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The Walking Dead Season 7: Jeffrey Dean Morgan Breathes Terrifying New Life into Series as Negan [Review]

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The Walking Dead is an AMC television adaptation from showrunner Scott Gimple pulled from the pages of the hit Image comic series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. The series stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Khary Paton, Lauren Cohan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chandler Riggs and Melissa McBride. Season eight will debut Fall, 2017.

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Based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, this gritty drama portrays life in the weeks and months following a zombie apocalypse. Led by police officer Rick Grimes, his family and a group of other survivors find themselves constantly on the move in search of a safe and secure home. But the pressure each day to stay alive sends many in the group to the deepest depths of human cruelty, and Rick discovers that the overwhelming fear of the survivors can be more deadly than the zombies walking among them.

After that bonehead cliffhanger that left comic fans, TV fans and hell — just ALL the fans hanging and wondering just exactly who Negan murdered in the season 6 finale, we were introduced to one of the darkest and difficult hours ever put on television when season 7 opened last Fall. Jeffrey Dean Morgan breathes terrifying new life into The Walking Dead as Negan, the leader of The Saviours – an army of greedy road warriors hellbent on making life hell for Rick and crew. After biting off WAY more than he could chew in season 6, Rick and his family are put through the ringer for damn near all of season 7.

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We opened this season with not one, but two major character deaths at the hands (or should I say barbwire laced baseball bat of Negan) in an unflinching, shocking and brutal sequence that not only pushed the boundaries of television — but ANY entertainment medium. In most cases the violence on The Walking Dead doesn’t come close to the gore that artist Charlie Adlard pens in the comic book, but effects wizard Greg Nicotero didn’t hold a single detail back and not only did gruesome justice to Robert Kirkman’s source material, but he actually made it even more brutal… Seeing someone’s eye popping out of their head as their loved ones cry for mercy is f***ing horrifying and this season opener was not only one of the hardest hours of TV that I’ve had to sit through but one of the series’ finest episodes yet. I just wish they had ended season 6 with this brilliant stuff instead of jerking fans around.

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I understand that much of season 6 is dealing with the shift of power from Rick to Negan and how these characters are forced to adjust in a world where evil people are there to take everything they have on a whim, but some of the pacing and story focus this year was downright bad and boring. I don’t know if it’s the need to have Walking Dead be 16 episodes, but if they cut it back to 13 and didn’t waste entire episodes on minor characters when we already have too damn many people on the cast then just we might be OK. But this season I could feel the sting of meandering and story dragging – which I haven’t felt since season four’s first half. You may have noticed that Walking Dead picked up the pace and ferocity by the end of season four? That’s because they killed off a few characters and the show was forced to focus on ‘mostly’ one group of solid performers. It’s time to murder some more people guys… Let’s get to the war already.

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Here’s what I did like about Season 7 – and as much as I was annoyed by the pacing and seemingly useless episodes dedicated to characters I wasn’t interested in – there was a lot of strong points too. Ezekiel and his tiger Shiva were terrific additions. Khary Paton did an amazing job as the over-the-top leader of The Kingdom – yes I know it’s another new group which means way more characters – but he was so captivating and unique that I couldn’t help but be fascinated with his society that reminded me of a dude who played way too much Dungeons and Dragons as a kid. The effects work on Shiva the tiger were incredible too – I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a real tiger on set (yes I know that’s dangerous as shit – but it looked REAL and that blows my mind considering most CGI animals are pretty weak).

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan stole every single scene this season. All of them. Even without the F-Bombs we all know and love from Negan in the comics, Morgan’s childlike serial killer goofball performance as the series’ new Big Bad was award worthy. Even when he’s smashing someone’s head in that we all love, he’s doing so with a big smile on his face and the shit he says is so brilliant (thanks Kirkman) that you can’t help but love the villain. He’s so good at being bad that I’m not sure I can imagine The Walking Dead without him now and that’s a problem because everyone wants him to die…

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I also want to applaud  showrunner Scott Gimple and his crew for ending this season on a high-note as well and not going out with another gimmicky cliff-hanger. It was everything that I knew and loved about the comics (let’s get real, this show thrives when it follows the source material) because every shining moment was damn near page for page from the source material this season. If it ain’t broke – don’t try to fix it by adding strange garbage people warriors who forgot how to speak English less than 3 years into the Apocalypse…

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Editor-In-Chief of Fox Force Five News. I had a zombie cameo on the opening page of The Walking Dead issue #91, where I was killed with a machete... It was awesome.