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Tales of the Walking Dead Repeats TWD’s Negan Mistake

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Negan’s over-the-top character doomed The Walking Dead, and AMC’s Tales of the Walking Dead spinoff is headed down the same path after Season 1.

In some ways, bigger is better. More spinoffs and universes might make it harder to watch TV, sure. But the more time fans spend with a franchise, the more they will become invested. Likewise, if a series is more dramatic and has higher stakes, then it should be better received. Unfortunately, however, that isn’t the case in The Walking Dead universe.

The final season of The Walking Dead wrapped up in 2022, and now it’s set to continue with multiple spinoffs like The Walking Dead: Dead City, and shows focusing on Rick Grimes and Michonne, and Daryl Dixon. Tales of the Walking Dead gave fans a glimpse of that future, and the reception to its massive episodes has been noticeably average. If Tales is going to continue long-term, the series needs to learn bigger isn’t always better. What The Walking Dead did with Negan is proof.

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Why Negan’s Character Doomed The Walking Dead

Negan at the line up in The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead was far from perfect in its first season, but it became an instant hit. Glen Mazzara took over as showrunner in Season 2, and raised the series to new heights. However, he departed before Season 4, leaving Scott Gimple in charge. Seasons 4 to 6 averaged over 13 million viewers per episode. Then Negan showed up in the Season 6 finale, and Season 7 dropped to 11 million viewers per episode. Season 8 was even worse, with an average of only 7 million.

While this could have been viewer fatigue, there’s reason to believe that Negan’s arrival caused the downfall of The Walking Dead. His antics with a baseball were particularly brutal in the Season 7 premiere — an absolute turnoff for some viewers. Some fans didn’t mind how Negan bludgeoned Glenn, but they didn’t like how the Savior War dragged on for a full two seasons. It was over-hyped and unrealistic, with both sides refusing to actually win the conflict. Negan’s brashness only made matters worse.

By the end of Season 8, a lot of fans were simply done with The Walking Dead. With Negan still on the warpath, and Carl Grimes dead, AMC promoted Gimple to a new position as TWD’s chief content officer, which took him out of his role as showrunner. It was Gimple’s decision to extend and over-dramatize Negan and the Savior War that doomed the once-popular series because, by Season 9, viewership was down to 5 million per episode.

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Tales of the Walking Dead Can Learn From TWD’s Negan Mistake

Idalia and Eric confront La Dona in Tales of the Walking Dead

Fan reception for Tales of the Walking Dead was mediocre, but there’s been a pretty clear divide between good episodes and bad episodes. And the bad ones shared a common theme of going too far. Season 1, Episode 2, “Blair/Gina,” might have been The Walking Dead’s version of Groundhog Day, but no one really knew what happened. The episode only received a 6.1 score on IMDb. Likewise, Season 1, Episode, “Davon,” and Season 1, Episode 6, “La Doña,” received 5.4 and 5.1, respectively.

All three episodes tried too hard. “Blair/Gina” got its characters stuck in the aforementioned time loop; “Davon” used an annoying amnesia trope; and “La Doña” introduced a supernatural element to TWD. Just like Negan’s pompous character arc, all of these ideas moved the series away from the franchise’s character-driven formula. If Tales of the Walking Dead wants to succeed in a possible Season 2, it needs to have more episodes like the well-received Season 1, Episode 3, “Dee,” where familiar characters are used in down-to-earth stories that add depth to their characters. If the series keeps trying over-the-top ideas, it will fall into the exact same issue Negan created for its parent show.

Tales of the Walking Dead has not yet been renewed for Season 2; all six episodes of Season 1 are now streaming on AMC+.

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