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The Walking Dead: The Complete Seventh Season (Blu-ray Review)

Anchor Bay Entertainment is proud to present the seventh season of The Walking Dead on Blu-ray. You can find reviews for the previous seasons of the hit zombie-drama series by Why So Blu’s Brian White (seasons 123, 4 and 5) as well as last season, but here we are with the season that brought us Negan and more. It’s no secret that season seven featured its share of controversy, given the level of brutality on display. That said, Negan, The Kingdom, some key deaths and other aspects of this season also continued to build on the world that began in Robert Kirkman’s (and others) graphic novel series. Now you can dig in to see just how well this Blu-ray set stacks up.

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Series:

So here is season seven of The Walking Dead, which begins with a resolution of last season’s tense cliffhanger and an additional 15 episodes to continue with the new status quo. Rather than get into specifics on what the show is about or where things previously left off (check out the other reviews to dig into more of that knowledge), here are a few details to get ready for what’s to come. With the season premiere showing the events that force Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group to conform to the will of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), it is only a matter of time for our heroes to get reorganized and find a way to bring new allies together to take down the brutal rule of the man with a barbed-wire-wrapped bat.

Season seven arrives in a five disc package, with the first four discs containing all 16 episodes of the season:

Disc 1:

  1. The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be
  2. The Well
  3. The Cell
  4. Service

Disc 2:

  1. Go Getters
  2. Swear
  3. Sing Me a Song
  4. Hearts Still Beating

Disc 3:

  1. Rock in the Road
  2. New Best Friends
  3. Hostiles and Calamities
  4. Say Yes

Disc 4:

  1. Bury Me Here
  2. The Other Side
  3. Something They Need
  4. The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

I had more of a mixed reaction to this season than others. Part of that has to do with the way in which this season decided to resolve the unnecessary cliffhanger created at the end of the previous season. It’s not about the carnage on display, but the approach. The season premiere episode felt a need to delay the inevitable as much as possible and presents everything in a manner that was overly cruel while failing to deliver on much beyond a large signal that Morgan’s performance as Negan would be changing things up a bit. As a result, I saw the premiere as one of The Walking Dead’s lowest points.

However, the episode that followed was a highlight of the season as well as one of my favorite episodes. The introduction of The Kingdom, Khary Payton’s King Ezekiel and his loyal pet Shiva let the show remind us that it can be weird and fun. It’s a zombie apocalypse, and while things may get dark, there’s also a whole comic book-based world to explore. Additionally, the show found a way to make us look past issues I was having with the great Carol (Melissa McBride), as well as provide the great Morgan (Lennie James) enough to work with, while separate from most of the rest of the cast. The world got bigger this season and a lot of those additions worked.

At the same time, some didn’t, and a lot of that had to do with Negan and his ridiculous gang. Honestly, as much as I like Morgan, he didn’t impress me as Negan, a character I already wasn’t all that fond of based on the comics. The latter half of the season does its job to manage the presence of the character better, but his impact on the show was initially not for the better. Coming off as a big bad who buys into his presence as much as the show desperately wants us to, there’s little menace in a guy so cartoonishly evil on a show that has dealt with suspense in better ways. Fortunately, other threatening characters do end up having more of an impact, such as Steven Ogg’s Simon and the delightful Xander Berkeley as the snake that is Gregory.

Working with the large ensemble means getting various doses of people we like to see, others we wish were better developed and questionable choices about who we want leading an episode. It’s always great seeing the show experiment with ideas on how to keep things fresh, but there’s also the matter of being sure the journey is worth it. Given the trajectory of the season and where things wind up, one can’t help but wish certain characters were given more time to see on screen while realizing others were less essential. I’m vague for the sake of the audience that’s still catching up, but just know I’m more excited to see where things are going by the end of this season, compared to the waiting game that seemed to be presented for the majority of this one.

Of course, this is still The Walking Dead, which means the drama is supplemented by some fantastic action, visual effects, and make-up. I even include the CG tiger, as that’s one crazy element I was happy to see realized effectively. Still, this is a show where zombies are all over, and once again, Greg Nicotero and his team do their best to provide creative kills, gore galore and more as far as making an effective horror-based series.

I also can’t discount the quality of the majority of the performances on display. While the show is not exactly known for nuance and it never does much to bury its subtext, the cast does excellent work. Norman Reedus continues to shine in the role he was seemingly born to play as Daryl. Danai Gurira plays well with Lincoln. James and McBride are obvious standouts. Even Alanna Masterson and Josh McDermitt got the chance to step it up this season, with new challenges being thrown their way.

Now, as good as the show can be regarding matching zombie chaos with accomplished performances from the ensemble cast, I’ve never been one to look past the fact that The Walking Dead leans heavily on being an incredibly well-made soap opera. That doesn’t take away from the series’ quality or high concept premise, but watching the series with grave intensity does tend to make me feel silly. So instead, I’m happy to take in this show the way I do (writing about it weekly and co-hosting a podcast all about it).

I would like to hope this season is more of a bridge than anything. Given what I know is coming to an extent, based on the comics, and how things played out in this fairly slow-paced season, a lot of work apparently went into realizing the change that came with Negan. That had its downsides, which says little of other issues that crept up but also had plenty of good elements to speak up to, namely the world building outside of Negan. This may be the most comic book-y season yet of The Walking Dead, which is not a good or bad thing, but a neat change of pace for a series that has become incredibly popular and has a desire to keep things interesting. I just hope the future has things more under control, now that it’s got its need for cliffhangers out of the way.

 

Video:

Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: While the series is presented in color and not black and white like the comic, The Walking Dead does shoot on 16mm film, which means getting a somewhat saturated look for the show. As a result, there is lots of grain, which is not a flaw, but part of the series’ aesthetic. Fortunately, you have a great show to watch regarding visuals. As usual, it’s one thing to see the series in HD on TV, but Blu-ray brings out the details found on the show as it is shot. There is a great sense of clarity in all the environments and in each zombie face that becomes destroyed in some way.

Depth: Given how much forest we constantly see in this series, it makes sense to get a lot of dimensionality throughout. The use of space plays well on Blu-ray, as characters constantly pop from their surroundings.

Black Levels: Black levels are inky and very deep throughout, even when considering the gain aspect. There is a great sharpness to the amount of darkened scenes present.

Color Reproduction: While certain costumes and pieces of the environment sometimes stand out, The Walking Dead has a muted color pallet that fits for this universe. With that in mind, the Blu-ray does proper justice to what we see here, and it’s done quite well.

Flesh Tones: No problems here as the flesh of both humans and the undead look completely natural throughout.

Noise/Artifacts: Given that the grain makes sense for this show, there is nothing else to speak of.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, French Dolby Surround 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The audio experience found on these discs is great. From the wild zombie action featuring plenty of gunplay, explosions and even a tiger attack, to the quieter moments in the woods, you get a full-on dynamic experience to all that goes down. Singling out the season premiere, in particular, regardless of my thoughts on the episode, it’s a fascinating sound mix as far as the different ways it presents itself.

Low-Frequency Extension: The moment when everyone stops talking and the action goes down is when the LFE channel gets a proper workout. With all the shootouts, car-based action and more

Surround Sound Presentation: There is a lot of different kind of sounds being heard throughout this series, ranging from dialogue to the snarls of walkers. Then you have all the action and score. Thankfully, a fine job is done properly to balance all that we hear. The center channel is a good source for mainly dialogue and big moments, but you get a good amount of ambiance and well-rounded audio elements coming through the left/right and rear channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone, especially Negan, is heard loud and clear.

 

Extras:

These sets tend to be filled to the brim with extras and that holds true here. The Walking Dead comes packed with commentary tracks and a 5th disc full of extra goodies that delve into the making of the series and more.

Features Include:

Disc 1:

  • Audio Commentaries:
    • The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be – Showrunner Scott M. Gimple, Director Gregg Nicotero and Actor Michael Cudlitz
    • The Cell – Writer Angela Kang and Actor Norman Reedus

Disc 3:

  • Audio Commentaries:
    • Rock in the Road – Director Greg Nicotero and Actor Alanna Masterson
    • Hostiles and Calamities – Co-Executive Producer Denise Huth and Actors Austin Amelio and Josh McDermitt

Disc 4:

  • Audio Commentaries:
    • Bury Me Here – Showrunner Scott M. Gimple and Actors Lennie James and Melissa McBride
    • The First Day of the Rest of Your Life – Showrunner Scott M. Gimple, Director Greg Nicotero and Actors Lauren Cohan and Alanna Masterson

Disc 5:

  • Deleted & Alternate Scenes (HD, 19:07) – 9 scenes total from episodes 701, 705, 710, 713, 714 and 716. One highlight includes an extended look at what could have been; the fantasy flash-forward sequence at the end of the season premiere.
  • Featurettes:
    • Inside The Walking Dead (HD) – A series of behind-the-scenes looks at each episode regarding the themes and story concepts.
    • The Making of The Walking Dead (HD) – Averaging at around 5 minutes each, these mini behind-the-scenes segments look at aspects from all 16 episodes of the season, namely the important effects or character-driven portions of each episode.
    • In Memorium (HD, 7:19) – A discussion with the cast and crew concerning the deaths of various cast members throughout the season. As opposed to the more humorous post-mortem seen on Talking Dead, this segment goes over what these different characters meant to the story and the other characters directly affected by them.
    • A Larger World (HD, 10:14) – This feature goes over how the world of the show expanded via new cast members, locations and sets for the art department to create.
    • Breaking & Rebuilding (HD, 5:07) – A focus on the arc of Rick Grimes for this season.
    • A New Chapter of Fear (HD, 5:04) – Here’s a look at the change of direction for this season.
    • Top Walkers (HD, 8:29) – A feature that goes over the most creative (and disgusting) zombies and zombie kills created for this season.
    • Warrior Women (HD, 7:36) – This is a feature putting a focus on the battle-ready and smart women that are completely involved in the fight throughout this season.
    • The Writers of The Walking Dead (HD, 4:01) – A spotlight on the writers involved with the series.
  • Digital HD Copy – UltraViolet

 

Summary:

It was interesting to see the reaction to this season of The Walking Dead. The show seems to find itself at a crossroads as far as how much it can coast on great ratings, so the need to ratchet up the sensational elements may have taken it too far. That said, there are some significant elements of this season as well as plenty of reason to see where things go from here. The Blu-ray certainly helps matters, as the audio/video presentation is excellent and there are plenty of extras to satisfy fans. If you enjoy this series and have been collecting every season, there is no reason to stop now. If you haven’t been buying up each season, there is still plenty of reason to start now, if you want a solid TV show with an excellent Blu-ray package behind it. Or, once again you could settle for hearing from Lucille.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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