*You knew this was coming.
Fans of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” who watched last night’s Season 7 premiere will likely never forget it. Perhaps the most violent depiction of death on television ever, the brutal bludgeoning of two major characters can never be unseen.
So naturally, the Parents Television Council is up in arms. The group is speaking out against the show for relying on violence as a “crutch,” and now questions if there should be a rating that goes beyond TV MA.
“Last night’s season premiere of ‘The Walking Dead’ was one of the most graphically violent shows we’ve ever seen on television, comparable to the most violent of programs found on premium cable networks,” PTC president Tim Winter told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not enough to ‘change the channel,’ as some people like to advocate, because cable subscribers — regardless of whether they want AMC or watch its programming — are still forced to subsidize violent content. This brutally explicit show is a powerful demonstration of why families should have greater control over the TV networks they purchase from their cable and satellite providers.”
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD:
On last night’s after-show “Talking Dead,” the episode’s writer/showrunner Scott M. Gimple and comic book creator Robert Kirkman argued that the violence needed to be visceral and graphic so that the audience has an acute sense of what is at stake for the show’s core group of survivors under new villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
The episode began with all 11 of them lined up on their knees as Negan teased and taunted them with his baseball bat covered in barbed wire. He eventually beat to death Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Glenn (Steven Yeun). Each graphic blow to their heads was shown in detail, as the remaining survivors were forced to watch. One of the blows to Glenn’s head caused his left eyeball to pop out of its socket. Close-ups of their crushed skull and brain matter were also shown.
In an interview with THR on Monday, Winter said the episode “from start to finish” and its degree and volume of violence “set a new threshold for basic cable.” He said the episode — which was rated TV MA and contained multiple warnings during the hour —raises the question of if there should be a rating beyond TV MA.
“When you look at definition of MA and what content of the show is, it’s unquestionable they chose what best represented the content,” Winter said, noting it was properly rated because there was nothing more severe. “This certainly raises question of if there should be an even more severe rating than TV MA.”
Asked if producers on the drama based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book series could have done anything differently to make the episode more suitable for younger viewers, Winter noted he understood the events were based on a graphic storyline in the source material but ripped the series as relying too much on violence instead of storytelling.
“I understand violence is inherent to the storytelling here but the manner in which the depictions were made … it crossed the line,” Winter said, admitting he hasn’t seen the episode but only video clips as he hasn’t been comfortable watching it in some time. “With The Walking Dead, the creative team has resorted to the graphic violence as a crutch for what used to be better storytelling. When you can’t figure out what lines to write, you put something in easier, which is a graphic depiction. To me, it’s too much.”