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A/V Brew: The Walking Dead – From Comic to Show (Season 7)

As we wrap up the final episodes of The Walking Dead, we continue to look back at how the comic was adapted to the screen.

Last time, we discussed Season Six, which ended at the start of the Saviors storyline. With the introduction of Negan, the TV series finally began to sync more with the comics.

In this seventh article (of eleven), we discuss Season Seven, which was one of the more satisfying experiences for both comic and TV show fans, especially the ending.

Timeline

Season Seven’s timeline begins close to the comics, but ironically the comics would end further ahead at the end.

Starting with the full story of the Season Six finale, the rest of the show would happen over a mere couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the comics would cover similar events, but minor time jumps would spread everything over almost two months.

Finally ending in sync with a comics story arc, the TV show is only two-thirds into Year Two of the apocalypse, while the comics are almost to the end that same year.

Pacing

From comic issues 100 – 114, the writers finish Vol. 17 (Something to Fear) and complete Vol. 18 (What Comes After) and 19 (March to War).

Gimple does throw in some filler with the made-for-TV Scavengers (unrelated to the comic group) and Oceanside, a community very different from its post-War comic counterpart.

The “worst” aspect was the final reveal in Episode One, with Glenn’s and Abraham’s deaths. As usual, the show answered the last cliffhanger only to do what most expected; great for drawing people in but not the best for storytelling.

Afterward, we return to the simultaneous storytelling (ala Woodbury), with various characters meeting different communities until finally using our main protagonists to unite the larger world. By the end, however, we have a singular cohesive storyline, just like in the comics.

Season Seven did quite well with pacing, even with the made-for-TV filler, and was probably the most satisfying to watch.

Characters

Like previous seasons, we’re introduced to far too many new characters to mention. Some have comic counterparts, while others fulfill the roles (and deaths) of others.

We finally meet Negan, one of the closest adaptations of their comic counterparts. The other significant Savior, Dwight, has a much more sympathetic story arc in the show than in the comics.

Comic Dwight remains a loyal member of the Saviors, killing Alexandrians and willingly participating in Negan’s dirty work. It’s not until Negan pushes him over the edge with his continued sexual assault on Sherry that he switches sides.

When we meet TV Dwight in Season Six, he is already trying to flee Negan and the Saviors with Sherry and her sister. He returns to the Sanctuary reluctantly and continues Negan’s dirty work for Sherry’s sake. While Dwight seems to enjoy the sadistic side of things, he’s also upset about Sherry’s sacrifice; when she runs off without him, he begins to change sides.

Ezekiel, and the Kingdom, also reflected much of their comic counterparts.

In the comics, Ezekiel is introduced to Rick by Jesus, beginning a relationship between the three communities. Conversely, the TV show decides to split our protagonists again (similar to the Woodbury story) and have Carol and Morgan inadvertently encounter the Kingdom first. 

While both versions of the Kingdom are “schools,” the TV version’s campus is more extensive, with multiple buildings located in a semi-rural area. The comics Kingdom exists around a singular school building in Washington, D.C., with the residents staying inside during the winter and camping in the schoolyard when warmer.

In contrast, we’re introduced to two strange, new communities in the show: Oceanside and the Heaps.

TV Oceanside has a completely made-up backstory (that didn’t make sense to fans); a hidden, ramshackle village of Saviors’ victims hiding out. Comics Oceanside doesn’t appear until after the war with the Saviors, and it’s an entire seaside town brought into the trade network.

The Heaps, home of the TV Scavengers, were completely made-up and made little sense. Less than two years into the apocalypse, they’ve developed strange speech patterns, culture, and clothing with no real explanation (until another series).

We’d be remiss without mentioning a few changes or fates to certain characters.

Glenn’s death, shocking as it is, is lifted straight from the comics. The main difference is that Comics Abraham had been dead for a bit, rather than dying aside him.

Rick’s behavior throughout Season Seven is much more submissive than the source material; he only decides to go to war when convinced. Comic Rick pretends to be submissive but reveals that he’s been secretly planning to kill Negan all along.

Michonne has entirely replaced Andrea while other made-for-TV characters, such as Tara and Enid, fill in for long-since-dead comic casts. The most significant change was Eugene, whose TV version was even more of a coward and opportunist than his comic counterpart.

TV Eugene is captured but then willingly offers his skills to Negan after seeing the comfort the Sanctuary provides him. Comic Eugene isn’t caught until well into the war, and while pressed to serve Negan, he soon escapes.

However, even with replacement characters and made-for-TV additions, most characters follow similar story arcs this season.

Story

Season Seven continues the tradition of throwing in extra stuff over the comic story arcs:

  • The brutal death of Glenn and a pregnant Maggie moving to Hilltop
  • Jesus discovers the Sanctuary’s location, with Carl stowing away and getting caught
  • Negan’s continued taunting of Rick and the latter’s secret plans to kill the former
  • The introduction of the Kingdom and the struggle to unite everyone against the Saviors
  • The defense of Alexandria by the connected communities leading to Negan declaring all-out war

The most significant changes mainly were filler, including adding in Oceanside (as reluctant allies) and the Scavengers (as turncoats). Everything else felt minor, including the battle that instigates war; the specific events play out differently, but the result remains the same.

Following previous recommendations, Season Seven could have still rushed through the points while balancing the pacing better.

The first half would introduce Jesus and the Hilltop, which leads to fighting Saviors and Negan’s brutal first encounter. The mid-season finale would end one episode later, without the unnecessary “Who Died?!” cliffhanger, leaving our protagonists broken and under the Saviors’ rule.

Then the events marching to war would be condensed into the second half of the season, cutting out the filler. “Submitting” to Negan, plotting against him, and meeting the Kingdom would all lead to the final battle.

Season Seven was likely the most comic-accurate since Season One, even with made-for-TV additions and shifting dead characters’ roles to those still alive. Glenn’s death may have been horrific for many, but it was taken straight from the page and expected by many readers.

More importantly, although a few elements were referenced from later issues, the show finally ended its season finale at the end of an actual story arc (comic volume). Although later seasons would mess with the pacing in other ways, the show overall would try and stick to this formula.

When we return, we’ll look at Season Eight, when we experience all-out war, the fate of Negan, and the end of Scott Gimple’s reign.

About Brook H. (269 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... Brook has degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology and has majored in everything from computers to business. He's worked a variety of jobs, including theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is HoH and a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate, a lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.

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