by Billie Doux
I get why they did the cliffhanger thing now. They weren't planning to simply kill off a character. They were planning a massive re-set and bloodbath. Negan had to break Rick down completely in order to use him, and this episode was entirely about Rick watching his world fall apart. Technically and emotionally, it was an exceptionally powerful episode. I wasn't on the edge of my seat, but I was quite tense. Certainly more tense than I've ever been watching any other episode of this show.
Abraham's death was bad, although at least he got to be wonderfully defiant. He told Negan "Suck my nuts," a very Abraham thing to say in his final moment. I'm fond of Abraham, and Michael Cudlitz is such a wonderful actor, but his death wasn't a surprise. I just rewatched season six, and it was obvious that Abraham might be reaching an end to his character journey. He'd reconciled with Eugene, he was happy defending Alexandria, and he'd found love with Sasha.
But losing Glenn too was just awful. His death was prolonged and painful and certainly uglier than Abraham's. I'm sure it was supposed to shock the audience because it was unexpected, because we thought maybe the horror was over. How sad that it happened only because Daryl lost control and attacked Negan. I'm sure Daryl will feel guilty about it forever. Glenn's last words were "Maggie, I'll find you." I found that somewhat comforting because if there's an afterlife, he will. Maggie, please don't give up. Get to the doctor at Hilltop and keep that baby. You need a reason to live now.
There probably could have been more dramatic, romantic or touching moments, but I'm going to choose to remember Abraham and Glenn as they were in last season's "Knots Untie" and their expressions when they had that adorable Bisquick conversation in the RV.
What got to me more than the deaths was the constant threat of amputation. Even though I don't read the graphic novels, major character deaths and events keep coming up on the net, so I know that a certain character lost a hand at some point. In last season's "The Same Boat," Chelle, one of Negan's people, had lost part of her finger because she'd been caught stealing.
So while Negan was working on breaking Rick down during those scenes in and around the RV, I was certain he would punish Rick by cutting off his hand. It couldn't have been signaled any more clearly; the axe was the center of so many shots, and at one point, Negan even cleaned the axe off with alcohol and got a dish towel ready. And then later, in that gutwrenching scene near the end where Negan ordered Rick to cut off Carl's arm, even drawing in marker a line where the axe was supposed to go, I honestly thought they were going to go there. Fortunately, it was all a Biblical Abraham and Isaac exercise, with Negan playing the part of God.
Wow, do I want Rick to kill Negan now. Actually, back that up. I want Maggie and Sasha to do it together. Maybe they could tag team. And I don't think anyone is going to blame Rick or Daryl for what just happened, or heaven forbid, Maggie, who thought it was all her fault for getting sick. This group has been together too long. They are going to band together, and they are going to make a plan and they're going to carry it out. It may take awhile, but it will happen.
Gold acting stars for Andrew Lincoln. The episode began, ended and featured close-ups of Rick's face and especially his haunted eyes framed by that splash of Abraham's blood, a visible symbol of Rick's guilt. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was also amazing. The second time through the episode, I noticed how physical Morgan's performance was, how much difficult stuff he had to do -- he even had to physically drag Lincoln around more than once. Morgan's face also ricocheted from faux empathetic to gleefully psychotic, no mean feat.
Actually, everyone was terrific in the way they portrayed fear, shock and grief. Daryl's face when Glenn was dying for Daryl's mistake was so painful. When Carl told his father bravely to just do it, I cheered for Chandler Riggs; it may have been his strongest scene in the series. The last bit with the bodies when Sasha, Rosita and Eugene took Abraham's and the rest of them took Glenn's was moving. I cried.
I thought the scenes with the RV in the mist at dawn surrounded by shadowy walkers were beautifully done, too. There was a real feeling of transition, as if Rick were in a sort of purgatory between life and death. The walker going for the blood as they left the clearing was also powerful. It seemed to emphasize that the walkers had become part of the background. It's the people that are the danger.
I was worried that this episode would be too much for me, but I think I'm okay. This is the show we're watching, you know. We lose characters we care about every few episodes. This one was definitely heavier than usual, the worst. Up until now, I thought Noah's death was the worst, mostly because of how well it was staged and how Steven Yeun reacted to watching it happen on the other side of the revolving door.
-- The credits were the same. The only change was the addition of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's name at the end. I'm sure there will be changes next week.
-- The title of the episode is from a Rick/Jenner exchange: Rick: "I'm grateful." Jenner: "The day will come when you won't be." (Thanks, Logan.)
-- Negan said that Simon, the guy with the pen, was his right hand man, and asked Rick who his right hand man was (which would be Daryl). Rick didn't answer but let Negan infer that it was one of the dead.
-- After killing one of them, Negan and his bat were situated with light behind him so that Lucille looked like a monstrous erection. I'm sure that was deliberate.
-- Sasha and Maggie lost their siblings at the same time. Now they lost their loves at the same time.
-- Instead of the usual format, the episode of Talking Dead that followed this episode was a ninety-minute special held at a cemetery in Hollywood with much of the cast and thousands of fans. I wonder if that was a mistake, because everyone seemed to be bummed out. It even rained, and it was an outside event. It doesn't rain often in Los Angeles.
Rick: "I'm gonna kill you. Not today, not tomorrow, but I'm gonna kill you."
Negan: "Bet you thought you were all gonna grow old together, sitting around the table at Sunday dinner and the happily ever after. No. It doesn't work like that Rick. Not anymore."
The details in this little scene are heartbreaking: Glenn and Abraham at the head of the table, the little boy in Glenn's lap, Sasha pregnant.
Maggie: "I need to do this. Please."
Aaron: "We need to help you."
I'm going to abbreviate Negan's witticisms: Shit in scrambled eggs, vampire bat, dirty girl, warlock's ballsack, salami slice, ta ta. There you go.
While this was an excellent episode and most certainly a game changer, it was truly hard to watch. I don't plan to sit through it again,
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.