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‘The Walking Dead’ Review: Season 7 Premiere Is the Show At Its Worst

Season 7 Episode 1,"The Day Will Come When You Won't Be," kicks off with a lot of tedious misery.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Jeffrey Dean Morgan in “The Walking Dead.”

Gene Page/AMC

Hey, So Who Died?

Abraham and Glenn. I know, more guys than you thought, right? Twisteroonie! Remember when there was that big chunk of last season when we thought Glenn died but he was just hiding under a dumpster? They sure tricked us! It’s almost as if the only storytelling trick the show has left is jerking the audience around.

Man Is The True Monster

The plot of this episode, such as it is, is that Negan wants to break Rick and ensure his obedience. Apparently just killing Rick is too easy, or else Negan knows he’s the protagonist of the show. Or maybe Negan’s just a sadist who likes seeing the light of resistance go out in people’s eyes? That seems more likely, since this episode is certainly sadistic. It’s 45 solid minutes of misery, and as good as Andrew Lincoln is in conveying that misery, it’s still incredibly tedious.

You may recall that I was not a big fan of Negan’s monologuing in the Season 6 finale. Well bad news for me, because here’s an entire episode of it. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a perfectly good actor, but he’s not doing much to make Negan anything other than one note. He’s a pretty generic psychopath, with no wit in how he’s written. Negan has the same smarmy attitude whether he’s beating regular cast members to death or ordering Rick to chop off his son’s arm. This episode has one point to make (“Negan is not very nice”), and it makes it over and over, with almost no variation.

So it turns out Abraham is the one who died at the end of last season, and we get the entire sequence again, only with on-camera violence this time around. Abraham makes sense, since he’s gotten enough development to matter (no way was it going to be someone like Aaron or Rosita), but he isn’t one of the untouchable leads like Rick, Daryl or Michonne. Once Negan’s done with Abraham, he mocks Rosita for her reaction, which is a bridge too far for Daryl. He jumps up and punches Negan, which causes Negan to murder Glenn as punishment. So we get yet another extended beating, featuring Glenn’s eye protruding from his head in one of those moments where “The Walking Dead” seems to be reveling in its violence instead of condemning it.

Which is really what this episode does: revel in Negan’s sadism… to a point. Negan’s still not convinced that Rick is on board, so he drags over Carl and tells Rick to cut his arm off, or else he’ll shoot everyone else. So Rick begs, and Michonne begs, and Carl, hilariously, is just like “Dad, let’s get this over with,” but just as Rick’s about to go through with it, Negan stops him. So Negan’s a terrible sadist who wants Rick to break, but he’s also considerate enough to keep the show from having to pretend Chandler Riggs doesn’t have an arm for the rest of its run. Convenient!

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Andrew Lincoln in “The Walking Dead.”

Gene Page/AMC

But People Die On This Show All The Time

A big chunk of the episode is given over to one of those “Oops, we’ve got an hour to fill” bits “The Walking Dead” is so fond of, as Negan takes Rick on a mini-road trip and forces him to fetch an axe from a gaggle of zombies. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, because either Rick is key to Negan’s plan to take over Alexandria or he’s not. If he’s not, he’s the leader and he’s vowed to kill Negan, so kill him first. If he is that important, why put him in unnecessary danger? Again, if the idea is just that Negan’s a sadist, the idea is played out and we’re only one episode in. Imagine a whole season of these Negan speeches and nonsensical punishments. The mind boggles.

But what’s weirdest about these scenes is that Negan keeps taunting Rick like he’s never seen anyone die before. “Bet you thought you were gonna grow old together!” he mocks. Dude, Rick’s seen like a hundred people die horribly right in front of him, including his wife and best friend and sort-of girlfriend last season plus everyone else who’s been on this damn show. Glenn is admittedly a big loss, but it’s crazy to think that the idea of him dying never crossed Rick’s mind. You guys live in the zombie apocalypse! People die all the time! Think of all the people that died last season! Nine times out of ten, new people who are introduced on this show are horrible monsters. But the show spent most of last season and a heck of a lot of advertising dollars on hyping up Negan, so it has to pitch him as the Worst Thing To Ever Happen. It’s a bit much to swallow.

READ MORE: ‘The Walking Dead’ Preview: Producer Greg Nicotero Says Negan’s Kill Will Drain Viewers

The Aftermath

In the end, the Saviors pack up and leave, saying they’ll be back in a week for their first tribute. Maggie insists that she’ll go on to The Hilltop while everyone else returns to Alexandria, since it’s her fault they were outside the walls in the first place. Sasha says she’ll go with Maggie to form the Walking Dead Widows’ Club. (Sasha keeps it together pretty well, considering.) And as they pack up the bodies and prepare to head out, Negan’s speech about growing old together plays again. And then, get this, we actually see that. Everyone in the cast, sitting around a big Thanksgiving table, happily eating together. It’s not a flashback, since Glenn and Maggie’s unborn kid is there. Abraham and Glenn give each other a look, as if to say, “Man, we’re never gonna get beaten to death in front of our loved ones!” It’s meant to make us grieve for who was lost, but it only succeeds in giving the audience a chuckle after this unpleasant slog of an episode.

So that was “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” It was miserable, and tedious, and made me feel bad. Not in an emotionally compelling way, just in a “I could be watching something of value” way. Who needs this shit?

Grade: D-

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