Spoiler alert! The following contains details from the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead.
Even a zombie apocalypse show can cross the line.
Sunday's season premiere of The Walking Dead was one of the show's most highly anticipated episodes, as fans have been waiting for months to find out who was killed in the Season 6 finale by new villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). For some, that answer -- and the brutally violent way in which it was revealed -- was worse than the anticipation.
In a moment of extreme graphic violence (even for a routinely violent show), two fan-favorite cast members, Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) , were brutally beaten to death by Negan with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire. The two deaths of beloved characters were shown in such excruciating detail in a relentless and frustrating episodethat many fans said they were frustrated enough to quit the show for good.
I might quit walking dead for good.....it's an emotional train of death.— ☠┼ Ash Costello ┼☠ (@Ash_Costello) October 24, 2016
For this recapper, it was a hard episode to get through, with the violence verging on nauseating while the plot dithered and attempted to manipulate fans into caring.
The episode was also lambasted by critics, with The Daily Beast writing, "When real life already seems a few calamitous steps away from dystopia, surviving an hour of pure, relentless misery isn’t entertainment — it’s a chore," while GQ said, "if the average episode is as much fun as a punch to the jaw, the Season Seven premiere was—well—a barbed-wire baseball bat to the skull." Vox went so far as to call it "dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. It’s stupid. It’s downright appalling, is what it is."
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, episode director Greg Nicotero defended the use of such graphic violence.
"In this instance, we felt it was important to launch us into this season to show the extent of what Negan is capable of doing because that drives so much of where the series is going from here on," he said. "It’s graphic and horrible. And while designing, testing and shooting the makeups, we wanted to push it a little bit."
In response to fans saying they would quit, Nicotero added, “I would say that that means we have done something to affect these people in a way that they don’t necessarily know how to process. I’m a big Game of Thrones fan and I’ve been shocked at the turn of events on that show but I still love it and I still am committed to seeing where the story goes. I think it’s’ a kneejerk reaction people have because they care about these characters."
Will people truly tune out of one of TV's top-rated shows? Or will a return to normalcy in the rest of the season be enough to calm everyone down? Fans may have to wait and see how much more they can take.