It felt like an eternity but it’s finally time for The Walking Dead season 7 premiere! The last we saw the Alexandrians, they had been captured by the Saviors, forced to kneel in front of Negan (that’s kind of his thing) and been informed they now worked for him. To make his point perfectly clear, he pulled out Lucille (his baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire) and beat someone to death. Since this is The Walking Dead, they decided to make us wait six and a half months to find out who died. So why am I excited for tonight? Sometimes my love for this show confuses me. And the scary part is I’ve been warned that finding out who got Eeny Meeny Miny Moe-ed won’t be the most heart wrenching event of the evening. Sigh. If this show wasn’t so good I’d walk away right now. We all know that isn’t going to happen so let’s jump right in (well, as soon as I get my emotional support dog firmly in place).
Rick is dazed with a streak of blood across his cheek. He looks the most scared I’ve ever seen him. It’s not fun being powerless in the face of pure evil. But he hasn’t given up yet. “I’m gonna kill you,” he rasps. Negan can’t believe what he heard so Rick repeats it, louder. “Not today. Not tomorrow. But I’m gonna kill you.” I’d say he’s just being cocky but he made the same promise to Gareth in season six (red handled machete, anyone?) and he followed through shortly after. But Negan isn’t worried. He has a plan. He asks for Rick’s weapon (this time an axe) and drags Rick into the RV. On the way, we get a gratuitous close-up of the as yet unnamed pool of blood (don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten). Negan throws Rick to the floor, stabs the ax into the table and starts the RV. He taunts Rick that his only chance is to grab the axe and take him out now. “Grab the damn axe!” Rick does but Negan pulls a gun on him. “Drop it.” Negan seems to be an expert at mind games. Give them hope and take it away. Wash and repeat. As they start to drive away, Negan instructs him, “I want you to think about what could have happened. Think about what happened. And think about what can still happen.”
They stop driving and Negan tells Rick that he belongs to Negan. That the people back there belong to Negan. That Rick’s axe belongs to Negan. He opens the door, tosses the axe into the zombie filled fog and orders Rick to go get his axe. When Rick just sits there stunned, Negan waves a blood covered Lucille under his nose and repeats, “Get my axe.” As Rick is fighting his way through walkers, without a weapon, he sees memories of his friends: Rosita, Glenn, Eugene, Aaron, Abraham, Maggie, Daryl, Michonne, Carl. Overwhelmed, he climbs on top of the RV. He realizes that Negan brought him to the bridge where the Saviors hung a man in warning. This is enough to bring him to his knees. But Negan isn’t done with him. “Bet you thought you were all going to grow old together, sitting around a table at Sunday dinner and happily ever after. No. It doesn’t work like that, Rick. Not anymore. Think about what happened.”
And we’re back to the Eeny Meeny Miny Moe moment. Negan is walking around the circle, choosing who he is going to kill. We see him stick the bat in everyone’s face. Who will it be? It’s Abraham! He brings the bat down hard on his skull but Abraham gets back up. And in typical Abraham fashion, he has to have the last word. “Suck. My. Nuts.” So Negan hits him again. Sasha and Rosita are besides themselves but no one can do anything. They know if they move an inch Negan will kill them too. It’s heartbreaking. Negan continues to pound Abrahams skull. He’s having fun. All of the Alexandrians are openly weeping. Sasha’s body jerks with each thump. Negan flings some of Abraham’s blood across Rick’s cheek. Then he sticks his bloody bat in Rosita’s face. He points out that there was a reason Abraham had to die. “He just took one (or six or seven) for the team. So take a damn look.” He waves the bat in her face again. “TAKE A DAMN LOOK.”
Finally Daryl can’t contain himself anymore. He jumps up and punches Negan. No! He already warned you about that. Is he going to kill Daryl now too? Noooo! Negan has the same response I did. “That is a no no. The whole thing. Not one bit of that shit flies here.” Dwight asks if he should kill Daryl but Negan has other plans for him. “Nah. We don’t kill that. Not until you try a little.” They drag Daryl away. Negan reminds them that he warned them about trying anything. “Now I don’t know what kind of lying asshole you been dealing with but I’m a man of my word. First impressions are important. I need you to know me. So, back to it.” And he slams Lucille down on Glenn’s head. What?! Oh my god! What the fuck?! Ahhhhhh! This is too much! Not Glenn. Not now. His face is bloody and an eyeball has popped out but he sits back up anyway. He’s trying to speak. “Maggie, I’ll find you…” Negan apologizes for how hard this is on everyone but explains that he did warn them. And then he finishes Glenn off. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack.
Rick remembers all of this as he lies on top of the RV. Negan points out that everyone else doesn’t have to die. “Get me my axe. GET ME MY AXE.” By this point the RV is swarmed by walkers so when Negan starts shooting through the roof the only thing Rick can do is cling to the hanging walker. As the walkers on the ground tear at his swinging feet his extra weight starts to pull the head off the hanging walker. Right before he falls to the ground, Negan shoots a clear spot for Rick and he’s safe for a moment. “Clock is ticking, Rick. Think about what can still happen.” Rick sees Rosita get hit with the bat, then Sasha, Eugene, Aaron, Maggie, Daryl, Michonne, Carl. He can’t let them die so he finds the axe and fights his way back to the RV. But the door is locked. Another mindfuck. Finally, Negan opens the door, shoots a bunch of walkers and Rick scrambles in. He hands the axe to Negan but if looks could kill, Negan would explode in a ball of flames.
They head back to the circle and Negan continues to play mind games. He cleans the axe with rubbing alcohol and hands it to Rick. “I think you’re gonna need it. I just got a feeling.” I’ve got a feeling this isn’t going to end well. Negan explains that they took that roadtrip because of the way Rick looks at him. “But you’re still looking at me the same damn way. Like I shit in your scrambled eggs. And that’s not gonna work. So, do I give you another chance?” Rick stutters out a yes but I’m terrified what another chance means to Negan. He warns Rick that what he does next will decide if everyone lives or dies. Then he calls Carl over. He puts a tourniquet on Carl’s arm and pushes him to the ground. He draws a line on Carl’s arm and tells Rick to chop it off. Are you kidding me? Michonne pleads with Negan to stop. “You don’t have to do this. We understand.” But Negan doesn’t think Rick gets it yet. So Rick begs Negan to cut his arm instead. Not good enough. Rick can’t make himself do it. Negan starts counting down and Rick is blubbering. He gets to “one” and Rick grabs Carl’s hand. Carl realizes it’s the only way and tells his dad to do it. Rick picks up the axe and just as he’s about to swing Negan stops him. “You answer to me. You provide for me. You belong to me. Right?” Rick repeats it. He’s broken. Negan won. “That is the look I wanted to see.” Happy with his success, Negan loads Daryl into a truck. “He’s got guts. Not a little bitch like someone I know. I like him. He’s mine now.” He tells the Alexandrians he’ll be back in a week to collect his dues and the Saviors leave.
Finally alone, the Alexandrians have a moment for all of the horror to sink in. Their lives have changed. Nothing will ever be the same again. Maggie is the first to get up. She stumbles over to Glenn’s body. Rick tries to comfort her but she pushes him away. She no longer cares about seeing the doctor. She wants to return home so they can prepare to fight the Saviors. No one even knows what to say to her. “They have Daryl,” Rick reminds her. “They have an army. We would die. All of us.” Maggie demands that everyone leave. She thinks she can get home by herself but she can barely stand. And then the truth comes out. “You were out here for me.” She’s not blaming Rick, she’s blaming herself. Sasha goes over to Rosita and Abraham’s body. “I’m gonna take him. That’s what I’m gonna do.” Rosita agrees. They make peace over their shared loss. Aaron, Carl and Rick ask Maggie to allow them to carry Glenn’s body. “He’s our family too.” She finally breaks down in Carl’s arms. As they carry Abraham and Glenn to the RV, we hear Negan tell Rick, “Bet you thought you were all going to grow old together, sitting around a table at Sunday dinner and happily ever after. No. It doesn’t work like that, Rick. Not anymore.” And we see them all sitting around a table, sharing food. Glenn is there,holding his son. Abraham is laughing next to Sasha. And then Glenn and Abraham smile at each other. But the fantasy fades as Rick bends down to pick up his axe. That’s not their future. Not anymore.
Next week: Morgan wheels a recovering Carol around the Kingdom. He wants them to return to Alexandria once she’s feeling better but she still wants to be left alone. Hopefully we meet the tiger. I really need to meet the tiger after tonight’s episode.