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‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ Ends The Season With An Adequately Satisfying Bang

The Season 7 finale is poorly paced, but has enough thrills to get by.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Gene Page/AMC

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Something They Need’ Has A Lot Going On, But Little To Show For It

Whose Episode Is It?

It’s the Season 7 finale, so everyone is accounted for, and I mean everyone. (Except, weirdly, for Gregory. I guess Xander Berkley don’t come cheap?) The whole company is on hand for what turns out to be a surprisingly effective action climax. I know I said last week that there were very few specific stakes heading into the finale, which remains true, but “First Day” does its darndest to set up a plausible situation where all the various factions can come together to slug it out, even if it’s all just set up for next year’s big war. Of course most of the goodwill is undercut by a punishing 90-minute runtime and a last-minute descent into mawkish sentimentality, but it’s still better than expected.

Elizabeth Ludlow as Arat - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Obligatory Zombie Action

The big miss this week is the flashback material with Sasha, as she remembers a conversation she had with Abraham just before they left on their fateful road trip into Negan’s clutches at the end of last season. The flashbacks are somehow both glacially paced and infuriatingly short, so the episode can keep returning to the extremely dull conversation throughout its first hour.

READ MORE: ‘The Walking Dead’ Star Andrew Lincoln Maps Out The Unexpected Way He Wants His Character to Die

In short: Sasha doesn’t want Abraham to go on the trip, and he talks her into it because helping Maggie is the right thing to do, and that’s what makes life worth living. It’s all to convince Sasha to kill herself with Eugene’s poison pill so that she has a chance to kill Negan as a zombie. (More on that in a second.) It also acts as a sort of de facto eulogy for Abraham, doing that famous “Walking Dead” backfill character development by showing us some of Abraham and Sasha’s relationship. It’s a shame we didn’t see more of it, y’know, when Abraham was alive.

Anyway, Sasha’s plan. In an extremely convoluted bit of theatricality, Negan decides to display Sasha in a casket, alive, to the Alexandrians, so that they don’t give him trouble when he doles out his punishments. But when he opens the lid, there’s zombie Sasha, drawing everyone’s attention and giving the Alexandrians the distraction they need to fight back. The plot has to tie itself up in knots to set up the completely absurd situation (considering what Negan knows, why do this display at all?), but at least it’s unexpected and Sasha gets to go out fighting in her own way.

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Man Is The True Monster

The other big headline for this episode is that Jadis and the Dumpsters turn out to be dirty traitors, selling out the Alexandrians to the Saviors for a better deal. Dwight tips off Rick that Negan is coming, so Rick lays a trap, only for the Dumpsters to turn on him. It’s a decent twist, and things look appropriately bleak for Rick and the others until Sasha’s surprise allows them to turn the tables for a little while.

Oh, and if you expected any discussion of the Ricketeers’ very Savior-like theft of Oceanside’s guns, or Morgan and Carol’s decisions to kill again, then you came to the wrong place. The closest we get is Ezekiel convincing Morgan not to go off on his own and Rick giving Morgan a “Oh cool, you murder guys now” head nod when Morgan stabs a Savior. No one even blinks about what the Ricketeers did to Oceanside, because the show likes to pretend to grapple with Rick’s more questionable choices but in the end is basically fine with whatever he does. Too much action this week for any thorny morality discussion!

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

A Shred of Humanity

Despite Sasha’s sacrifice, the Saviors and Dumpsters manage to overwhelm the Alexandrians. Negan proves he’s still the dumbest villain of all time, because even after all that, he refuses to kill Rick. He plans on killing Carl and then smashing Rick’s hands, but even with that threat Rick still tells Negan he’s going to kill him. Before Negan can swing Lucille, the Kingdom and the Hilltop arrive and successfully drive off the Saviors. Negan escapes like he’s Cobra Commander at the end of a “G.I. Joe” episode, but the fight is exciting enough. It was obvious that Rick’s allies would come to save the day (especially since early in the episode both parties basically say “Let’s go help Rick”), but it’s still nice to see the cavalry arrive. Cliches can work sometimes!

And then everything wraps up with a big corny speech by Maggie about how Glenn helping Rick back in the premiere was the choice that eventually brought all of them together as a big, happy family. Like with Abraham, it’s an effort to horn in a eulogy for Glenn as the season comes to a close, and while it could be worse, the speech was still repetitive and sappy. Still, the attempts at feel good moments in the back half of Season 7 are a vast improvement over the joyless wasteland of the first half, so things could be worse. Hopefully the show can mix things up a bit more in the war with Negan, or else we’re in for a long Season 8.

The Remains

  • It is totally boss when Shiva the tiger starts wrecking dudes, and it will be totally depressing when she inevitably dies.
  • Oh, there’s also a whole thing where Rick briefly thinks Michonne died, but the she didn’t, because of course she didn’t. It’s total filler.
  • This week in terrible Negan lines: “If you had a dick, I would still have these feelings.”
  • To be fair, Negan has some pretty hilarious reactions to the Kingdom and Hilltop showing up, exclaiming, “A goddamn tiger!” and “That widow is alive, guns a-blazing!” That’s goofiness that clicks.
  • Negan’s actual best line: “You suck ass, Rick.” When he’s right, he’s right.

Grade: B-

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