The Walking Dead S07E01 “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Here we go, everyone
- We open on Rick, stunned and horrified, blood on the right side of his face. Which means Carl and basically no one else is safe. He looks at Negan, Lucille dripping with the gore that used to be a friend of Rick’s and explains that he’s going to kill him.
- Just for a second there’s some of Rick’s old fire there. Negan sees it. Negan likes it. And then Negan takes Rick’s hatchet, talks about the importance of a right-hand man and drags Rick into the RV. The camera pans down to a pool of blood and gore and… opening credits.
- Negan sets Rick up with an opportunity to kill him in the RV. It does not go well. He starts the RV up, drives a way off and throws Rick’s axe out, then tells him to go get it. Rick is thrown out into the Walkers and fends them off, flashing back again and again to the people he’s lost. Unarmed and horrifically outnumbered, with no idea where the hell he is, Rick stumbles by sheer luck onto the side of the RV. He climbs it, looks around at the horde of Walkers surrounding them and realises they’re back at the overpass where they saw the man hung.
- And then Rick loses it. Full on, drops to his knees, sobbing, can’t focus on anything but the people he just lost.
- And then we’re back in the circle. We see Rick’s POV as Negan counts off “Eenie meenie”. We see his people face death in different ways; Eugene’s terror, Sasha’s resolve.
- Abe staring death in the eyes.
- He’s ready.
- He’s it.
- Abe throws one last V salute up to Sasha, stares Negan in the eyes and Negan hits him. Blood pouring from his broken skull, Abe gets back up spits “SUCK… MY… NUTS!” and Negan keeps beating until nothing’s left. He just doesn’t stop, beating on the bloody pulp that used to be Abraham’s skull and playing to the crowd, firing blood across the circle and hitting Rick in the face with it.
- He taunts Rosita, berating her for not honouring Abe’s sacrifice.
- Darryl’s had enough; he punches Negan and is brought down.
- Everyone else is in tears; Darryl is at crossbow point and… Negan has him put back in the circle. He explains that the first one is free and that he needs them to know him.
- And then he smashes Glen’s skull.
- Maggie HOWLS. Glenn, his skull caved in and one eyeball exposed, forces himself upright and gurgles, “MAGGIE I’LL FIND YOU!” Negan apologises for how hard this must be and then beats Glenn to death. We see the others, screaming, howling as Negan turns Glenn into meat and then strolls off, matted lumps of Glenn’s scalp stuck to Lucille.
- Back in the present, Rick – catatonic on the roof – listens to Negan demand the axe. Negan fires up through the roof and Rick sprints across it, grabs the axe and jumps onto the hanging man. He’s swarmed, and seconds from death until Negan guns the horde down and yells, “CLOCK IS TICKIN’ RICK. THINK ABOUT WHAT CAN STILL HAPPEN!”
- Rick fights his way through the horde, hallucinating the others being beaten to death and gets back to the RV. The door is locked and AGAIN, he’s seconds from death before Negan saves him. The other man doesn’t say a word. He just holds a hand out until Rick hands his axe to him.
- They arrive “home” and Negan continues to taunt Rick about how horrified he must be and how awful to have lost two of his own and to be powerless to stop it. Negan has this incredible combination of joviality and contempt. He’s charming, clearly thinks Rick is a disgusting waste of human life and throws a string of verbal sucker punches that Rick can do nothing about.
- Rick’s dragged back to the circle where Negan explains that he wanted to change how Rick looks at him but he hasn’t yet. He asks Rick if he deserves another chance and Rick all but begs for one.
- Negan agrees. Negan orders guns trained on the rest of Team Rick. Negan orders Carl to his side and asks if he’s a lefty. He ties his belt around Carl’s arm and orders him to lie down, arms wide, next to Rick.
- He asks Simon, his right hand man for a pen. Brilliantly, he has one. Negan draws a line around Carl’s arm and Rick, who at this point can barely form words, begs Negan not to do it.
- Negan says he’s not going to do shit.
- Rick is.
- The choice he has is simple: cut Carl’s arm off, or everyone else dies, then everyone at home dies, then a few years later, Rick dies.
- Michonne begs him. Negan insists.
- Rick offers himself up. Negan insists.
- Rick is paralysed, sobbing, incoherent with terror and horror. Negan counts down. Negan slaps him. Carl tells him to do it.
- Rick grabs the axe.
- And Negan breaks Rick. Completely. Utterly. In a way he’s never been in the same postcode as before.
- Negan relents. Negan takes the axe away. He explains that he owns everything about them now. Every single thing. They put Darryl in the van. Negan explains that he likes him, he has guts. Darryl’s his now. And if Rick ever tries anything, at all, he’ll either cut pieces off Darryl or have Rick do it for him.
- And with that the Saviors leave. They’ll be back in a week for their first offering. They leave Team Rick a truck.
- It’s over.
- After the Saviors clear out, Team Rick still hasn’t moved. The first to try is Maggie, who drags herself to her feet and goes to Glenn. Rick tries to comfort her; she wants to go to war. Maggie admits they were out there for her and Rick replies “we still are”. Maggie loses it, begging them all to go back because she can’t have them out there anymore. It’s painfully, tragically clear she thinks this is all her fault.
- Sasha stands up, tells them that she’ll get Maggie to Hilltop safely. Maggie kneels by what’s left of Glenn and Sasha sits by Rosita.
- Maggie tries to gather Glenn up alone and the others beg her to let them help. Eugene, Aaron, Michonne and the others carry him as Maggie is left, alone, sobbing.
- We see a flashforward to a future that can never be, as Negan’s crack about everyone sitting around the table at Sunday dinner plays again. Glenn is bouncing his son on his knee; Abe is sitting next to Sasha.
- Back in the real world, Rick picks the hatchet up and sits behind the wheel of the RV. A single walker stumbles out of the woods and Rick stares at it a moment before driving away. He sees the walker kneel at the pool of blood that used to be one of his friends and, weeping and wide-eyed, stares at the road ahead.
This is as hard an episode to write about it as it is to watch. A lot of people are talking about dropping the show at this point and it’s understandable. We see two characters, both beloved, beaten to death in the most arbitrary and horrific way possible. We see the ostensible“hero” of the show reduced to a sobbing, staring mess. We see the villain leave with more than he came with. It’s a tough watch.
It’s also, we’d argue, one of the most complicated and interesting episodes the show’s ever done for three reasons: the Rick and Negan relationship; the way the show is changed forever in a way it’s never been before; and how, in fact, one of these deaths is a victory for the victim, not Negan.
Rick and Negan first. This is either a shipper’s worst nightmare or their wildest dreams. Possibly both at the same time. The two men are, in the space of an hour, thrown into a relationship that’s defined by the intimacy of hatred. Rick may be the one who has reason for that but you can see it in every line Negan spits. He’s fascinated by Rick because this scrappy, wild-eyed idiot has dared to kill a lot of his guys, and kill them badly. You can see him looking at Rick throughout the episode with a combination of pride, disappointment, fascination and contempt. Pride at meeting someone who may be a worthy opponent, disappointment at how easily Rick folded, fascination at how Negan can break him and contempt that he CAN break him. Negan LOATHES Rick. Negan wants him dead.
But Negan wants to have some fun first.
That intimacy – these two men locked together in mutual hatred – is something the show’s flirted with before. Here it beats that approach into the season with every swing of Lucille. Negan is the only thing in this world now, the blood-soaked sun around which everyone we see orbits. He doesn’t even have a plan beyond that. He doesn’t need a plan beyond that. Negan wins. That’s a mission statement, a destination and a way of life all at once.
That also leads to a massive change in the show’s DNA. From the start, it’s been about the struggle to stay human in a world of relentless horror. Everything in the show has been about how that line can be crossed and re-crossed, even up to Carol’s sudden renunciation of violence last season. There’s always been a fundamental core of decency to the show, even at its darkest hour.
That decency was largely embodied in Glenn.
Glenn was the embodiment of the group’s personal ethics, a man who stayed largely the same even in the face of never-ending horror. The first time we see Glenn he’s saving Rick’s life. The last time we see Glenn he’s using his final breath to try and reassure his wife. He’s always been a fundamentally decent, hardworking guy who’s gone through hell for anyone who needs it. He, and arguably Daryl, are pretty much the closest thing the show’s ever had to an actual hero. Now, one of them is dead and the other is injured and in captivity.
Then there’s Abe, who came in sideways and on fire. Abe’s arc last season was one of the most interesting for us; a man intent on dying well starting to realise he was allowed to live well too. Abe was a latecomer but he was pulled into the group’s orbit by the exact fundamental decency Glenn embodied. Team Alexandria made Abe a better man. Not a perfect one. But a better one. Now they’ve seen the embodiment of their ethics and the embodiment of the good those ethics can do murdered. That’s genuinely hopeless and it’s no wonder people are turned off.
But that also bring us to Abe and how, amazingly, he wins. This is the best possible outcome for the big soldier precisely because he’s a soldier. His job, his life, has been defined by putting himself in harm’s way so others don’t have to be. He wants this, in a way none of the others do and you can see that from the moment he shares with Negan at the end of last year. Abe stands up a little straighter and Negan sees it and, we think, chooses in that moment. From Negan’s point of view, Abe’s the biggest guy there and the biggest threat, plus he’s threatened him. From Abe’s point of view, it’s a good death. It’s the end he wants and he’s choosing it rather than letting it happen.
But no one gets off easy. The fact his last salute is to Sasha and, perhaps, Eugene but not Rosita, is as heart-breaking as it is touching. Abe was a straight arrow and didn’t care about anything that he wasn’t aimed at. He was charming and heroic, flawed and nihilistic and complex. He died well. We’ll miss him. So will they.
That’s where we are at the top of season seven; with a group of people cut off from the fragile ethical foundation they’ve built for themselves and with seemingly no hope for the future. We know that hope’s coming but even when it arrives, this is a different show. Season seven, yes. Year Zero? Definitely.
- “I’ll be right back – maybe Rick will be with me! If not, we can just turn these people inside out can’t we?” Every single line Negan has is memorable. But the jovial way he says this as he’s dragging another man off to his possible death is a real standout.
- “I want you to think about coulda happened. Think about what happened. And think about what could still happen.” This too. Again and again, Negan comes back to what could happen. He builds control through fear and hatred and both are wrapped up in Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s charming southern gentleman delivery.
- “Red and Hell he was, is and will ever be. Red, he just took one or SIX OR SEVEN FOR THE TEAM!” And Negan LOVES himself. That’s the really terrifying thing. There isn’t a single character in this show that’s at peace with what they’ve done. The difference is, Negan’s troubled not by what he’s done but the fact he isn’t finished yet.
- “We got a great Doctor, the kid’ll be fine. Probably.” This is a vital line in how the show’s presenting Negan because it’s maybe the only time the mask slips. The whole rest of the episode he’s alternating between brutality and concern. Here he almost corpses. Because he’s having fun and because the violence and the horror is what Negan loves best of all.
- “Hell’s his name?”
“WOW… that actually sounds right!” The single joke in the episode and it’s PERFECT.
- “I need to do this, please.”
“We need to help you.” Maggie’s in charge now. Everything about this episode, from Glenn’s death to the fact she’s the first to move, to the way everyone defers to her here, shows that.
- JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN. Darkest Timeline Daddy Winchester was good last season but put him on screen for extended periods of time, like he is here, and he’s magic. Hideous, preening, arrogant magic but magic nonetheless. The loss of Negan’s profanity isn’t a weakness it’s a massive asset too, as the show is forced to rely on actual smart writing and one of the best characters actors on the planet to land its bad guy. And boy does he land it.
- Every time we see Eugene for about half this episode he has his head in his hands and is sobbing. It’s horrifying and the entire sequence in the circle does a great job of showing how they’re all broken by what happens there.
- Watching Eugene, Sasha and Rosita pick up Abe is very, very hard to do.
- IMMENSE kudos to Andrew Lincoln, Lauren Cohan, Michael Cudlitz and Steven Yuen for doing subtle, difficult work. Yuen and Cudlitz’s final seconds are exactly what their characters needed; Cohan’s agonised, enraged dignity looks to be an engine for this season; and Lincoln? Just wow. He shows Rick get torn apart on screen, and every moment he’s in shot he’s working. You can see him endlessly replaying what happened, trying to find an out even though there isn’t one. Subtle, heartbreaking stuff.
- Nice that throughout that opening we see Negan from Rick’s POV. This looming, charming wall of brutality.
- Top marks too for the scrappy, desperate walkers-in-the-fog fight. That felt DANGEROUS in a way the show sometimes does not.
- How in the BLUE HELL did Rick’s hatchet end up on the RV roof?
- The show’s used up “OR IS IT?” moments with Glenn’s apparent death last year. As a result, the fake-out on Rick losing his hand felt cheap.
- Likewise the black and white montage fake-outs of who might have been killed feel like padding and, worse, cheap.
- A lot of people are going to hate on the “everyone’s in white and it’s later and everyone’s fine now!” scene. It’s a little clumsy but we liked it. Rick’s entire arc this episode is about what he’s lost for them all so it’s a valid moment.
- Negan’s ’The Bat is my penis’ moment was WEIRD. We can see why it’s in there, because he’s a psychopath who likes torturing people but once you’ve gone there you can never really go there again. So we’re guessing we’ll be going there another couple of times unfortunately.
- So are they leaving Maggie and Sasha to walk through the woods to Hilltop? Because it’s unclear and if they are that is not going to end well.
And The Random:
- Yes that is Steven Ogg, Trevor from GTA V as Simon, Negan’s right-hand man.
- Two shots of the week this week. The first is Maggie, alone in the clearing, which is about as perfect a snapshot of this episode’s emotional destination as we’ll get.
- And this is the final shot. Andrew Lincoln, it turns out, is one of the best silent actors on the planet.
Review by Alasdair Stuart