It’s been a very long seven months but The Walking Dead is finally back on our screens! Although the season 6 finale divided many fans due to the unexpected and entirely unnecessary cliffhanger, there was still a huge amount of anticipation for the season 7 premiere.
I watched the episode live but missed the first fifteen minutes because it was impossible to find a good stream. This lead to a lot of frustrated pillow abuse and a bit of a headache while I got my shit together and found one that wasn’t blurry. Even when I found a link, it was shaky and people in the background chatted relentlessly so needless to say it wasn’t a premium viewing experience, but it was better than nothing!
It’s very difficult to review this episode because there’s so much hype and controversy around it, what with last season’s cliffhanger and the spoilers floating around all summer. I didn’t go into it as a fan wanting to sit down and just let The Walking Dead happen to me, I went in anxious and impatient, with lingering feelings of irritation from the last time I sat down to watch the show live. It’s not the best mindset to go in with, but it’s the one I – and I suspect many others – had.
By the end of the episode, I’d been through four seasons of emotions; disappointment, boredom, excitement and grief. Overall it was a brilliant episode, but the gap from the season 6 finale felt very large indeed and it was immediately apparent that Gimple and co. had made a mistake by not revealing the death in the finale. The main reason being: there was no edge-of-your-seat tension like last time. It simply wasn’t there, and although I knew it would be almost impossible to re-create that sweaty, genuinely terrified state of viewing that I and many others experienced during the finale, it was still a disappointment to see the scenes unfold on screen and knowing what could have been.
It’s rather appropriate that this is Halloween week as there was some seriously top notch (and truly gross) gore in the episode. The props department for the show knocked it out of the park and the beating looked incredibly realistic and utterly disgusting, particularly the popped eyeball which really just made my stomach a bit queasy. It was so horrible seeing one of my favourite characters turned into a lumpy puddle of blood and teeth, but at least it was done right. It could easily have been botched which would’ve made the situation kind of funny rather than horrifying.
Just when you think the ordeal is over – that nothing worse can happen – Negan takes that happy little fantasy and beats the holy hell out of it. There were plenty of surprises in the episode, some of which you really don’t expect. Carl in particular is a complete badass. He was raised in the apocalypse so he’s the quickest to accept the way things must be to survive, but I was still impressed and shocked by his role and the way he handles things in the episode.
The acting was absolutely phenomenal; it was clear that the entire cast poured their heart and soul into their scenes, and in particular Andrew Lincoln (Rick) has never been better. The man absolutely needs an Emmy and it’s a disgrace that he hasn’t received the official recognition he deserves. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, too, is captivating as Negan and so cavalier about such brutal actions that he really makes the character feel genuinely terrifying. The Governor gave me the creeps and I really really hated him, but Negan takes the cake. If I was on my knees about to possibly die, I’d rather face the Governor than Negan.
The final 20 minutes were better than the first half, which, when you take out the ‘who dies?’ element of it, is really just filler. It also had better pacing and by the end of the credits you crave episode two. One of the best scenes is where Rick dreams/ has a flashback about all of his people together eating dinner and it is absolutely heart wrenching. It really makes you think about what could have been had they not attacked the Saviours first. Would it have played out the same way? Would beloved characters still be alive? Certainly, someone would have died regardless, as that’s how Negan introduces himself, but we’ll never know if it would have been the same people.
As well as that, there’s a musical sequence near the end of the episode and I had to pause after I watched it to clean up the tears. I couldn’t help but imagine the scene as if it and the Lucille-ing had been added to the end of season 6. It would have been one of the best finales in TV history and every single viewer would have been absolutely grief-stricken by the end of it. We’d all still have been talking about it for the whole summer, we’d still have discussed it at length, we’d still have wondered how they’d all get past this; we’d have done everything AMC wanted us to do but with the added bonus of an impeccable, absolutely excellent and nail-biting finale. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, so there’s no point crying about it anymore, but I feel it needed to be said again for the last time.
Rick is broken now and it will take a lot for him to recover from all he has witnessed. I think we’ll probably see him dealing with some PTSD or mental health issues because he – and possibly his people as well – will likely blame himself for all the horrific events that have unfolded since the attack on the Saviours. Ultimately, this episode teaches him that he isn’t the head of the table anymore. Negan is. At this point, Rick is lucky to even get a seat. The final moments where he looks back and sees a lone walker roaming around really hammers home the fact that they’re just an afterthought now. People are the real monsters.
Even with all the horrific events of the episode, one of the most awful moments was when a Saviour walked over to the mutilated body of a beloved character and took a picture. That was rough.
If you’re a diehard The Walking Dead fan like I am, then of course you’re going to really enjoy this episode. It’s filled with fantastic performances, unexpected twists, a new, terrifying villain and plenty of blood and zombies. Plus, we get to see a lot more of Jeffrey Dean Morgan who, so far, is doing an impressive job at playing a high functioning sociopath with a flair for puns.
What did you think of the episode? Did it live up to your expectations? Did you love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments below!