Amidst the sighs of relief that Daryl made through to another season, there must have been cries of anguish over the double dose of death that Negan bashes out in the season seven premiere of The Walking Dead.
While bidding a shocked and teary adieu to Glenn and Sgt. Ford, the thing that overrode the blood and the brains and that bulging eye, was Negan’s systematic and concentrated breaking of Rick. A true alpha male, the leader with a baseball bat named Lucille knew who to crush to gain control.
Jeffery Dean Morgan, an actor who has made a career playing likable and approachable nice guys, gleefully chomped up great bloody hunks of scenery to own the season premiere. Andrew Lincoln gave as good as he got but the first episode belonged to Morgan full stop.
Greg Nicotero directed this episode, and we have also said that Nicotero rules when he is in the big chair, and it was, perhaps, the bloodiest open to a season yet. It has taken a long time for the comic book’s biggest bogeyman to turn up but he is here now and what a follow on to last season’s entrance.
The wait to see who was going to die was excruciating for fans who complained incessantly about last season’s finale. Last night’s season seven open answered the big question.
Was Daryl, the darling of the series, going to bite the big one?
Amazingly, for a character that does not exist in Robert Kirkman’s TWD universe, Daryl has more lives than a cat and will live on, if for no other reason than to keep Rick in line.
Negan clearly chose Daryl, who is, in essence, Rick’s right-hand man rather than Carl as separating father and son could have backfired. Instead Negan zeroes in on Rick’s only son as the coup de grâce to any possible resistance. His consistent pressure against Rick and keeping him off-balance helped set Grimes up for that payoff; the chopping off of Carl’s arm.
Rick does not have to go through with it, but the very fact that he starts to, tells all. Grimes is broken. He is no longer the fearless leader of his group.
The former cop could be seen as a calmer, less violent, mirror image of Negan who has, for the time being, met his match. That is the thing about the apocalypse, alpha males will eventually meet another alpha male who can willingly stomp them into the ground.
Rick’s new leader is basically the school yard bully. The guy who knows where to push. Happily putting one big paw on a shoulder while forming a fist with the other for a sucker punch.
Carl almost losing his left arm may have been a nod to the comics. In Kirkman’s verse one of the Grimes men loses his hand – Rick actually has his right hand cut off by The Governor – and for a moment it looked like the son was going to suffer his father’s fate, in a manner of speaking.
This was a difficult episode. Watching favorite characters reduced to frightened, crying, snot dribbling messes on their knees was hard. Although Abraham was tough right up till the end and Glenn never had the chance to feel anything but that bat.
The torturous trial that Negan put Rick through was also a tough one to witness. Once again, it was all designed to make Grimes realize that Negan was in charge. The one who held the reins and could, if needed, step in to “save the day” but only if Rick did as he was bloody well told.
By the end of the episode, Negan takes Daryl prisoner. He is holding Dixon as insurance. Pieces of the crossbow carrying member of Rick’s party will be delivered to Rick’s doorstep if he does not behave.
Maggie is in shock, as are the rest of the survivors, and the bodies are removed from the clearing where they were killed. Negan and his enormous band of followers retreat and they leave Rick and his diminished group to start gathering things for him.
The prosthetics and FX in the show last night were top notch. Glenn’s eye was horrific and beyond disturbing. To see him reduced to a gory mess trying to mumble out a message of hope to Maggie was gut wrenching.
Abraham being a hard-a** right to the very end felt right. His character had too much rage to go out any other way.
After watching the first episode of season seven a sneak peak was presented. It showed Carol and Morgan about to meet King Ezekiel, a man who has his own tiger on a lead.
The Waking Dead airs Sundays on AMC. Head on over and catch the recent events if you have not done so already. Prepare to cry a little and perhaps have nightmares about that eye.
- Andrew Lincoln – Rick Grimes
- Norman Reedus – Daryl Dixon
- Steven Yeun – Glenn Rhee
- Lauren Cohan – Maggie Greene
- Chandler Riggs – Carl Grimes
- Danai Gurira – Michonne
- Melissa McBride – Carol Peletier
- Michael Cudlitz – Sgt. Abraham Ford
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan – Negan
- Sonequa Martin-Green – Sasha Williams
- Lennie James – Morgan Jones
- Josh McDermitt – Dr. Eugene Porter
- Christian Serratos -Rosita Espinosa