The season premier of The Walking Dead was both anticipated and dreaded. Fans want to know, and not know, who was beaten by new arch-villain Negan. It was a more difficult episode than any fans would have imagined. Not one, but two, familiar characters were killed by Negan. I was okay with Abraham leaving the show since I really didn’t like him. But Glen was a fan favorite as a former pizza delivery guy who grew up into an adult as the show progressed. He was the last main character to kill a person. He had character and compassion. And we weren’t sure if he’d died in a previous cliff hanger.
It was an utterly brutal episode that really pushed the boundaries even for fans. Some people thought they’d gone too far. Some Christians denounced the show as glorifying violence and depravity.
The second episode focused on Morgan and Carol who were separated from the main group and ran into a different community. This episode was full of light (mostly daytime scenes). Where the first was full of despair, it was full of hope. As we realized that King Ezekiel wasn’t as really odd we we thought, we learned that perhaps he could help heal Carol’s wounded soul, just as he protected the people under his care. Like Alexandria, “the Kingdom” is a vassal community to Negan’s ironically named Saviors.
What is going on here?
Great story-telling is going on here.
The first episode was designed to provoke in you the same response experienced by Rick. They wanted you to experience disgust, fear, despair. They wanted you to feel beaten by evil, personified in Negan. It is not the glorification of violence, but the revelation of evil. Negan enslaves people. They are fodder to him, a mere means to an end which his his prosperity and survival. He is the Great Enemy that must be overcome. There can be no peace with Negan and the Saviors. They need deliverance from them! Rick’s approach didn’t work. It looked like it did, but they ended meeting the immovable object and paid a heavy price. Two friends are dead, another enslaved and the rest now “working” for the Man.
In King Ezekiel there is hope. His approach to the Saviors looks like compliance, but you suspect there is more going on than meets the eye. He is a caretaker, not a predator like Negan. He wants the Morgan to defended Carol against the Saviors to be influential. He wants Carol to “go but not go” because like him, she can understand people. Eventually these three will be pivotal in setting Alexandria, and everyone else, free from the demonic Negan.
They must reveal the deadly that Negan presents. It was graphic, but that is nothing new. But his motive is what is so shocking. It is a series of gut punches, like Rick “felt” while being brought into submission. Seeing the face of evil is meant to frighten us. It is the darkness that reveals the splendor of goodness and grace.
Christianity and faith have played a role in The Walking Dead in the past with characters like Hershel. The show has always been about trying to hang on to one’s humanity when everyone around you is going all Lord of the Flies. I suppose you can condemn me, but this is why I watch. I also understand why many choose not to.