The Walking Dead has always dealt in dynamic shifts of tone. If the Season 7 premiere taught us anything, it’s that Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is not the muchacho to mess with. He’s big, he’s charming, and most of all he does not play games when it comes to those who defy him. With Alexandria and its newfound allies on the verge of All Out War, it seemed that the swaggering leader of the Saviors might once again prove too savvy for Rick to handle. However, the apocalypse in never as it appears. The tone has shifted and, for the first time in a long time, it looks like Rick Grimes and company have a fighting chance.
Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead Season 7 Finale: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
As many predicted, Sasha was the unfortunate victim of the finale death sentence. However, unlike the helpless beating down of Abraham and Glenn, her death served a very specific purpose. It also had a very optimistic lead up in the form of flashback sequences which brought back Michael Cudlitz for another glimpse of Abraham. The scenes are short but give some added depth to what was a largely offscreen relationship.
As for her death itself, the scene referenced issue 120 of the comic series. In that issue, an Alexandrian prisoner is underhandedly returned zombified in an attempt on Rick. In this instance, Negan presents a presumably alive Sasha in a closed coffin. However, her suicide by Eugene’s poison and subsequent reanimation lets her get the zombie drop on Negan. Though it doesn’t kill the big bad, it does give a rather fulfilling shot of a terrified Jeffrey Dean Morgan. This move not only gives Rick’s group a chance to counter unexpected betrayal but also brings Negan’s trust of Eugene into question.
One betrayal comes from Dwight (presumably), who opens the episode in apparent cahoots with Rick. It’s not clear whether he was in on the plan, but his loyalty is more questionable than ever. The other far more surprising reversal is from Jadis and her alliance with Negan. As her literal dump of a home foreshadowed, the woman is the queen of garbage people. While she always came off as cold and calculating, it turns out that Jadis is a dangerous enemy. She even manages to clip Rick in the leg and take him prisoner and see the rough casualties inflicted on his people. Among the injured are Rosita (shot in the stomach) and Michonne, who at one point is actually teased as dead from a fall.
The long walk leads to another chance for Negan to (almost) put Lucille to deadly use. However, before he can literally bludgeon a child (come on AMC!) or take someone’s arm, Rick does manage to get in some quips that change everything. “You’re all already dead” appears to be some kind of summons, as within moments viewers finally get the tiger mauling they’ve dreamed of. The Kingdom, with a Morgan and Carol who have fallen off the pacifist wagon in tow, crash Negan’s party in dramatic fashion. A Maggie led Hilltop also joins in the battle which confirms that Gregory is no longer in charge.
The final moments give us plenty to look forward to. Negan is free to question Eugene’s hand in Sasha’s death and call for The Saviors’ next move. As expected, it’s war. Back at Alexandria, with a hopeful speech from Maggie running over it, the last looks are at a recovering Michonne and Rosita with Rick and Tara at their respective sides. Finally, viewers are given the image of Rick and Maggie rallying their troops and Darryl’s discovery of an anonymous message on a figuring reading “DIDN’T KNOW.” Whether it is from Dwight or Eugene remains to be seen.
It would appear that Season 8, despite not having any argument invoking suspense, will still keep fans hungry until the premiere. This finale served as a mirror image to the close of Season 6, artistically turning the utter despair that episode invoked on its head. There are moments with almost as much intensity as that dreaded Lucille lineup, but in the end fans aren’t left with another eye rolling cliffhanger. Mostly, in a season that received heavy scrutiny, the episode was The Walking Dead at its absolute best.
The Walking Dead Season 8 is expected to premiere in the fall of 2017. Until then, stay tuned with mxdwn Television for any details.