Inevitability doesn’t make for great TV. That’s what fans of “The Walking Dead” are finding out in this seventh season (which will resume Feb. 12). It began with a masterful (if utterly harrowing) episode: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) viciously kills Glenn and Abraham. It was a carefully executed – no pun intended – episode that has informed every millisecond of Negan’s screen time since then, especially when he has his barb-wire-laced baseball bat in hand: We wonder if he will cut loose again.
At first blush, prequels should be a boring form of storytelling, because we already know the end point. Of course, there are many examples that prove out-of-sequence storytelling can work – the “Star Wars” prequels and “Smallville” have plenty of fans, for example. But three current series – A&E’s “Bates Motel,” Fox’s “Gotham” and AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” — have turned the prequel into an art form, garnering extra drama from the fact that the audience knows where the story is going.
In my past posts about “The Walking Dead,” I’ve analyzed how some communities stand as metaphors for forms of government – Woodbury as a fascist state, Terminus as a communist state, the Hospital as an autocratic state, and so forth. I may have jumped the gun, though, because now I think the show serves as an examination of how any modern civilized, organized society (as we know it) forms from the roots up. If modern civilization in 2016 can be boiled down to humanity’s ongoing struggle to find a balance between killing for the sake of security versus not killing because all life has value, “The Walking Dead” is a beautiful, stripped-down metaphor for this struggle.
1. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Season 1, The CW) – In blending musical numbers, broad comedy and genuine character drama about a troubled 20-something, Rachel Bloom’s brainchild is the most ambitious show of the year. By doing all three of those things well (particularly the musical numbers, which are consistently clever and catchy in the way they explore Rebecca’s and other characters’ neuroses), it’s also the best show of the year. I’ll be following whatever Bloom does next, but I hope this series defies the low ratings and sticks around awhile, at least long enough for an official soundtrack release. (Here are my 10 favorite songs so far.)
Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead” featured cinematographically beautiful scenes of Morgan and his mentor, Eastman, practicing the martial art of aikido, along with powerfully acted moments of Morgan begging Eastman to kill him. But the most memorable part of the episode is Eastman’s monologues, which — taken together — tell the story of how he learned to value all life.
A couple seasons ago on “The Walking Dead,” Rick and the gang agree to march toward Washington, D.C., on Eugene’s promise that there was a governmental structure in place working against the zombie plague. While the characters never spoke in-depth about the question of whether the government – which demonstrably failed to stop the zombie plague — should be trusted, I felt strongly that once the gang got to D.C., they would not find a safe government-run utopia.
The ax fell fairly lightly on TV shows at the end of last season, and as a result we have a nice selection of returning shows to choose from. Here are the six I’m most looking forward to, ranked in order of my anticipation for them:
For five seasons, “The Walking Dead” has revealed the flaws of societal structure through a world struggling to rebuild that structure. But we never saw the actual process of the stripping away of society. In the pilot episode, Rick wakes up from his coma post-apocalypse, and other characters haven’t talked about the initial outbreak much, nor have we seen many flashbacks. “Fear the Walking Dead” (9 p.m. Eastern Sundays on AMC) is here to rectify that.