*This post will, of course, contain spoilers for both the Walking Dead TV show and the comic book. So be warned, if you don’t want one or the other spoiled, stay away from this review*
Now, I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead since around the 3rd trade paperback which collects issues 13-18. So I got into it pretty early. I devoured those comics. They were so fucking brutal and gut wrenching. The decisions that Rick and the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse had to make were so raw and not at all the kind of wussy things most zombie survivors do in the movies.
The thing that hooked me was the preface in the front of each collected volume. Series creator Robert Kirkman says more or less that he was always more interested in what happened after the zombie movie ends. The world’s gone to shit. There’s no going back to normal life. Now what?
He kept the series in black and white to keep costs down so that the comic could be told sequentially in perpetuity. This intrigued me to no end. It was a story that I could invest in. A story that I was confident would be around for a long, long time.
And now here we are, a decade later and the damn thing is still going. Only now, in addition to the awesome comic book I love to read every six months when a new trade paperback comes out, it’s also a TV show. One of the most popular television shows of all time, actually. And boy does it suck!
Or it used to, anyway. The series premiere, when we meet Rick Grimes and only minutes later he plants a bullet into a little girl zombie’s head? Yeah, that was fucking awesome. The series premiere stands as one of the best zombie movies of all time, in my opinion.
But after that, something happened. I’m not going to recap the whole damn show, but suffice to say, series creator Frank Darabont, AMC, and Robert Kirkman all had different ideas about what kind of show they wanted The Walking Dead to be. And this part is very important to my season 7 premiere review, so bear with me, if you would be so kind.
The first two seasons of this show were nearly unwatchable. With Jon Bernthal’s Shane and Norman Reedus’s Daryl (with a helping of Michael Rooker’s Merle Dixon when he made an appearance) being the only things worth watching for a whole, whole lot of episodes.
But somehow, this crappy zombie show that hardly ever had any zombies–and had in their place a shit load of crappy, overly dramatic monologues about survival and sacrifice that paled in comparison to the kind of deep moral struggles the characters of the comic book had to go through–kept going. See, The Walking Dead isn’t about zombies, neither in the comics, nor the show. We’re the walking dead. The survivors. Only the TV show was trying to cover up a shitty budget and a lack of artistic direction with its scant zombie action.
Season 2 moved into season 3 and then we got into what is still to this day my favorite comic arc of the series. The Governor. Now, in the comics, The Governor is the most sadistic piece of shit this side of the apocalypse, and Rick and his friends happen to end up on his bad side.
In the comic, Michonne is captured, tortured and raped by this wonderful fellow and in return, she gouges out his eye, cuts his arm off and castrates him once she escapes. Yes, she chops this dude’s fucking dick and balls off in the comic book.
This resulted in a batshit crazy tank battle which saw The Governor storm the prison and shoot Rick’s wife Lori and their newborn baby with a shotgun!
In the TV show? Fuck even talking about how watered down and embarrassing this story was. It’s like AMC and the new show runners didn’t know what kind of show they wanted to make. A sort of dramatic survival story, or a zombie action show. Because by now, Greg Nicotero’s zombie effects were hands down the absolute best zombie effects that have ever been shown on screen. TV show or Movie. Just the best.
But the story was still pulling all its punches to the point that several of the actors (who played Dale and Andrea respectively) asked to just be killed off.
The show lost me there. I did not start watching the show again until just before the survivors finished their long walk to Alexandria. But I will admit that when I watched that reveal, seeing Rick’s face when they get off the road and find real shelter. Seeing how much of an effect everything (even the watered down stuff) had on them when they reach real civilization, I felt like they’d finally, for the first time, captured the magic of the comic book.
I honestly felt like The Walking Dead TV show had finally caught up to the comic book in terms of quality of story.
So fast forward through all the drama in Alexandria and Carl getting his eye blown out. Now it’s time for The Walking Dead to make another decision. In the comics, Negan is a foul mouthed son of a bitch who smashes Glenn’s head in with a baseball bat the very first time we meet him.
This scene in the comic left me so mad, so disgusted, that I quit reading the book for more than a year. I felt like they’d gone too far and were just killing people off to shock their audience. Killing Glenn in front of pregnant Maggie AND the kids? Too much. Too far. Fuck you, Walking Dead.
Eventually I came back to the book and I can honestly say that current post-Negan war story arc is my second favorite arc of the whole series. But this review isn’t about the comic. It’s about Negan, really.
How does the show Negan measure up to the comic? Did they fuck it all up again like they did The Governor?
Well, first of all, the casting is pitch perfect. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was born to play the scourge of the apocalypse, Negan. But in the comics, this dude struts around wielding Lucile and dropping F bombs like they’re going out of style. How are they going to translate that to screen? Make him say shit every other word? That’s gonna get old…
But no, in fact, they don’t. They give him great dialogue and they let the cursing come naturally when it fits. They let Morgan act his ass off and let his actions speak for him. And about those actions… Does The Walking Dead pull a Governor and skate right past the most shocking moment in the entire comic series?
No. In fact, it outdoes the comic book! I’m not shitting you! Not only is Glenn’s brain busted, eye popping screaming session left intact, showing mercilessly and in harrowing graphic detail one of the most beloved characters of the entire series’ death, but show-Negan actually one-ups comic-Negan!
And no, I don’t mean by killing Abraham. Poor Abraham was a gonner either way. (Suck my nuts!) Negan’s goons killed him just before he bashed Glenn’s brains in in the comic. No, the series premiere actually uses a brilliant device from the comic to fuck with TV fans.
You see, in the comic, The Governor cuts off Rick’s hand. Yes, Rick has been running around leading his ragtag group of survivors for years now with only one hand. Comic-Rick is a badass motherfucker who will chew dudes’ throats out to protect his people. Show-Rick moans “Cooooraallll!” a lot. (A LOT!)
So they’ve got a hand axe and they keep showing Negan dropping this motherfucker and we’re just WAITING for him to finally cut Rick’s hand off. But no. No, no, no, that’s not what Negan has planned at all. He actually fucking wraps Carl’s arm up with a belt, draws on it with a marker and commands Rick to cut it off sending Rick into the slobbering, whining mess that TV-show-Rick is, breaking his will and spirit, and turning him into Negan’s lap dog the way killing Glenn and Abraham never would have.
Wow! Wow, wow, wow! As a long time fan, I would have NEVER guessed that TV-Negan would actually out-Negan comic-Negan. Hell, I wasn’t convinced this shit-show would LAST long enough to even GET to Negan.
But here we are. And it is glorious. I’m all in. 5 out of 5 Strangeheads, gang. Buckle up. I have faith that the TV version of the Negan war is going to be fucking AWESOME!