THE WALKING DEAD Review: "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"
Just got back from watching the Season Seven finale of The Walking Dead. Here are some preliminary thoughts. The following comments are going to be spoileriffic as all get-out, so be ye warned...
*I did not see the back-stabbing from the Junkyard Gang (the Walking Dead wiki calls them "Scavengers") coming at all. Yes they're really weird and not very good people, but that was a legitimate surprise. The Scavenger leader is named Jadis and that's really appropriate--it's the actual name of the White Witch from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.
(And given how the Scavengers' deal with Negan seems to involve twelve--later ten--Alexandrians as slave labor or who knows what, her comment about having sex with Rick after the battle just got a lot more sinister.)
*The arrival of the Kingdom and Hilltop to save the day just as Negan is about to kill Carl was awesome. Negan is about to swing down and suddenly Shiva the tiger just jumps into the fray and kills one of his goons. Mayhem ensues, with the bad man getting away after another near-miss from Shiva. In TVTropes terms, this was a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Maggie, King Ezekiel, and both their respective factions. Good job.
*Negan's theatrical brutality is on full display once again with the whole "Sasha in the coffin" stunt. I knew what Sasha was going to do, but I didn't anticipate the coffin. That would allow for maximum surprise.
*Negan's impromptu freestyle poetry ("a stupid little prick named Rick") was amusing, as was the later portion of his demands.
*Way too many shots of Sasha inside the coffin and flashbacks to the last day Abraham was alive throughout the episode, with Sasha's story being told out of order. I understand what they were trying to go for, but they overdid it.
*Jadis shoots Rick and throws him off the top of the gateway, but later we see her marching him through the streets at gunpoint. Unless she immediately jumped down afterward, that's quite a bit of time in the midst of a battle between the Alexandrians and the Saviors for Rick to get away, get a gun of his own, etc.
*Given Negan's bizarre soft spot for Carl, I figured he was going to try to kill Rick when he had everybody at his mercy. Rick had already been wounded by Jadis and Rick has been plotting against Negan the whole time. Although Negan has a thing for punishing the loved ones of people who disobey him or try to kill him rather than the guilty ones themselves (Glenn for Daryl, Olivia for Rosta), I figured Carl was a special case. I guess if they follow the comic plot with Negan and Carl, Carl will have very good reason to rebuff Negan's "I thought we were friends." Negan's affection for Carl was one of the more interesting aspects of his character and to have him throw that away by trying to kill him weakens that.
*The whole of the last half of Season Seven suffered from "let's prolong the buildup to war as much as possible" and this episode had that.
*Negan is rallying his people to war, but he has the traitorous Dwight in his inner circle, as well as Eugene, whom he probably suspects helped Sasha die. Ezekiel, Maggie, and Rick are united against the Saviors, but the Scavengers were able to escape. As allies of Negan, they're going to need to be dealt with.
*Despite the flaws, a fun episode overall. I'm looking forward to Season Eight.