It’s finally happened. After a season of teases and feet-dragging, “The Walking Dead” has allowed us the simple joy of seeing Rick go nuts and brawl with Negan.
The fact that the story has ended up here is not a surprise to anybody who’s been paying even vague attention to the show over the past two seasons. From the moment Negan was introduced, events were logically going to move towards these two characters battling it out one on one.
All of season eight has been designed around making Rick feel so angry and unhinged that audiences might actually believe that he’ll try to kill Negan in cold blood.
From the moment Carl got infected, it was clear that we’d end up his a raging Rick going “dark”. This is the oldest narrative trick in the book, and it’s entirely unoriginal.
Meanwhile, the show has been softening Negan a lot. He’s not been turning into a hero per se, but he’s certainly a lot more complicated than last season, when he was an unashamed one-dimensional Evil Villain.
The hope has been that when we finally got to this fight, Negan would seem sympathetic, and Rick would seem unreasonable.
How much that works depends on your opinion of the two characters, but it’s hard to deny that it’s very cathartic to watch Rick cut loose, even if it’s incredibly obvious that this was never going to end with an actual death.
This isn’t exactly enough to save the show outright – this season of “The Walking Dead” is still stuck in a meandering, predictable plot that’ll no doubt end with Negan and Rick forming some kind of uneasy truce as Rick grieves for his son.
In the meantime, though, it’s nice to have a little moment of fun action, if only one that serves as little more than a taste for a bigger fight that’s coming closer to the end of the season.
It’d be nice if “The Walking Dead” weren’t quite so formulaic, but when we get little moments of intense action like this, it does make the show feel a little more worth keeping up with.