The Walking Dead: season 7 episode 1 review – The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be
Earlier this year fans of The Walking Dead were left hanging when the season six finale ended on a major cliffhanger, wondering who was at the receiving end of Negan’s baseball bat, Lucille. After months of waiting, the season seven premiere has finally aired, delivering one blow after another. Quite literally. Below is our spoiler-heavy review, which will include comic references.
Directed by Greg Nicotero and written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple, the episode picks up shortly after the final moments of the season six finale, and it’s obvious that the violence to someone in the line-up has already occurred. We see blood splattered across Rick’s face as he delivers a death threat to Negan with quiet conviction. Negan isn’t impressed, feeling that his message was not delivered effectively enough, and he drags Rick off to the RV and takes him on a ride for a little one-on-one time to make sure his intentions and expectations are loud and clear. What follows is an intense dramatic and action packed sequence during which the gruesome events that just took place are revealed through Rick’s flashbacks.
Though this was arguably somewhat frustrating for viewers, it was a practical and emotional way of slowly revealing who was at the receiving end of Lucille. The tension slowly builds over the course of the episode as Rick comes to realize what he and his group are up against. The scenes in the RV play out like a psychological thriller as Negan toys with Rick in order to convey his message, even forcing him to survive a herd of walkers in an effort to force Rick into submission. As ever, the special effects are superb and this walker sequence stands out as one of the best of the series to date.
Through Rick’s flashbacks, we finally see the full version of Negan’s deadly game of eeny meeny miny moe. Taking liberties with the theme of the game, Negan ultimately lands on Abraham. It’s clear that this was his intent all along, as he doesn’t exactly play by the rules and is obviously doing it for theatrics and intimidation. Unfortunately for poor Abraham, from Negan’s perspective he was the most logical choice. Physically imposing and with perceptible military experience, Abe was the biggest threat. Furthermore he was the only individual in the line-up to posture up against Negan as he was toying with them by waving Lucille in their faces. Though it’s a shame to see such an iconic comic character go, it feels like a fitting end to Abe’s story. As it is, his character died prior to these events in the source material, and it felt as if he was already on borrowed time. Since his demise in the comics was completely random and unexpected, it was somewhat of a comfort to see him have a meaningful death.
Tragically, Abe was not the only victim taken by Lucille in this episode. His death triggered an extreme reaction in Daryl, who lunged at Negan and slugged him in the face. Though an understandable reaction, it proved to be a costly one. For a brief time it seems as if Negan might let it slide, since he has Daryl placed back in the line-up. However, Negan punishes him by taking the life of another, and the biggest blow of the episode is delivered straight into Glenn’s head. Though comic fans anticipated Glenn being the death this episode, the way it transpired and the sheer gruesomeness of this scene is undeniably gut wrenching. It was horrific enough to see sprawled across the black and white comic book pages, but seeing it played out on screen is an entirely different experience and one that will not be forgotten. Not by fans, and certainly not by the other characters.
These were the events that inspired Rick’s death threat, though why he would risk this after everything that transpired is beyond me. And even after the terror inducing RV ride, Negan is still not convinced that Rick will yield to him. In a final effort that will either seal the deal or end the lives of everyone Rick knows, Negan has everyone remaining in the line-up held at gunpoint. Everyone except for Carl, who is taken to Rick and made to lie on the ground. Here Rick is given an ultimatum, he must sever his own son’s arm off or everyone else remaining dies. This was the stand out scene of the episode for me personally, as seeing a parent grovel for the safety of their child always strikes a nerve. Carl’s bravery here is to be commended when he insists that his father go through with it to save the lives of those they considers family. Completely out of options, Rick is about to comply when Negan stops him at the last second, knowing that he has him exactly where he wants him. This is the new world order, and Negan is at the helm. Alexandria are now among several of the groups that will provide for Negan and The Saviors, and they know all too well the cost of deflecting.
The deaths of Glenn and Abraham will impact the series going forward, shifting the tone and narrative forevermore. It’s worth noting here that creator Robert Kirkman intended for issue #100, which this episode was adapted from, to potentially be a breaking off point for fans. He’s mentioned in interviews in recent months that anyone sticking with the comic up until that point had made a huge commitment, and he wanted to give readers an epic event which would essentially present them with a personal choice to either move on, or to continue reading and delve ever deeper into the world of The Walking Dead. Though this may not be the intent of the series, it’s certainly something for viewers to consider. This episode was an emotional blow, and things are not likely to get better anytime soon. Negan and The Saviors are not going anywhere, and can be expected to remain a key element for several seasons to come. However, that does not mean there aren’t exciting things forthcoming. Through Carol and Morgan, the next episode will introduce viewers to a key comic character named Ezekiel and his community, The Kingdom. These events will broaden the horizon of the world fans are used to seeing, and the various communities, who are all governed by Negan, will eventually unite in a massive effort to defeat him. How that all transpires will ultimately have a surprising outcome and is something to look forward to.
As premieres go, this was a monumental effort. To say it was enjoyable would retract from the tragic fates of both Glenn and Abe, but it was certainly…effective. The cast were all superb, but specific mentions go to Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs, Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who were all phenomenally convincing. Nicotero as a director is developing his own unique style that I find intriguing, and I always look forward to his episodes. As always, composer Bear McCreary delivers brilliantly and truly helps to create an extraordinary atmosphere. As someone who can’t help but get emotionally invested in both the series and it’s actors, I wish both Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz the absolute best in the careers, and their characters will always hold a special place in my heart. May they rest in pieces. Too soon?
Image credits: AMC, FOX TV