Now normally, this is where we start breaking down who we think should die on this show because "The Walking Dead" used to be a dangerous show like that. But if this season proved anything, it's that "The Walking Dead" has lost its bite.
Perhaps it's an over-correction from the fan outrage after the gratuitious deaths of Glenn and Abraham, but the fact that you can end a war on a show filled with walkers who can kill with one bite and not have a single casualty in the final battle, well that's a miracle. That's Saturday morning cartoon violence at its best. They should have just shot blue and red lasers at one another and called it "G.I. Joe."
And this is a show that desperately needs to trim the fat. It carried 20 main characters on its roster this season and could only bring itself to off one of them. That's way too many characters, and it shows because we're not spending nearly enough time with them to care. And characters who used to shine are only showing up every few episodes.
New characters are great; they are the life blood of a survival show like this. But old characters have to go. It's a survival show in a dangerous world. We need to believe it's dangerous and we need to believe it is hard to survive. We get it, Rick and Michonne and the rest of the survivors are good at this now, but perhaps they're too good now. The show is getting a little save and a little boring and a lot repetitive.
It's past time to thin the herd, and "All Out War" was Scott Gimple's chance to do it. He blew it. Instead, he offed a couple of Negan's lieutenants and had Carl die by zombie bite and everyone else got to share a group hug. Hell, by the end of the night they were sharing resources and helping the Saviors rebuild the Sanctuary. That is some primo forgiveness there! And a little hard to swallow.
If it were up to us, we would have slashed that 20-person cast in half over the course of this season. That way when the time jump happens (we know it's coming), there will be room to introduce new characters that showed up during the years we're skipping. As it stands, we're looking at either a cast of dozens or no one new will have shown up, which seems pretty implausible. But then again, we forget that we're watching "G.I. Joe" now. The rules are different.
This one might seem obvious, but by making Negan even more ruthless and brutal on television than he was in the comics, saving his life made no sense. That's probably why they killed Carl, because they knew no one would believe the every-bit-as-brutal Rick we've seen all season would have never spared him without Carl's dying words ringing in his head. And yet, it still fell flat. Plus, what is the point of having Jeffery Dean Morgan on contract to play a guy in a prison. He'll never be trusted, but the show needs to move forward and learn from the mistake of leaving The Governor alive too long. Move on with your lives and move on to greener pastures and new "Big Bads."
This is another case of the storyline being dragged out much longer on television, which left Eugene in the dark way longer. He was fully in with The Saviors until a chance conversation with Rosita. Eugene should never be trusted, because his loyalty will blow with the wind toward whoever has control over him. A more fitting end for him would have been for him to be killed after betraying Negan. Then, he could be a posthumous hero and we wouldn't have to deal with his weird way of talking and his complete spinelessness in all matters. The writers clearly have little interest in growing his character or evolving him, so just let him go.
Everything about Jadis screamed one-season character, and I thought her fate was sealed when all the trash people were destroyed. We barely got any genuine moments of character development with her, so she remains largely a blank slate. Yes, we got a glimpse into her past, but was that enough to make her an ongoing character? No, it was enough to make her death mean something when she sacrificed herself to get her revenge on Simon and The Saviors for slaughtering her people. She deserved that chance, and she deserved to go out in a blaze of glory that would have benefited Rick and the Hilltop. Now, she has no people and no role on the show, and yet there she is.
Practically blind and almost useless, Gabriel is an example of the coward's arc done correctly. He has more than redeemed himself for his cowardice when the outbreak first happened, and just convincing Eugene to sabotage Negan's guns would have been enough, but somehow the writers feel there is more for Gabriel to do. There isn't. He got his redemption story and even got his hero arc. Instead, we got multiple failed runaway attempts as if the writers were just spinning their wheels without a plan. The plan should have been to have them kill Gabriel in front of Eugene, and that senseless killing of an essential innocent is the impetus Eugene needs to sabotage the weapons. He would realize he is better than the brutality of the Saviors and that his original people deserve to live more than them.
At this stage of the game, we're starting to wonder if Gregory will outlive everyone else on the show. He was left in the Hilltop when the rest of the survivors fled, but we're still pretty sure he survived. But why? His storyline ended more than a year ago after he was deposed by Maggie and first fled to the Saviors. Instead, he's gone back and forth, whining and sniveling so much he makes Eugene look brave. He's a waste of camera time and story time that could be given to characters who matter.
Another character that has outlived her usefulness, once Enid was outed as not a Wolf spy and not a love interest for Carl -- because he died -- she basically serves no useful function. A better death for her would have been to die saving Oceanside, or die on her way back from Oceanside. Enid, as the girl who killed Cyndie's mother (and Oceanside's former ruler), would have been the most impactful choice to bring the all-female Oceanside tribe into the battle. And maybe for more than one lobbing of molotov cocktails... Aaron almost died for that?
Almost useless since she first arrived, Tara showed up alongside Rosita and essentially lived in her shadow ever since. When they paired her up with Denise, we finally got to see some of her independent personality, but she's become a complete waste of screen time since. The writers just decided to make her the female version of Daryl, who lately has been stubbornly stupid and overly angry. We'd almost propose killing Daryl off, but having one of those passionate idiot characters who can't be corralled is kind of fun. In fact, Tara should have died backing one of Daryl's terrible ideas to maybe knock some sense into him that his idiocy has real-world consequences.
Aaron is a great character in the comic books, but they have absolutely no idea what to do with him on the television show. Pairing him up with Enid to go to Oceanside made us kind of hope the car would just disappear off of a cliff and rid us of both characters. Even his relationship with Eric, which was one of the romantic lynch-pins of the source material, was miscast and mishandled so that not only did they telegraph Eric's death a mile away, it had no emotional impact. All he did this second half of the season was starve so Oceanside would rally. It made no sense, but sidelined him long enough to tell us he's completely superfluous.
Bear with us here, this makes sense. For one, if AMC wants "The Walking Dead" to continue and thrive for years to come, it needs to become a legacy show, which means it needs to be able to lose absolutely everyone from the first season and continue. Rick is the remaining holdout. On top of that, he's been pushed so far down the path of darkness and evil, we're not sure he even deserves redemption. And then there's the fact that he's kind of a terrible leader who almost always makes the wrong choice, as he did tonight when he walked right into Negan's ambush. Had Eugene not sabotaged the guns, they'd all be dead. Rick's blind rage needed to get him killed (maybe in a standoff with Negan) to show Maggie that this isn't the way so that she can become the great leader she is meant to be. Michonne gets it, and spent the bulk of the season trying to reign him in and failing. With Rick dead, a mourning Michonne would have stepped up as the new leader of Alexandria, ruling with compassion and the lessons learned from Rick's miscues.
Whew, now we've got some breathing room. Bring on Season 9!