‘Walking Dead’ starts off new season with killer reveal

Courtesy of AMC Studios Season seven focuses around a new villain, Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Negan was introduced in issue 100 of the comic, on which the season seven premiere is heavily based.

Courtesy of AMC Studios
Season seven focuses around a new villain, Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Negan was introduced in issue 100 of the comic, on which the season seven premiere is heavily based.

By Nicole Prieto | Staff Writer

One of the year’s most anticipated horror shows returned on Sunday night with a shocking revelation months in the making. Last season on “The Walking Dead,” we saw the brutal demise of one of the group’s own at the end of Negan’s barbed wire bat, Lucille. If you have been following the show’s Facebook page, you know that AMC has not been shy about exploiting the numbing terror that left fans with bated breaths since April.

So, enough of the delay. If you have not watched the premiere yet, this is your final warning — because here is a spoiler-heavy rundown of the good, the OK and the ugly of TWD’s most jaw-dropping premiere yet, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.”

The Good

First things first, I have to concede defeat to Duke News Editor Brandon Addeo from our spring Duke Roundtable: I was wrong! Eugene is not the unfortunate victim whose skull is caved in. In fact, TWD delivers a double whammy when it reveals that, in addition to Abraham, Glenn also bids his gruesome goodbye.

The episode pulls off this shocking blow with surprising sophistication. Some speculated that Glenn’s in-comic, death-by-Lucille would play out onscreen. In a show that veers around its source material, however, that has actually been a hard call to make by fans. Perhaps it is this background that makes his offing not seem senseless, just unexpected. Steven Yeun, you will be missed.

With the departure of one of the show’s most capable actors comes the entry of another. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a godsend, and his suave characterization makes Negan’s overbearing, solipsistic monologuing almost unnoticeable. He conveys the power to crush the Ricktatorship with just the dirt off his boots, forcing Rick to submit to a petty and life-threatening demand to retrieve an axe thrown in a sea of walkers. Forget whatever the Wolves were supposed to be. This is the villain the show has been waiting for.

In an iconic scene, Negan’s last stunt is to force Rick into an Abraham-and-Isaac-style gambit. He presents a cruel choice: Rick can either (1) hack off Carl’s left arm with an axe or (2) watch Negan’s cronies shoot everyone in the head — while watching Negan beat in Carl’s. Just moments before Rick severs his son’s limb, Negan stops him. It is powerful, it is cruel and it just a taste of what Season 7 promises.

The OK

Granted, the theme of Season 7 is apparently torture. Fans’ tortuous wait, Negan’s tortuous speeches and the Saviors’ sadism that punts the threat of the Governor’s dental-torture chair clean off the map. Negan is evil. And while that means we have an actual threat to look forward to, we are also stuck with the possibility that the show will complete its transformation into a B-grade exploitation film.

The religious allusions do not end at Negan playing god. We are also treated with a sentimental scene of what could have been. In a shot that evokes The Last Supper, we see everyone gathered around a long table with Glenn at one end with his child on his lap. It is somewhat cheesy, but at least it feels less cheap than the 20 minutes spent waiting for the show to reveal its major deaths.

The Ugly

“Shock value” is TWD’s basic strategy to get the blood pumping between lulls in its story. It says something that both men killed in this episode have ties to three female love interests forced to witness their brutal murders. Triple the partner mourning at two-thirds the cost. Really?

On that note, Glenn’s death was the definition of “ugly.” After Negan first hits him, we watch him sputter out his last words to Maggie as his left eyeball pops out of his head. After he is killed, we are treated both to the gory spot on the ground where his head should have been and to his flinching hands and body. This is not the triumphant survivor who beats back a zombie while tied to a chair in Season 3. It is yet another moral center to the show being dealt an untimely end. With a track record featuring Dale and Hershel’s deaths, maybe Glenn’s should have been a no-brainer after all.

The End

After Negan kidnaps Daryl, the group is left to gather the bodies of the dead. Rick drives off with the RV as an emaciated walker comes out of the woods. Through a mirror, we see it kneeling down before one of the bloody spots from Negan’s beating as it takes its pickings.

The premiere is dedicated to Negan proving a point: He is the god of the new world, and everything goes his way. In the end, the episode is the unkind kick that post-Season 6 needed for TWD to feel alive again. It is unfortunate, though, that it comes at the price of an unapologetic amount of sadism.

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