SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
The Walking Dead Season 7 Premiere Plot Summary:
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) makes his decision on which member of Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) crew is going to “have a date” with his barbed wire baseball bat, Lucille.
The Season 7 Premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead was one of the most important episodes in the history of the highly rated zombie apocalypse series.
Let’s face it — no one was placing Season 6 on the Mount Rushmore of television — or even the Mount Rushmore of this series. It had some strong episodes, and I even really liked most of the finale, but there was a whole lot of same old same old going on, mixed with some weird and wild action sequences, terrible character decisions, and way too many “did this person just die?” moments.
It was a season that, had I not had to review the series for Pop-Break, would’ve driven me away from a series I’ve been with since Day One.
Yet, despite how much I really hated last season, I still had to know who Negan killed.
If the series was ballsy, they would do something radical thus renewing the masses faith in a series that was getting pretty stale. If they decided to play it safe and kill off another periphery character (e.g. Aaron or Rosita), the exodus en masse would’ve begun.
What we ended up getting was not only a really masterfully created episode from both a visual and narrative standpoint, but probably one of the best episodes this series has ever produced.
Let’s break down why this episode worked so well.
1. They killed the right people:
The right choices were definitely made when it came to who ended with Lucille buried in their skulls.
Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), as awesome as he was, had to go. He was a character that beloved enough that his death meant something, but he wasn’t so vital to the series that it would’ve caused everyone to peace out like if they killed Daryl.
From a storyline perspective, Abraham was on a road to death. Remember how much he wanted to die last season? So, it only makes sense that he’d stand tall, puff his chest out and give Negan the death stare. From Negan’s point of view, he needed to break the crew of their iron will, and what better way than to take out their best warrior? From a series perspective, Abraham’s presence really sent Daryl into the background as he was basically a bigger, redder version of everyone’s favorite crossbower. Abraham’s death also could inspire Eugene and Rosita to step it up in the series.
With Abraham dead, you figured he was the only person who’d die. While his death was super violent, and unnerving it was the perfect swerve for the second death. Everyone who knows the comics knows Negan kills Glenn, and kills him pretty terribly. But, we also know the series often strays from the books. So we all figured Glenn was safe.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Glenn’s death was one of the most brutal, non-Game of Thrones death’s I’ve ever seen on television, and I’m probably not alone in saying that. His eye popping out of his head as he professed his love for Maggie (who can never have nice things), was ungodly horrifying.
Killing Glenn, while “predictable,” is still a gut punch to fans of the show. This is the first time since Andrea in Season 3 when an “OG” cast member was bumped off. This was a ballsy move by the creative team. It’s a reminder that anyone on this show can go at anytime again. We had far too many “Star Trek Red Shirt” characters dying while our main heroes escaped scratch free. Now, we’re afraid again…and that’s a good thing.
2. They established a villain who you actually despise, and kinda fear:
Negan is an unmitigated piece of garbage…and I can’t get enough of him. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was the perfect choice for this character, and he imbues the same devilish charisma, and menace that he put into his other great role — The Comedian in The Watchmen. Morgan never goes into scene chewing campiness with Negan, but boy does he have fun with this role. He’s probably the best character addition the series has seen in years. Unlike The Governor, who used violence to maintain the visage of the pre-apocalypse, Negan relishes the new world. This is his time in the wasteland, and he gets off on being a dictator in this cruel, cruel time. I cannot wait to see his origin story, and where this series takes this character.
3. They ended the “Rick-tatorship”
The end of Season Two marked the beginning of the “Rick-Tatorship.” It was an effective move from a narrative and character standpoint, but man oh man was it getting old. Last season he was just completely out of control, and while Andrew Lincoln always delivers in this role, the character was becoming uncomfortable to watch. How many times was he going to yo-yo between a man of peace, and a man of complete batshit crazy violence?
Now, we see a new Rick…well sort of a new Rick. This “broken” Rick (not to be confused with Broken Matt Hardy), reminds me of the frightened, wide-eyed Rick who stumbled out of the hospital in Atlanta in Season One. He’s a babe in these woods. No longer can he growl death threats at the villains, because this villain bites back.
The story here is an obvious one — the wounded warrior must re-find his way in order to save his loved ones — and it’s one that given Lincoln’s talents will be a really good one to watch (if they don’t string it out too long).
4. Walkers were scary again:
When was the last time walkers were a threat, or even remotely threatening on this show? It’s been years! Yes, the big herd battle was fun, but that was more run-and-gun action rather than sheer terror. You know that terror that made you a little worried when you took out the garbage after watching a Walking Dead episode? The terror that had you secretly planning how you’d defend your home if there was an invasion? The scene in the fog with a defenseless Rick was beautifully done. The use of the fog, and the horde of zombies was so hard to watch. It was one of the best things the series has done in a long, long time.
5. There’s a lot of new possibilities now:
For the first time in a long time, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the show. I mean I have an idea (they’ll eventually beat Negan), but I don’t know how long it’ll take, who’s going to die along the way, or what going to happen with these other communities out there.
And you know what, that makes me excited. I’m so tired of the: “find a new place, battle local authority, take it over, things go to hell” cycle the show had been on since they got to the prison. I want the unpredictability of the series back, and I want the fear back. And I think this episode proved both are back, and they were dripping off the barbed wire bat Negan carries.