Last night, The Walking Dead returned to our screens in horrifically-triumphant fashion – and nothing will ever be the same again.
Seven fucking months we’ve been waiting for the new season of The Walking Dead to air, and for us to finally find out who was at the receiving end of Negan’s barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat Lucille.
Countless debates had raged about it, with people writing lengthy articles and filming hundreds of hours of analysis on YouTube. In the end, though, none of us knew what would happen until last night.
And I don’t care who you are, or how smart you think you are – none of us saw it coming.
The episode was almost half way through before we finally saw that it was Abraham who received the business-end of Lucille – and it was a triumphant death. The magnificent ginger bastard died as he lived – staring into Negan’s eyes and taunting him to ‘suck my nuts’ before finally having his skull turned into mush.
But the ordeal was far from over – and that’s what made last night’s episode so effective.
I groaned when Abraham died. I thought it was a typical TWD cop-out, like Glen’s supposed death at the hands of Walkers mid-way through the season. Sure, I liked Abraham – but I wasn’t invested in him, and his was the character they could most afford to kill off without alienating anybody. Even more so because in the comics, he’d already met his death at the hands of the Saviors by then.
But just as I groaned in disappointment, something wild happened. Darryl took a swing at Negan, and he held true to his promise to ‘shut that shit down.’ And a moment later – just like in the comics – it was Glen getting Lucille embedded in his skull.
It was brutal, it was unexpected, and the visual parallels between the screen and the page were unsettling. Just like in the comics, Negan beat Glen to death in front of his pregnant wife – but because of the scene with Abraham, none of us saw it coming.
It was storytelling at it’s trickiest, sneakiest and most unforgiving; and bless the folks from TWD for doing it. It set things up perfectly for Negan’s final act – forcing Rick to cut off his own son’s hand – because at that point we really didn’t know whether he’d go through it or not. The magic of the first season was back – when we truly couldn’t know who would live and who would die, and everybody’s life was at risk.
Season 6 had showed that The Walking Dead had become stale and safe. Even Carl getting shot in the face didn’t make us feel any sense of dread or horror – it was just ticking a box in the comic book checklist.
But last night? The slate got wiped clean, and everything and everybody is in jeopardy again. It’s going to make this next season almost painfully exciting to watch; and hopefully return TWD to its place as the ultimate in horror/survival television.