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Blood, guts and torture porn: Was The Walking Dead season premiere too violent?


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The Walking Dead returned to UK screens last Monday night and boy did it hit us hard (pun intended).

It was by far the most brutally violent episode of the show so far - perhaps of any show ever - with the series' new villain Negan graphically beating two recurring characters to death with his barbed baseball bat, Lucille.

But it wasn’t necessarily the fact that they died that bothered me - we should be used to main characters dying by now. It was the fact that the makers left absolutely nothing to the imagination, causing many fans, viewers and parents to complain about the horrific depiction of brutality.

It was horrible, there’s no doubt about that. Whether it was necessary remains to be seen.

You don't mess with the new world order.

The season six finale ended by showing only point-of-view shots of Negan's victims to leave it purposefully vague who was destined to meet the wrath of Lucille.

Of course we expected to see who died, but maybe not quite to the extent we were  in the premiere. What followed was less of a TV episode and more like 45 minutes of torture porn.

Times like these make us question why exactly we enjoy such shows. Yes, it’s a horror show. We expect (and perhaps crave a certain amount of) violence. But after six seasons we’ve got used to a certain style and level of violence - most of which is zombie related and therefore a lot less “real”.

Season seven raised the bar by several levels on the violence scale, obviously created to shock and disturb the audience as much as possible - which it certainly did!

Is this is now the point where it becomes too much? It could be said that the use of such brutality for shock value is wrong, feeding into a society where we are immune to this and where 'too much' has become the norm.

The blame can’t all go on the TV writers of course, as the episode comes right out of the 100th episode of the comic books on which the series is based.

Many of the images are almost exact and some of the speech is word-for-word; Glenn’s “gross as shit” eyeball is just one example of a detail lifted straight from the graphic novel.

Looking at the episode from this perspective of faithfulness, the premiere could be seen more as a tribute to the landmark comic edition, which the writers wanted to keep as accurate as possible. However, seeing it in a comic strip is much different to seeing it happen before your eyes with live actors and very realistic special effects.

Other gruesome elements were added too - as if we weren’t traumatised enough, we get to see every member of Rick’s group get the bat as our leader imagines “what could still happen”. Oh, and let’s not forget the fantasy dinner table scene of them all sitting happily ever after, just to break our hearts that little bit more.

The Walking Dead comic book

Negan’s reign is a big new story arc, which brought with it a big new side to the show. After taking a few days to calm down, let’s remember what the show still has going for it.

Everything is looking pretty hopeless right now, but this series is set up to see a new story arc for our remaining favourite characters and it will be interesting to see how they develop. Maggie and Daryl will be most affected by Glenn’s death, as Daryl is the one who inadvertently caused it (but will probably hide his feelings in typical Daryl fashion) while Sasha and Rosita mourn over the loss of Abraham. And then there’s poor old Rick, helpless and broken. But will he stay that way for long? We’ll have to wait and see.

The season seven premiere was very violent - perhaps too much - but it was aired after the watershed and certain graphic scenes were even cut from the 9pm broadcast.

The episode might have been brutal, but the broadcasters aren't the ones to blame, and neither are the writers who attempted to remain faithful to their source material.

Seven seasons in, viewers should know what they're dealing with here. So, to quote Negan himself: “You bunch of pussies, I’m just getting started!”.

The Walking Dead season seven broadcasts Monday nights on FOX UK. 

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