This Halloween, Speak Crudely and Carry a Big Boom Stick

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

The man with the bat.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead, Ash vs. Evil Dead, American Horror Story: Roanoke, and Dusk Till Dawn.

Television-viewing America has finally met Negan, and the verdict is in: By depicting the brutally realistic barbwire-wrapped baseball bat bludgeoning of two of of its most popular characters, the producers of AMC’s The Walking Dead have finally gone too far. The Parents Television Council blasted the show in a terse press release the morning after the episode aired.

“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,” said PTC president Tim Winter. “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.”

This being the current year, I chuckled just a little bit. The only control families have over video content these days is to not have cable, not have internet, not have cell phones or a single damn video monitor in the house, and forget about sending the little liebchens to public schools, where CNN Student News is featured in many classrooms every weekday morning.

The horror. The horror.

To be sure, PTC president Winter gets that.

“For those who say there is no societal impact from media, I urge them to contemplate the presidential election for a few minutes,” he reminds us.

Which is exactly what I was trying not to do by watching TWD and the festival of filmic gore that’s been offered up on cable television and video streaming services this October, in the grand fall tradition known as Halloween in America. From Ash vs. Evil Dead to American Horror Story: Roanoke to Dusk Till Dawn, there’s been plenty avenues of escape.

Yet there’s just no escaping this particular presidential election, a political horror show some observers have labeled “the monster versus the crook.” You pick which one is which. The cable news coverage has been particularly atrocious. One week they’re chattering about pussy grabbing, the next week it’s texting wieners (again!). Issues like a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia are verboten. Both sides are now thoroughly convinced the election’s rigged. Everything’s political, especially your favorite TV show.

Thus hours before Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) crushed Glen (Steven Yeun) and Abraham’s (Michael Cudlitz) skulls to bloody pulps in the season premier of TWD, posters appeared on Hollywood streets pointing out that Negan only wants half your gross annual income, while candidate Hillary Clinton wants it all.

If we really want to go with this narrative, and it seems like we must at least temporarily, Negan is something of a benevolent despot. In exchange for not killing you, he gives you a job and asks for only half of what you produce. That’s about what the average middle class family pays in local, state and federal taxes, and most folks fork it over without need for the truncheon. Negan is an old school Democrat, and if he was running today, he’d be ahead in the polls, his plan is that simple.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of TWD fans siding with the Parents Television Council the morning after witnessing Negan’s handiwork, swearing they’d never watch the show again. My guess is most of them tuned in for the second episode, just like I plan to. But some fans have no doubt abandoned TWD for good, because the violence depicted in the season premier was just too realistic. They can’t re-engage their sense of disbelief.

This is Bruce Campbell's head up a corpse. Not so bad, eh?

This is Bruce Campbell’s head up a corpse. Not so bad, eh?

That will probably never happen to anyone watching Ash vs. Evil Dead, the highly improbable hit series on the Starz network based on director Sam Rami’s Evil Dead trilogy from the 1980s and now in its second season. The campy, low-budget films featuring schlocky claymation special effects and B-movie legend Bruce Campbell were cult favorites, but hardly something you’d expect to see as a cable series, let alone with Campbell reprising his original role.

Times have changed and not necessarily for the better. Gore has gone mainstream, which is why the mainstream British publication The Guardian beat me to the punch last week by pointing out that TWD isn’t the only horror show crossing boundaries this Halloween season. On a recent episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, an actor’s head—Campbell’s—was shoved up a fake cadaver’s ass for the first time in TV history!

“It’s hard to count just how many taboos were broken in this sequence, but it’s clear that nothing like this has happened on television before,” the Guardian’s critic pontificated. “Will it, indeed can it, ever again?”

Having regretfully watched the scene in “The Morgue” episode, I can say of course it can be repeated and undoubtedly it will be repeated. In fact, it’s already been topped.

Ash’s idea of making America great again resembles spring break in Jacksonville, FLA. That’s where he was headed back in the 1980s, before he encountered the dreaded Necronomicon, the Book of the Dead, in the Michigan woods and released its evil into our world, basically ruining his life and the lives of those around him forever.

Getting his head shoved up (pulled into really, it’s complicated) a corpse’s rectum is pretty much par for the course in Ash’s universe, where evil’s one and only steadfast rule is that anyone who falls in love with Ash or perhaps even remotely gets to know him dies, horribly. So I was worried this year when Lee Majors joined the cast as Ash’s estranged father. I knew as soon as they repaired the relationship, the Six Million Dollar Man was a goner.

Sure enough, in the fourth episode, “D.U.I.”, aired the very same night Negan was introducing “Lucille” (the name of his bat) to America, Ash’s beloved Oldsmobile Delta 88, possessed by a demon, vividly demonstrated why self-driving cars may be a bad idea when it ran down Majors, then peeled out on his face until the spinning tire cut through skull and brain, throwing off a rooster tail of blood and shattered bone. Then Ash somewhat forlornly attempted to reassemble the pieces of yet another doomed relationship.

It’s a task he’s grown accustomed to over the years. He’s participated in hundreds of dismemberments, including his own hand, which he hacked off with a chainsaw after it was infected by evil decades ago. He duct-taped the chainsaw to the stump, sawed off a double-barrel shotgun, and armed with his “boom-stick” in his good hand, set out to meet evil head-on, uttering the immortal word, “Groovy.”

I could see Ash running for president on the Republican ticket. True, he’s a notorious womanizer with a foul mouth who doesn’t pay taxes, but he’s the only guy who knows how to fight evil. Considering the way the viewing public’s sentiments are running against Negan and his baseball bat, Ash would have a fighting chance if the election were held today.

Unfortunately, the election isn’t being held today. It’s still a long, long week off. The good news is there’s plenty of television gore on tap between now and then to distract you. TWD and Ash vs. Evil Dead air on Sundays, so hopefully you caught them last night. All hell broke loose on American Horror Story: Roanoke last week when malevolent colonial ghosts murdered the entire crew and cast. This week’s episode is bound to be a shocker. And Dusk Till Dawn is heading into its rollicking third season finale. Check your listings for times and channels.

If things get too desperate, there’s always Netflix, where Human Centipedes I, II and III await streaming. The guy from the Parents Television Council is more right than he knows. Contemplating this presidential election, even for a few minutes, is a proposition so horrifying it is to be avoided at all cost.

I'm with her.

I’m with her.

R.V. Scheide
R.V. Scheide has been a northern California journalist for more than 20 years. He appreciates your comments and story ideas.
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19 Responses

  1. Charlotte Michel says:

    Really,  in the end,  I left TWD  because it’s writing had become untrue to the characters in order to push a plot line.  Bottom line.   The intentional infliction of horror due to the ultra violent murder of beloved characters were only nails in the coffin of my disenfranchisement.

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      I suppose you could argue that Glen, by joining the raid on Negan’s compound and killing a human being for the first time, violated his character’s morals. Therefore, Glen had it coming.

  2. cheyenne says:

    I don’t have HBO but at auction I recently bought TV series DVDs.  The first season of Deadwood, the first season of Carnivale, and the first two seasons of True Blood.  While Deadwood was stark and Carnivale was weird I did watch them.  But True Blood I could only get through the first two shows before I quit, if the TB zombies are like TWD zombies I won’t be watching TWD.

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      I’m pretty sure TWD and TB are about as different as two horror shows can get. My guess is you would love TWD.

    • Dick says:

      If you have Amazon Prime all 3 seasons of Deadwood are “free” to watch.

      • Beverly Stafford says:

        Gotta show my stupidity.  I subscribe to Amazon Prime, but I have no idea how to watch a program on our television.   I just learned that Amazon has the rights to 24, and we’d like to see what all the fuss was about.  I think I can figure out how to watch on my PC, but I’d rather watch on my 65″ television in the comfort of my recliner.

        • Dick says:

          It depends on the TV. Many flat screens made in the last few years can be connected to the internet so you can watch videos/movies from Amazon, Netflix, and many others. If it doesn’t have that capability built in but does have an HDMI video input you can get a “streamer”, a small device that connects to the internet and TV  https://www.cnet.com/topics/media-streamers/best-media-streamers/ (mine’s a Roku).  Beyond that are other less convenient options for the more technically inclined.

          • Beverly Stafford says:

            Thanks you, thank you, thank you, Dick.  Ours is less than two years old; so I guess I’ll ask the trusty Clyde Pearce at Clyde’s Enterprises exactly what I need.

  3. Beverly Stafford says:

    Could either of the two possibly have survived Lucille? It doesn’t seem possible, but there was that scene with the moving fingers.  The episode was so unrelentingly graphic that I was among those who considered giving up on the program.  Tonight’s episode was back to “normal” however.  I really think the program has run its course and needs to resolve how the whole outbreak came about and where civilization exists.  Remember the plane that flew over in a previous season?

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      Your suggestion that they should explore the causes of the outbreak and the state of the world are good. But it looks like this season will be devoted to feudalism.

  4. Rod says:

    Nice work, RV.  This piece sent cold chills running all over my skin.

    Happy Halloween everybody!

     

  5. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I’ve never appreciated the TWD’s zombies because they aren’t scary enough*, except in overwhelming numbers. Especially as the series has worn on and the survivors have become more efficient, killing zombies has become an exercise in squashing bugs. For most of the series’ run, the primary interest of the show has been the power politics between the surviving humans. At this point, now that Rick seems seems to be a broken man, the series needs a contrast to the brute authoritarian of Negan. It’s going to be Ezekiel, right?  He’s paying tribute to Negan, but he seems to have bigger plans. I see Rick and his group eventually becoming the military leaders of Ezekiel’s army.

    *Scary zombies are fast, as in “28 Days Later” and “World War Z.”

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      And Carol shall be queen?

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      I still laugh every time when TWD has someone get too close to a herd of walkers that look a long way off, then all of a sudden the person is surrounded by walkers. I mean, jog much recently?

      I think the people at Hilltop, especially Jesus, may give Negan’s crew a run for the money. Ezekiel’s too naive.

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        I don’t see Ezekiel as naive.  He’s certainly not as naive as Rick, whose “we’ll be good as long as we stick together as a family” ethos hasn’t worked out well for about half of his clan.  Ezekiel’s persona is cartoonish, but he has a sound sense of cost/benefit ratios.  His knights are adept at defense, if not quite up to an offensive effort against the Saviors.  He envisioned and built a community that’s sustainable. (As opposed to Negan’s model, which naively relies on the assumption of a never-ending supply of local hosts for his parasitism.)  And Ezekiel is perhaps more adept than any of the other leaders at diplomacy, which keeps him from warring with the Saviors in the short term and may, in the long run, lead to an alliance with Jesus and the Hilltop, Rick’s clan, and others.

        TV Guide seems to be hiring evangelical Christians as their reviewers these days.  Their take on Ezekiel and The Kingdom is an interesting read.

        • R.V. Scheide Jr. says:

          I guess in the book it’s the kingdom vs. the saviors, so that’s probably what it will be. I suppose it’s a little early to characterize Ezekiel. Don’t underestimate his offensive effort: feeding walkers to the pigs then the pigs to the saviors is pretty diabolical. I felt like the show is rolling right along after watching the second episode.

          • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

            I try to stay away from the written story lines in both TWD and GoT, but I did read that Carol and Morgan are already dead in the graphic novel, so whatever Ezekiel’s fate in the written version, it won’t necessarily happen that way in the series.

            The food chain involving the pigs was Knight Robert’s idea, though Ezekiel must have agreed to it. Robert is an interesting character—I enjoyed his mix-up with the Savior during the pig delivery scene. Robert seems like a dude who’s itching for the time when Ezekiel is ready to get it on with the Saviors.

  6. Valerie Ing says:

    I just love your writing R.V.! Its no secret that I’m a huge freaking zombie fan and I adore TWD. The premiere of this season really shocked me, because just when I thought it had gotten as violent as it could get, it went another step further. A little too far, I guess, because when I watched the episode over again, I fast forwarded through the most brutal scenes to get to the acting.  I also totally agree with everything Steve just said. Even down to how – because of how fast they are – the zombies in 28 Days Later and World War Z are so frightening that I can barely stand it!

     

    • R.V. Scheide says:

      I actually haven’t had to watch the premier more than once yet. Glen and Abraham’s beating is still etched in my mind.

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