The Walking Dead 7.16 Review – ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’
Welcome to the Season 7 finale! Last week, I was unsure of how they would turn the tension for the finale, but I am happy to say that The Walking Dead delivered something solid and satisfying. It’s nearly impossible to top the introduction of Negan from last season, but this episode brought on the action and drama I was hoping for.
The plot: A lot of gears are set into motion early on: Sasha is given her assignment from Negan, Dwight pledges to the Alexandrians that he wants to bring the whole of Negan’s operation down with them, the Kingdom is on the move, and Maggie debates whether Hilltop will join the fight today as well. In between cuts of Sasha in the dark listening to music and remembering her last private conversation with Abraham on the day he died, we see the Scavengers arrive en masse at Alexandria, bombs being rigged, snipers being placed. Sasha bargains Negan down from three people will have to die to just one person has to die that day before they seal her up in an overly dramatic coffin for the ride over. Eugene asks Negan for a chance to talk down his former friends, which he’s given, but it fails and Rick signals for Rosita to blow their explosives…except nothing happens. The Scavengers made their own deal with Negan and turn on Rick’s people, pinning them all down with their guns while Michonne faces off with her fellow sniper in a knockdown, drag-out, very physical fight. However, Sasha’s plan turns the tables as it turns out she took the suicide pill on the ride over, intending that when Negan opened the coffin later, she would be turned and hopefully would bite and kill him. While Walker Sasha doesn’t get a bite in on him, this does change everything, and a firefight ensues–started by Carl, no less! Outnumbered, the Alexandrians are pinned down again and Negan is about to kill Carl when Shiva the tiger leaps on someone! The Kingdom and Hilltop are here, and with their aid, the Saviors are driven out. Michonne bested her opponent and still lives as well. As Maggie tells Rick how this all started with Glenn choosing to help him in a voiceover, we see the three communities gathered and being addressed by their three leaders, and Daryl finds a carved toy soldier from Dwight reading ‘Didn’t Know’. Back at the Sanctuary, Negan addresses his own men: “We are going to war!”
So, yes, Negan yet lives and the threat of the Saviors is very much alive as well, but that’s a good thing. Negan has brought an incredible energy and new life to this show that has completely changed the dynamics of the world Rick and his allies live in, and while it would be torture (possibly literally) to live there, damn if it doesn’t make for great television. And I also look forward to seeing an extended treatment of the war between these groups next season. This was a solid kickoff event, however: a lot of good action, a big increase in tension, and I always enjoy seeing these characters work together as well as they do. Plus, we finally got to see Shiva tackle and maul someone! I do wish that fight had involved more tiger action, but Shiva sure did have a great entrance. As did Ezekiel, for that matter, with his cane sword and theatrical declarations.
I think what slightly takes away from this, for me, is that I never doubted Kingdom and Hilltop would get there in time. Maggie having to make the decision of whether or not to go–well, like she tells Rick later, it was a decision made a long time ago. It was a nice to show her as the new leader of Hilltop to have the scene where she and Jesus discuss the matter, but it was a foregone conclusion. If they’d had the time, I think a better way to set this up would’ve been framing it as her not being sure how well the decision would go over with the rest of Hilltop. They may like her and all, but for her first big call to be for them to go to war? That’s a big ask even if you are a popular leader. However, given they only had so much time to work with, this wasn’t really possible. Likewise, I may have forgotten that the Kingdom would be there if we hadn’t seen them earlier, but at the same time I respect the necessity of this scene for the arcs of Morgan, Carol, and Ezekiel. In particular, seeing Carol and Morgan having completely swapped roles is interesting, but almost moreso than that, Ezekiel’s compelling invitation to Morgan to join them, telling him that he did not need to be stuck. It was a short scene, and a short speech, but it worked and I liked it. We saw Carol’s long journey into isolation and back again, and we know Morgan’s been down this dark road before. There’s no need to see this particular path walked yet again, and it speaks to the connection Morgan felt with both the Kingdom and Ezekiel to have the King’s extended hand be the one to pull Morgan away from the edge of the pit he stood on, metaphorically speaking. Regardless of this, it did mean the show was showing its hands about these two communities coming to the rescue.
The twist I only barely saw coming was the Scavenger’s betrayal. As the Alexandrians set up for their showdown, something about it started to feel just slightly off to me. There was suddenly an air of menace, and I was left wondering yet again who had informed on Rick being up to something. I almost feel foolish for not realizing sooner that there was really only one possible answer to that question, and sure enough, minutes, Jadis turned her gun on Rick. Still, this reveal was well-played, and if I’m honest, I’m fine with the Scavengers being bad guys; I never liked them much anyways. I would not have minded seeing Jadis killed here, but her still being out there is also a worthwhile choice. The Scavengers clearly look out for themselves above all, and this means that Negan didn’t get to deliver on what he promised to Jadis. So, their loyalty could be bought again by either side. Of course, I wouldn’t blame Rick for not going there again after what happened this time. They’re a wild card, which has its pros and cons, but it can also yet change the game.
Speaking of wild cards: let’s talk about Sasha. She pulled a hell of a gamble with her sacrifice, but things worked out such that it completely changed the game, alright. Now, Sasha is no Glenn–her death isn’t as hard-hitting as that one was. Let’s be honest, though, few deaths ever will be. Sasha has been around for a while, though, so it’s still a big loss. And an oddly peaceful way to go–with the suicide pill, she essentially died in her sleep, the most calm and normal death we’ve ever seen on this show. At the same time, she went out knowing it could save all of her friends if her walker-self could manage to get the bite in on the person she knew would open the coffin. Unfortunately, she didn’t, but the shock of her death and turning saved everyone from being shot in the street by the Saviors and Scavengers. She gave Hilltop and the Kingdom the time they needed to get to Alexandria. It was a brave and bold sacrifice, but it paid off. And as we saw from her fever dream of Abraham, the fact that it would help her friends is what made it worth doing.
Now, was that actually a fever dream? Was it a flashback? I lean towards the former. It plays out as though it may have been the last conversation she had with Abraham before they left on that fateful trip to Hilltop last season, but their conversation is a little too on the nose for me to believe that. Plus, in retrospect, we know she was saying aloud the things she was saying in her conversation with Abraham. That and the entire conversation focusing on self-sacrifice, on losing their relationship when it had only just begun, is what convinces me this was something Sasha imagined as she was dying. I think the sunrise with Maggie might be as well, but it’s unclear who’s remembering that–Maggie or Sasha. The inclusion of it felt a little unnecessary, in any case. It was nice seeing Abraham again, though. His presence here and Maggie’s speech to Rick about how Glenn started this whole thing were both great reminders of the two men Negan took from these people. They might be gone, but they very much live on because they continue to inspire the people they love and who loved them. They are gone, but they are not forgotten.
Which brings me to Eugene, and why there may yet be hope for him. Sasha tells him he could still measure up when he apologizes for not doing so. And Negan’s suspicion of how Sasha died has shaken what looked to be a solid foundation for Eugene among the Saviors. With both Abraham and Sasha, two of his good friends, having given their lives for others now, will Eugene finally find his courage next season? I suspect he will; I hope he will. But right now, in this episode, he was very much a black hat, right down to his wardrobe change. Eugene is no longer in poorly fitting shirt and dity cargo shorts, with a frizzy mullet mop, but sporting gelled hair, suit pants and a sleek wool peacoat. Life is good at the top, and he admits readily that he traded allegiance for safety and comfort. We all know Eugene is a coward since he frequently reminds us, but what isn’t said is that Eugene lets his forthrightness about that fact be his excuse for it as well. But self-awareness doesn’t mean you get a pass when it comes to being judged or to being forgiven.
In conclusion, we had a solid season finale that has the show poised for an exciting Season 8 come October. As always with a season finale, everything has changed, although this time a lot of those changes were predictable, and that took something from them. Season 7 was an ambitious one, and while it’s reach exceeded it’s grasp at times, it introduced us to the new world and next stage of The Walking Dead in what I would say was an overall satisfying way.
– Quotes! A lot of good ones this time.
— “You are smart. Hot as hell, dignified as shit, and you don’t suffer one goddamn fool.”
— “Punishment. You can’t do anything without that. Punishment is how we built everything we had.”
— “You got me wrapped around your little finger, you know that? And it’s not a man-woman thing, if you had a dick, I would still have these feelings.”
— “Do you seek to extinguish everything of who you were?” “I don’t seek it, but…I’m stuck.”
— “The Saviors are a dragon with many heads.”
— “I hate the beach. Ending the day in a wet suit? It’s like sandblasting your nutsack every single step you take back to the car.” You always did have such a way with words, Abraham!
— “Will you comply Rick?” “…where’s Negan?” “I’m Negan.”
— “You ever hear the one about the stupid little prick named Rick who thought he knew shit but didn’t know shit and got everyone he gave a shit about killed? It’s about you.”
— “We lay our big meaties across the chopping block ahead of someone else’s.” So they both go. “Hanging your ass on the line for someone else. Tearing it to shreds for them. You said it before–‘Oh my, that is living.'” “You’re an idiot.” “I never said otherwise.”
— “Though I am a selfish coward, I do on occasion think of other people. I do wish I’d measured up.” “You still can Eugene. I’m not giving up. Not on you.”
— “Damn. You are something else.” The last words ever spoken to Sasha.
— “Deal was for 12, yes. 10.” “12.” Silence. “…10.”
— “I told you, I’m gonna kill you. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But nothing is gonna change that, nothing. You’re already dead.”
— “Alexandria will not fall! Not on this day!”
— “They’ve got a goddamn tiger!”
— “We..we…” “I know. We are. We will.”
— “We are going to war!”
— “The decision was made a long time ago. Before any of us knew each other. When we were all strangers who would’ve just passed each other on the street before the world ended. Now we mean everything to each other. You were in trouble, you were trapped. Glenn didn’t know you, but he put himself in danger for you. That started it all. From Atlanta to my daddy’s farm to the prison to here. To this moment now. Not as strangers, as family. Because Glenn chose to be there for you, that day, a long time ago, that was the decision taht changed everything. It started with both of you, and it just grew. All of us. To sacrifice for each other. To suffer. To stand. To grieve. To give. To love. To live. TO fight for each other. Glenn made the decision, Rick. I was just following his lead.”
– Shiva killing a dude was fun, but that CGI was not the greatest.
– Seriously, good on you Carl, starting the fight back against the Scavengers
– Can Dwight indeed be trusted? And what’s going to happen with Gregory? Will we ever see Sherry again?
– Thank you as always for following this season, and I’ll see in June for Fear the Walking Dead and in October for Season 8!