Opinion: Is the Walking Dead Too Brutal Now?

By Quentin Basnaw

Oh, The Walking Dead. At its best, it’s a solid, riveting, and emotionally complex hour of television. At worst, it’s a pretentious, optimized cash cow playing off of the audience member’s thought: will my favorite character live? The Walking Dead usually succumbs to the latter of these two situations more often than the former. The Season 7 premiere aired two weeks ago, and it has been the talk of the town. If you haven’t heard yet, it was brutal, shocking, riotous. Two beloved characters quite literally got the bat: Abraham and Glenn. While everyone else has been crying about this moment, I’ve been applauding it. It was a wonderfully shocking and horrible moment – that’s the point. That’s The Walking Dead, where “anyone can die at any time.” The criticism of this moment I keep hearing is, “It was too brutal.” Too brutal? Oh, here we go.

This is a world where people are constantly shot, stabbed, burned alive, and, most commonly, eaten alive. Why is one moment in this show too brutal? The common thing I keep hearing is that it’s too violent, gruesome, graphic, etc. Granted, having someone get their brains beaten into soup, and displaying quick images of that, is horrible and gross. However, it didn’t cross any lines for this show. Think of this: what if they had only shown Glenn/Abraham get hit once, and you didn’t see them die? Maybe you only see a few splotches of blood on the ground. It would not have the impact the scene was going for and needed.

The scene sets up Negan, the new big bad to end all big bads in this universe. He does not play around. He takes two beloved characters away from the audience, and the audience most definitely feels every swing of that bat hit their emotional core. Isn’t that what everyone signed up for? Why, maybe we’re all pseudo masochistic somewhere deep down and love to be tortured by a work of fiction. In all seriousness, the show is a drama. The writers love pulling at our hearts whenever they get the chance, and we love being thrown into the rollercoaster of emotion, so when Rick Grimes eventually triumphs, we eat every second of it up with temporary happiness. The only reason we react so strongly to events that happen in this show is because we care, which is a fantastic sign. The brutality of what happens to a character will never be “too much” – it’s necessary in this world so we have a strong emotional connection to what’s going on.

“But why was it those two???” 1) Abraham had already died in the comics by this point, and Glenn did die at this moment in the comic books. 2) If it were, say, Eugene and Aaron that were killed off, nobody would have cared. I watched the premiere with people that would’ve pushed Negan to keep beating Eugene’s mullet away. The important characters needed to take a hit. Why not someone that has been here since the beginning? 3) It’s. The. Walking. Dead. Anyone can die at any time. I don’t understand why this one episode is “too much.” We’ve seen plenty of awful things in this show: cannibals, immolations, the biting off of fingers, people’s jugulars being ripped out, and countless other brutal moments. When you sign up for a show like this, you need to be ready for anything to happen. That’s why I don’t think this episode crosses any boundaries, and I will continue to watch The Walking Dead whenever I am able.