The Walking Dead & Wounding the Muse…

Alternative title: When a TV show rips your heart out and stomps all over it, the end.

Earlier this week, I had my heart broken. And yeah, once again, it was from a fictional character. As many of you know I’m a big Walking Dead fan, so if you haven’t seen the Season 7 premiere, you might want to skip this post because there are SPOILERS ahead. If you’re not a Walking Dead fan, bear with me. This post isn’t just about the zombie apocalypse, it’s about our intimate relationship with story.

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In the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead, we were left with the certain knowledge that some was going to die. Horribly. There was a certain amount of deliciously-awful speculation and anticipation among TWD fandom, and I wasn’t exempt. In fact, when DH and I visited Senoia in Georgia this year where a lot of TWD is shot, there was a fever pitch of excitement palpable in town, with the local TWD tourist shop telling us that everyone was buzzing about the cast keeping everything so hush-hush. Who would die? One of my favorite characters, or a secondary one that while I was fond of, wouldn’t be terribly missed?

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I diligently avoided spoiler sites, and on the day of the premiere, kept away from social media in the afternoon NZ time (which was when TWD screened in the US). Still, someone managed to accidentally ruin it by letting it slip that two characters apparently died. That’s when I knew, from a storyteller’s point-of-view, that TWD writers would probably kill off one minor and one major character. A double, unexpected whammy. 

I admit, I’ve become pretty desensitised to violence after watching so many horror movies in my time, and shows like TWD and Supernatural. This episode, however, profoundly upset me. Unlike horror movies, where as a viewer I’ve never really connected with the characters, or in Supernatural (at least the first 11 seasons) where it’s an insider’s joke how many times Sam and Dean Winchester have come back from the dead (FYI, I still cried every time they died!), this episode was different. Yes, TWD is set in a post-apocalyptic world and characters (sometimes main characters) have died horribly – both by walkers (zombies) and by other people.

But Abraham and Glenn’s death? God, it crushed me and wounded my muse’s sensitive heart. So horrifically violent – and to those who called their death’s ‘epic’, IMO there’s nothing epic about being beaten to death with a baseball bat and showing it explicitly…just because they have the special effects and can. It made me feel physically and spiritually sick, because of its realism. With all the real life violence in this world, books and movies and TV are my escape. I watch for the characters stories. I don’t love TWD or Supernatural because of the special effects and realism, and even the coolness of a zombie apocalypse. I don’t want to watch the ‘people’ I’ve come to love have amazing character arcs and then die horribly. And yes, I know, in these sorts of genres sometimes people do die–but I don’t want to see their deaths rendered so graphically that it gives me nightmares. But bravo to the writers and the director if that their goal was to make a fandom both love and hate them, because they succeeded.

But onto Glenn Rhee, for a moment. Secretly, Glenn was my favorite character. I never told my fellow family & friend TWD fans – because it always seems to come down to ‘Do you love Darryl or Rick more?’. But Glenn was everything a hero should be. IMO, he was the glue that kept Rick’s motley crew on the straight and narrow. Even after all he’d been through, he never lost hope, never lost his heart for his ‘family’, never lost his goodness. Never lost his love for Maggie.

The pizza delivery boy that became a warrior...and a husband.

The pizza delivery boy that became a warrior…and a husband.

We watched Glenn’s story arc over 6 seasons – from smart-assed pizza delivery boy whooping it up in a stolen Dodge, to falling in love with the beautiful Maggie, to nearly dying from a disease, to taking on the Governor and his horror and guilt over not being able to protect Maggie.  Once we were even convinced he was a gonner and devoured by walkers. But. The scrappy guy still survived! Only to be left helpless and then beaten to death in front of the woman who was carrying his baby. 

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Doesn’t it sound as if one of my friends were just murdered? Well, that’s the visceral feeling that comes over us when we become deeply invested in character. We laugh when they laugh, we love when they love, we hurt when they hurt, and we die a little when they die–or when a book/movie/TV series comes to an end.  

To move away from TWD for a moment, and onto one some of my favorite books, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve read all of her books, most of them twice, and I’m dreading the end of the novels if Diana chooses to let either Jamie or Claire die. I totally get her right to do this as a fellow author, but I won’t be reading any more of the series if she does.

I love these people, they are real to me. Jamie and Claire’s love for each other gives me hope and I don’t ever want them to be separated by death. Yes, in life one spouse outliving the other happens more often than not. This is why I don’t consider The Notebook to have a tragic ending–sad, yes, tragic no. Allie and Noah had a lifetime of love together and died peacefully in each other’s arms. What more could you ask for?

And so this circles around to why I love the romance genre. Why I continue to read it, why I’ll always write it. Love is death-defying. Friendship and family are death-defying. Love and family and friendship in fiction are death-defying too–watching/reading it gives us hope for the future. 

Will I keep watching the series? Yeah, I will. Because I’m absolutely invested in the characters’ remaining story. Will I continue to get my heart broken? Most likely. I just hope TWD writers will throw their viewers a little hope for Rick and his band of survivors.

I’ll leave you with one more screenshot from TWD.

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I know how Darryl and Beth felt, and I choose to believe Glenn and Maggie will one day have their happily-ever-after, even if it’s only in my imagination. He will find her. (And now I’m crying again!!!)

Let me know your thoughts below. If you’re a TWD fan, what did you think of the premiere? If you’re not a fan, what are your thoughts about emotional investment in fictional characters? I love hearing from you!

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Comments (4)

  1. Rhonda Brant

    Reply

    Yea, as you know, my husband is a die hard fan like you are, me, not so much. It’s because of the violence and gross zombies why I don’t watch it. but my husband loves the storyline like you do. Even he was shocked on how violent it was, and he watches all of that Alien, Sci-Fi movies that I won’t even listen to. He watched the Walking Dead show afterwards and said that the actors were pretty disturbed about it too. That’s exactly why I read books like yours and in the genre, because I want hot, steamy, love and affection, not beat him down blood everywhere shows. I would have nightmares for months if I watched something like that! In fact, one of my worst nightmares I had that lasted weeks was when I watched the Night of the Living Dead, which in fact was a Zombie movie! I’ll keep my blinders on and live in my fantasy life of reading books, and watching movies, that make me laugh, smile, sigh and lust. Just seems to be a better choice for me. I know, I’m a whimp!

    • Tracey Alvarez

      Reply

      Hi Rhonda,
      I watched the Talking Dead show the next day (after I’d calmed down a little!) and found it very interesting hearing the actors take on the episode and how emotionally invested THEY are with their characters. Pretty cool. I used to read lots of thriller and crime books, no so much any more – I stick to romance too! But I’m very fandom-ish about the TV series I watch. Your DH and I will have to discuss further TWD developments through you, so be prepared! LOL

      Tracey A.

  2. Reply

    Hi Tracey,
    I am a fan of the show though I admit I have missed a lot of them, and absolutely chickened out of watching that premier for the very reasons you mention. They have got special effects pretty graphically accurate these days and being an empath myself I find it too hard to watch people I’m familiar with go through something so realistic. You do get so attached to them. Even Chuck Wendig had a write up in his blog one time about Game of Thrones getting too lazy with their story arc because it was continuous rapes, violent deaths, boobs and bums etc. Sure it drew the viewers but for the ones who actually wanted some storyline to go with the gruesomeness, it left him and many others a bit wanting. I think you are brave to have watched it, and I admire your loyalty to the show. It does concern me, as it must you, the kinds of people who as you say, thought that scene was epic. To be desensitized to that level is pretty disturbing, really. I too am a long time fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and have read all her books up to date. She has said that Jamie and Claire won’t die until they are quite well advanced in age, and knowing her, it will be done in such a way as to be kind to her readers, whom she is aware will feel like they are losing a couple of their most beloved family members.
    Congrats on doing so well with your Romance series. You are an inspiration and a handy NZ author to know. Love your blog too. Appreciate you sharing your experience with us.

    • Tracey Alvarez

      Reply

      Hi Teresa,
      Thanks for your insightful reply! One of the main reasons I never started watching GOT was for the reasons Chuck Wendig mentioned. There is enough seriously sick stuff in the world already, I don’t want to watch something that seems so devoid of hope. Having said that, TWD is definitely going into a much darker place now, so whether I’ll continue to watch it to the very end of the final season, I’m not sure. I know for months after my mum died in 2012 I couldn’t watch it, even then it was too close to my grief dealing with her death and the visual ‘realities’ of death and decomposition. Ugh. I’m going to go cheer myself up with a happily-ever-after! I’m looking forward to Season 2 TV series of Outlander arriving in my letter box, hopefully in time for Christmas!

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Tracey A.

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