We finally made it! Love it or hate it, it’s pretty safe to call the first half of the 7th season of The Walking Dead a bit of a slog. The numbers seem to back up the sentiment, as the show has been hemorrhaging viewers by the millions from the season opener on. It is still a force on television and in popular culture, but The Walking Dead seems to be teetering on the precipice of some major implications for the show’s longevity and direction as we head into the mid-season break.
There are a number of exciting prospects heading into the 2nd half of Season 7, along with a number of unresolved storylines. Will all the Negan hubbub really turn out to be worth it? Will the viewers come back, or has the show just lost its footing for good? Only time will tell, but this in the interest of staying optimistic about one of our favorite shows on television, here's what we would like to see from the second half of Season 7.
15 Citizens United
It is almost a foregone conclusion, especially based on the preview for the rest of the season, that Rick Grimes will unite Alexandria, The Hilltop, and The Kingdom in working to fight back the Saviors once and for all. Comic readers will have some idea of how this will likely go down, but it will still be fantastic to see come to life on the screen.
Part of the Brave New World that Rick found himself and the rest of Alexandria foisted into revolves around politics and trade and diplomacy -- all of which we’ve seen hinted at somewhat already this season. Gregory is about the slimiest, most pitiful person left after the zombie apocalypse, and yet he still somehow has the ear of The Hilltop for reasons that we’ve yet to have explained to us satisfactorily. How eager will he be now that Simon has made himself known (with that cool music from an armored car trick) to strike back yet again? Will he be willing to personally involve the citizenry under his leadership? Will Ezekiel finally hear out his right hand and refuse to kowtow to The Saviors’ demands?
We're curious to see what it will take to unite the communities to throw off the yoke of Negan’s oppression. How dear will the price be? We're not sure all of these questions will be answered in the back half of season 7, but we're hopeful.
14 That Cool Spiky Armored Zombie
So, and this really isn’t spoiling anything, the comics never had anything nearly so cool as that spiky armored zombie shown oh-so-briefly in the preview for the remainder of the season. But whatever the hell that thing really was, we want it! Badly! In fact, we’ll go as far as saying that there might never be anything so rad looking for the rest of the show’s run -- and there’s no such thing as it being too soon to be introduced to us. Considering all the zombie stuff that we’ve been inundated with since Night of the Living Dead became a phenomenon at the end of the ‘60s, it is a wonder that we haven’t had more iconic armored or booby-trapped zombies. Sure, the show has had zombies in riot gear, but it’s never had anything quite like this.
Who outfitted the zombie? We’re pretty sure it is part of the Saviors’ little zombie obstacle course that they ran Daryl through (in his sexy sweats). Does that mean there’s more where this guy came from? Will there be more Cenobite-esque ghouls to plow through?
13 More Antiquated Weapons From The Kingdom
The Kingdom, like Camelot, is a pretty silly place. Carol found it virtually impossible to not bust up laughing over how ridiculous it all is, and Morgan only held it together because he’s some zen staff master now. But the notion of a settlement that fancies itself a relic of another time comes with some hidden benefits if the show’s writers play it right.
We already know the soldiers of The Kingdom ride on horseback and wear armor (riot armor, but still) and carry forged spears (which is awesome). But if they’re capable of forging spears, why not get creative with the rest of their arsenal in the lead-up to war with the Saviors? Negan has his barbed wire bat in Lucille, but the soldiers of The Kingdom could very easily be sporting maces or flails or war hammers or cudgels for down and dirty fighting. Provided they have the resources, siege weapons like the trebuchet or the catapult or the ballista aren’t out of the question. Make it happen, Scott Gimple! (He's the showrunner, in case you didn't know.)
12 Daryl Gets His
Daryl Dixon was a haunted, troubled man well before being shanghaied by the Saviors. Being made to eat dog food while in solitary confinement pushed him to another level. It is pretty safe to say that somewhere in this coming half season, Daryl will unleash holy hell on the Saviors (or maybe just a few special ones). It is great to see him back with his crew, and it couldn’t have happened at a more opportune hour (both for Rick’s group and for the viewers).
Fat Joey got a taste of what Daryl is capable of. As time goes on, and especially if he manages to retrieve his crossbow, Daryl’s kill count is virtually guaranteed to climb higher. We don’t want to jinx things, but he also seems like he might be a prime candidate for not making it through the fight with the Saviors if Scott Gimple wants to pick back up with the idea of killing people we actually care about.
One final note: the song “Easy Street” that was blasted continuously through the walls of Daryl’s cell...was that just to make him nuts? Or is it possible that it might be some sort of subconscious PTSD trigger that will render him meek or useless as soon as he hears the first few notes?
11 Dwight Flips The Script
In case you hadn’t realized it just yet, we’ll spell it out: there hasn’t been a more plainly telegraphed future betrayal than Dwight’s betrayal of Negan. Let’s break it down for you in case you were flabbergasted by that statement.
When we first met Dwight, he was on the run from the Saviors, along with the two women that we now know to be Negan’s intended wife (Tina) and Dwight's actual wife (Sherry). Tina, while Sherry wound up offering herself up to Negan to save her beloved future burn victim from a merciless execution. We also know that Dwight seemed genuinely thankful for Daryl’s help in their fighting off the Saviors before going full weasel and backstabbing our favorite crossbowing badass. We also know that Dwight bears the same disfiguration from a hot iron to the face that people who sleep with Negan’s wives receive, and as cool as Negan thinks he is with the guys he irons in the face, we can’t imagine they’re really all that cool with him after that.
Dwight might have been the guy to slip Daryl the key to escape (though Sherry and Jesus are just as likely, if not more so). And considering how much enjoyment Negan seems to take in rubbing Dwight’s disfigurement in his face -- and how he's now able to treat Dwight’s lady love like a sexual possession -- we're feeling confident that at some point, Dwight will switch sides and betray the leader of the Saviors. We just can’t wait to see it happen.
10 More Simon
While people don’t really know him (yet) as more than the voice of Trevor from GTA or “that one cowboy from Westworld”, Steven Ogg is still one of the heavy hitters of the show’s cast. He was menacing enough to intrigue us B.L. (Before Lucille) when the threat of the Saviors seemed more bluster than bludgeon. And for a minute there, his little chat with Gregory after sending The Hilltop a message managed to make Negan's right-hand man a more entertaining villain than Negan himself.
We don’t know what the show has in store for Simon. We can’t imagine him surviving the war with the communities, but we would like more than just a couple more glorified cameos. The show did a great job of building him up as a goon with presence, and we would like to see that actually lead somewhere. Should we be wrong about the Dwight defection, there is nobody we’d like to see switch sides more than Simon. We’d be hard-pressed, though, to see the logic in an about face like that, seeing as there's been no real backstory to give him the motivation to do that.
9 Less Grandstanding
This is one of the more annoying things about the show in Season 6 that's managed to carry over into the first half of Season 7. Honestly, it was a problem well before the group ever made it to Alexandria…but that was where it was at its most egregious. We're talking, of course, about the tendency of the characters to make these heroic and inspirational speeches when nobody ever really talks like that unless they’re in the film Rudy.
While it was supposed to make everything epic and keep the audience pumped up, it did little more than make every character seem wooden and more-or-less interchangeable. Characters didn’t have dialogue so much as they had a series of monologues punctuated by whining or tragedy. One of the craziest Season 6 moments happened when Denise was crossbowed through the eyeball mid-speech, an indication that maybe the writers knew they were going overboard with the gimmick. Unfortunately, much of Season 7 has been a return to the lazy writing habit of everyone becoming a hybrid stumping politician and preacher.
8 Oceanside Meaning Anything At All
Seemingly no episode was a greater lightning rod for fan complaint this season than the Alanna Masterson/Tara vehicle episode, “Swear”. The episode featured Tara and Heath striking out on their own on a scavenging mission -- unaware that the assault on what they thought was the Saviors base was just a minor outpost -- when Tara is separated from Heath and comes across a clandestine community. Oceanside is an insular group of all women (the men and boys were executed by Negan and company) that held off on trying to kill Tara for barging in on them long enough for her to make her escape.
The episode is somewhat unfairly panned, despite Tara all of a sudden talking with an attitude and snark she hadn’t really demonstrated previously. But the episode will have even more complaints and criticism if this winds up staying a loose thread (or close to it). If “Swear” was mostly just a way of introducing Cyndie and/or Beatrice and a potential romance for the newly-single Tara, it stands to be one of the worst episodes of the series. More likely, though, is that Oceanside plays something of a deus ex machina role in the fight against the Saviors and becomes a part of the broader world that its inhabitants had spurned for so long.
7 More Gore
We are the people that decide the fate of the show with our viewership, and we demand a blood tribute! Before becoming a semi-regular director and producer of the show, living horror legend Greg Nicotero spent his energy and expertise filling the world of The Walking Dead with rot and ruin and guts and gore (alongside his KNB eFx team). While it’s impossible to tell the number, there is definitely a contingent of fans that are devoted watchers mostly for the elaborate and lavish gruesomeness that the show has provided over the years. We have been treated to iconic and disgusting zombies like the “well walker”, tribute zombies that pay homage to horror films and actors past, and some pretty incredible incidents of zombies chowing down on unwilling people (think Noah in the revolving door).
So much of this season has been set-up, and so few major-ish characters have survived, that the gore has been very much an afterthought lately. We would like to see that change. Now. We want blood and guts (Spencer’s disemboweling was a good start). We want more zombies that stand out from the pack, like the sand zombies (see below) from “Swear”. We want mayhem and body parts flying and people screaming as they die horribly, despite all the complaints the FCC will receive as a result. Is that too much to ask for?
6 More Zombie Danger
We understand that The Walking Dead likes playing with that familiar George Romero trope of, “Who is the bigger monster? The zombie that kills to feed and survive, or the human who covets and lusts for dominance?”. It’s a solid question to ask and re-ask in the zombie genre. We also understand that the Saviors are the real threat to the survival of the communities, whether the Saviors realize that or not.
But something we’ve moved away from, especially with the introduction of fortified communities, is the danger of the zombie. We’re not talking zombie hordes breaking down the walls. We are talking the ‘holy crap I just turned a corner and now a monster is trying to kill me’ zombie. We miss it. Yes, the survivors have almost all gotten to the point where they are able to easily dispatch or outrun the undead. Everyone left (with the exception of Eugene and Gregory) is some kind of a commando now. But wasn’t it fun when zombies were an actual threat instead of just set dressing?
5 Just A Hint Of Whisperer
The Whisperers (despite their spoilerific name) are one of the coolest things the comic has ever done for both itself and for zombie fiction in general. Showrunner Scott Gimple has teased and intimated that The Whisperers are closer than we might think… and that they might wind up appearing earlier than they do in the books. The introduction of The Whisperers is a ways away chronologically if we’re following the narrative of the comics. We actually think that it makes sense to let this Saviors brouhaha breathe a bit, instead of jumping to the next major story point in the books.
We would actually like to see some more show-specific incidents and characters and plotlines fill in some space before we come to The Whisperers arc. Don’t get us wrong, we are excited to see them in action. What we would like, for now anyway, is just a tease. Give us an easter egg that lets us know that they’re around. But please, tease us for a bit. Give us some appetizers before the main course.
4 A Faster Negan
One of the weaker elements of Season 7 has been its overabundance of extended episodes. We’re unsure that there were any episodes that really deserved to be stretched to 90 minutes this season, with the exception of the premiere. Reviewers have described the phenomenon like so: “its supersized episodes started to feel less like the product of creative freedom than a simple land grab...”But what is the impetus behind this new XL version of The Walking Dead we’ve been faced with?
Apart from the cynical answer of crass commercialism, we would have to assume the answer is Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan. JDM is a very capable actor, and he has a very crystallized and coherent vision of how to bring Negan to life in the show. We understand the show wants him portrayed differently than he is in the books (we don’t agree with the decision, but we get it). But can they just speed him up a little?!
In the 4th episode, “Service”, we are treated to a painful amount of Negan just Neganing all over the place. Between the dramatic pauses, the lewd and smug facial expressions, and the pelvic thrusting, JDM is just using too many devices to try to flesh out an already fully-fleshed character. Given the rapidly declining ratings, it's getting increasingly difficult to say that the show's new big bad has been that much of a hit so far.
3 Who's In The Boots?
An interesting development that took place in the last episode before the break was the mystery of the boots. After Aaron and Rick scavenged the treasure trove on the boat, we’re shown that there is a person spying on the duo. Later, it appears that this same person is surveilling Alexandria by night with a pair of binoculars. The only look at this person we get is a beanie and a pair of peculiar boots. The boots are laced with wiring, showing a resourcefulness (although if you’ve survived this long in a world full of zombies, you’re automatically resourceful) and have a pattern on one of the toes, showing… well, we’re not sure what that shows.
So who’s wearing the boots? Fan theories have been flying fast and furious. Some folks have assumed it’s The Whisperers or someone from the Oceanside community, while others think that we’re dealing with some scout for The Saviors. Another popular theory posits that it's whoever owned what Rick and Aaron took from the boat. We’re betting it’s a character that hasn’t appeared in the comic before and is new to the show, who might’ve been about to take the boat stash for him/herself before being beaten to the punch. We have a gut feeling this character will be an ally and not an enemy, but that it might take some time to figure it out. More than likely, it’s the same person that took off with Heath and left the ‘PPP’ card behind.
2 More Jerry
We know oh so precious little about Jerry, but he was certainly one of the more standout characters in recent memory. The whole episode “The Well” had a lighthearted sense of fun to it that we desperately needed. While Ezekiel and Shiva and a rope-a-dope Carol were the stars of the episode, Jerry stole a fair share of the spotlight for himself in his limited screen time.
What we’ve seen of Jerry is that he is bodyguard to Ezekiel, which implies he knows how to fight. Since The Kingdom seems to favor medieval technology over guns, it’ll be interesting to see how such a doughy and goofy guy handles himself on the field of battle. Does his jolly and jovial demeanor belie the heart of a warrior? Will we see him take on multiple Saviors single-handedly in a fury? We’re not quite sure, but we will say that you should not count Jerry out based on appearances. It is our hope that he proves to be every bit the fighter that the main survivors are, and that he’s around for a good, long time. Deuces!
1 A Better Ear For Fans
Viewership of The Walking Dead has dipped at a dramatic rate, spurring all kinds of articles of speculation and criticism and suggestions for stopping the bleeding. Viewership has dipped to a low not seen since 2011. For a show that’s such a force that commercials by everyone from Amazon to T-Mobile are created specifically with zombies in mind for the show’s airtime, it is a dangerous thing to be losing millions of fans.
Is it burnout? Is it apocalypse fatigue? Has the grimness of the show finally worn everyone down? Were the viewers too put off by the deaths of Glenn and Abraham? Some brief and informal polling has led us to believe that the viewers of the show want to see less Negan and more of Rick’s group of survivors triumphing over adversity, implying that too much gravity has been given to someone they find eminently unlikeable. The comic Negan is not without his warped sense of charm, but the way the show has portrayed Negan has wiped out many of his redeeming characteristics and replaced them with more sinister quirks. Then again, even a straight comic Negan might not play well in TV land. It has perhaps never been more apparent that both the TV and comic fandom want to see some major changes come in the second half of Season 7.
What do you want to see in the rest of this season? Are you happy or unhappy with the direction things have gone? Do you have any thoughts on who's in the boots? Just exactly how great is Jerry? Sound off in the comments!
The Walking Dead returns with its midseason premiere on February 12, 2017.