So, it finally happened. After a very long wait, the seventh season of AMC’s The Walking Dead has finally begun. After the tease in the end of the last season, we finally got our first full taste of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan and his effect on the show’s story, and it was glorious. Read on with caution, as there will be spoilers after the break.
Holy shit! This is a monumental episode in the Walking Dead’s seven year run. It is a milestone that marks the beginning of a new story arc, one where Negan’s presence is constantly felt, even when he is not on screen. The Walking Dead comics have a 3 to 4 defining “Red Wedding” moments that separate the story arcs. Issue 100 is arguably the biggest of these moments, splitting the entire series into two halves-before Negan, and after Negan. The showrunners have done fans a huge favor by not toning this moment down one bit, and instead making it far more brutal and traumatic than it was in the comic books.
Seriously, this was over the top and sadistic. However, it was also necessary. Team family needed to pay for what they did to the Saviors, and they paid big time. They didn’t just pay with Glenn and Abraham’s lives-after this episode, our survivors are completely mentally crushed. More than it was about deaths in the team, it was about Negan’s successful effort to psychologically reprogram Rick into his own subservient pawn.
The episode starts out with Rick’s defiant declaration: “I’m gonna kill you. Not today, not tomorrow, but I’m gonna kill you,” he tells Negan. Negan brags about still having a living right hand-man, but Rick is still not really getting Negan’s message, so he throws him into the RV. Rick tries to attack Negan from behind, but is quickly put in his place. Then Negan decides to play a game with Rick. He drives the RV into a herd of walkers, and throws Rick’s axe out of the van, and instructs Rick to go fetch it, saying that Rick, the axe, and all of Rick’s people belong to him. After some struggle, we finally go back and take a look at what happened back at the beginning of the episode.
We get a quick replay of the last few minutes of the last season from Rick’s point of view. We see that Lucille ends on Abraham, and Negan promptly ends Abe’s life. Negan notices that Rosita is particularly distraught at Abe’s death, and he begins to torment her. Daryl is enraged by this, and manages to get a punch in on Negan. Negan decides to teach Daryl a lesson by killing someone else for his actions. He suddenly turns around and swings the bat at Glenn, after which we get a really brutal and graphic scene. It was weird, I was giddy at seeing these events play out on screen, from Glenn’s eye popping out, to Negan’s “Lucille is a vampire bat!” joke. It was pure and welcome fan service for fans of the comic books.
After some more tormenting by Negan, Rick finally gets the axe back. Negan drives back to the rest of the group, and comments that Rick still doesn’t have the right “look.” He has still not broken Rick. So we get another extremely sadistic scene, where Negan makes Rick cut off Carl’s arm, or else he will kill everyone in the group. After some mental struggle, Rick totally loses his composure, and is about to actually do it before Negan stops him. He got what he wanted, and now Rick is totally broken.
Negan leaves, ending the scene with his famous “ta ta” from the comic books. Now, the people who remain finally have time to grieve, and it’s particularly hard to watch for Maggie, who seems to feel responsible for these events. The episode ends with them loading the bodies into a truck, and driving away. Sasha and Maggie are continuing to the Hilltop, while the rest of the group heads back to the Alexandria Safe-Zone.
So, this episode was DARK. It is by far the darkest episode in the entire series. The amount of psychological distress they put the characters and the audience through is massive. In a single episode, they establish that Negan is an EVIL, sadistic villain, eclipsing all other villains the show has presented so far. In terms of tone and fan service, this episode was superb. There were two MVPs this episode: Andrew Lincoln as Rick was superb this episode, and the way he absolutely lost his shit in the scene where he is going to cut Carl’s arm off was superb. Then, last, but not least, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance as Negan was incredible. While the episode has not done anything to improve the show’s historically bad pacing, sometimes milking the emotional potency in the scenes pays off. This is particularly true in Glenn’s brutal death scene.
Stay tuned for regular Walking Dead coverage! This is a strong opener for the new season, leaving a dark cloud that will hang around the show for the rest of the season.
+Jeffrey Dean Morgan kills it as Negan
+The episode is tortuously savage. It’s hard to watch, in a good way
+Glenn’s surprise death was one of the most shocking moments in the entire show
+The acting is superb, especially from Andrew Lincoln, Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan
-The pacing was extremely slow. The events of this episode probably didn’t need to be stretched for a whole episode
-Did we really have to wait 20 minutes to finally get the death reveals?
-The dream sequences and what if scenes felt like extremely unnecessary padding