With the swift jump of Shiva, and a little help from their friends, Rick’s group escaped what would have been a bloody and painful sealed fate as season 7 drew to a close Sunday evening. When Negan and the Saviors invaded their camp, and the plan to blow them to bits was foiled by none other than the Scavengers, it seemed that hope built up over the previous weeks was a wasted emotion. However, one thing fans of The Walking Dead know is that things can change at the drop of a hat, or in this case, the jump of a tiger.
What the season finale brought with it, other than the released tears of sheer relief and cheers of a slow road to victory, was a series of answers to questions some fans didn’t even know they’d been asking for the duration of season 7. After the traumatizing season opener – some began to say that the season fell flat, that the excitement and storyline weren’t up to par, and that they’d grown a bit less attached to a series that once drew them in intoxicatingly.
On the other hand, some said that the show was too much now – the gore had surpassed expected levels of ‘disturbing’ and that the plot was lost somewhere in the midst of the violence. While Negan’s methods of torture are certainly a lot – you have to remember that this is TWD – all things make sense in their time. We still don’t know what makes Negan who he is, what pain and trauma shaped him into the man who terrifies those around him with the swing of a bat and the lean of his frame. We do know, however, that Lucille means a lot to him and if you think a little deeper, it’s not hard to ‘imagine’ that maybe it’s because that name meant a lot to him at one point, too.
Regardless of if you were one of the fans who thought the show was lacking, or overly indulgent in ‘horror’ this season – the ‘happy/satisfied’ reviews were few and far between. Fans aren’t the only ones who saw this change in fan reaction, the actors on set did as well. Norman Reedus himself even made a statement on his reaction to what he saw this season.
“I think too many people are on the Internet, and everybody has a computer and everybody has an opinion. Which is fine, but you gotta stop. If you don’t have too much violence, they go there’s not enough violence. Too much violence, there’s too much violence. You just have to tell the story sometimes.”
Tell the story they did this season, with each episode, they planted seeds and when Greg Nicotero made his statement about the finale being ‘one of the best scripts’ – he was right on the money. The season finale gave fans hope, but it also made sense of every episode this season – the lulls in action and the times when we watched through half-covered eyes as our favorite characters were annihilated.
The episode where the group crossed paths with The Scavengers, and the eerie vibe we were left with – even when Rick had all the hope in the world – made sense. We had to see their interaction, the way they seemed to exist as mindless clones, not looking for a way to survive and prosper, but looking for a way to collect. This laid seeds for their betrayal, even if we didn’t notice it right away. While some still feel that their presence this season was meaningless, the finale couldn’t have happened without them, regardless of Jadis’ awful haircut and how genuinely creepy they were.
When viewers at home were more worried about Alanna’s weight than Tara washing up in Oceanside, they missed the focus of the episode where she gained the trust of a group of people. This came into play as Rick’s group needed guns and Tara was able to use said trust to attain them. Even after taking their guns, most of the women and children at Oceanside wished Tara and the group well and even thanked them for having the courage to fight Negan and the Saviors. Something they were unable to do.
Some of the actions of the characters, or lack of action, were explained as well. Gregory’s weird ‘rule’ over the Hilltop made even less sense as it was discovered that he’d never killed a Walker before. This set up the scene for Maggie’s speech at the end, which sets up what fans are anticipating to be her own rule. While originally, it was expected that Gregory may step down, or be forced to, and Jesus would take his place, Maggie has shown strength, determination, and now, the fight necessary to have that power harnessed as her own.
Morgan’s character this season, especially when he didn’t fall immediately into agreement with Rick about the fight against Negan, made more sense as the episodes progressed, especially the last three of season 7. He tried, despite the world around him, to find a center and to get through the day without killing, when that changed, his entire core was shaken. We saw that play out this season in a way we haven’t before.
Carol being almost willingly ignorant this season set the stage for her to throw herself into battle during the finale. She needed the time to heal and to gain strength, physically and emotionally, and if that meant pretending that the world wasn’t so bad, so be it. We even saw Rick at his lowest point in the history of the series, completely docile and submissive to Negan and the Saviors – he’d given up and completely given in. It wasn’t until Daryl snuck out of camp Negan and returned to the group that Rick truly felt capable of fighting again.
Another character who had to mentally place themselves somewhere else during this season was Sasha, and it happened long before the finale. She knew, the moment Negan took Abraham’s life, that she would make his death mean something – even if it meant taking her own life. She said that he deserved more and while he did go out protecting the group, standing up to Negan and refusing to bow – thus giving his pride no other choice than to choose Abraham, it wasn’t his time yet. Sasha hadn’t finished loving him.
Her death was the last really painful part of season 7, but she did die for a reason, she did it on her own terms.
Perhaps the most questionable characters of the season, and the series as a whole, also had a storyline that seemed to make more sense at the end of Sunday’s episode. Dwight wants to turn against Negan, at least, that’s what he told Rick’s group. This made sense to fans who had felt some sort of strange apologetic vibe from his character at times during this season. It almost seemed as if he was desperate to be human again, he wanted to be real, he didn’t want to be ‘Negan’ anymore. While during the battle, he was seen with the Saviors again, he did leave a token which Daryl found that let him know that Dwight was unaware that the Scavengers had turned on them.
The fight was made complete with the addition of King Ezekiel and the Kingdom – those episodes where we discovered more about The Kingdom and its inhabitants weren’t full of blood and action – but they had substance, which was at the core of season 7. The series as a whole has always been about more than blood and zombies, it’s been about people and how they love and how they survive. Season 7 highlighted those stories and laid groundwork for the future of the series, not just for one more season, but for several, and at the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for.
We don’t just want an exciting few seasons and a burnout, we want the experience.