The Walking Dead S7E16: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
It took us 16 episodes to get from Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Mo all the way to a fight at the gates of Alexandria, but we’ve finally made it. Sides have been chosen and deals have been made. Time to partake in this fight we’ve been waiting all season for.
This season of The Walking Dead has been a roller-coaster in every sense of the word. I personally had episodes rated as high as an ‘A’ to as low as a pretty generous ‘D’, and a string of 4 episodes which never got above a B+. While you may debate my ratings of each episode, one thing that is not debatable is that the show is in a significant decline in viewership. This marks the second season in a row of a decline in average viewers, and given a few specific narrative problems in this season alone I can understand why. For this finale I had a lot of trouble formulating my thoughts. This, along with last week’s episode, have been at such a different pace than the majority of the season that it’s almost a shock to the senses. I usually like to break down 3-4 specific scenes or decisions made each episode, but I’d rather tackle this one a little differently… Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from the season seven finale.
Sasha’s death: It was clear after the first scene or two that she was saying goodbye this episode. Flashes to her last conversation with Abraham, a peaceful sunset with Maggie, dark seclusion in the coffin… this was her farewell song. I alluded last week at how her initial rebellion to sacrificing herself for her friends was emblematic of our rebellion against God. She ends up taking the path of sacrifice (ish), and is able to get a final shot at taking out Negan on the way
Daryl Fighting Back: Aside from his escape from the sanctuary, Daryl has been a caged animal this season, as was symbolized in episode 10. It was nice seeing him exposed to his former captors and fighting against them once more.
Gregory out of the Way: I don’t have the slightest clue where Gregory went. And I don’t care! He left, that much is clear from Maggie’s comment at the beginning of the episode and with him pondering over a map last episode. With him gone, we got a chance to see what Hilltop was capable of with Maggie at the helm.
Sincere Dwight: I think most fans expected this, but it appears Dwight’s intentions to betray Negan are true, which is good for Rick since Eugene seems to have completely bought into Negan.
The Flashbacks: A lot of people don’t like the show’s use of flashbacks. They’re wrong (usually). Sasha’s scenes in the coffin worked backward as the rest of the episodes moved forward, which was an indicator that she was finding strength for her decision to kill herself in what has happened in the past. Namely, Abraham persuading her to help Maggie rather than lookout for themselves. Scenes of their conversation before they got on the RV in the season 6 finale were beautifully crafted and very touching. Scenes of her sitting with Maggie watching the sunset reminded her of what they’re all fighting for. I thought the flashbacks were a nice tough to the episode.
Shiva in Action: Finally we get to see a tiger be a tiger. Everyone knew this moment was coming, but it was awesome seeing her leaping into action and being a dominant predator rather than a chained feline.
Shiva in Action: This is more from a practical sense, but when she leaps on the first savior it’s completely by surprise. The camera eventually pans to where the rest of the Kingdom people were coming from and it was around the corner of a building about 100’ away. Really? You don’t see or hear a tiger running at you from 100’ away?
Jadis Backing Down: When the smoke cleared from the initial exchange of gunfire and Negan had Rick and Carl on their knees, Jadis demands what Negan promised; 12 people. Negan responds with, “10”. Jadis again pushed for their agreement of 12, which is met with a stern (?) stare from Negan, then she backs down to 10. Uhhh… okay? Really? It just takes a firm look to get you to back down?
The Gunfight: Here I’m referring specifically to once the Kingdom and the Hilltop communities arrive and join in the fight. The scene choreography from then forward felt really scatterbrained and amateur to me. People being surprised by groups appearing right in front of them. Ezekiel and Maggie conveniently getting to Alexandria at the same time. Greg Nicotero directed this episode. He’s very good when dealing with character deaths (Sasha, Abraham, Glenn, Tyrese), and with intense dialogue, but he’s hit or miss with large-scale action (aside from the majority of S5E1’s No Sanctuary). It shows here with numerous implausible moments in the gunfight.
The Scavengers: My problem with the Scavengers is not that they betrayed Rick, or that they live in a junkyard. My problem is their entire existence on this show. This is a group that does not exist in the comics. That’s fine. But when the whole point of their purpose on this show can be boiled down to letting Negan know what Rick was up to, then their existence on the show is pointless because that could’ve been done a dozen other ways that didn’t involve bringing in new characters to bog down an already bloated cast. It’s a sign of the showrunners wanting to distinguish themselves from the comics, but using horrible plot execution to do so. There is nothing the Scavengers did that couldn’t have been accomplished by small tweaks in other plot points. Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom have shown they’re strong enough to fight back together. Now just eliminate half the overdone decision-making from Ezekiel, and push Gregory out of the way a bit quicker and you’re there. And you’ve also sped up the overarching story by 2-4 episodes which was a primary complaint of mine this season.
My Rating: B
Ending with the ugly usually leaves a bad taste in the mouth. There was a lot to like about this episode, which I’ve already mentioned. We’re setup to begin the “All Out War” storyline, and one has to think that things will pick up. Let’s hope they spend this offseason working on the pace of the narrative while also sticking with what works. I’m not one to complain when they veer from the comics. After all, that got us Daryl and Carol, it got us a more satisfying Abraham, and the list goes on. But when specific diversions are made that completely fall flat (like the Scavengers group), then it’s grasping at straws at the hope of being original.