much of this season. The Walking Dead fans were already upset when the premiere aired last October because the series had cliffhanger’d us for six months in between the sixth and seventh seasons. Still, we all anticipated that Negan would kill someone in the season premiere — and most of us expected it would be Glenn — but few predicted the brutality of those deaths. The backlash was swift and punishing. Literally millions of fans abandoned the series. While it still remains the most dominant drama on cable television, it’s had to work all season long to try and regain the trust of its viewership. The miserable slog of the first half of the season didn’t help.
The AMC series began to turn a corner, however, in the midseason finale. The characters woke up. They got their fight back, they flashed the occasional grin, and while we still had to put up with a petulant Rosita, showrunner Scott Gimple threw us a couple of surprises along the way, namely Eugene’s decision to betray Alexandria, as well as a new community of garbage people who we new even to readers of the comic book. It was the combination of those two new wrinkles — neither of which come from the source material — that led to what was maybe the most surprising twist on The Walking Dead in seven seasons.
The Junkyard Gang double-crossed Rick and Alexandria.