Welcome to Scripted TV Hangover, our new blog series that recaps the other side of television. As I (Colin) frequently reference during the podcast, I’m pretty addicted to a lot of shows that fall outside of our reality mantra and I thought I’d share that addiction with you! Today I’ll be recapping the Season 7 Premiere of The Walking Dead.
If you’ve watched the episode, read on and let me know what you think in the comments. If you haven’t watched yet, get out of here as there will be spoilers from this point onward.
---Last Spoiler Warning!---
Well, here we are. The Negan-ing has occurred and left quite the mess for our heroes to deal with, both emotionally and physically. (Well that walker at the end seemed okay with taking care of the spilled brains.) Joking aside, we lost two of our principle characters in Abraham Ford and Glenn Rhee. Not to slight Abraham, everyone’s favourite “Mother Dick”, but Glenn has been with us from the start and his death will have a greater impact on both the characters and the fans. It was a jam-packed episode covering the two aforementioned deaths, a wild axe chase, and almost another lost body part for Carl. Let’s take it from the top.
We open on Rick, with the scene previewed at Comic Con 2016. As we learned later on, this occurred after both Abraham and Glenn were Lucille-d. At this point, Rick was his usual self after losing a member of his A-Team. “I’m going to kill you. Not today, not tomorrow, but I’m going to kill you” he said to Negan. This quiet confidence was what forced Negan to take an extra few steps in his hiring of the Alexandrians as his latest piece of property.
Based on the six seasons of The Walking Dead we have experienced up until this point, Rick was right to say and feel this. He’s faced a plethora of worthy opponents up until this point. Even though he’s experienced loss, he has come through stronger each time. So at this point what makes Negan different? Isn’t he just the next level boss in Rick’s story? Well, Negan doesn’t think so. He needs Rick to feel it this time. He needs to break Rick like he’s never been broken before. Here’s how he does it:
First, he takes Rick into the RV. There’s a bit of action before they depart where Negan offers Rick the opportunity to make his actions meet his words and kill Negan with an axe. But just like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark he brings a gun to an axe fight. Negan doesn’t shoot Rick, though. Instead, he takes him to one of the road blocks from the Season 6 finale, which is now overrun with walkers.
Negan throws his new axe into the horde and instructs Rick to bring it back to him. Rick ventures out as instructed, but makes his way on top of the RV to escape being swarmed. Through this scene, Rick has flashes of everyone in the lineup and black-and-white memories of their opening moments. Did anyone else think the first flash (Rosita) meant that she was the one who took the bat? I sure did and promptly yelled at my television about them wasting this big moment on her... until the second flash happened and I clued into the stall tactic.
Negan encourages Rick – as any employer should for a new hire – to continue with the assigned task with an unorthodox but effective management technique, shooting around him! This forced Rick to take the world’s worst zip-line ride down a walker hanging from the bridge into a swarm of other walkers, which Negan also shot. Rick then finds the axe and makes his way back to the RV, downing a series of walkers in the process.
Interlaced with these scenes are our two deaths. Negan repeats his eenie meenie countdown and dolphin-smoothly lands on Abraham Ford. After the first hit, Abraham straightens his back as if he hadn’t been hit at all, and spits out his final one-liner, “Suck my Nuts”. Unfortunately for Mr. Ford, Negan doesn’t oblige, instead choosing to repeatedly Lucille his head until there’s no head left at all. Seeing the reactions from the crowd, Negan decides to taunt the Grimes Gang, choosing Rosita to wave Lucille at (covered in pieces of her former lover). Seeing her breaking down sets off Darryl, who lunges at Negan with a punch to the face. Bad move Darryl, very bad move.
This forces Negan to live up to his word and take things one step further. Thankfully we don’t have to watch Rick be fed Carl’s other eye (as previously promised) but unfortunately, this is the trigger that makes us lose one of our Season 1 originals, Glenn Rhee. We get a heartbreaking moment after Glenn has taken a few hits, where he tells Maggie (barely) that he will find her. So much of Glenn’s arc is recent seasons has been losing and finding Maggie, so this was a fitting final line. You can tell that this second death carries more weight with the survivors and brings Rick to the episode’s opening line.
Picking up with Rick and Negan in the RV, the show bates us into thinking that Rick’s hand is next on the chopping block (literally). Between the “right-hand-man” talk in the opening scene to Negan sterilizing the walker-blood-covered axe, they aren’t being subtle. Rick comes through the scene with both hands, but based on Negan’s next move he wishes he hadn’t. Rick and Negan return to the lineup, with the latter giving his latest monologue. This time, he’s unsure if Rick is ready to be an obedient servant.
The final test he chooses is to force Rick to cut off Carl’s arm. Michonne tries to reason with the head of The Saviors, but that isn’t enough. He needs to know Rick truly believes what the Alexandrians have gotten into. He needs to feel that Rick is broken, and he gets what he needs. After protesting and offering to have it be his own arm in place of his son’s, Rick raises the axe and prepares to swing. But, Negan stops him there, saving the producers on their visual effects budget and leaving Carl with both arms.
Negan says he’ll be back in a week to claim “half their shit” and the Saviors head out. Left with the RV and the hiring bonus of a truck, the Alexandrians stay down, utterly destroyed by the night’s events. Maggie, gathering new strength from tragedy, is the first to rise. She quotes the usual Rick Grimes rhetoric of needing to go after the Saviors to kill them. Rick and the others reason with her and the group stays together, choosing to continue with their previous mission of getting her to the OBGYN at The Hilltop. They take what’s left of Glenn and Abraham with them leaving only the head-spatter for walkers.
Looking at the episode as a whole, I was pretty pleased. To me, doubling down on the killing was a good enough reason to force us to wait it out over the summer. If we experienced Abraham’s death before the hiatus, I for one would have been disappointed that this iconic death wasn’t a more longstanding character. If they had then returned and given us Lucille 2, The Chamber of Rhee-crets (sorry that was terrible) it would have felt like they backtracked on their original decision based on fan reaction, which is never something I want to see.
Looking at previous season premieres, I find myself drawing comparisons to the Season 5 premiere. Both episodes open on our heroes kneeling down in a lineup, facing death from a new threat. However, instead of being rescued by G.I. Carol, this time the bad guys won. This is what The Walking Dead needed, a loss for our heroes. A threat the audience can genuinely feel worried about. This was an excellent launch into a season I couldn’t be more excited about. Next week it looks like we’ll be checking in with Carol and Morgan, which will lead us into another new location filled with characters – both human and feline – that I’m excited to meet.
Thanks for reading and see you next time on Scripted TV Hangover!