It came as no surprise that the show tried to drag out who had been killed in the season 6 finale as long as they possibly could. Although I believed, after seeing the finale, that they should have revealed who died, I was willing to suck it up and just wait for the premiere. However, this was under the impression that it would be revealed quickly, of course, it wasn’t, and I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t have revealed it sooner. Fans like myself weren’t itching to find out who died during the hiatus, or at least stopped wondering who it might be after a while. When I discovered (through spoilers before I’d seen the episode) who died I was not at all surprised or even impressed in some ways.
If you’re a fan of the Walking Dead I believe there are moments in this episodes that you will really enjoy and appreciate, but be aware, especially if you already have issues with the show, you might find things that really bother you.
Before I get into this I have to say I really appreciated the throwback to Dr Edwin Jenner in season 1 with the episode title. It was a simple way to show how much is changed and to perfectly frame how much the characters, especially Rick, have gone through.
THE REST OF THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
I have also split this review into sections so it’s easier for you to find something specific.
THE PRE OPENING CREDIT SCENE.
The episode starts with the (seemingly) immediate aftermath consisting of a zoomed in shot of Rick’s face so we still can’t tell who has been Luciled. My biggest problem with this scene is Rick’s “I’ll kill you” comment. Okay, sure, it’s an emotional and horrific time and Rick isn’t one to shy away from challenging anyone who threatens him or his family, but it really was not the time. After seeing what Negan is capable of I think even Rick would know to keep his mouth shut, but sure, I can buy it if I have it. The real problem comes when Negan basically asks him to repeat himself and Rick continues to say “not today, not tomorrow, but I’m gonna kill you.”
Although he was clueless, season 1 Rick was very smart and tactful in very different ways. The show seems to have over the seasons taken him away from that, or at least tried to add to it. They’ve made him more reckless, arguably stronger, and more of a survivor, but in doing so, especially the first one, they’ve been made him kind of stupid. Sure season 1 Rick would have been out of his element here, but he would have known that no matter how much Negan deserves to die, in that situation, you keep your mouth shut, play your cards right, and wait for a more appropriate moment.
I will say, the first interesting moment for me came when Negan dragged Rick into the trailer. I haven’t reached that point in the comics where Negan is introduced, but I was very impressed with Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s portrayal at the end of the last season. In that scene I remember why I liked him so much.
Although I’m a against dragging out who died, it was a good scene to have before the opening credits, all except for the last shot. What was the point in showing the gory remains of someone’s head if you’re not going to tell us who it is? Now, maybe there’s a clue in there that I missed, but it really doesn’t seem like it. It just felt like another attempt to remind us that there’s a death, but we’re going to have to hold out just a bit longer to find out who.
THE FLASHBACKS AND VICTIM REVEAL
The flashes to each character, each possible victim. The black and white scenes moved so quickly that you can’t seem to catch what’s there. Not in a way that you feel it’s meant to be like that, that you’re not supposed to be able to see, but in a way where it feels like bad editing. Seen as it’s Rick thinking back, it would make more sense to have it flash to a character and then fade into a black and white shot of the first time that character met Rick, or even a special moment between them, and do this for each character.It would have much more impact and would be a special and emotional break up of the action sequence of Rick fighting the Walkers in the smoke.
The slight echo to Negan’s voice when it flashes back to show you what happened, was an effect that I really appreciated. However, the constant flashes to Rick’s zoomed in face was not. I was more indifferent to it. I could see what they were trying to do, but soon it just started to feel unnecessary. As nice as Andrew Lincoln’s eyes are, I could have survived without seeing them as much.
Poor Abraham, his death is well done, I will say that, however they managed to drag out the reveal for 13, nearly 14 minutes, which to me is unnecessary and I can’t help but feel that everything that happened beforehand was just a way to get the audience riled up again and feeling that tension because they made audiences wait several months.
Back to Abraham’s death. The little peace sign he throws up as a goodbye for Sasha was such a perfect moment and I’ll admit I teared up a little. Having seen that moment before I watched the episode, I even teared up then. Also his last words “suck my nuts” was by the far the most perfect and fitting words for Abraham. If you took out the flash to Rick’s face, the whole thing would have been so perfect. Having Eugene and Rosita was fitting because of how long they travelled together for, and of course he’s had a relationship in some way with both of them. And Sasha having her shot was also fitting because of how she and him had grown close. Although maybe Abraham could have been given more scenes, we did see some great moments with him since he joined, and he’s also had some pretty important and huge moments, we even got a goodbye scene between him and Eugene last season, so of course if anyone was going to die he was a pretty good choice.
When they start to flash around to other characters after it momentarily cuts back to Rick on the RV, that works, because we’ve seen arguably the three most important people in Abraham’s life and their reactions, before anyone else.
Daryl’s reaction. Before I say too much more if I blame him in any capacity it’s only ever so slightly, for the most part I don’t. His reaction does come across like a knee-jerk one, we’ve seen him act instantly and impulsively in the past, however it comes very close to just being entirely a stupid decision. Daryl, especially in later seasons, doesn’t seem to do anything to deliberately hurt the people he cares about, so I genuinely believe that part of his thought process told him that in punching Negan he will be the one to die or be punished as a result. However, suggesting that means he had time to think therefore would have had time to realise what a stupid choice he was making, but also if he didn’t have time and never thought about the consequences, then he acted impulsively without thought and consideration for those around him. It is a hard one though. There’s so many factors and possibility that make this a very easy argument to start. I’ve seen plenty of arguments for and against blaming him, and some, on both sides, make very compelling arguments.
THE SECOND KILL
Now onto Negan’s second kill, that’s right, if you haven’t seen the episode but are reading this review anyway, that’s two people who die not just one. I’ll start by saying I’m one of those people who was not happy in the slightest about this whole thing. Why Glenn? You can argue, as most do, that it’s because he’s the one to die in the comics. But then surely it should have been him and him alone, or at least he should have been the first of the group to die at the hands of Negan. You could argue that he just happened to be in range, but so was Rosita, and Daryl attacked Negan in part for how he was speaking to her, so it would be kind of fitting for Negan to turn around and kill her after Daryl reacted that way. Don’t worry, I don’t think it should have been her either. I don’t think it should have been anyone, a second kill wasn’t needed, but the point stands.
Glenn’s death was both disturbing and not needed in the slightest. I’ll give credit where credit is due and say they got the comparison between Glenn’s caved in face (and bulging eye) in the comics and the show down perfectly. I’m not going to add in pictures because it’s pretty horrific, but you should definitely look it up. Top marks for that and to those involved in recreating it, however, it was very extreme. I personally am not bothered by things like that in fiction, however, I know a lot of people found it hard to stomach, and those who could stomach it, didn’t want to.
Everything about Glenn’s death screamed shock value, which instantly strips away from the emotion of it. I don’t think it was Glenn’s time. I can’t remember the last time we had a decent and big story line with him, and also we barely saw him leading up to his death. That’s not to say he should never be killed, I have a firm hope that the show will end on a “last man standing” scenario (which I think should be Rick or Carl and/or Judith) or with Rick’s death (how cool would it be when the show technically starts with him waking up from a coma?) so I’m okay with characters being killed off, however, this wasn’t the time.
His fake death in season 6 was much more admirable. We got to see Glenn constantly stand up for himself and show how capable and useful he was in several episodes leading up to that one. Although it would have been disappointing that it was because he was dragged down into a crowd of Walkers, at least the death would have been filmed in a decent way and it would have been so powerful. Even though I think it was clear it wasn’t Glenn in the fake death scene, it was still powerful to have that gross shot of the insides being pulled out and Glenn screaming. It definitely had more of an impact on me that his real death did. Plus, the fact that they pulled the “Glenn’s dead… Just kidding, he’s alive!” trick twice last season made his real death less emotional.
It’s so apparent that they were trying to be big and brutal and dark, and although it was brutal, it was also unpleasant, and not in good way.
Carl is by far one of my favourite things about this whole episode. The way he doesn’t try to hide his anger, but he also doesn’t do anything to really push Negan’s buttons. He’s clearly unimpressed and angry, but also completely in control of himself at the same time. I feel like him and Negan will have some great and explosive scenes together in the future.
The scene where Carl is going to get his arm chopped off was a much clearer and impacting display of Negan’s power and how truly horrific he is. I still had problems (mostly the loud music/noise that suddenly cut), but by the time it got to Negan telling Rick that he owns him, I was actually invested. I was glued to my screen and completely captivated.
As Negan’s group (the Saviors) are leaving I was a little unsure of the music, but it worked surprisingly well. Having that play with the shots of the characters clearly and deeply affected by all the events was a nice touch.
The real aftermath after they left really had me going. Just little moments like when Sasha
stood up and went to Maggie and they touched their foreheads together for a moment. The fact that those who were there because they were trying to help Maggie, didn’t blame her (and rightly so of course!). The scene between Sasha and Rosita, although the former was adamant in what she was going to do, it was clearly a way of her saying “hey, I’m going to do this, but I want you to know, I want you to be on board.” Then the others helping to move Glenn because Maggie isn’t strong enough, and her hug with Carl.All of these moments knitted together perfectly to make a very heartbreaking sequence.
I feel like the what if future of them sitting around the table was a nice little touch. It wasn’t too much, it was just right.
Admittedly by the end I was crying, but that was mostly down to how the events played out once Negan and that left. The music, the way the characters acted, it all added up and made me quite emotional. However, I do think the episode was quite disjointed.
There was a lot in there and it felt like different episodes as a opposed to one. Abraham’s death could have been put in the season 6 finale, or this episode should have started with it. They could have had a close up of Ricks’ face with the echo-y voices over the top as it fades into the flashback to reveal that Abraham was the one to be Luciled, then it could have gone on into Rick being dragged into the RV and everything else that happened. I still firmly believe that Glenn’s death did not need to be included, and if it wasn’t it would have been more intense in future episodes because you know they could still go with a similar comic-death, but you won’t know when. It would be shock value but it wouldn’t seem forced.
The ending after our group is left alone was my favourite portion of the episode, followed quite closely by the section where Rick is being asked to cut off Carl’s arm. This episode suffered majorly from trying to be bigger and better, when all it really was was brutal and unpleasant. If they just had one death, the “bring me my axe” scenario, and Carl’s arm that would have been plenty to show off Negan’s power, in fact, you didn’t even need all of that. Because they’ve shown so much now it makes it clear that some of the more traumatic episodes with Negan are going to be a even more brutal and extreme, because if they don’t there’s that idea that some fans will feel like it’s not as strong as the opening.
The acting in this episode was superb as it always was. I do still feel like the Walking Dead is a good show and I would recommend it to anyone, it’s just not as good as it once was and it’s drifted very far away and is in fear of never being able to right itself and find it’s balance again.
I will say this, the good moments in this episode were really fantastic and it gives me faith that eventually they’ll get back on their way to being consistently good.
Some things I’m curious about now and are going to be looking out for in the future:
- What will happen to Daryl? We know what’ll happen if the group mess up, but what if Daryl does? Will he die or will someone else?
- I hope Tara gets her chance and appropriate screen time to grieve. Yes, the others who don’t know about these events deserve that as well, but Tara has lost her girlfriend (Denise), a man who was like her brother (Glenn), and a friend (Abraham) and she has no idea. I fear they may skim over her grieving for Denise at the very least.
- How will everyone at Alexandria react?
- Will they get Maggie to Hilltop? Will the baby be okay?
There’s many more questions and I’m not sure if any of them will be answered in episode 2 seen as it will also focus on the Kingdom and King Ezekiel. I’m looking forward to that though, and I’m looking forward to see how they split it up. It doesn’t look like they’re going to do what they did with the Governor and have one episode on him, one episode on the prison. I feel like it’s all going to blend together a bit more this season, and that would work well in it’s favour.