A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7 Premiere: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

We have been waiting for this moment.

The sixth season finale of The Walking Dead, “Last Day on Earth,” introduced Negan to Rick’s group as a menacing threat and the episode itself ended with Negan picking and beating an unseen member to death with his barbed wired bat, Lucille.  After a lot of buildup and momentum in the longer than normal episode, “Last Day on Earth” had a lot of people excited going into it.

To say that a chunk of the fanbase was dissatisfied, disappointed, or downright angry because of the cliffhanger ending would be an understatement.

Whether it was Greg Nicotero trying to justify the cliffhanger, the cast saying they themselves had no idea who had been picked, and Robert Kirkman himself even sort-of apologizing for the cliffhanger in a Letter Hacks section of The Walking Dead comic, it’s clear that someone heard the backlash.  Even without the cliffhanger, the show remained on people’s minds.

Fast forward to Season 7 and here we are with “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” There were a lot of promises going into this premiere, expectations from viewers, and hopes that the cliffhanger was worth it.

I myself was more disappointed than anything with the decision, but wouldn’t just leave the show because of a creative decision.    That’d be petty.  Would the premiere satisfy? Would we even learn about Negan’s pick?  And would it be worth the wait?  Oh, let me stop wasting your time.  Let’s jump right back into the world of The Walking Dead.

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The season begins sometime after we left off on “Last Day on Earth,” with a frightened Rick, now with blood on his face, declaring that he will kill Negan.  Not today or tomorrow, but someday.  Negan, though, wants to hear that again, as he isn’t impressed.

He asks Simon, Steven Ogg’s character, what weapon Rick had- it’s a hatchet.  Plus an axe.  Negan’s far from impressed.  Simon, turns out, is Negan’s right hand man, and one of those is important.

Without one, you’re left without work.  Negan wonders who Rick’s right hand man is, or whether that’s the one who met a now bloodied Lucille.  Negan claims Rick’s axe, stares Rick down, and pockets the weapon.  He then drags Rick with him into the RV for a little trip.  We then pan down to a bloodied mess on the ground.

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Negan forces Rick into the camper, but it doesn’t start.  Negan mocks Rick’s declaration to kill him, especially given what just happened.  Rick’s best chance is to use the axe to kill Negan right now.  Maybe he’ll get lucky.  Negan isn’t impressed with Rick’s bravado.  Once Rick grabs the axe, Negan is ready with a machine gun.  He socks Rick right in the gut for extra measure and then sees that dawn is breaking.  It’s a brand new day.

Still, Negan wants Rick to consider what can happen if he keeps acting this way.  The RV finally starts and the drive begins as Negan plows down walkers, all while Rick is reminded of his friends through convenient, black and white flashbacks.  The camper comes to a stop as Negan sits next to Rick, saying that he is his, as are the others.  Hell, even the axe belongs to Negan.  He wants damn near everything, didn’t you know?

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He opens the door and tosses the axe onto the roof of the RV, but still wants Rick to get it.  Rick refuses, but he eventually gives in, Negan forcing him out to retrieve the weapon.  In the thick fog, Rick fends off walkers while still having flashbacks-I mean, memories.

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He’s soon forced to climb the camper and spots the axe.  And then he looks out at the land ahead, filled with walkers and realizes he’s back at the spot where the man was hanged.  As Rick falls to his knees, he hears Negan taunting him for his optimism.  The world doesn’t work like that.  It’s time to think about what matters.

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We flash back to earlier that night as Negan is left unable to decide.  He goes one by one to pick his victim as Rick watches.  He finally lands on his choice: Abraham.   Negan goes to town and bashes Abraham’s head over and over.  Though Abraham was defiant in his final moment, telling Negan to suck his nuts, Negan continues the beating long after Abraham is dead.  His head is nothing but a bloody mess.

An overjoyed Negan wants everyone to look at his dirty girl as Lucille is bloody beyond belief.  He guesses that Rosita was with Abraham, but there was a reason that Abraham was picked.  He took a beating for the team, so Negan orders Rosita to look.  This is what leads Daryl to lash out and punch Negan.  The Saviors restrain him, but Negan doesn’t want them to harm him.  That lashing out is a no-no.  That shit doesn’t fly.

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Dwight is ready to kill with the crossbow at the ready, but Negan tells him to stand down, saying he doesn’t kill Daryl until he tries.  That’s now how this works.  The first one was free, and Negan will shut any other shit down.  Negan doesn’t know much about Rick’s group, but he’s a man of his word.  First impressions are important.  As such, he needs Rick and company to know him.

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So back to it, as Negan turns Lucille on Glenn.  With his face fucked beyond belief, Glenn attempts to call out for Maggie, but it doesn’t come out clearly.  Negan is sorry that the group is taking this so hard, but no exceptions.  So he gets back to work and beats the fucking shit out of Glenn, even long after he’s no longer has a head and his body is nothing a twitching mess.  Lucille is thirsty, as she is a vampire bat.  Timing, Negan.

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In the present, Rick and his axe remain on the camper, which is still surrounded by roamers.  And Negan still wants the damn axe.  He gives Rick one more try to get the axe, but then gunfire rains out across the roof of the camper.  Rick runs and grabs onto the hanged walker- risky move, but cool nonetheless, which begins to give way.  Before the walkers can claim Rick, Negan opens fire from the camper and kills the walkers.

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Rick crawls away from the walkers and retrieves the axe, all while having flashes of Lucille meeting the rest of the group.  He returns to the camper to find the door locked. Negan kills some of the walkers, which gives Rick an opening to enter the camper and return the now bloodied axe.  The journey continues until Negan arrives at the destination.  He knows that this is hard for Rick, losing two of his own and in front of his son.

He picks up Rick’s axe, saying that Rick must have been addicted to being in charge.  However, Rick can still lead a productive life of giving to Negan.  He then returns the axe to Rick, saying that he may need it.

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Negan dumps Rick out of the camper and brings him back to the spot where the murders took place.  He tells Rick that this was all because of the way that Rick looked at him.  Negan wanted Rick to understand, but he doesn’t like how Rick is still looking at him.  So Negan wonders whether he should give Rick another chance, and Rick does want one.  What happens next will determine if this is everyone’s last day.

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The Saviors put guns to everyone else’s heads.  Negan summons Carl to his side, and it takes some prodding to get Carl to comply.  He asks if Carl is left-handed, and he isn’t, so Negan ties his belt to Carl’s left arm.  He increases the pressure, but it doesn’t hurt.  He tosses Carl’s hat and orders him on the ground next to his father.  Negan then asks Simon for a pen.  When given one, Negan draws a line across Carl’s arm.

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Rick begs Negan not to do anything, but Negan isn’t doing shit.  Instead, he wants Rick to cut off Carl’s left arm.  Or else everyone else around him dies, as well as everyone in Alexandria, and eventually, Rick himself.  He’ll get to live long enough to understand what he’s done.  Michonne tells Negan that the group understands, but Negan wants Rick to understand.  And this job needs to happen or Negan will just kill Carl instead.

Then Rick offers himself to Negan, but this is the only way.  And not making a decision is still a decision.  When Rick refuses, Negan begins to count.  Rick cries that this can be him instead of his son.  Carl pleads with Rick to just do it.  Rick picks up the axe, but Negan stops him.  Rick answers to, provides for, and belongs to Negan.  Negan finally gets the look that he wants from Rick.  With that he, takes back the axe.

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Negan congratulates everyone for a productive day.  He hopes that, for everyone’s sake, they now understand how things work.  Things have changed.  Whatever the survivors had before is now over.  Negan then orders Dwight to bring Daryl along, so Dwight forces him into the van.  At least, in Negan’s eyes, Daryl has guts.  And he belongs to Negan.  If Rick gives Negan anymore shit, he will cut Daryl into pieces or have Negan do it.

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Welcome to a brand new beginning, Negan tells the survivors.  He leaves the group a truck that they’ll use to bring him supplies.  They’ll be back in a week for their first offering.  Until then, ta-ta.  With that, Negan and the Saviors leave.  As they depart, the survivors are left at an absolute low point with Glenn and Abraham now dead.

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They sit in absolute silence until Maggie stumbles over and tells Rick to get ready to fight the Saviors.  Well, of course.  Rick counters that the Saviors have Daryl and an army, so it would be a suicide mission.  Still, Maggie wants to go to the Hilltop on her own while Rick and others go back to Alexandria.  Rick tells Maggie that there’s still hope.  And yet Maggie still wants everyone to leave.

Michonne refuses to let Maggie leave, but Maggie insists.  However, Sasha jumps in, saying that she’ll escort Maggie to the Hilltop.  The group coalesces around Maggie, Rick even begs Maggie to let them help her.  Maggie hugs Carl as the others begin moving the bodies.

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As Negan’s words go through Rick’s mind, we get a dream vision of the group having an outdoor dinner in Alexandria, Glenn is even holding his future child.  Back in the present, Rick grabs the axe and heads into the camper.  He starts it up and drives off as a walker feasts on a pile of blood left by one of the bodies.

I’ll give the showrunners of The Walking Dead this: they know how to, for the most part, maintain tension and suspense.  My reservations and issues with the cliffhanger aside, because you can’t undo that, I found myself as tense as I was while watching “Last Day on Earth” back in April.  Most of the time.  These people know we want to have our expectations met and, if possible, surpassed.  Was that the case here?

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Well, yes and no, but I’ll get into that later.  Because the cliffhanger brought the momentum of “Last Day on Earth” to a screeching halt, this episode had to recapture all that momentum, build on it, and make the wait worthwhile.  I was hesitant going into this that the episode would just tease the death until the very last second.  If the show really wanted to troll us, the ending could have cut to Morgan and Carol arriving at the Kingdom.

Hey, it’s not like The Walking Dead is above dick moves.  But no, it didn’t do that.  It just stalled the same way I’m stalling in discussing how I felt about the episode as well as jumping all over the place.  So before getting into mixed territory, I do want to talk about what I enjoyed about this episode.

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To start, the acting.  Whether it’s the group crumbling as two of their own are killed or the hopelessness on Andrew Lincoln’s face as Rick finds himself defenseless against Negan, pleads to take his son’s place, or even trying to maintain some bravado in the face of death, the acting was stellar all around.

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And Lauren Cohan’s performance as Maggie in those final moments further sets her up to develop into the leader that we know she will become later.  And you gotta feel bad for Maggie.  She’s lost most of her family, and now her husband is gone as well.

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Next up, the brutality.  My word, the brutality.  You’ve got those hyperbolic folks who called the deaths disgusting or too much to bear, so I’m guessing people have forgotten what show they’ve been watching.  Or that, if they’ve ever watched something like Game of Thrones, this kind of violence and brutality should be nothing by comparison.

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Watching Negan brutally beat Abraham and Glenn to death in all its gory detail, with guts and all spilling out, it was vicious, and call me a sadist all you want, I was grinning as well as shaking.  Negan’s introduction isn’t meant to be toned down.  He’s got a bat wrapped in barbed wire.

On top of the cliffhanger, if The Walking Dead didn’t give us the brutal deaths, it would feel like a cheat.  It’d be like cutting to black before someone is shot in the head.  You feel robbed of the moment, more so after the episode had to regain its momentum.

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So yes, I am a proponent of the violent deaths.  Some call it torture, but this is a show where the dead eat the living, a young, psychotic girl like Lizzie can kill her sister without remorse and later be justifiably executed while her back is turned, and people like the Hunters prepare, cook, and eat other human beings.  So seeing someone’s head bashed in should be easy to handle.

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Maybe I’m just desensitized to the violence of this series- though the comic still knows how to shock me at times- but this solidified how much of a threat Negan is and the violent lengths he’ll go to in order to make his point.  So I doubt those turned off by this moment will quit the show or turn them off altogether.  Like those who were enraged about the cliffhanger, I’m certain that they’ll return, at least out of curiosity.

The Walking Dead #100- Glenn's still alive after being hit with Lucille

And in a refreshing change of pace, Glenn actually got his comic book death.  That’s a rarity for this show.  Lori, Abraham, Dale, Shane, and even the Governor, just to name a few, have been killed in ways different from their comic book counterparts.

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But here, from the close-up of Glenn’s bloodied face to the way Negan looms over him, it was literally Issue #100 brought to life.  Details like that, coupled with Negan’s dialogue throughout, leave the comic fan in me very satisfied, on top of the death itself being very gruesome.

As with the previous episode, much of this has to do with the group’s bravado.  They were certain that they could stop Negan and the Saviors in their tracks by attacking a base and killing them in their sleep.  These two deaths are, to me, a welcome change of pace and from a character perspective, I think it’s necessary to see them suffer a loss.  And comparably speaking, they’ve only lost two people to the number of Saviors killed.

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But seeing the group and Rick especially look so defeated is crucial.  Their overconfidence led to them underestimating Negan.  And this gives Rick proper motivation to spur the group into action and launch a counterattack.  Before, it was just Rick trying to stop Negan before he could do something.  Now, he and the rest have motivation to get revenge against their fallen friends.

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And I enjoyed Rick’s interaction with Negan, if just to see Negan establish how threatening he is while trying to be cordial with Rick.  All while still breaking him down and after he’s just killed two of his friends.  It was tense, funny at times, and again, it’s interesting to see Rick at such a demoralized state after he’s been confident for so long.  A far cry from the Rick Grimes that towered over Gareth and the Hunters before butchering them.

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That said, like “Last Day on Earth,” my issues with this episode have to do with the execution of the…well, executions.  Let’s start with picking Abraham.  I know that some people say they saw this coming based on Negan saying last season that the victim took it like a champ.  The theory turned out to be right, so good on them for figuring it out, and I will say that he wasn’t my pick.

In fact, based on conversations between him and Abraham, part of me thought that Eugene would have taken the hit. But then, the Saviors already roughed him up when they captured the camper, so maybe that took him out of the running.

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Had Abraham been the only victim, Negan still would have gotten his point across, and we aren’t given much time to process Abraham’s death.  Not just because there’s more to the scene, but because of Daryl’s interference, which led to the second death.

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And this is my problem: Glenn’s death, while comic-accurate, only seems to have happened because Daryl interfered.  In addition, Negan picking Glenn felt like an afterthought.  Not to mention it’s as if the show wanted to top the comic.  Negan only picked Glenn there, so how does the show surpass that?  Pick two for double the impact. But would Negan have done that had Daryl not tried to be the hero?  I don’t know.

But it rubbed me the wrong way that now it appears that Glenn’s death is not because Negan picked him at random, but because Daryl, unlike Rick, wanted to make a vain attempt to stop Negan.  That’s not necessary and it speaks to Negan’s restraint that he doesn’t have Dwight kill Daryl when he has the chance.

However, if we’re meant to grasp how much of a threat Negan is and how he has no mercy for the survivors, then he proved his point.  Glenn’s death felt like the emotional punch to the gut, but he’s the second to die.  We get more of the group’s reaction to him dying and there’s even a score in the background that plays against his demise.  Whereas with Abraham, it’s stark with no music.  We get the death as is and nothing more.

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So then why have both of these deaths place at the same time if the show is only focusing on one of them?  Sure, Glenn has been with us since the beginning and we know more about him than Abraham, but then why not have his death come first and then have Negan drive the point home by kicking the group when they’re doing and selecting a second person to die?  If the show was, without a doubt, going to have two deaths.

Last Day on Earth- Negan picks his victim, the cameraman

Or better yet, “Last Day on Earth” could have ended either with Abraham’s death or viewers seeing Negan pick him, rather than having the season end with a point of view shot.  Then, in-between Season 6 and 7, as we process who will die, assuming it will just be Abraham, the show throws a curveball by killing Glenn as well on the premiere, long after the multiple fakeouts where he ended up surviving.

The Walking Dead #100- Negan picks Glenn to die

See, here’s the the thing.  In the comic, Negan picking Glenn was a surprise because it did come out of nowhere.  Glenn hadn’t gone down the dark path that Rick walks and, as far as I know, no one predicted that he would get the bat.  After losing Abraham just a few issues before this, for an unassuming guy like Glenn to die was a major loss.

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But on the show, Glenn’s death comes due to Daryl’s actions, not because of Negan picking him at random.  And I don’t like that because, in a way, it kind of makes Daryl responsible for Glenn’s death.  Whether Daryl blames himself for what happened to Glenn remains to be seen, but I imagine it’s going to stick with him since he did prompt Negan to, as he said, shut that shit down, no exceptions.

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It didn’t help that the deaths kept cutting back and forth between Negan taking Rick with him to retrieve that damn axe.  We get that Rick is broken, but between going from the past to the present, not to mention those shots of Negan hitting everyone with the bat, broke up the flow a bit.

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Just have the two deaths play out in one long sequence.  Don’t make Rick have flashbacks or visions of everyone just to pad out the episode.  “Last Day on Earth” already didn’t need to be 90 minutes. This episode could have flowed better by having all of Rick and Negan’s moment take place at once after the deaths.

I don’t have a problem with nonlinear storytelling, but when this episode has to rebuild the momentum from Season 6, cutting from Rick and Negan to the murders was distracting at times.

And the dream sequence of everyone together at Alexandria was too heavy handed.  We know everything that’s going through the survivors’ minds just by Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan’s performances alone.  We don’t need a vision of what life for them could have been had things gone in a different direction for them.

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Oh, and it seems there are those who still felt that Rick would lose his right hand to Negan since the show’s version of the Governor didn’t follow through on the same actions as his comic counterpart.  But what works in the comics doesn’t translate to reality, and if Rick hasn’t lost his hand yet, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

With all that said, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” is a good episode and return to The Walking Dead.  The pacing issues and decision of killing two victims keeps me from enjoying the episode as much as I would like, but the acting, brutality, and leaving the survivors in an absolute low state made for an enjoyable watch.  Who knows?  I may grow to love it on repeat viewings.

And now that Negan has made his demands, I am very anxious to see how the group progresses from here and how this tragedy pushes them to strike back.  What becomes of Daryl and will he blame himself for Glenn’s death?  Does Rick have a plan yet to fight back against Negan?  If it wasn’t for a few issues, this would be a fantastic start for the season.  But these issues are enough to make it more good instead of great.

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