The Walking Dead | ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’
Season 7, Episode 1 | Aired Oct. 23
On Sunday night, AMC’s hit drama The Walking Dead returned for a new season. And while the show seemed to have more on it’s mind then just following up on their cliffhanger ending, the only thing that anyone in the audience seemed interested in was finding out who Negan had killed.
So let’s get the dirty side of the business out of the way early. Negan killed Abraham. And then, a little later, Glenn. Both of which we guessed in our prediction, by the way. Much more interesting though than who Negan killed is the question of how he killed them. That seems to be a peek behind AMC’s curtain.
The episode opened up in disquieting style. After the dramatic cliff-hanger from the season six finale, many expected the first shot of the new season to be the dead body of Negan’s victim. Instead, AMC spent the first 15 minutes of the show (as well as two commercial breaks) stringing us along about which of Rick’s group Negan had killed.
In those first 15 minutes, Negan took an axe, Rick, and his winningest smile, and climbed into his RV. His goal: to explain to Rick that he, Negan, was in charge now and that Rick needed to find his place in the new world order. With enough axe shaking to worry any comic book fan used to seeing a one-handed Rick, Negan explained to Rick that everything he has, and everyone he knows, now belong to Negan.
Rick is then sent out into a foggy haze to collect up “Negan’s axe”. After angsty, low fun zombie squishing, Rick finally finds his way to the axe and retrieves it. But our boy’s had a long night, and the hoard tightens around him. Never fear! Negan is here! The harbinger of baseball-batted doom pops his head out of the RV and, guns blazing, saves Rick’s life.
It’s just then that, through a series of flashbacks, that we are shown Abraham and Glenn’s respective deaths. The delivery here is incredibly interesting. Abraham was topping everyone’s lists of “most likely to” find himself dead this week. But Abraham’s death would have been low stakes. It would have reenforced the idea that certain characters are above death on the show. That we don’t actually have to worry. That the people we like the most have never been and will never be in any real danger.
So, as though he is aware that he’s on a TV show and needs to up the stakes for us, Negan turns around and does the exact opposite. He kills Glenn. A second victim! Something that nobody saw coming in the months and months since the finale aired. And that second victim, that completely unpredictable outcome, was the one we should have seen coming all along. It was the exact scene from the comics, played out the exact way they played out in the comics- all the lines and visuals to boot.
Exactutive Producers Gimple and Kirkman have always said they enjoy startling the audience. They are hyper aware that people who have read the books expect certain outcomes. But that those same people feel that they can rest easy knowing they know how everything will turn out. Therefore, they have stated in the past, they like to imagine the show as a remix of the comics. Similar beats, but maybe that sound a little different time time around.
The premier gave us another remix moment just a few scenes later. Thinking he still hadn’t put Rick in line, he held Carl down and told Rick he had to cut his son’s arm off. In retrospect, it seems so that Carl would be fine. His future is highly dependent on his ability to wield giant guns. He just lost his eye and, even in a zombie apocalypse, how much abuse can one young man take? Finally, Rick should have been missing a hand for 4 seasons now. If he’s been walking around all this time fully-able, there’s no way Carl will lose his on a whim.
Yet, in that moment, we were on the edge of our seats. For one simple reason. The remix aspect of the show makes us uneasy. We can never sit back and get comfortable predicting hat we know what’s going on- we’re still on the edge of our seats. After six full seasons and over 150 issues of the comic book, the show runners find a way to keep us guessing.
Not everyone feels that way though, obviously. Many around the internet are saying that they can still anticipate the show. That the program has lost the joy it once took in heroic adventures and zombie squishing. That, given the assumption that they know the major beats from the future of the show from the comics, they are bored. Bored of melodrama. Bored of anger. Bored of grim dark.
To these people I say, I understand. But, given what we have seen from the trailers, and the comics from Kirkman, I tell these people to hold out hope. The introduction of a new villain may make the show few repetitive . You may feel like you can predict the show now. You may feel bored. But I promise you…
The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC
Episode Rating: B