The Walking Dead: 7.16 The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

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It wasn’t all-out war with the Saviours, but The First Day of the Rest of Your Life was the start of one. The Walking Dead’s season finale, I’m pleased to say, was much better than expected, and focused on Sasha’s fate and her role in the Rick/Negan confrontation.

The episode opened with Sasha’s face illuminated in what appeared to otherwise be a dark, small space. She was sweating and twitching, presumably dying after having taken Eugene’s poison after all. Throughout the episode, we saw the events that led to Sasha ending up here, and flashbacks to one of her last conversations with Abraham were interspersed throughout.

Chronologically speaking, Sasha started the episode in the same place she was in at the end of the last one: her cell in the Sanctuary. Negan brought her a weirdly cheery breakfast and they discussed how she would be a part of the showdown. Negan insisted that three people would have to die, but, tears in her eyes, she wheedled him down to one. This bargaining over how many would meet Lucille was chilling, even if we didn’t really believe Sasha was going to go along with whatever he has planned.

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At Alexandria, Daryl faced the choice of whether or not to just kill Dwight on the spot. Despite saying he wanted to help, Dwight has put the group through a hell of a lot, Daryl especially (for obvious reasons), and also Tara, as he was the one who killed her girlfriend Denise. Tara’s vengeful side, which I don’t think we’ve really seen before, really came out in this scene along with her grief for Denise as she urged Daryl to do it. Dwight seems genuinely understanding and sorry about what he’s done, and says it was all for someone else (Sherry), but now that she’s got out, he doesn’t need to stay in Negan’s corner any more. Mentioning Sherry, while of course understandable and relevant, really just sort of irritated me by reminding me that all of her most exciting moves have been made off-screen. I’m still wistful over the wasted potential of her character, and hopeful that we may yet see her again.

Defending his actions wasn’t all that Dwight did at knifepoint; he was also the first to suggest any actual real plan for instigating the fight with Negan. He also let Rick’s group know that Negan was onto them, and said that he’d buy as much time as possible.

At the Hilltop, Maggie had to decide whether or not to lead the people there into battle, fully acting as leader now that Gregory’s left. With Jesus and Enid for comfort and encouragement, Maggie did her best to make the right call. Jesus said he was glad that she was the one making the decision, and Enid gave her back Glenn’s watch.

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Meanwhile, Carol and the Kingdommers were on their way to Alexandria to update Rick about Ezekiel’s change of heart. In their path they encountered a blockade made with the same shopping cart technique that Richard had used, only this time it was Morgan going rogue and wanting to ambush the saviours himself. He was wearing Benjamin’s armour. Between that, Glenn’s watch, and Sasha’s Abraham flashbacks, reminders of the dead were everywhere in this episode and it was thoroughly effective. Everyone is fighting for someone. Ezekiel managed to talk Morgan down in a sense, or at least talk him into walking with them, and they headed onwards together.

Next, we saw the Junkyard bunch heading into Alexandria atop bicycles and garbage trucks. Sharing guns, helping cut down trees, and making bombs together, it seemed they were fully ready to join the fight. Jadis herself was more than affectionate in her own weird way, asking Michonne about Rick, “Yours? I lay with him after. You care?” This seemed like her most disjointed dialogue yet, and was frankly both funny and utterly odd.

As the Saviours made their way to the Sanctuary, they were halted by the fallen trees suggested by Dwight earlier. Eugene seemed completely at ease discussing with Negan the best way to proceed, unnervingly so. The roadblock was a perfect if blatant bit of symbolism showing that Eugene really is on Negan’s side (at least for now). Indeed, when the Saviours arrived at the battle-ready Alexandria, it was Eugene who acted as a Saviour spokesperson, megaphone and all. When asked by Rick where Negan was, he simply responded, “I am Negan,” a response met with disappointment and incredulity by his friends whose expressions perfectly conveyed an attitude of “for goodness’ sake, Eugene.” Resigned to this frustrating reality where Eugene is also Negan, a look shared between Rick and Rosita said to go ahead with the plan, and detonate the explosives that would take out the enemy.

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This was the moment where, had everything gone to plan, Eugene would have been blown up and the fight would have begun, Rick’s side having the advantage. However, super cool as that would’ve been, that’s not how things turned out thanks to a shocking twist. The bomb didn’t go off. Eugene was fine. Jadis and the Junkyarders turned their guns on Rick and the others.

This was a surprise that I really didn’t see coming, yet makes perfect sense given everything we know about Jadis and her people. I have to commend this as a plot twist because it doesn’t feel like it was done for shock value, yet was still shocking and marked the point in the episode where the tension and excitement shot through the roof. As soon as it became obvious that they were on Negan’s side after all, I actually half expected it to turn out that the Junkyard was another outpost and they were all fluent english speakers the whole time. Of course, that wasn’t the case; Jadis just “made a better deal,” and this explains the confusion last week over who the little birdie was that filled Negan in on Rick’s plan. This entire thing was really well-done as up until now the Junkyarders just seemed like such an obvious part of RICK’S plan, and they insist they don’t normally bother people, it never crossed my mind that they may seek out the Saviours themselves. Shortly after this reveal, we see Jadis and Negan talking about their deal, and once again Jadis proves herself to be the world’s worst negotiator. Then again, Negan’s not really someone you want to argue with. Whether it’s 10 or 12 that the deal was for, the thing I want to know is, 10 or 12 of what? It sounded like it was people? Maybe I missed it or maybe Negan just wants more in his ranks.

So the tables had turned, and now Negan was in control, and he also had Sasha as a bargaining chip. She was safely tucked away in a coffin, and Negan supposedly wouldn’t have to let her out and kill her if Rick would just calmly surrender. In a flashback to earlier that episode, we saw Sasha talking with Negan and getting into the coffin willingly, along with a bottle of water, a music player provided by Eugene, and of course the poison pill also provided by Eugene. Sasha had run out of options, and would take the pill while in the coffin to remove herself as a tool to be used by Negan. This took us to the state we’d seen Sasha in at the episode opening, in the process of dying in the coffin, face illuminated by the mp3 player. The flashbacks of her and Abraham we’d seen throughout the episode had been her remembering as she was dying. The memory was of the day of his death. Sasha had asked him not to go with the others to take Maggie to a doctor. She’d dreamed of his death and their relationship was so new, she didn’t want to lose it. In the end, they went together to protect their friends and fight for the future, and they agreed that however and whenever they went out, there should be a point to it. And so yes, Sasha killed herself, but it wasn’t out of hopelessness.

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As Negan strutted about, bragging about the fact that he had Sasha, we now knew that the coffin only held her corpse. The Alexandrians still didn’t know she was dead, and their worry-filled faces were heartbreaking. The camera lingered on Rosita as she looked on the coffin, and her upset face was so sad. The two had finally become friends and no doubt Rosita felt guilt for Sasha’s capture. Rick demanded to see Sasha and confirm that she was okay, and so Negan opened the coffin.

I was expecting only Sasha’s lifeless body to fall out, but (as I really should have seen coming) she had already reanimated and so walker-Sasha lunged straight at Negan. The surprise of this amazing moment provided the distraction Alexandria needed to open fire, and just like that, the fight began and chaos broke loose. As Negan struggled to hold Sasha off him, he frustratedly said “aw, honey, goddamn,” leading me to believe that he really did like her as he said, and hadn’t wanted her to get hurt. I think that some of Negan’s most interesting moments are these ones, where he momentarily becomes more than a one-dimensional, bat-wielding dictator, and actually seems to care about an individual.

So the fight had begun, but Alexandria was losing. Michonne was fighting for her life with a junkyard woman atop the roof of a building, and on the ground people were dying, and with the Junkyard people on Negan’s side, Rick and co. were being rounded up. Jadis led Rick at gunpoint to the place where Negan already had Carl and others on their knees, and it was like the season premiere all over again. Rick was terrified, Carl was in immediate danger, and Negan was in control. Andrew Lincoln pulled off another incredible bit of acting, only this time the fear was coupled with defiance. Rick repeated to Negan in no uncertain terms that he would kill him one day, as the two locked eyes in an incredible showdown, this time equals despite Rick being on his knees. Just when Negan was about to kill Carl (which I really believed was a possibility now Chandler Riggs is off to university soon), the Kingdom’s arrival was announced by Shiva the tiger taking down one of Negan’s men.

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The scales had been tipped, Carol and Ezekiel came in like a power couple, the tiger was on the loose and mauling bad guys all over the place, Maggie and the Hilltop people were there too, and the entire scene was really made by the incredible emotional music use. Morgan was among the Kingdommers and for a moment he and Rick fought side by side, a brilliant picture that made it impossible to forget how they were together at the very start. Seeing everyone fighting together was the most powerful and satisfying moment we’ve had on the show in a long time. This battle was won. The junkyard people turned and ran and Negan made it out in an armoured Jeep, giving Alexandria the finger while being chased and shot at. Sasha was dead, but thanks to her, Negan hadn’t regained control.

Dwight and Eugene are both still with him for now, but before Sasha died, she told Eugene she wasn’t giving up on him, and you bet your ass that that’s going to be relevant sometime in the future. Negan’s also suspicious of him now, only “maybe” buying his story that Sasha must have died because of running out of air. Dwight now seems to be an inside man; I was anticipating him publicly switching sides during the battle by shooting Simon or something, but it looks like he’s playing the long con for now. In the aftermath of the fight, Daryl found a message left by him about Jadis’ betrayal, saying “didn’t know.” For the first time, I find myself actually liking Dwight, and I’m excited to see more of him.

Rick and Carl found Michonne had won her fight. She was badly beaten up but alive, and her insistent belief that they would win had paid off. The episode ended with a monologue by Maggie, talking about how they were all helping each other, and it was all following on from Glenn’s example when he saved Rick, a stranger’s life, back at the very start. The monologue was delivered as a voiceover, as part of a discussion with Rick about how Sasha had saved them, and we heard Maggie’s voice as we saw her standing on a platform in Alexandria as leader of Hilltop, addressing everyone along with Rick and Ezekiel. We also saw the conclusion of a flashback to she and Sasha sitting together in their grief, watching the sunrise. There were brilliant parallels between the two of them, as their mourning each drove them towards a purpose. Sasha’s was dying to throw a spanner in Negan’s scheme, and Maggie’s is leading the future, Glenn’s watch in hand. Glenn’s watch is the last thing we saw as the episode ended, and that combined with Maggie linking everything back to him in her monologue made me seriously tear up.

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I’ve had my complaints about this season, but that finale was about the best possible ending. I might even say that it perfectly balances out the horror that was the season premiere, and I don’t say that lightly. This episode was the perfect homage and tribute to Glenn and Abraham, respectful and almost reverent in its treatment of those characters in incredible contrast to the manner of their deaths. Glenn was my favourite character and so naturally the premiere deeply upset me, but basically crediting him with all the goodness and teamwork that’s happened since we met him did a good job of appeasing me. I got the feeling now more than ever that the future would be built on his memory, just as Sasha’s sacrifice was built on Abraham’s.

I have very little to criticise about the finale; my problems really just lie with season 7 as a whole. I’m still not entirely sure that the epic event that was the finale was WORTH all the garbage this season has put us through, but I’m extremely pleased that there was at least much more of a rewarding payoff than I was expecting. The only problem is that the plot of this season took too long dragging its feet to get there. It was too miserable and not engaging enough on the way, meaning many viewers already lost interest and opted out before they saw the episode that might just have redeemed the show.

Seeing everyone in one episode like that, banding together and fighting for a cause, is what we’ve all been missing. The First Day of the Rest of Your Life had emotion, tension, action, and the best writing we’ve had all season. It perfectly acknowledged the character’s grief while setting things up for the future, and gave Sasha about the best death that anyone could hope for in a the world of The Walking Dead. The season seven finale was a pleasantly surprising, incredibly powerful episode that I’m sure many, myself included, will watch again and again, and I’m thrilled to say I’m actually looking forward to season 8.

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