“Welcome to a brand new beginning you sorry shits.”
The Walking Dead is back! And this episode had a tough job to do. It had to prove to the angry half of the fan base that the cliff-hanger was a device worth using and that holding out on the iconic death scene for months was more than a ploy for viewers and hype.
The title of this episode is a callback to a key exchange from season 1. After being allowed to go free from the soon-to-explode CDC, Rick tells Dr. Jenner that he’s grateful. Jenner tells him that “the day will come when you won’t be.” This is that day. The day when Rick finds himself surrounded by at least a hundred thugs, with their leader about to smash one of the group’s head in. And there is nothing Rick can do about it. This is the first real time Rick has been powerless. He’s been beaten before (by the Governor) but he always manages to get away or at least put up a fair fight. For the entirety of the previous season, we’ve seen Rick go from strength to strength, killing everyone in his way until he and his group were at the top of the food chain. It’s difficult to watch him looking so weak now.
The deaths themselves were as gruesome as you’d expect, and just as heart-breaking. First up it’s Abe who, as Negan says, “takes it like a champ”. His little gesture to Sasha before he gets killed and his defiant “Suck. My. Nuts.” was Abraham all over; strong to the very end. But then it’s done. As harrowing as it was at least it was over. The group are broken but at least it’s done. Then Daryl steps out of line, does what everyone is thinking, and hits Negan. So someone’s got to pay. That person is Glenn and it’s excruciating to watch, even he doesn’t see it coming. The image of Negan laughing as Glenn gurlges blood, with his eye hanging out and his head caved in, will make the baseball bat wielding psychopath go down as one of the most evil villains in TV history. It’ll be interesting to see what the writers do with Daryl from here. The guilt of knowing that he got Glenn killed is going to be difficult to live with, and after being taken by Negan at the end of the episode, he’s not going to get chance to forget it.
Speaking of the violence in this episode, it is excessive but I am surprised by the amount of fans threatening to stop watching because of it. Admittedly it’s only a small, if vocal, minority but I have to ask, what did you guys expect? The showrunners followed the comics down to a tee with this scene, yet people are still upset at the level of violence. When they don’t follow the comics people complain then too. As someone who read the comics it was amazing to finally see this scene on the show. I remember reading it a few years back and thinking there was no way they could replicate it on the show. It does seem like the majority of the fans are floored by the comic finally coming to life, but a few ‘critics’ still feel the need to write think pieces on violence in television. Leave the thesis at home and just enjoy it, or stop watching. Bravo to the people behind the scenes for actually going through with it.
A lot of the episode was taken up by Negan testing Rick, or breaking him, or just turning him into his bitch. Which is sad to see when it’s the character you’ve followed for years being forced to cave to Negan. One really tense scene was when Negan told Rick to chop of Carl’s arm or the whole group would die. I really thought they would go through with it, but I’m glad they didn’t. After the other two deaths, it was a nice twist to have Negan stop it. And it proves his point anyway, Rick and the gang belong to him. Andrew Lincoln’s performance here was amazing. We’ve seen a weak Rick before but never a snivelling, begging Rick. On the subject of acting, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the perfect Negan. We saw how awesome he was in the season 6 finale, but that was only half of the character. Negan is terrifying but also funny. I found myself laughing at him even when a beloved character was crying or gurgling their last. What can I say, the man is charismatic.
Did this gruesome episode make up for the cliff-hanger? Personally I think the shock of Glenn’s death made up for it (despite any leaks before the episode). But to a lot of critics, it seems they are still salty over the way AMC handled that finale and it’ll no doubt be the same for a few fans. If you hated the cliff-hanger that much to threaten quitting the show, you didn’t have that much loyalty to the show to begin with. But I do think the cliff-hanger was a necessary evil, a means to an end. There’s debate that maybe if they’d shown Abraham’s death and saved Glenn’s for the opener, a lot of fans would have been happier. But there would have been complaints then that they’d deviated from the comic. I was frustrated when I saw the cliff-hanger, the same way I was frustrated when Hank discovered the truth about Walt in Breaking Bad, and had to wait a year to find out what happened. But the show is back now, give it a chance and forget about how the last season ended. Plus, however you feel about the cliff-hanger, I have never seen a level of hype for a show as I saw for this episode. Plus I liked the theories about who died, the diagrams and analysis of every second of the scene. It was like watching Lost again and it gave the fans something to argue about whilst the show was off the air.
The show is back and, good or bad, it’s being talked about more than ever. That’s pretty impressive for it’s seventh season. At it’s centre it might be pulp, but it’s well-made, well-acted and a lot of fun to watch. I can’t wait to see where they take the story from here.
- Rick jumping on the walker was cool. The neck stretch and snapping felt like excellent, b-movie zombie gore. It was awesome.
- The music was really great, especially in Glenn’s death scene.
- Some of the shots of Negan in the headlights were really striking. I don’t feel the show gets enough recognition for it’s direction.
- Poor Daryl.
Reviewed by Jack