The Walking Dead S7E1 Review: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” [Warning: Spoilers Ahead]
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! turn back now if you haven’t seen the premiere episode of The Walking Dead.
Well, the long eight-month cliff-hanger came to an end last night with the season 7 premier of The Walking Dead. Some part of me feared they would begin with a Carol episode in a tragic way of further ratcheting up the tension. Thankfully, I was only half-right, since they focus entirely on the events of the cliffhanger but we still don’t find out who died until about halfway through the episode.
Hence, we begin about 5 minutes after where season 6 ended with Rick in shock seeing the gory Lucille shoved in his face by Negan. Still unbroken and vowing revenge, Negan decides to take Rick for a ride to help adjust his attitude. When Rick remains defiant, Negan resorts to demonstrating his total domination and public humiliation.
I’ve helpfully broken down Negan’s delightfully awful diplomacy into these steps:
- Randomly killing a friend;
- Killing another friend as punishment for acting out;
- A one-on-one chat featuring life-threatening danger; &
- A public and humiliating demonstration of how powerless his trading partners are.
Because let’s be clear: this was a trade negotiation. Negan was annoyed that Rick’s group killed his men, sure, and he wanted to definitely “shut that shit down,” but his goal was not to kill Rick’s group. He could’ve done that at any time, as he made perfectly clear.
Instead, he wants to work with Rick’s group. He wants them to be good little doggies and fetch him resources so they can all survive the apocalypse (Negan even tells Rick he’s a “good boy”). At the end of the episode, he leaves them an extra truck as a gift to haul the stuff they’ll begin giving him as tribute in one week.
This is why Negan is such a powerful antagonist. Unlike the Governor, whose goal became total annihilation when he assaulted the prison with a tank, Alexandria remains completely intact even after Negan seems to have won. Instead, it now serves as a cog in Negan’s organization, the extent of which Rick and his group are only now beginning to understand.
Rick has developed incredible leadership skills over the previous 6 seasons. Negan dedicated an entire evening to personally beating that out of him. He doesn’t need another alpha dog, he needs a beta. By the end, when Carl (ever the pragmatist) tells his dad peevishly to just cut his goddamn arm off already, you could see the terror in Rick’s eyes. This entire episode was carried on the shoulders of Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and they both did a fantastic job. Negan’s toothy smiles and Rick’s increasing cowering were the beautiful centerpiece of one of the most intensely-violent season openers of the series. Make no mistake, Rick’s group are living in Negan’s world now.
The cinematography was also fantastic, including shots of the bloodied axe buried in the RV table with Negan chatting in the background, Rick lying face-up and lost amidst a sea of the dead, and, especially, the last shot: a lone zombie stumbling out of the woods as Rick walks back to his RV, broken. Last season, the residents of Alexandria were focused on zombie elimination, trying to clear the areas around their settlement and expand their walls. Now Rick sees this pathetic creature and turns away disdainfully. If only his problems were that easy. Tone set.
Of course much of the chatter will be about the character who fell at Negan’s hand, tallied at two dead, one captive. Abraham was the first to go, chosen “at random” (we’ll get to that in a second) for a brutal demonstrative braining. He died as he lived: a badass. “Suck my nuts!” are a pretty great set of last words. Enraged, Daryl follows up with a slug to the cruel leader after he taunts Rosita with the gory bat, and Negan just looks disappointed. Now he has to kill another. Shutting that shit down and all. This time he targets Glenn.
Both beatings are brutal, and the show is not afraid to show the gory details. They even lift one of the best lines from the comics as he beats in Glenn’s skull while he tries to tell Maggie he loves her. That’s so gross, Negan laughs as Glenn’s eye bulges from his collapsing skull. It’s brutal. It’s violent. And it’s very well done.
As a final cherry on top of Rick’s castration, Negan takes Daryl with him: he likes the wild man’s spunk. Although Negan gives the appearance of randomness, what he’s done is take the three most intimidating men out of Rick’s roster. He’s trying to weaken Rick to the point where he will comply, and he seems to have succeeded. Unfortunately for him, Rick is still not without powerful allies, including many powerful female warriors (Carol, Michonne, Rosita et. al.).
I’m very excited to see how Daryl takes to captivity with the Saviors, especially since he is more or less directly responsible for Glenn’s death. Guilt and confusion can do strange things to a man.
A Sunnier Future Never to Be
The episode ends on a bitter-sweet note: a lost future in which Rick is sitting with his entire extended family over a lovely Thanksgiving-esque meal in happier times.
The camera pans through them all before settling on Glenn, Abraham, and Maggie’s baby: this is the future Negan stole from them. It remains to be seen what they can do about it.