The Walking Dead 7.16: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
Scott M. Gimple, Angela Kang, and Matthew Negrete
Once again, the decision to extend the running time of a season finale for The Walking Dead sucks some of the life out of the entire situation. And that’s saying a lot, considering that the story beats are so clearly laid out that the writers had the perfect moments to sustain a solid hour. Why add so much to the beginning of the episode that it drags so horribly?
It was quite clear from the start, given how the previous episode ended, that Negan was coming back to Alexandria with bad intent. And it was also obvious that Rick’s unification plan had been revealed to Negan by unknown means. So it was mostly a matter of getting the story out of its own way and letting the mayhem begin. And that includes all of the hints that Sasha would factor into the insanity, whose scenes could have been covered in half the screen time and still been equally effective.
With all the various groups in play, it makes sense that one of them would consider themselves more loyal to the Saviors than to the notion of independence. Because of Rick’s actions, one might have been tempted to believe it would have been someone from Oceanside. Because of his cowardice and desire for survival, one might have suspect Gregory. However, logic dictated that the most startling reversal would be if the group that Rick was handing so many guns over to would be the one to betray him. And sure enough, that’s what happened.
Part of the problem is also that Negan’s introduction was such that the idea of being caught defying him should have been horrifying. Instead, was there ever a sense that Rick was about to learn another harsh lesson? Was the setup to Carl’s potential death such that the audience had any reason to think it might actually take place? The entire scene was shot as if to wink at the audience and say, “Just wait, you’ll love this next part”. And so of course, it’s all too easy to relax and wait for the save.
It’s all in the presentation. A truly effective way to bookend the season would have been to all but replicate the tension and dynamics of the season premiere. Bringing Team Grimes to the point of hope, then seemingly dashing it in the worst way possible. Still have the save, but build to the moment in such a way that salvation seems almost impossible. Granted, the writers were trying their best to replicate the events of the source material, but this is one area where some modifications would have made a much greater impact.
Of course, the issue is fairly plain: the writers can’t kill off Rick, and at this point, anything less makes very little sense after Negan’s endless litany about what happens if you break the rules. Literally everyone else has paid a brutal price for defiance, yet Negan all but goes out of his way to keep Rick alive. That made sense when Negan wanted to use Rick as an example for the rest of the community, but that community has risen up. Killing Rick is Negan’s most logical next move. Both the source material and the show stumble to overcome the writers’ requirement that this not take place.
Despite all of that, once Shiva showed up, the ensuing violence was a joy to behold. Maggie’s rise to leadership is wonderful, Ezekiel is exactly as bonkers as he ought to be, and now the war is on and things have the potential to be a long more active next season. But even that triumphant moment is undermined by the road it took to arrive there. Oh, and it’s worth noting: Eugene blatantly lied to Negan without flinching, which is exactly the kind of sign one would be looking for if he was playing a long con against the Saviors.
- The final battle is highly entertaining, especially when a tiger eats off someone’s face
- Sasha’s little interludes never seem to end and culminate in a moment that doesn’t make sense
- The lack of any real tension meant that Negan feels more or less toothless