• Walking Dead, The: The Complete Seventh Season



    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment
    Released on: August 29th, 2017.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Lauren Cohan, Norman Reedus, Seth Gilliam, Chandler Riggs, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Danai Gurira
    Year: 2017
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Let’s just get to the chase here. Season seven picks up immediately where season six left off, that massive ugly bastard of a cliffhanger ending wherein Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was going to kill off one of Rick’s group with his bat. We won’t spoil the kill here, it’s best experienced without spoilers (though most familiar with the show probably know who it is by this point), but it’s rough and it instantly posits Negan and his gang, The Saviors, as a force to be reckoned with.

    Because of this, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is broken. The confidence and leadership that’s come naturally to him for the first six seasons is now completely rocked and he’s scared. The rest of Rick’s group is in the same boat. At the same time, he wants revenge and we know that he’s not the type to let an act like this go unpunished. While this is going on, Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) are doing surprisingly well with a very different community named The Kingdom led by a man named King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who sits atop the community with his pet tiger.

    As the season plays out, Rick’s team comes to terms with their loss while trying to figure out how to get out from under Negan’s thumb. They have no desire whatsoever to live under his rule, but given that they’re completely overpowered by his gang, they don’t have a choice. It’s clear he’s more than willing to kill any who might try to oppose him. There are, however, alliances that can and will be formed in the second half of the season that proves things are not quite as they seem. While all of this plays out Maggie (Lauren Cohan) must deal with her pregnancy, Rick’s son Carl (Chandler Riggs) adjust to his new status in Alexandria and gets closer to Enid, Michonne (Danai Gurira) continues her romance with Rick, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) deals with loss, Tara (Alanna Masterson) strives to keep Oceanside away from all of the turmoil and Daryl (Norman Reedus) strikes up a serious rivalry with Negan’s right hand man Dwight (Austin Amelio). And then of course there’s the contrast that exists between Negan and Ezekial, their two very different ways of running their respective shows.

    The most intense run for the show so far, this seventh season is seriously bleak stuff, but so too is it incredibly gripping viewing. Yes, the show does make some stumbles here and there as it always has but the human drama that has always driven the narrative so forcefully remains front and center and the show is all the stronger for it. At this point in time, the zombies are almost an afterthought (though clearly still a very ‘real’ threat in the context of the show).

    The main conflict between Rick and Negan is handled very well. Andrew Lincoln’s performance here is stronger than it’s ever been, while Jeffrey Dean Morgan is pretty much perfect in his part as the tyrannical overlord Negan. The supporting cast is also excellent. Danai Gurira has really come into her own and made Michonne more than just a bad-ass with a sword, while Melissa McBride remains one of the most underappreciated actresses on television these days.

    Production values remain top notch. The gore effects are always well done, creative and inspired – this season is no exception. There are a few spots where some questionable CGI work seeps in but for the most part the show’s mix of practical and digital effects works really well. It’s also worth calling out how impressive some of the set design is in this season. The crew that worked behind the scenes constructing these sets really stepped up this season. As the series deals with issues of the human experience, faith and mortality against its post-apocalyptic backdrop, you can’t help but get sucked in by it all even if it is basically a soap opera with zombies.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Walking Dead was shot mostly on 16mm film, so expect a fair bit of grain in the presentation (thankfully the powers that be chose not to scrub it out). The quality of the 1.78.1 widescreen AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation is strong throughout offers nice depth and detail, much better than standard definition could have provided, but sometimes appears a bit on the soft side when compared to other HD presentations. This appears to have been an intentional decision on the part of the production team and in the context of the series' sense of impending doom and apocalyptic despair, it actually works quite well. Color reproduction has a nice, natural feel to it and though the series tends to rely more on earth tones and drab interiors there are bright spots where it pops, such as the green of the plant life or the warmth of a light in a dimly lit room. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts to note save for a couple of darker spots where some minor bits block up, nor are there any issues with heavy edge enhancement to complain about. Things shape up quite well here, really, and the series looks very good.

    The same high praise can also be levied to the series' English language Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, which comes with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. Pretty damn close to perfect, this mix offers fantastic bass response and a really tight lower end, which you'll notice when you feel the impact from every bullet fired and every punch thrown. There's some great surround activity present throughout the six episodes that make up this first season, be it the moan of a zombie in the rear channels, a bullet zipping from left to right or some insects buzzing around near a still corpse. Directionality is tight and well placed and the excellent quality of this mix really enhances the viewing experience the way a good lossless mix should. Dialogue is perfectly balanced and the series' instrumental score is mixed in perfectly to compliment the action, drama and horror without burying any of the effects or dialogue. The quality of the sound in this set is very impressive indeed. An optional French language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also included here.

    Extras are plentiful here, starting with commentary tracks recorded by the cast and crew for the following episodes spread out over the first four discs in the five disc set:

    The Day Will Come When You Won't Be: Scott M/ Gimple, Greg Nicotero and Michael Cudlitz
    The Cell: Angela King and Norman Reedus
    Rock In The Road: Greg Nicotero and Alanna Masterson
    Hostiles And Calamities: Denise Huth, Austin Amelio and Josh McDermitt
    Bury Me Here: Scott M. Gimple, Lennie James and Melissa McBride
    The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life: Scott M. Gimple, Greg Nicotero, Lauren Cohan and Alanna Masterson

    The commentary tracks are well paced and packed with a lot of information that fans will no double appreciate. We get in-depth discussions on locations, quite a bit of detail on the effects work, plenty of anecdotes from the cast members on some of the everyday experiences that are involved in working on a show like this. We also get some insight into character development, some thoughts on the evolution of the story, a whole lot of ‘who did what' type trivia and loads more. If you've listened to past commentary tracks recorded for the first four complete season releases then you'll have a good idea as to the quality of these tracks, and if you haven't and you want to learn more about this series, this is probably the best way to do that.

    The rest of the extras are on disc five, starting with Inside The Walking Dead, a collection of episode specific featurettes that take a closer look at the core story events and characters from each episode. There's approximately seventy-five minutes of material included in this section and while these only run between two and a half and five minutes each, they're pretty interesting. We get individual pieces on the following episodes:

    The Day Will Come When You Won't Be / The Well / The Cell / Service / Go Getters / Swear / Sing Me A Song / Hearts Still Beating / Rock In The Road / New Best Friends / Hostiles And Calamities / Say Yes / Bury Me Here / The Other Side / Something They Need / The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

    Like past complete season releases, this seventh collection once again includes a collection of The Making Of The Walking Dead featurettes. These vary in length from two to four minutes in length so they're pretty quick but they give us a look behind the scenes of some specific episodes and show off what went into some of the effects and stunts and other more technical aspects of the series. There’s a featurette here for each episode in the season.

    From there, a few more featurettes are included. Up first is the seven minute In Memoriam which, as you’d probably guessed from the title, is a look at the characters are killed off in this season and the repercussions that these deaths have in the show and amongst the cast members. A Larger World is a four minute segment that explores what went into making some of the bigger, more intricate sets used throughout the season, while the five minute Breaking & Rebuilding piece explore the impact of season seven’s events specifically as they relate to Rick Grimes. A New Chapter of Fear spends five minutes exploring the impact of the opening episode and the eight and a half minute long Top Walkers shows off some of the more memorable zombies to have shambled across the screen in season seven. Warrior Women is an eight minute look at the female characters that populate the show with some insight from cast and crew into what makes them as strong and as interesting as they are, while the four minute The Writers of The Walking Dead is a quick talk with the writing team about what keeps them coming back to the series and what they enjoy about their work.

    The five discs also come accompanied by a download code for a Digital HD version of the episodes. The Blu-ray case fits inside a nice embossed cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    The seventh season of The Walking Dead might just be the best one yet – it ramps up everything that makes the show great: the horror, the drama, the humanity, the tension and, yes, even the gore. It’s well written, well-acted and remarkably gripping. The Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and contains a nice array of extras. This won’t convert those who don’t appreciate what the show brings to the small screen, but for fans? Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!