For the most part, The Walking Dead finally delivered on a compelling finale after a season that mostly shuffled along like a zombie in an advanced state of decay.
Action, plots twists, and emotional moments were among the high spots in the supersized Season 7 finale directed by Greg Nicotero.
[Warning: Spoilers follow if the episode is still sitting on your DVR unwatched.]
In the run-up to each season or finale, cast members always spoon-feed the gullible entertainment media with bait-and-switch hype, but maybe this time the episode justified the verbiage.
After the Season 7 premiere, the so-called torture porn episode that resolved the “who did Negan kill?” cliffhanger, The Walking Dead slow-walked the narrative with filler, including standalone (or “bottle” episodes, as the fans call them), that focused on one or two characters and did little to advance the plot.
In the finale, viewers finally got to see the war, or the beginning of it, between the Ricktatorship and Negan’s Saviors, which will obviously continue through Season 8 (but for how long?).
That the ensemble cast was all brought together in one episode is also a big plus. The show seems to suffer mightily when key characters disappear for multiple installments. Some chatter suggests that AMC does this for budgetary reasons, but do key actors in a high-visibility TV series really do piecework?
“It seemed like a good episode, and not only because viewers’ sound bars got such a workout from all those machine guns spewing hot lead. It was a well-made episode, melding moments of treachery and poetry and near epic disaster into the big battle scenario, ” the Chicago Tribune explained.
Although still a big hit for AMC in the fragmented TV media industry, The Walking Dead has lost about 5 million viewers over the season, so it remains to be seen if this episode will restore the series’ momentum going into its long hiatus. Watch this space for updates on the Season 7 finale ratings.
[See update on the Season 7 finale ratings below]
Among the highlights include the creative Breaking Bad-style fast forward and flashbacks that ultimately explained why Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) was mysteriously engulfed in the darkness listening to an iPod, the firefight between the two warring groups, Sasha’s sacrificial transformation, the two plot swerves, the various heartfelt exchanges between/among the main characters, and the genuine tension generated when it looked like Negan was really going to kill Carl and cut off Rick’s hands (the latter which happens in the comic).
And the tiger.
The sequence where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) tells Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that he is already dead came across powerfully.
Negan also displayed a somewhat fuller dimension to his character, although as several reviewers have mentioned, he committed the cardinal TV/movie sin of a villain explaining too much.
As the A.V. Club noted, “There is no defensible reason that a bad guy who’s repeatedly shown a willingness to resort to brutal violence to get what he wants would waste all this time trying to negotiate.”
(As a slight digression, recall the scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service when the Samuel L. Jackson character confronts the soon-to-be-shot Harry (Colin Firth) and says, “You know what this is like those old movies we both love. Now I’m going to tell you my whole plan, and then I’m gonna come up with a convoluted way to kill you, and you’ll find an equally convoluted way to escape. Well, this ain’t that kind of movie.”)
The Walking Dead comic book foreshadows Sasha’s Eugene-assisted turn in that Negan returns a hostage to Rick’s group named Holly (Sasha is a TV-only character) initially with a bag over her head that is revealed to be a zombie. While there is always speculation about who is going to die on The Walking Dead, since Sonequa Martin-Green has a new gig on a Star Trek spinoff, her departure from the recurring cast was expected if not telegraphed.
In addition to the Negan-Rick showdown, “The other one-on-one conflict was Darryl and Dwight. To see them stare each other down—Darryl with Dwight’s life in his hands—was incredibly tense and satisfying,” Gizmodo asserted.
We also saw the return of Herschel’s watch to Maggie (Lauren Cohan), the rightful owner, a legacy timepiece that she impulsively gave to Enid. Maggie’s voiceover gave the finale’s final moments an uplifting philosophical tone.
A couple of questions about the Season 7 finale.
- Rick is shot by the duplicitous Vulcan lookalike but seems that injury seems to disappear. How?
- All of the Saviors/Scavengers mowed down by Rick’s forces — wouldn’t they have reanimated as zombies and provided an immediate secondary threat?
- Is there a difference between Negan confiscating all of Alexandria’s guns and Rick doing the same with Oceanside?
- And more particularly, once Negan gets his expected comeuppance, then what?
As the Inquisitr previously observed, The Walking Dead follows a predictable pattern.
- Rick’s group searches for sanctuary/safe haven — finds sanctuary — loses sanctuary.
- The group travels together — group is separated — group reunites.
- One or more of them is kidnapped — one or more of them escapes or is rescued.
- Bad humans have the upper hand over the good guys — the good guys have the upper hand over the bad humans.
- Rick is the leader — Rick is no longer the leader — Rick is the leader again.
- Rick has PTSD — Rick recovers from PTSD — Rick suffers PTSD again?
The Vulture website also poses a similar query, especially since (unlike Syfy’s Z Nation) a search for cure, if there ever actually was one in the Walking Dead universe apart from Eugene’s posturing, is not part of the narrative.
“When the Saviors are vanquished, where does the show go from there? For a few seasons now, zombies have been little more than window dressing — good for a creative kill scene or an impressive set piece here and there. The real threat, though, is other people, be it the Governor or the Terminus cannibals or the Wolves or the Saviors. There’s a pattern that’s emerged — the survivors find safety, only to have that safety disrupted by a new human threat while the constant danger of the undead lingers. How many compelling ‘Big Bads’ are left to face? How many times can we watch Rick break down, then build back up? Short of Maggie giving birth to a zombie baby, what can truly shock and surprise us now?”
A zombaby does make an appearance on Z Nation, by the way, and forms a big part of the narrative.
Showrunner Scott Gimple claimed on the Talking Dead aftershow, “The first four episodes will melt people’s minds and break their televisions. It’s gonna be bigger, it’s gonna be more intense. I always mean that, but this year it’s the same thing — more intense,” but we’ve heard that kind of rhetoric before.
If or when the litigation with AMC is ever settled, perhaps Frank Darabont will reveal the direction that he would have taken The Walking Dead.
Incidentally, looking about 10 pounds heavier, Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a Negan-like crime boss in The Salvation, a Western currently streaming on Netflix, that also stars Hannibal actor Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green, both of whom coincidentally were in Casino Royale.
What did you think of The Walking Dead Season 7 finale? Sound off below.
Added: The ratings are in, and they’re not spectacular, Deadline Hollywood reports.
“The nearly 90-minute “The First Day Of The Rest of Your Life” episode of The Walking Dead on April 2 snagged 11.3 million total viewers and 7.1 million among adults 18-49 for a 5.9 rating. While up 7% in total audience over its March 26 show and rising 10% in the key demo, the finale…dropped 20% in viewers and 14% in 18-49s from the Season 6 finale of April 3, 2016 – which saw double-digit declines from TWD’s all-time finale high of Season 5. Apples to pineapple, the TWD finale…was down 30% in the key demo and 34% in total viewers from the near record-breaking Season 7 premiere of October 23 last year.”
[Featured Image by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images]