The Walking Dead Has Gone Too Far … Even For Some of Its Fans


At least 17 million people watched the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead—massive numbers in today’s fragmented television landscape. More people watched the villain Negan beat two characters to death with his barbed bat Lucille than watched Sunday Night Football that evening.

I was one of them.

You can find our review of the Season 7 premiere in our TV section, but it wasn’t easy for me to give it to you. I’ve watched some terrible television shows in my time, but I’ve never seen anything quite this bad or, frankly, quite this gratuitous.

There are more details in my episode review, of course, but for our purposes here, let’s say that it was needlessly grotesque and purposefully terrible. The content went well past the needs of storytelling and sprinted into the realm of sadomasochism. It was appalling—shock for the sake of shock, gore for the sake of gore, blood for the sake of ratings.

But you’d expect me to say that, wouldn’t you?

Of course you would. Any self-respecting reviewer for Plugged In could hardly say less, right? A conservative, family-centric Christian outlet such as ours isn’t bound to have very many nice things to say about a bloody cable show about zombies. A ministry concerned with how children are impacted by entertainment would hardly be expected to suggest to our readers that The Walking Dead is a show for the whole family.

The same could be said of The Parents Television Council, longtime television scolds that they are. They watched the season premiere, too, and were also appalled.

“They’ve entered a whole new territory in terms of the violence,” Melissa Henson, program director for the PTC, told Fox News. “In the past we’ve seen zombie on human violence or human on zombie violence but this kind of violence to this extreme is … a whole new category.” Indeed, PTC President Tim Winter suggested that this episode emphasized the need for a ratings overhaul—and a need for an even stronger rating than the TV-MA label (the equivalent of an R-rating in the movies, and not suitable for those under age 17).

But this episode wasn’t just called out by the usual suspects (like yours truly).

From Slate’s Sam Adams:

… even for a show that takes pride in dreaming up new ways to dismantle the human body, last night’s killings were remarkably gory—the bloodiest deaths in the show’s history and perhaps television’s as well. … The killings were vicious and brutal, and, even for some fans of the show’s generally gory approach, more than they were willing to bear. To judge from social media, last night’s episode prompted an exodus of fans who’d given the show the benefit of the doubt and felt they’d not only been cheated but had their noses rubbed in it.

From Melissa Leon from The Daily Beast:

Torture porn is what most people call bloody, meaningless images of sadistic cruelty on a TV screen. The Walking Dead, unsurprisingly, calls it prime-time entertainment. Me, I call it exhausting. When real life already seems a few calamitous steps away from dystopia, surviving an hour of pure, relentless misery isn’t entertainment—it’s a chore.

Over at The Verge, writers there created something called The Walking Dead Quitter’s Club—a way to gauge and talk about the show’s levels of violence while holding out something of a tongue-in-cheek threat: “But throughout it all, there was an unstated rule in our thinking,” they wrote. “There could come an episode that would finally push too far, and mistreat its audience to such a degree that The Walking Dead Quitter’s Club would actually quit. Last night AMC aired that episode.”

From the Quitters’ Club‘s Bryan Bishop:

It was horrifically violent. It was cruel. And the show had the audacity to slap on some cello score and a “what could have been” fantasy sequence to make sure the audience was manipulated as much as possible. This wasn’t quality television, and it wasn’t suspenseful drama. It was torture-porn masquerading as storytelling, and AMC should be ashamed for airing it.

Bishop added, “Last night we watched a sociopathic exhibition of brutality, all in a blatant attempt to elicit cries of fealty and submission. But the perpetrator wasn’t Negan. It was The Walking Dead.”

Bishop’s Quitter’s Club compatriot Nick Statt said, “In the age of Game of Thrones and near-photorealistic video games, it can come off as old-fashioned to complain about violence on television. But TWD’s premiere last night pushed the limits of good taste and storytelling far beyond its capacity. … More than anything, this episode proves just how hollow the show has become.”

It’s my job to note and, sometimes, complain about violence on television. That makes me indeed old-fashioned.

But the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead didn’t just make me sick; it made me sad. For all of its often horrific excesses, the show at least occasionally tried to aspire to more. It has been a story about family, even faith at times. It has been a show that wondered with every episode whether it was possible to retain any semblance of humanity and decency in a world gone horribly, horribly wrong. The Walking Dead didn’t just refer to the decaying shamblers we saw, but in some respects to humanity in general. In a world full of death, is it possible to live? To be human?

It’s ironic that The Walking Dead seems to have succumbed to the same sort of living death that so many of its characters have. The AMC show staggers on, glassy-eyed and groaning. It’s abandoned its exploration of life and love for brains and blood. It’s animated for no purpose but to feed, it seems … on the millions and millions of people who shamble after it.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Timothy Knights More than 1 year ago
I love the show. Best thing since sliced bread, it gets better and better.
bobed More than 1 year ago
After having watched the scene in question (against my better judgement - curiosity killed the cat), I am hard pressed to understand how anyone, especially a Christian, can enjoy or defend this. It was disgusting and excessive and traumatizing, and nearly brought me, a grown man, to the point of vomiting. We are called to be salt and light, not of the darkness. There is NO redeeming value in watching something as dark and horrible as this. If you are desensitized enough that this scene did not bother you, I urge you to seek some kind of pastoral help IMMEDIATELY.
bobed More than 1 year ago

 I am not shocked whatsoever. TV is a desolate land of filth, moral decay, and bloody violence. I am only surprised that The Walking Dead’s fans are only just now waking up to the violence and filth they pour into their ears and eyes every week. The show has been filthy and violent all along. I would expect any fans of a show like The Walking Dead to be so desensitized that a scene like this would barely faze them.

I actually have a story related to this. The other week, my daughter went over for a sleepover at her friend’s house. When she returned the next day she began talking about this crazy show she watched while she was over there. From the way she was describing the show, red flags immediately went up for me.

I asked some questions, did some investigating and came to find out that my daughter’s “friend” is a fan of The Walking Dead and they watched the show together. I had been under the impression that there would be no inappropriate media consumed during the sleepover, as I had specifically asked my daughter’s friend’s mother about it beforehand, and she had assured me there was nothing inappropriate in her household. When I demanded to know why my daughter had been watching this piece of trash and saturated her brain with this violence, the mother was confused and told me she had no problem with The Walking Dead, that it wasn't an inappropriate show as far as she was concerned, and that her daughter has been watching it for years. Her daughter (and my daughter) are twelve years old.

People are truly fooled and blinded and confused by media nowadays. Thirty or even twenty years ago, people would be shocked and disgusted if you showed them a single scene from the bloody, violent horrorfest known as The Walking Dead. Today, people don’t even blink. We as a culture are so desensitized to this violence, we even allow our children to watch it without a second thought. It is a symptom of the rot and moral decay. I’m only glad people are finally starting to wake up and give up this awful show, but it was a long time coming.

bobed More than 1 year ago

By the way and I forgot to mention: my daughter will not be having anymore sleepovers with this “friend.” I have also asked my daughter not to speak with her former “friend” at school. I will not tolerate this kind of influence in the lives of my precious children.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wouldn't it be better to have a proper conversation with your daughter about the problems with that sort of content and encourage her to show her friend a better example? Couldn't you teach your daughter to be a light to her friend, as we are called to be, instead of punishing both girls because the other girl's mother's difference in judgment compared to yours?
bobed More than 1 year ago
I do not think I am punishing my daughter or her friend. I am simply making a judgment call for her well being. If that's what you would do with your child in that situation, it's your right to raise your own children as you see fit, but I stand by what I did. It is not my job to raise someone else's child or to change that mother's ways. It's my job to make sure my child's life is devoid of bad influences. Which is what I did. So no, to answer your question, it would not be better. 
Dan Haynes More than 1 year ago
Hopefully your daughter has the intestinal fortitude to do her teenager-ly duty and continue the friendship behind your back. You just made Sleepover Girl into the most desirable friend possible. 
bobed More than 1 year ago
Your view of parenthood and of my child is twisted and warped. 
Gwendelyn Eve More than 1 year ago
Hopefully you don't have children because your advice is scary.
MichaelHovey More than 1 year ago
Amen! Everyone needs to put Bobed in his place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I would argue that it's your job to teach your daughter how to handle bad influences. Ours is a fallen world. She will hear questionable music playing overhead from a store radio. She will encounter people at school or work with different opinions or foul mouths. There's no way to keep her life devoid of bad influences, but you can teach her the skills to handle them in a Christ-like way.

I agree that sleepovers are probably not a good idea, but I would urge you to reconsider telling her not to speak to the other girl. I don't see either girl being helped by that sort of punishment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You don't seem to understand teenagers very well, so let me break it down for you.
1. Yes, you absolutely are punishing both your child and her friend by ordering your daughter not t speak to her. (note I did not say former friend-your child is NOT YOUR PROPERTY and as such is allowed to choose her own friends)
2. By ordering your child to give up the friendship you have (falsely) made her into forbidden fruit, and unless your daughter is unlike nearly every other teenager on the planet, she will continue the friendship. And probably grow to resent you for attempting to control her life.
3. As someone who was a teenager fairly recently (I'm in my mid-twenties) I can tell you that attitudes like yours are EXACTLY what drove me away from the church for years (and continue to drive other young people away). I still struggle with the question of how the followers of the loving God I serve can be so mean spirited and nasty. I would suggest taking a long look at your attitudes if you don't want to end up driving your daughter away.
bobed More than 1 year ago
You are still very young and unformed yourself. You have no idea how to rear a child, and no place telling me how to do so.
Amy Blickensderfer More than 1 year ago
ooooh yeah my parents tried to keep me away from "bad influence" friends as well.  I just kept the friendship going behind their back... lied and said I was staying the night with another friend.  Good luck though! Maybe your daughter will be more submissive than I was :)
Gwendelyn Eve More than 1 year ago
It's not a punishment.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

For reasons dissimilar to yours, bobed, an unsaved friend of mine ended interaction with me several years ago. She didn't even come up to me and tell me, "I don't want to be friends with you anymore because of a, b, and c, and my mom agrees with me. I want us to go separate ways, and that will be the end of it."  She just broke off our friendship. I'll sometimes see this friend nowadays, and she'll still look right past me as if I'm not even there.  It breaks my heart every time, even though our friendship has been dead for years.  That was how an unbeliever treated me.

This is a comment section, so it's understandable for people not to be super personal.  However, for you to tell your daughter to suddenly cut off interaction with a former friend -- even to not speaking with her -- is something that I could not ignore.  Please handle the situation better than an unbeliever, and don't cause heartbreak on your watch.

bobed More than 1 year ago
First off, it is not your job to comment on my raising of my child, so please refrain. Secondly, I did not just throw my daughter out into the cold and demand she stop talking to her friend without any explanation. I sat her down and had a discussion with her about it, and made sure she understood. Thirdly, there is no "heartbreak". My daughter has been friends with this girl for all of a month and even said to me that she won't be all that sad about not seeing her anymore since they aren't that good friends. Fourthly, I am sad you had a bad experience but this is not comparable. I will not allow the world and all its violence to enter my house or my children's minds. That is how a Christian lives. The opposite, what you're suggesting I should do, is how an unbeliever lives. I removed a bad influence from my daughter's life, and if you think that's bad or unChristian parenting, then I won't be taking any advice for you when it comes to parenting - OR Christianity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

bobed, please know that I was not trying to tell you how to raise your daughter.  That was not my intention at all.  I'm sorry if I made you feel slighted or insulted.  Please accept my apology.

Actually, I would have handled the situation the same way you did -- by removing a bad influence.  I just thought that it would be good to end the chapter well and bring closure to the situation by courteously explaining things to your daughter's friend and/or family.

Gwendelyn Eve More than 1 year ago
I completely agree with your decision. To think that it's your daughter's responsibility to convince her friend to not watch the show is ridiculous.  Teens today have enough issues and pressures to deal with.  Hopefully your daughter will find a new friend with the same values your family holds.  Good luck.
Shelley Spence More than 1 year ago
There are people like you that can't deal with fiction and don't want it to fill your children with ideas. Then there are people like me who think sending my kids to anyone's home for a sleepover is an ACTUAL danger. I think it's insane that people will send their children to spend the night at homes where they have to call first and ask what the home is like. If you're having to ask that then you don't know them well enough to send your child there. Yet, somehow you only decided not to send your daughter because of some silly fictional show. You might want to thank God that's the worst thing that happened.
bobed More than 1 year ago
You know nothing of thr circumstances, Shelley
 The child's mother is a member of my church, and her father (no longer in the picture) used to be as well. I have known them for a few years and considered them trustworthy, godly people. in fact, they used to homeschool their children until the father irresponsibly decided to leave the family and homeschooling became too much of a burden on the mother. I still think they are a good and trustworthy family, other than the matter of having terrible media discernment. I am the first to think of protecting my children, but for you to suggest that all sleepovers are inherently boggles my mind. You are deluded. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do you enjoy insulting every one that comments on your posts?
bobed More than 1 year ago
I am surprised and frankly annoyed by the number of people who think both that they have the experience to tell me how to raise my own child, and that I am actually going to listen to the child-rearing advice of random people on the internet. Don't waste your breath. Your criticisms go unnoted. I and my wife will continue to raise our children in the godly way we see fit. If you disagree, that's your right, but know that your armchair activism is not going to change our minds.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You sit on a pretty high horse don't ya?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Posted by First Comment Guy

Yikes. I've heard that the show is indeed very bloody and violent, but not to the point like this!

I just can't help but wonder why people watch this sorta stuff. I started watching Supergirl this fall and I absolutely love it! Part of the reason comes from the fact that I'm a hard core Superman fan, but the real reason I love that show so much is how it is both action packed and pretty clean at the same time.

If only more shows were like Supergirl...

(on the side note, isn't that guy in the picture above the same guy who plays Batman's father in Batman v Superman?)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yeah it is Batmans father and one of his victim's wife in TWD played Batmans mom.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Posted by First Comment Guy

Cool! Maybe if DC makes a Flashpoint Paradox movie they can have him play Batman in the film.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Batman v. Superman was actually Jeffery Dean Morgan's second DC movie, he previously played The Comedian in the actually rather awful, Watchmen movie.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
I feel exactly the same way- both puzzlement for how people will tolerate this kind of content or laud excess of violence, sex, sexual violence, gore, etc. because 'it's so compelling'... which applies to FAR too many shows on TV right now (and recently concluded, as well). TV these days, from Gotham to Game of Thrones to Naked and Afraid to, well, the Walking Dead, has literally BECOME the parodies of over-the-top, gratuitous content from movies and shows of the 80s and 90s. We have, unironically and surprisingly-universally-embraced, an embodiment of what was once a joke, going much further than good taste or reason would ever permit to lampoon trends in that direction.

...But also, I feel the same way in absolutely loving Supergirl, especially for being something FUN on TV. I saw a great article making the point that this is probably the first portrayal of Superman we've gotten since Christopher Reeve that was actually upbeat, optimistic, kind, and cheerful... and I think that was only because the show led the way with a tone that could successfully thrive on optimism, as embodied so wonderfully in Melissa Benoist.

In an age where DC comics products themselves seem to be a microcosm for entertainment in general, with the brutal and brooding on the ascendancy, it makes a nice island of escape for those of us that still want a little joy or fun mixed in amongst our entertainment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good point, Charitysplace
Mary Garcia More than 1 year ago
I whoeheartedly agree,  it literally hurt my heart,the only thing I could say to my kids (21 & 16) was that this was a perfect representation of man's evil heart,  a heart without God,  it left me wondering if I even wanted to put my heart,  my soul,  and my mind through this again.   The answer is NO!   The world is sick enough without this "in your face" depravity! !!  Count me out! I came late to the game,  only watched at my daughters assurance that it was a great show.   I did, and it WAS. I even endured the Governer,   But now,  they went too, too far. My soul cannot take such darkness,  for I am of the light!!!!
Lindsey Evans More than 1 year ago
Why in the world would you let your 16 year old watch this??
bobed More than 1 year ago
It could be the 21-year-old that assured her it was a great show. But frankly, if it was MY 21-year-old who was still living under my roof, I would lay down the law and say "As long as you're in my house, you will not watch this junk." 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes bobed. You've made your desire to control your children's lives quite clear. I only pray they don't come to resent you (and more importantly God) because of it.
bobed More than 1 year ago
Your worldview may have a more secular and liberal slant than my own, but where I come from (the Mystical Land of Common Sense), it is my JOB as a parent to control my kids' lives. That is in the job description. And also as a parent with adult children who I continue to allow in my house (a situation I have not yet encountered), I would have the right to dictate the house rules. Yes, that's right, I said MY house. My wife and I own the house, and our children abide by the rules of the house. It is not the Shared Family Democracy House. It is MY house, and my rules. For heaven's sake, this was bothing less than common sense when I was growing up. When did that become such a controversial thing to say?! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, it is your house, and you have every right to set rules and guidelines for your children. However, controlling your kid's lives will only end badly. Teenagers rebel. It's in their nature. And the more controlling you try to be, the more they will rebel. The people in this comment section are trying to get you to see this. You have to let them have some freedom to learn and grow, without being overbearing. Also, would you please stop insulting everyone that replies to you?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, I have to tell you, guys . . . I'm a teen (16 1/2) and I fully support bobed's decision about his daughter. She was far too young to watch such a show, and as far as I am concerned, I am, too.
I have a friend who is not good for me. We watched things we should not have, talked about things we should not have, and wrote stories about things we should not have. My parents sat me down for a talk, and I have been doing much better. I was not told to completely cut off our friendship, but my contact with her has been limited and supervised.
Yeah, I rebelled. This was only last year, and though I have changed, she has not much. She isn't good at making friends, and I'm the only friend she has. So I try to be a good example, but it hasn't been easy. And now I am thankful to my parents for their caution, because though I didn't know it then, they were just trying to maintain my innocence and purity.
Personally, I love Philippians 4:8, and though I'm not perfect at following it, (who is?) I try.
So, bobed, one day your daughter will appreciate your efforts, though she may not tell you right away. Blessings on you and your family.
Clinton Williamson More than 1 year ago
Yeah... that's okay. Fans of the show don't need people "of the light" dictating the direction they take. The show is meant to be violent. The scene with Glenn specifically came nearly frame for frame from the graphic novel, and was executed absolutely perfect. The comic pages practically jumped onto the screen. If you sat through the blood drain trench at Terminus at the beginning of season 5 and think that Negan's kills were any worse, that's a bit ridiculous. With that being said, everybody who thinks like you are don't take into consideration a few things. ONE, this is a series, not a movie. You can skip over this episode if you wanted to ever revisit the show. TWO, since you don't know the source material, you don't know that this is probably one of the most violent scenes even in the comics to date. I don't think there are any deaths that will top these two in the near future in terms of violence. LASTLY, it is just a show. It isn't real. People need to learn to separate art from reality. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Posted by First Comment Guy

So wait Clinton, are you saying it's okay for people to watch movies like Watchmen or Deadpool? Those movies are practically taken straight from the pages of the comic book, just like TWD.

I get the impression that you're saying that anyone who doesn't know the source material shouldn't be watching, and that it's okay for Hollywood to glorify blood and gore.

Didn't you read The Hunger Games?

Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
The question isn't really fidelity to the source material, whether it will be repeated, or whether it's been topped- the question is, is there any value in watching such things for entertainment? Is there any edification in it? Does it have a positive influence on anyone? The notion of 'art' as an end unto itself still doesn't answer the fundamental question... is it worth viewing? In the balance of life, is anyone better off for having seen it than not?

The people here are not questioning the appropriateness of a scene to Walking Dead comic canon, or even if this is the worst of the worst. They are questioning whether this is something that there is any good reason for (or positive effect to) subjecting oneself to in the first place. We take for granted that because a piece of media exists, it has value; because it has been created for consumption, consumption is a good thing. Neither of these are necessarily true- and it seems that this episode of The Walking Dead, whether it's worse than what's come before or not- has caused many people (and not just on this site) to question those assumptions in regards to this show.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by Peggy Carter

Love your questions, Andrew Gilbertson! Those are questions that *a lot* of people need to be asked, especially at the place we're at in our entertainment-centered culture. Honestly though, while it's easy for me to condemn people for watching TWD, which makes me feel sick, I feel convicted. I don't spend a lot of unnecessary time watching tv, only something at night after school as a way of relaxing, but it's still good to be reminded to watch things that edify and build up. Too often, we slip into the mindset that, as Clinton said above "it is just a show. It isn't real." 
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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b f More than 1 year ago
I don't think you are in any place to say whether or not this person is 'of the light'. In fact, you are being incredibly rude, and I question whether you are 'of the light'. God is the judge, not you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Posted by First Comment Guy

Finally! Someone who speaks my language!

You hit the nail on the head when you say that bobed is being rude. Yes, I do agree with bobed that Clinton is wrong, but he has no business to judge Clinton about his beliefs.

bobed More than 1 year ago
I am in no place to make the final judgment, that is true. That power belongs only to the Lord. However, if I see someone who is sorely misguided and headed in a very wrong direction, I would be amiss not to redirect this person with firm, Scripture based words. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Posted by First Comment Guy

Hear me out bobed; I appreciate that you want to help someone who thinks wrongly, but at the same time you should express your opinion without sounding like a bully.

Perhaps a better way to address Clintons opinion would be to reply with a Bible verse:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
 Philippians 4:8

If you were to reply to Clinton with a Bible verse like this, he would probably heed your advice more willingly.
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I worry that drawing attention to it will make more people watch it, just to see if it's as bad as all the fuss says. That seems to be the trend...