My personal favorite season just reached a perfect conclusion.
When “The Walking Dead” returned to AMC for its seventh season back in October of last year, I was left stunned, shocked, and completely horrified by how far the show went to establish Negan as its most terrifying villain to date; and I wasn’t alone, as many viewers were so turned off by the Season 7 premiere’s barbaric violence that they vowed to stop watching altogether.
And it wasn’t hard to understand where they were coming from.
As long as I live, I will likely never forget the image of Glenn’s final moments, his eyeball literally hanging out of its socket as he said goodbye to Maggie, nor will I ever forget the gnarly visual of Abraham’s head literally exploding like a watermelon. And let’s not forget the look on Rick Grimes’ face as he was forced to witness those deeply disturbing acts; Andrew Lincoln’s incredible acting drove home just how horrifying and upsetting it all was. Rick was completely broken by Negan and, if I’m being honest, so was I back in October.
The first half of Season 7 was anything but joyful, but all the depression paved way for a deeply cathartic moment at the end of the mid-season finale: Rick and friends reunited, got their mojo back, and decided to take the fight directly to Negan. As I wrote back in December, Season 7’s first eight episodes formed the show’s best half-season story arc to date; and now that the entire picture has been painted, I feel pretty comfortable labeling Season 7 the best overall season in “The Walking Dead” history.
Last night’s Season 7 finale, ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life,’ was pure poetry from start to finish, capitalizing on seven years worth of storytelling to tie up the entire season and move the storyline into a new direction for Season 8. With everything that’s been going on, we (and the characters) have had precious little time to mourn the deaths of Abraham and Glenn, but the Greg Nicotero-directed finale delivered that sense of closure like only “The Walking Dead” can.
Of course, the biggest thing to happen was the death of Sasha, who sacrificed herself to give her friends family the upper hand in the battle against Negan. Sasha committed suicide by taking the death capsule that Eugene concocted for her; she willingly turned herself into a zombie for the greater good, making for a main character death the likes of which we’ve never quite seen before. It was a fitting and surprisingly beautiful end for a character who so often put herself on the line to protect others.
Sasha’s death also helped to put a touching and satisfying bow on the life of Abraham. Well-utilized flashbacks showed us the conversation with Abraham that ultimately led to Sasha’s huge sacrifice; Abraham told Sasha that the only real living was helping others. And really, that was the entire theme of the whole episode – a nail that was brilliantly hit on the head by the writers’ decision to weave the Season 7 finale into the show’s very first episode.
After they drove the Saviors out of Alexandria, Maggie delivered a poignant monologue about Glenn and the impact he had on, well, everyone and everything we’ve ever seen on the show. You may remember that Glenn saved Rick’s life in episode one of “The Walking Dead” back in 2010, and Maggie’s monologue put that into poetic context. Clutching Glenn’s pocket watch, given to him by her father, a pregnant Maggie heroically rallied the troops for battle by noting that the world was literally changed the moment that Glenn decided to lend Rick a hand.
Here’s the perfectly written (and delivered) speech in full:
The decision was made a long time ago. Before any of us knew each other. We were all strangers who would’ve just passed each other on the street before the world ended. And now we mean everything to each other. You were in trouble. You were trapped. Glenn didn’t know you, but he helped you. He put himself in danger for you. And that started it all. From Atlanta to my daddy’s farm to the prison to here. To this moment now. Not as strangers. As family. Because Glenn chose to be there for you that day a long time ago; that was the decision that changed everything. It started with both of you, and it just grew. All of this. To sacrifice for each other. To suffer, to stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live. To fight for each other. Glenn made the decision, Rick. I was just following his lead.
The speech brought gravity not just to Sasha’s own sacrifice in the episode, but also to the deaths of both Abraham and Glenn. It was the perfect tribute to those three characters and really, to every character we’ve lost in the past 7 years that “The Walking Dead” has been on the air. Above all else, the show has always been about the characters and their relationships, and Season 7’s finale stressed just how important each and every one of those characters has been in the grand scheme. If you had been feeling that Glenn and Abraham weren’t properly eulogized by the show in the wake of their horrifying demises, well, it’s clear now that the writers were feeling the same way. And I can’t think of a more perfect tribute to our fallen heroes than the one we got last night.
No show on television right now does long form storytelling better than “The Walking Dead”; and if you’ve got the patience for it, oh boy is it powerful when it wants and needs to be. It wanted to be last night. It needed to be last night. And seven years of storytelling was just wrapped up so beautifully that I was moved to tears by the hope displayed by a group of characters who seemed to have been, just six months ago, irrevocably robbed of the slightest semblance of hope. It was a season-long, multi-character story arc that couldn’t possibly have been more well executed.
From beginning to end, Season 7 of “The Walking Dead” was truly masterful.