BEFORE WE GET STARTED THERE ARE MASSIVE, MASSIVE, MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!!! IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED TONIGHT’S EPISODE THEN DO NOT READ THIS! FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE WATCHED…WELL IT’S TIME.
I guess first things first, how’s everyone doing? I don’t know Geeklings, I could certainly use a hug. Maybe two or three… or can someone just to spoon me? Just don’t let me go. We have sat around the last eight months trying to figure out just what happened when Negan swung that bat, and I think the speculation kind of distracted us from the facts. That when that bat landed there would be clear, destructive, heart breaking consequences. Tonight we got what we asked for. Tonight we got answers and those answers were more brutal than we anticipated. Maybe we should stop asking questions for the rest of the season. It just seems safer that way.
How does one even review an episode like this? I’ve been sitting here writing for the better part of an hour and I’m having trouble finding the right tone and words. This wasn’t so much an episode of television as it was a test of emotional endurance much like Game of Thrones Red Wedding. The tension was relentless and never let up once. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse they did and then didn’t stop. Tonight’s Walking Dead wasn’t just about breaking Rick but it was also about breaking the audience. The board needed to be completely reset here and that included us too. It would be easy to confuse this episode as some type of perverse punishment to the viewers but it was needed. We needed to understand that things are going to be different going forward and when the credits rolled the world of the Walking Dead was different as we were emotionally.
I think at some point during this episode, again much like the Red Wedding, I asked myself, “why do I put myself through these type of things”. There’s almost this sick and twisted perversion to watching something so bleak as tonight’s premier, but my answer is probably very similar to yours. I’m invested. I’m a story junkie and we all know that stories have and ebb and flow to them, especially when those stories are serialized like they are on television. There are highs and there are lows but good narratives keep them flowing, and despite the lows there is the hope that things will get better. Characters can be avenged and mistakes can be redeemed. For a story junkie there is always hope. That’s what keeps you invested. You find characters you love and you stick by them in the hopes that they will get a happy ending or in some cases the ending they deserve. Did the characters who died tonight (that’s right there were two) get the endings they deserve? That’s debatable as we have yet to really see the fallout from this event. Tonight’s episode wasn’t about fallout it was about a shift in power. Rick is no longer in charge and this world solely belongs to Negan.
Being such a huge fan of the comics one of my chief complaints with the Walking Dead show was how they kind of dropped the ball when it came to the Governor. While the character was interesting he never really achieved the villainy that resided in the comics. As the Woodbury story progressed he always seemed more like a temporary road block to Rick and his Merry Band of Survivors opposed to being this unstoppable force. That was disappointing considering just how brutal and ruthless he is in the comics. Plus how do you not include that mustache?! It just added to how despicable the Governor is. When it comes to villains it’s okay to judge a book by it’s cover. If it looks like a bag of D and smells like a bag of D then chances are… it’s a bag of D. Tonight’s episode delivered us the villain we deserve and the villain Rick needs. In one hour Negan took out two of Rick’s people, proved to him that he was ahead every step of the way, metaphorically neutered our leader, and then because he could, emotionally broke him in front of his people. The Governor never achieved any of that in the two seasons (two and a half?) he was on this show. Negan did it in an hour and ten minutes and it came across organically and one hundred percent believable. Negan was an instant force.
That’s why the tone of tonight’s episode was so important. This was the type of episode that once finished you feel that you need a shower to cleanse yourself. There will be emotional hangovers from what happened here and it’s hard to pick the ones that were the most bothersome. Yes, the deaths are an easy answer but what about Rick being forced to cut off Carl’s arm? The aftermath as the group buried their dead? Those visuals are hard to shake and one has to wonder if this season is going to try and maintain that type of tone all season long. I think tonight was a message of how things can be if you don’t follow Negan’s rules and I don’t expect things to be this bleak all season long. Tonight was a display of strength and the message was loudly received by Rick and the audience alike.
There was no doubt that there was a great deal of hype going into tonight’s premier. For the last eight months we have been wondering just who Negan choose to make an example of. To quote last seasons finale, the table had been set and we were all waiting for our food to come out. I mean, if by food you mean a brutal beating with a barbed wire baseball bat. Sometimes it’s easy to confuse the two. Tone is important when trying to create an iconic villain, and the Walking Dead delivered in spades tonight. The build up through flashbacks helped further the tension and when it was finally revealed that Negan chose S P O I L ER …………… Abraham it almost seemed unbelievable. We had been waiting for so long for this answer and the simplicity of the answer was kind of stunning. The selection of Abraham almost seemed like a lie because it was done so easily and while we were still processing what happened, Lucille had already connected with his skull. We weren’t given the proper amount of time to process the information. One minute Abraham was alive and the very next he wasn’t. Just like that.
And that would have been enough I think. There was a payoff to finding out who Negan chose. Did it pack the emotional punch we expected? To a degree. I would argue that any time you watch a character get beat to death with a barb wired bat it’s going to leave an emotional impact, but it wasn’t enough. Abraham’s death, while awful, didn’t really have that emotional crippling effect that I thought would happen. That emotional crippling would happen five minutes later after Daryl decided he’d had enough (which was an interesting change from the comic as it’s Rick who punches Negan in that moment). For a brief moment you could hear the interwebs scream as it seemed that Daryl was going to be the next victim for lashing out, but what is the best way to punish a person? Not by punishing them directly but by punishing someone else. Make them responsible for your actions. Now you have to deal with the guilt of your actions. Being brave and taking a stand takes a lot of courage, and Negan even admires that in Daryl, but can that person be the same knowing that they are directly responsible for the death of someone else? That’s something we’re going to have to wait and find out.
This episode was filmed wonderfully and after Negan proclaimed he was going to be true to his word of shutting shit down I felt that the camera angle almost foreshadowed what was going to happen next. And again before we could process what was happening, Lucille was cutting through the air and connecting with S P O I L E R …………………………………………………………………. Glenn’s head. Here is your emotional crippling. Is this what you wanted?!
I have to say that while this scene was awful to behold, truly uncomfortable, the transition from comic to screen was incredible. This played out exactly the way it does in the comic all the way from the dialogue to the visual. In that stand point it was perfect. But man did it weigh on you. Watching Glenn die that way just ripped the heart out of your chest Indiana Jones style. From his last words to Maggie (ugh, please make this stop) to the way Negan would stop to discuss just how difficult this must be for everyone (was he talking to us or the group?). At that point you were screaming for it to stop so Glenn could stop suffering. Just let him go he doesn’t deserve this. We don’t deserve this. Just like that everything is different. We now know that Negan is not one who effs around. He runs his ship a certain way and if you don’t follow those rules then you don’t get to play in the game anymore. It’s that simple.
Now where does that leave us going forward? Has Rick lost his people? It’s possible. The fallout from this episode will be tremendous and hang over this season like the black cloud of doom that it is. Relationships will change, hell, they’ve already changed. Both Maggie and Sasha openly defy Rick’s request to get her to a doctor which is something that hasn’t happened in the past. Rick’s word was the law and now he has no say. What will Rick’s relationship with Carl be like after this? Granted Carl gave him the okay to cut off his arm (a really good Carl moment for all you Carl haters) and Rick emotionally broke down and went to do it. We already know that after the assault on the prison that Carl lost respect for his father for the way he handled things. Could something like that be on the horizon?
Tonight we didn’t just lose Abraham and Glenn but we lost Rick Grimes. Before tonight he was Rick Grimes the defeater of cannibals, the killer of Governors, the leader of the weak and scared, throat biter, and he was invincible. You can argue that Rick never said he was invincible but his actions and his arrogance would be the counter argument. Not once did Rick take the time to understand who or what Negan was, and now there is very little doubt to that question. It is quite clear. Negan is in charge and Rick is broken.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to cleanse and fall asleep to something happy and bright like Wall-E which is the film equivalent to a hug. Sleep well Geeklings and feel free to sound off in the comments below. Tell me how you’re feeling or what you think is going to happen moving forward. Let’s talk this out and help each other move on because it’s only seven days until the next episode airs and that just doesn’t seem like enough time to grieve.
You can follow Kevin on Twitter and Instagram @iamgeek32 feel free to contact him to talk more Walking Dead or anything else geeky. If you want more of his word adventures you can visit his blog, I Am Geek.
Images from AMC