Halftime Leisure

The Walking Dead Season 7 Premiere: Bats, Bodies, and Blood

October 26, 2016


After ending Season 6 on the cliffhanger to rule them all, Negan and Lucille came out swinging (see what I did there?) in the Season 7 premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

The Season 6 finale left our heroes kneeling on the ground in a line-up in front of Negan, the feared leader of a group that had antagonized Rick’s group, the Alexandrians, throughout the past season. Negan promises that he’s a benevolent, just leader (spoiler: he’s not), but for fairness’ sake, needs to kill one of the Alexandrians to pay for all of the trouble they’ve caused him. In a sick game of eenie meenie miny mo, he picks a victim and swings.

Readers of the comics should have predicted the outcome of this game but were thrown for a loop when Negan chose Abraham, the brash, ex-military man of the group, to fall to Lucille, his baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. Even after the first blow to the head, he remained upright, spitting out “Suck. My. Balls.” In true Abraham fashion, he was crass and defiant to the end.  But before he died, Abraham flashed a discrete peace sign, his way of saying goodbye to his love interest, Sasha. It was an oddly sweet and tender gesture from Abraham, and that moment of vulnerability made his death that much harder to watch.

I remember at this point feeling a swoop of relief, because, hey, at least Glenn wasn’t dead (Negan bashes Glenn’s head in in the comics).

I was wrong.

After fan favorite Daryl swings at Negan in protest, Negan turns around and returns the favor to Glenn. Bright, loyal, determined Glenn who’s been here since Season 1.

We’ve yet to see a killing so bloody and brutal, and director Greg Nicotero gave us not one but two that left me feeling physically ill. After the first hit, we’re given a full on frontal shot of Glenn, and you can see everything in horrifyingly graphic detail – from the gash in his forehead to where his eyeball was popped out of its socket. Glenn is able to burble out “Maggie, I’ll find you,” to his wife before Negan lands another blow. He doesn’t stop there, and the whump whump of him beating Glenn over and over was painfully hard to stomach. And as if that wasn’t enough, the camera pans to his twitching body, his head now completely obliterated.

It was a death that was both fitting and an indignity to Glenn as a character. Although his last words were directed towards the woman he loves, Glenn’s actor, Steven Yeun explained it as a final “look out for each other” to the group. Glenn was always looking out for those he cared about and putting others before him, so his final words make sense. However, I find for Glenn to die in the way he did almost an insult to his character. He didn’t die because of his actions. He died because he was conveniently the character closest to Negan at the time. Throughout the entirety of the show, Glenn had been such a strong moral compass for the group, standing firm in his beliefs and never letting the bleak reality of the apocalyptic world break his morals. He was such a shining, good person, and to have him die in such an undignified way felt like a punch to the gut, almost as if being good didn’t mean jack while the world was ending. Because the way this episode panned out, the bad guys won.

I couldn’t help but blame Glenn’s death on Daryl. If Daryl had just stayed in line, then Glenn might still be alive. If Rick wasn’t so obstinate, then Carl wouldn’t be lying on the ground, waiting for his own father to chop off his arm (he thankfully gets to keep the arm). And even Maggie, who says “You were out here for me,” blames herself for the Alexandrians falling into the Saviors’ trap in the first place. Even though Negan is clearly the bad guy in this situation, I couldn’t help but feel pitted against the protagonists, thinking to myself “If they just stay in line, no one else has to die.” This episode relentlessly toys with the emotions of the watcher, and I remember feeling a moment of exuberance when, in the opening of the episode, Rick promises Negan that he’ll kill him. The last time Rick promised someone to their face that he’d kill him, he made good on that promise (remember Gareth the cannibal?), so I felt a burst of optimism at his words. But seeing Rick so utterly broken and defeated at the end of the episode had me thinking twice. When Rick begins to cry, Negan taunts him, saying “Bet you thought you were all going to grow old together […] with a happily ever after. That’s not what happens.” His line reveals the gritty truth of the zombie apocalypse, especially one like in The Walking Dead, where there’s no cure or end in sight. There is no real “happily ever after.” Every time the characters find a small bit of happiness, it’s only a matter of time before it is taken from them.

Negan is neurotic and unpredictable, going from jovial to murderous in seconds, and it’s terrifying to watch. Jeffrey Dean Morgan perfectly pulls off this kind of crazy, laughing in the face of our mourning heroes and shooting off lines that, in any other context, would be completely ludicrous. In one moment, Negan says, and I kid you not, “It’s about to be pee pee pants city real soon” The line was delivered so chillingly well, that it wasn’t until I tried to repeat those words out loud that I realized just how ridiculous it was. Negan is the kind of villain that an apocalyptic horror survival show like The Walking Dead needs, I’m just not sure if I’ll be sticking around to watch more. This is a zombie apocalypse, and we’re used to gruesome deaths, but I found this episode needlessly graphic. Maybe because it was just because it was the death of a character so beloved who had made it so far in the series, but Glenn’s death scene left me feeling nauseous, something I’ve yet to experience while watching The Walking Dead.

The appearance of Negan is seemingly ushering in a more macabre future for The Walking Dead, with the promise that it’s not the undead that should be feared; it’s the living.


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