CS Soapbox: TWD Showrunner Angela Kang Deserves More Credit
First and foremost, this isn’t an attempt at changing individual perspectives on how a fan (or former audience member) might feel about The Walking Dead in particular, but the lack of credit showrunner Angela Kang receives for being an excellent captain of TWD’s ever-fluctuating ship is criminal. Let’s give her a little love, shall we? *Major Spoiler Warning Ahead*
In season nine of The Walking Dead, longtime writer Kang had a lot on her plate when she took over the showrunner reins from Scott Gimple, who now serves as Chief Content Officer over the ever-expanding franchise. Kang and her team of writers had to navigate the aftermath of losing Chandler Riggs’ Carl Grimes, closing out Rick Grimes’ story on the series alongside Andrew Lincoln’s massive departure, in addition to all of the time jumps, broken communities, the introduction of the infamous Whisperers, and Lauren Cohan’s hiatus from the show. Throughout the last two seasons, Kang and the writers proved they were up to the task. The team steered the show back into its strengths, performing a miracle by refusing to allow the show to falter post-Rick, no matter how much we all miss Andy. Kang gracefully welcomed fans into the next arc of the story and has continued to keep the show on track ever since.
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Season 10 came with its own set of tricky narratives, specifically diving into The Whisperer War while confronting the iconic villain Alpha, brilliantly played by two-time Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Samantha Morton, and her intimidating and brutal Beta, portrayed by the uber-talented Ryan Hurst. Kang and the writers also had to navigate the crucial storyline focusing on Negan infiltrating The Whisperers, right out of Robert Kirkman’s comic books. Long story short, Kang and the entire Walking Dead gang nailed Alpha’s arc in the series, with an unforgettable conclusion that will make the 10.12 episode (directed by Greg Nicotero and written by Eli Jorné & Nicole Mirante-Matthews), titled “Walk With Us,” an instant classic in the show’s run.
The Walking Dead excels at unexpected and jaw-dropping episodes the minds behind the series will layer throughout a season. Moments you would usually expect only from a season finale or even a midseason finale are often played out at any given time, making the show still as unpredictable and as exciting as it was when it first premiered in 2010. “Walk with Us” is a perfect example of how much Kang, her team, the cast, and the crew continue to kick ass 10 seasons in.
We’ve wondered for a while now who freed Negan from his jail cell earlier in the season, and the mystery was revealed as suddenly as Alpha’s shocking and brutal demise. Those who have read the comics knew that there was a possibility the writers would follow Negan’s comic book arc regarding the Whisperers, but as the series has veered away from the source material plenty of times before, you can never really predict what route will ultimately be taken. We got our answer quickly enough when Negan, after subtly attempting to alter Alpha’s perspectives a bit during his brief stay with the skin-wearing antagonists while also forming a sexual relationship with the leader, slit Alpha’s throat and gently lowered her to the ground as she died.
Negan pulling this epic sneak attack on Alpha — who thought the former Savior leader was handing over her estranged daughter, Lydia — wasn’t what made the biggest impact; it was the timing and the visceral emotion behind the act that also served as a moment of peaceful release for the disturbed Alpha. Even with a few bumps in the road over the years, the writers have struck a wonderful balance of drama, horror and gore, complex examinations of humanity, and what that all means when it comes to family, community, and survival. Under Kang, the show has reminded fans what makes the post-apocalyptic tale so special. Negan connected in some small, significant way with Alpha, even sharing a very personal story about his wife who passed away from cancer before the apocalypse began, as the two unwittingly found fragments of humanity within one another despite their past (and present) ruthless actions and over-the-top brutality. Even so, Negan knew he had to put Alpha down as the grasp of her reality, established in The Whisperers’ code that they are the “end of the world,” was too tight as she was determined to kill everyone that defied her, including her own child, to grow her walker horde. Negan also had to follow up on his end of whatever deal he made with Carol, the one who freed him from his prison.
In addition to Negan killing Alpha and delivering her zombified head to the revenge-driven Carol (whose character is currently going through an intense psychological transformation stemming from the devastating murder of her and Ezekiel’s adopted son Henry at the hands of Alpha) and revealing that the two have been in cahoots, the very next episode served as Danai Gurira’s farewell to Michonne in the series (fingers crossed the katana-wielding badass will appear elsewhere in The Walking Dead universe, particularly through a reunion with Rick in the planned movies we cannot wait for). In one of the strangest, yet effective, TWD farewell’s to date, the audience went on an unexpectedly trippy ride with Michonne that allowed us to deconstruct the entirety of her character, what makes her fundamentally good, what we are going to miss about her, and reminded us why her character has been so crucial to Rick Grimes, the other characters, and the show itself.
Kang helped guide a satisfying end to the character’s time on the series, as Michonne’s journey came full circle at the end in a way that only shows her incredible growth over the series as she says goodbye to her daughter Judith before venturing out into the world to find Rick, the Brave Man, after learning he may still be alive, even stopping to help a couple of strangers and teasing what might lie ahead in Michonne’s future. Again, these emotionally heavy and surprising turns are often saved for monumental occasions like season finales, but The Walking Dead never hesitates to swing big every chance it gets, doing its best to never waste a second of screentime.
With that said, like most long-running shows, The Walking Dead has had its fair share of rough patches over the years. Fans obviously are not required to stick around if they’re upset that their favorite character got their heads bashed in by a barb-wired baseball bat a few seasons ago (I get it). Not everyone agrees that the series has maintained a solid throughline throughout its 10 seasons. But no matter where you stand on the overall quality of the series, anyone staying caught up on the show will have a hard time effectively arguing that Kang and her team have not done an excellent job making the horror drama fresh and exciting once more, delivering some of the most memorable episodes of the series. If you ever found yourself stepping away from the series, and even an ounce of you has considered jumping back into the world of the walkers, now is the time to dive in headfirst and remember why The Walking Dead is one of the most influential pieces of pop culture of the last decade — and how Angela Kang remains an absolute storytelling queen and fearless leader who deserves nothing but endless praise.
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Are you still a fan of The Walking Dead? Do you agree or disagree that Season 9 and Season 10, aka the current Angela Kang era, have been two very solid seasons of the series? Sound off in the comments below!