I don’t need to explain how big The Walking Dead is. I’ve enjoyed the show for the most part despite not reading the comics (I have 2 compendiums though). The stories may not always be there but it is exciting and I like the fact that it isn’t always about walkers as the human element plays a big part. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the occasional gruesome Walker kill as much as the next guy. Last season ended with a cliffhanger as it cut away as soon as Negan was about to swing Lucille towards one of our beloved survivors.
Those who have read the comics probably already know who the unfortunate victim is. I understand why they did what they did but I would have prefered if it ended post-swing. Unfortunately for those who want to know who met their demise, they have to wait until a quarter of the way through the episode to find out.
The episode starts off post-swing. The mood is tense and Lucille is dripping with blood. Rick is an emotional wreck but he still tries to stand up to Negan and fails miserably, vowing to eventually kill him. Negan does not take him seriously at all, laughing it off. Negan alludes to the person he may have killed, joking that one needs a right-hand man and asks Rick who his is but remembers that he may have killed him already.
He then asks for Rick’s axe and adds it to his belt. He pulls Rick into the RV and as he gets in the camera pans down to an obliterated body on the ground. It’s obliterated so we don’t know who it is. Negan decides to take Rick for a ride. He is not worried about Rick at all seeing that he leaves Rick’s axe in the table and invites Rick to strike him with it. As soon as Rick goes for him, Negan immediately responds with his rifle. Negan tells Rick that he wants him to just sit and think.
As Negan is driving, he starts plowing into walkers and is laughing. Rick is thinking about what happened earlier as we start to get a picture of what happened pre-swing. Negan tells Rick that he belongs to him as does everyone and everything else. Negan stops in a swarm of walkers and throws Rick’s axe out the door and asks him to fetch. Negan wants him to be friends while also demanding that Rick get the axe. As he goes for it amongst the walkers, he starts to get visions of the others which came more frequent as became overwhelmed by walkers.
Rick then climbs onto the roof of the RV. There he sees a walker hanging from its neck under a bridge. He then sees the axe on the roof. The walkers start to wander away for some reason. Rick starts getting more emotional as Negan continues to taunt him from the inside. Rick begins to reflect on what happened.
Now we get to see what really happened. Everybody is scared as Negan is picking who to swing at. He stretches it out. The camera shows closeups of faces as he points Lucille at them. The music is tense. Abraham gets pulverized first. Blood from Lucille splashes into Rick’s face. Negan continues to taunt the others with a now bloody Lucille.
Negan gets on Rosita but Daryl tries to stand up for her. That’s a no no. Negan gives him a talking to and Dwight aims his crossbow in his face but he’s not dead as he gets pulled back to the others. Negan tells them that it is not how it works, that he’s a man of his word, and that first impressions are important. He just wants them to get to know him.
Glenn is the next victim (yeah there’s another one). The camera shows closeups of the others as Glenn is being pulverized. He gets up with a crushed skull and a bulging eye (apparently like in the comics) and tries to tell Maggie that he will find her before Negan finishes him off a rather gruesome fashion. Negan sees how hard it was on them and apologizes but says that he’s just getting started. Rick seems to take it especially hard.
Now we’re back on the roof. Negan tells Rick that not everyone has to die and that he wants his axe while walkers are swarming the RV. Rick jumps on the hanging walker from earlier but its neck stretches to a point where it breaks and Rick begins to fall into the herd below. Negan comes through the back window and mows down a bunch of walkers with his rifle. He then gets visions of the others being hit by Lucille as motivation to take care of the other walkers and get back to the RV. As he gets to the door, it won’t open. Negan then opens it and mows down some more walkers.
Rick gets inside and gives the axe back to Negan who then taunts Rick some more. This time it’s about how Rick is so used to being the leader and that he’s not King Shit anymore. Negan wipes down the now bloody axe and tells Rick that he can still have a good life working for him. and then gives Rick the axe back.
They have returned to the others who are still kneeling. Negan says that the purpose of their trip was to change the way that Rick was looking at him and to get him to understand but it didn’t work. He asks Rick if he deserved another chance. He gets it. Negan wants him to play a game for everybody else’s life. He brings Carl over and ties a belt around his left arm and then takes a pen and writes around it. Negan asks Rick to cut Carl’s arm off around the line. He had to do it or everyone dies. He wouldn’t kill Rick, however, as he would want to stew on it before he eventually kills him.
He would have to do it or he’d beat Carl with Lucille. Carl tells him it’s okay but Rick is still conflicted. He volunteers for it instead. Negan pressures him to do it by counting to three. As Rick is about to do it, Negan stops him and gets Rick to vow to him. Negan finally got the look from Rick he wanted. He declares that today was a productive day and that the others’ lives are over. Negan takes Daryl because he likes him. He threatens Rick with pieces of Daryl if they don’t comply with stuff in one week.
Sad music plays as the Saviors leave. The others are still kneeling and reflecting on what just happened. Along with closeups of them, Glenn and Abraham’s bodies are still in the background. Maggie is the first to get up, trembling. She wants to fight them but Rick tries to convince her otherwise, at least initially since they have no army. She wants everyone to leave and to stay with Glenn but Sasha wants to stay with her to keep her safe. Everyone else wants to stay too. Rick, Carl, Michonne, Aaron help Maggie with Glenn’s body while Sasha and Eugene help Rosita with Abraham’s body. They are still part of their family and want to help. They take care of the bodies, leaving two blood pools.
We then see a flashback of an outdoor family dinner featuring everybody. As they leave, Rick picks up the axe and then drives away. The episode ends with a closeup of Rick’s sad eyes.
Overall, while the cliffhanger could have been handle better, this was still a very tense episode despite having the resolution dragged out. The episode gave us our first real glimpse of Negan who was very menacing and scary but still likable in a sick way thanks to the great performance of Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Andrew Lincoln was also good as the broken Rick but it did kind of get repetitive after a while. The death scenes may have been a touch too gratuitous, I didn’t mind. This is definitely a great start to a new season and I am looking forward to where this season will go. I just hope they don’t squander the character of Negan.