‘The Walking Dead’ Feels Less Like a Guilty Pleasure and More Like an Obligation Now with “Mercy”

Oh, The Walking Dead, what has become of thee? You used to be fun, now you’re dull. You used to be that guilty pleasure, now you’re more of an obligation. I stuck with you through that first season and that God-awful farm season to watch you become one of the best shows on television and watched you fall like Icarus too close to the sun to become a mindless shambling husk of your former glory. I have seen less tragic Alzheimer’s cases than what has become of this series.

Here, submitted for your approval, is “Mercy,” the eighth season premiere and the much touted 100th episode. Perhaps in the old days, 100th episodes actually meant something and shows were supposed to do something amazing with them… now, it’s like the 50th anniversary of Star Trek…. lots of touting, lots of teasing and then… nothing but disappointment.

Okay, so… Rick and his merry band come together and attack the Savior’s compound and… that’s about it. That’s the story. There’s monologuing, there’s acting that I’m sure is going to end up in a “for your consideration” highlight reel, but when it’s all said and done, it’s nothing. Not a thing. It’s an hour of wasted time. Sounds and thunder signifying nothing.

Even the new flash-forwards feel old before they’ve started. Before, I may have thought, “Neat, I can’t wait to see where this is going!” and now all I feel is, “Can’t you just tell a story without gimmicks?”

Certainly, it’s better than most of the abhorrently bad seventh season, but that’s the kicker… I think that the seventh season killed the love I have for this show because, when I see Rick and Daryl and Carl and Michonne… I feel nothing now. I don’t think I care about them anymore and that’s so tragic in my book. I used to love these guys and now, I’m just sitting there wondering how a herd of shambling zombies can keep up with a redneck on a motorcycle or why no one has the good sense to shoot Neegan while he’s standing right out in the open. One bullet. Dead. Done.

Of course, killing Neegan would mean killing the only character on the show with charisma and charm… the only character who is fun to watch. I think that’s the curse of casting Jeffery Dean Morgan as Neegan… he’s doing it too well and he’s actually made me like him more than I like the “good guys.”

This Neegan story should have been the highlight of The Walking Dead, but it’s been a blight instead. I don’t know if I can really invest in this show like I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to watch it, but I don’t know if I’ll ever love it again. I hope I’m wrong. I really do, but after being bored and frustrated for an hour and realizing those have been the primary emotions I feel about this show for at least a year now, I have doubts.

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