Fans of The Walking Dead were shook back in April when the show’s sixth season closed with an unbearable cliffhanger. Now, the show is back, and it’s more brutal and gory than ever, and we finally know who met the end of Negan’s bat.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t handled very well at all.
But ignoring that for a second, just about every other thing about this episode is downright perfect; the opening scene is electrifying. A shaken Rick Grimes on his knees, telling Negan “I’m gonna kill you” and Negan laughing it off. Already, before the episode has started, before we know who’s dead or what’s going to happen, the season is off to a chilling start. From there on, the episode only gets better. It’s unrelenting, throwing both Rick and the audience into one of the most harrowing and terrifying scenarios yet. We all know full well that Rick isn’t gonna die, yet it seems so likely as Negan throws him out into a crowd of Walkers. We should know better by now, but the editing, music and cinematography keeps us on the edge of our seat as Rick tries to survive, both physically and emotionally. Negan truly beats Rick to his knees psychologically, and the ordeal is so intense.
With only one episode under his belt, Negan is already a contender for one of the greatest TV villains of all time. He is vicious, cold, calculating and a totally irredeemable bastard, but it’s almost impossible not to like him. Like all the best villains, his evil nature is deliriously enjoyable, even if you hate him for everything that he’s doing. He’s already the best villain the show has ever had, which isn’t easy when facing up to The Governor and cannibal Gareth, who only served a three episode run but still managed to be an incredible villain. It’s just a shame that this show never gets nominated for Emmys because Jeffrey Dean Morgan deserves like seven of them for this episode alone. And as always, Andrew Lincoln is just as electrifying. These two actors were born to share the screen.
Now, it’s about time we get to the meat of this episode, the one thing that’s been our mind since April: Who does Negan kill? In the comics, it was our faithful Glenn Rhee, but there was a little uncertainty about whether the show would follow the same path. For a second, it looked like it wouldn’t; the man on the receiving end of Lucille was revealed to be Abraham Ford, and it was a crushing blow. Now I predicted Abraham would be the one to die months ago, and was rather sad since he was my favourite character, but then, after an outburst from Daryl, Negan kills Glenn too. This is where I take issue with the scene. The writers put themselves in a tight spot when it came to this twist; they knew that fans would be annoyed if they didn’t follow the comic storyline, but they also knew it wouldn’t be the least bit shocking for Glenn to die because everybody knows by now that he dies in the comic. That interfered with the cliffhanger of season six, that was purposely draped in mystery, so Abraham’s death was used to fulfill that problem.
This probably doesn’t sound like an issue with the way I’m describing it, so let me bring up another TV show that did the same thing: How I Met Your Mother (spoilers – if you haven’t seen the ending of this show). So for eight seasons, Ted tells his kids the story of how he met their mother, and along the way, his on and off relationship with Robin. In season nine, they finally introduced the mother, only to then kill her off, and have Ted go back to Robin. This felt like the mother was introduced simply to fulfil the promise made by the show’s title and previous eight seasons, so that technically, you did meet the mother and you can’t say the show didn’t give you that, and then they threw it away for the easy route of having him end up with Robin.
This is how it feels in The Walking Dead; Abraham’s death (bearing in my mind actually was a really great character) was really nothing more than a cheap distraction, a way of closing the cliffhanger and then carrying on with the story they wanted. It’s not like I can’t see why they did it, but they really wrote themselves into a corner with that cliffhangers, and as a result, the pay off is a huge waste, because once Glenn gets hit with that bat, the impact of Abraham’s death is gone, and then Glenn’s death doesn’t feel all that impactful either, even when his eye is popping out of his skull and he utters his last words to Maggie. I might be alone on that whole ordeal, but really they should’ve killed Glenn last season, when we thought he got ripped apart by Walkers and it was actually ridiculously harrowing and brutal. Saying all that though, the make up team deserve an Emmy for their work in this episode, for Glenn’s terrifying disfigured face, and we must say a sad farewell to Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz. Yeun was a regular since season one, and a huge fan favourite. His performances on the show were consistently brilliant, and he contributed a lot to making Glenn the captivating character that he was. Cudlitz wasn’t around as long, but he most definitely made his mark on the show with his badass moments and hilarious Abraham-isms (“Mother dick, bitch nuts, loose ends make my ass itch” etc.).
So whilst it’s core scene may have been a let down, the rest of this episode was utter perfection, further proof that the show is nothing close to the garbage fire some would make it out to be. Let’s hope the rest of Season 7 lives up to this unbearable opener.
The Walking Dead shuffles on Fox this Autumn