“I’m gonna kill you….not today, not tomorrow….but I’m gonna kill you.”
OK, well, we’ll just see about that. Now that the entire world has had a chance to see The Walking Dead‘s season 7 premiere, and we’ve had a chance to process what transpired, it’s time to take a look at what just happened, and what this means for the show going forward. Suffice it to say, *** SPOILERS *** are to follow.
After an excruciatingly long six month wait since we last saw Rick and ten of his ‘family’ knelt before new villain, Negan, fans have been dying to know who would meet their demise at the end of Negan’s barb wire bat, Lucille. Would they stick to the comics? Would they totally surprise us with someone we didn’t expect? Would there be more that one death?
“You can breathe, you can blink, you can cry. Hell, you’re all gonna be doing that!”
Based on how season 6 ended, it seemed as though only Abraham had the cojones to stand up to Negan, not backing down, and seemingly daring him to take his best shot. Well, Negan did that and more. Abraham did manage to flash the peace sign to Sasha, which was a really nice touch if you caught it. And after the first whack on the head, “Red,” as Negan sarcastically referred to him afterwards, was able to get one last Abeism in before being reduced to a bloody, pulpy mess in front of everyone else. Now, that could have been the end of it. But good ol’ Daryl up and got in one good shot at Negan, which prompted the baddie to retaliate by taking out one more. If the man has any redeeming quality, it’s that he’s a man of his word. Perhaps, down the line, that could play in favor of Rick and his now smaller group. But for now, poor Glenn becomes victim number two so that Negan’s message can be heard loud and clear. It’s a testament to Glenn’s inner strength and love for Maggie that he too gets back up again after being clobbered, not once, but twice. In one of the show’s most horrifying images, and one we’ll not soon forget, a bashed in Glenn gamely struggles to utter the most heartbreaking of lines when he says, “Maggie, I will find you.” Is this line from the past all that Glenn in his damaged state can muster up? Or is he implying that he will find Maggie once again in the next life? Either way, it is heart-wrenching.
“I can see this is hard on you guys. I am sorry. I truly am.”
With that, Negan has clearly and decisively established himself as one of television’s most memorable villains. At once charming and vicious, he has managed to command a very large army by strength, intelligence and intimidation. He doesn’t choose his victims at random. He carefully surmises who means what to whom, and who can be of use to him. On the one hand, you get the sense he feels some empathy for the group. But on the other hand, he also relishes what he’s doing, taking a special demented pleasure in not just murdering his victims, but reducing them to to a bloody, gory mess, even splashing Rick’s face with some of Abe’s blood. I imagine even his followers were like, “whoa, dude,” but who among them would dare to say anything lest they become his next victim? Take a look at Dwight, for instance, with his burnt face, possibly suffered at the hands of Negan?
As for Abraham and Glenn, their deaths make the most sense and should come as no surprise. Abraham, in the comics, had died a little earlier, via arrow through the eye, a fate that was given to Denise instead on the show. His death directly impacts Sasha, Rosita and Eugene, and it removes a possible future threat to Negan. Glenn, who had escaped death so many times before, most notably the crawl under the dumpster ordeal from last season, met the same end on the show as he did in the comics. This, of course, affects a pregnant Maggie the most, but the rest of the group, Rick especially, as well, as Glenn’s been there from the beginning, and had become the heart, soul, and voice of reason and compassion in the group, qualities which previously belonged to Dale, Herschel and Tyreese, and we all know what happened to them. It’s a sad statement on this post-apocalyptic world that those who retain their empathy and kindness for their fellow man aren’t long for that world.
“Hey Rick, go get my axe. Let’s be friends.”
The death of two major characters should have been enough for any episode, but no, Rick had to defiantly threaten to kill Negan, eventually. Clearly, Rick hasn’t quite gotten the message, so Negan drags him into the RV, drives out and parks in the midst of a herd of walkers and tosses Rick’s axe onto the roof and tells Rick to go fetch. Clearly, Rick is now Negan’s dog, at least he will be soon. This harrowing sequence is masterfully played out early in the episode, before we know the fates of those in the lineup. It is as Rick reflects on the prior events, that we learn of Abraham’s and Glenn’s demise. After Rick does manage to retrieve ‘Negan’s Axe,’ with a little halp from Negan, as he doesn’t want Rick to die -where’s the fun in that? – Rick is brought back to the rest of the group, where he’s told to cut off his son’s arm with said axe. If he doesn’t, the consequences, as we’ve already seem, will be much worse. It’s a horrible position to put someone in, but it’s the one final means of breaking Rick down completely and putting him in his place. Alas, Negan cuts in just in the nick of time to prevent Carl from losing another body part, but Rick is no more, he’s Negan’s now.
“I bet you thought you were all gonna grow old together….it doesn’t work like that, Rick. Not anymore.”
Finally, this agonizing ordeal is over, for now, as Negan and his gang take off, leaving Rick and company in shambles with what remains of their fallen friends. Maggie, even in her weakened state, still wants to fight, and take care of Glenn’s body on her own and make her way to the Hilltop, but the rest won’t have it. They’re a family now more than ever, and what little strength they have, they’ll need to gather it up together in order to survive in this new world order of Negan. While Daryl’s rash attack resulted in Glenn’s death, which will surely haunt him, this spunk he’s shown has intrigued Negan, who has Daryl taken away to probably break down like he did to Rick. Negan is most definitely an interesting fellow, and it will be fascinating to see more of him, and hopefully, get a backstory episode to see what got him to this place. And remember, from his point of view, Rick and company are cold-blooded murderers who killed a number of his people in their sleep. One could argue that Rick is equally as evil as Negan, from a different perspective.
So now we can move on. There have been some viewers who, appalled at the level of violence and cruelty in this episode, have declared they are finished with the show. As the episode’s director and f/x guru, Greg Nicotero says, this means the show is effective in making you care about the characters, and that, as a viewer, he’d think you’d want to remain “dedicated to watching a show to see where it goes next.” As fans of the ongoing comic are well aware, there is plenty of story left to tell. And might we add, if you are outraged over the shocking violence of the show, what have you been watching the past six seasons? Do you remember what happened to Hershel? To Noah? To Jesse and her son? This is an extremely violent world where the dead eat the living, and the living do even worse. While we are sad to see Abraham and Glenn go, we know that it was necessary to shake things up and propel the narrative forward. Plus, as their storylines had ended in the comic, which serves as the blueprint for the show, continuing with their characters would have been difficult. And no doubt, if their characters hadn’t been killed off, there would have been a number of fans crying foul as well for deviating from the world of print. You can’t please everybody, but The Walking Dead remains a massive hit and the most compelling, suspenseful and gut-wrenching show on television. The Gore 4 for one, or should we say, four, is thoroughly invested in the series and can’t wait to see where it goes next.
— review by Brian de Castro