WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON 6 AND 7
It’s been a tense couple of months. Season 6 left us with one of the cruellest cliff-hangers in television history: one of Rick’s group being beaten to death by Negan and his barbwire wrapped baseball bat, Lucille, viewed from a first-person camera shot, leaving the identity of the victim skewed.
Thought that was a pretty shitty thing to do? Well then you don’t know the half of it, as the entire premiere was an absolute emotional rollercoaster that pulled the rug from underneath your feet just as you thought you were in the clear.
The episode opens up to the aftermath, with a focus on Rick’s bewildered face and the background noise of the group’s muffled cries and whimpers. The identity isn’t revealed yet, all we get here is a look at a pile of mushy brains on the floor, as Negan drags Rick into the van for a ride after threatening to kill him in a very Grimes like speech.
They travel down the road to foggy location full of Walkers, where Negan kicks Rick out the van to retrieve the hatchet and battle the zombies unarmed in order to try and teach him a lesson in how the world is now. Rick gets on top of the van, and from below you can ehar Negan’s voice telling him to think about what happened. A flashback ensues, and we finally find out the truth.
We’re back at the line-up. The bat stops. It lands on Abraham. Our ginger, handlebar moustached hero gets clobbered, but stands his ground for a few beatings, telling Negan: “suck my balls”. He flashes a peace sign to Sasha, their little inside greeting, and he goes to the ground, Negan repeatedly beating his head into the floor until there’s nothing left.
Wow, phew, glad that’s over! It’s really great that a first season character hasn’t been killed!
Oh we were so naïve. For months now everyone has been manically trying to think about who the victim was, looking at stills from the line-up and trying to work out Negan’s position and who he’s killed. But it’s not just victim, it’s victims.
Yes, Abraham is not alone in his death. After he is sent to meet his maker, Daryl gets up and hits the leather biker jacket clad leader square in the face. Daryl is then held to the floor, with Dwight hanging over him with his crossbow asking to kill him. Negan says no, he likes his spirit, but he doesn’t think the group has learned their lesson yet.
Then the unimaginable happens. Glenn gets that bat. After two major near death experiences in the last year, his luck finally runs out. His death is decidedly more tragic than Abraham’s, even though it was expected as he is Negan’s original target in the comic books. Firstly because we didn’t expect a second character to get killed off; we were lured into a false sense of security. Secondly, his last words to Maggie: “I’ll find you,” spurted out as blood gushes down his face and his eye pops out.
But wait, there’s more!
Rick’s flashback ends and he’s back in the van with Negan, who’s still trying to teach him a lesson. Grimes is no longer the boss, and he needs to learn this. A few close calls with some thirsty walkers and he’s back in the van, but Negan still doesn’t like the way he looks at him. He hasn’t been broken yet, so they return to the original scene.
Negan now has a sick ultimatum for Rick: cut off his one-eyed son Karl’s arm, or else the rest of them get a bullet in the back of the head. Negan draw a line on his arm where he wants it cut.
COMIC BOOK SPOILER ALERT: In the comics, Rick has his hand chopped off by Negan, and this prospect is teased throughout the episode with the emphasis of the hatchet. But with Andrew Lincoln being such a major role in an actual real life show, it’d be hard to pull off, so they emphasise this possibility on his son.
Obviously this doesn’t happen. Karl can’t get another major injury, he'd be like the knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail if he got another scratch on him. No, Negan stops Rick at the last minute after he's just about to drop the axe on his arm.
Rick has now been officially broken. He’s hyperventilating, shaking, crying and sweating. He’s begging Negan and doing whatever he says. It's far from the Rick we know and love, the man that bit an enemy's throat out, the man that beat up a severed head, the man that kicked the shit out of an abusive husband within an inch of his life.
Negan and his crew, the Saviours, then leave, stating that they'll be back in a week to retrieve whatever it is of worth they have collected for him, because now, even Rick's dignity and spirit, belongs to him.
So where the hell do we go from here? How much more shocking can Walking Dead get? Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan says this season is the bloodiest yet, and from the as yet unintroduced tiger belonging to King Ezekiel in the trailer it looks like it's about to get even more bat shit crazy.
But it looks like we are about to step into Game of Thrones territory here, as the show is fast catching up to the comic books, with Negan very much still alive and kicking heads in. So it is possible, like GoT, that the writers will go down their own route with more original story lines and unexpected, unknown deaths.
But look on the bright side, at least Daryl isn't dead.