I’m going to start a new thing:
Every Wednesday I’ll post my thoughts and feelings about the previous episode of The Walking Dead, starting with this past Sunday’s episode, the long-awaited premiere of season 7. This isn’t necessarily a review of the show, but instead just my thoughts and feelings about what happened, and where I think the group will go.
***Beware of spoilers***
The Walking Dead, Season 7, Episode 1
October 23, 2016
We’ve been waiting months for the season 7 premiere, and it’s finally come and gone. Wow. The episode nearly broke the Internet, and possibly a lot of people’s brains. It was rough. We knew it was going to be, we had months to prepare, but it seems like a lot of people just couldn’t prepare themselves for what happened.
Season 6 ended with most of Rick’s group (Rick, Carl, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Sasha, Aaron, & Michonne) lined up in front of Negan, who was about to put them in their place by brutally beating one of them to death with his bat, Lucille.
All summer long we were warned that this was going to be intense. The Walking Dead is known for its gore and special effects, and these are all characters we’ve come to love, so no matter who got chosen, we knew it was going to be rough. Sometime during the months between the end of season 6 and the beginning of season 7, I heard rumors that two people would be killed, so again I was prepared. I also knew that in the comics Glenn was the one chosen by Negan. But the show doesn’t always follow the comics, and I felt pretty certain that Abraham would be chosen this time around. He’d just traded Rosita for Sasha, and had finally reached a point where he felt like he could start over, so it made sense with how the arc of the show usually goes. In the back of my head, although I didn’t want to admit it, I also had a good feeling Glenn would be the second one. I hoped it wouldn’t be true, of course, but we all know that no one is safe on this show. Maybe Rick, but even his death wouldn’t surprise me.
No matter how prepared I was for the premiere, it was still rough. Just like I thought, Abraham was chosen by Negan, and his death was both horrifyingly brutal and devastating for the group. It was nothing compared to Glenn’s end, though. That part of the show will be forever tattooed on my mind. It was unforgettable and heartbreaking, and the fact that Maggie, who is pregnant with his baby, was right there watching the whole thing made me physically sick. Even now, two days later, I can’t think about it without feeling nauseated. Glenn’s last thoughts, his last words, were of Maggie. Letting her know how much he loved her. Saying his goodbyes despite the agony he must have been in. It was gut wrenching.
To say the premiere was gory is an understatement. Watching someone get their head smashed in with a bat will leave an impression on you, and the amazing special effects that The Walking Dead is known for weren’t missing in this case. It was made worse by the fact that the entire group had to watch, and you could see the shock and anguish on everyone’s faces, but the thing that tipped it over the edge was the utter glee expressed by Negan. I’ve read some of the comics, but not all of them because I don’t want to get too far ahead of where we are in the show, so I haven’t reached the part with Negan in it yet, but I’ve heard that he makes the governor look warm and cuddly. He is, by all definitions, a sociopath. No one can do the things he did on the premiere and not be disturbed, and despite the fact that I loathe this character so much, Jeffery Dean Morgan is brilliant casting. He’s charming, which is a common characteristic of sociopaths (Don’t believe me? Google Ted Bundy and read a little bit about his early life, he was known as a charming man.), and even though there are people out there who will try to deny it, I have literally no doubt in my mind that men like Negan would thrive in an apocalyptic scenario.
But the deaths of Abraham and Glenn weren’t the end. Rick was dragged into the RV by an axe wielding Negan, and I thought for sure (about a dozen times during the premiere) that he was about to lose his hand. If you’ve read the comics, you know that Rick loses his hand to the Governor. I’ve been waiting for it to happen on the show and I was sooo sure this was it! He doesn’t, but then Negan puts him in an almost Biblical situation: Cut your son (Carl’s) arm off or everyone dies. There’s Rick, literally sobbing, while his son is on the ground in front of him and everyone else in his group has a gun to the back of their heads. It’s an impossible but obvious choice: he has to do it. He knows it. Carl knows it. Carl tells him to do it. Negan is counting. It’s so intense and all I can think is: Rick will never recover. He will be broken forever if this happens. Thankfully, Negan stops him, thinking he has broken Rick enough. He’s wrong, of course. He’s reined Rick in for the time being, but he isn’t totally broken. Not yet. I honestly think, though, that if Negan had forced Rick to go through with it, it would have been the end for the group (or at least the end of him as a leader). He wouldn’t have been able to recover. He almost lost his mind after Lori died and he didn’t have the constant reminder of his failure right in front of him. With Carl, though, he would have been there every day, and every time Rick looked at his son, he would have seen his failure in Carl’s missing arm. It would have eaten away at him, ground him down until he was nothing inside but dust and ashes. He would have been lost for good.
So where are we now? What do I see playing out for this season? Well, Negan took Daryl, which means he’s in real danger. Even worse, Daryl was unintentionally to blame for Glenn’s death. The group was told not to move, but Daryl jumped up and punched Negan, and Glenn paid the ultimate price. Daryl will blame himself forever. He is a deeply emotional character who internalizes everything (Remember how he was after Sophia walked out of that barn?), and even though he’s come a long way, I think this may be a real setback for him. He’s a fighter, so he’ll do what it takes to survive, but I’m afraid the guilt he’s going to carry with him may be irreversible. On top of that, the group is stuck. They can’t run because it would mean leaving Daryl behind, and they now know the consequences of crossing Negan. They work for him, he owns them, and at this point, they’re all too wounded to really do anything about it. Our only hope may be the new group that Morgan and Carol find themselves with. Again, I haven’t read that far in the comics, but these people could be a real ally against Negan. Even more, they could be the only hope Rick and his group has.
My final thought about the premiere of The Walking Dead is this: Andrew Lincoln is a phenomenal actor. Amazing. That man makes me believe this show is real. He literally broke right in front of our eyes. You could see him fall to pieces. Could see his anger and rage crack and shrivel away, leaving only pieces of the man behind. I believed every second of his performance. I felt it. He made me hurt. Seriously, everyone involved in this show is awesome, but Andrew Lincoln is mind-blowing. Watching the evolution of his character over the years, I already knew he was great at what he does, but seeing the range he has squeezed into one hour of television cemented that in my mind. This show would not be what it is without him.
I’ve seen a lot of posts about the show, and some people are saying they are done with it. Not because of who died, but because the gore has reached a point where they just can’t stomach it anymore. Then there’s the other camp who is calling them names and saying they’re babies for being upset, which I personally feel is ridiculous. People are entitled to feel how they feel. End of story.
Even though I’m not ready to give up on the show (I love it too much) I get how people are feeling when it comes to the violence Negan inflicted on the group. This episode was really hard to watch. I’m on the fence about the gore and violence personally. I totally understand why people feel sick, because that’s how I felt years ago when I watched the movie Hostel. I still can’t think about it without feeling physically ill. Others are shouting things like “it’s a zombie show, it’s always been bloody” and “you’ve seen zombies rip people’s throats out, but this is where you draw the line?” There’s a difference, at least to me. The zombie violence is fake. Zombies aren’t real, and it’s easier to stomach because we know they don’t exist and even if they did, they would be mindless creatures who aren’t taking joy in what they’re doing. With Negan, it’s a whole different story. Yes, we’ve come across cannibals, but I didn’t see Bob get his leg sawed off. He woke up and it was gone. Yes, the group at Terminus was hard to stomach, but it was over quickly and less bloody, whereas we all know Negan is just getting started. For me, it isn’t so much the blood as it is the joy behind the pain he’s inflicting. People like this are real. There are people who take real delight in hurting others, and that’s where the line gets fuzzy.
The truth is, the fact that people as vicious as Negan are real is something we like to keep in the back of our minds. We know it’s true, serial killers and sociopaths do exist, but we don’t want to dwell on it. I know I don’t, and I know this episode did push me toward the line that I felt Hostel crossed. To me, the premiere of TWD wasn’t any less brutal in it’s plausibility as Hostel was, so I’m not sure why it didn’t push me over that line, but it probably has something to do with how much I love the story and characters in TWD. But I do understand if other people might be done with the show. The prospect of more bloody nights like this one may not sit well with everyone, and that is their right.
There was also some discussion on Facebook about how people feel the show has lost all hope with the current storyline, and this is something my husband and I discussed after the premiere, and something he repeated against last night. Where can the story go from here? How can it end? It’s not like the group is going to stumble across a walled city that’s totally safe. They’ve done that, and guess what? It wasn’t safe, because there is no safe place left in this world. The only possible way this series can end is with the death of everyone we love, and I think that’s another thing that has turned a lot of people off. I get it, people have a right to bow out if they feel they need to. I’m still a devoted fan and I will be until every single person (even Daryl) is dead and buried, but those of us who are sticking with it have no right to criticize the people who are unable to stomach the blood and hopelessness anymore.
All clips courtesy of Giphy.