The Walking Dead: 7.01 The Day Will Come When You Won't Be
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
With multiple character deaths, a vengeful villain, and gore it can be argued the likes of which TV has never seen before, The Walking Dead’s season 7 premiere let everyone know the show was back with a bang. The anticipated return of the show that kills everyone you love lived up to expectations, and left fans divided in their reactions to the harrowing events of Monday’s episode. Some had their interest in The Walking Dead revitalised, some swore off the show for good, but everyone had something to say about the devastating death of Glenn Rhee.
After months of waiting to see who would fall under the baseball bat accessorised with barbed wire, the audience was still made to wait a little longer to find out who Lucille would first sink her metal teeth into. Similar to how the best horror movies refuse to unveil their monster right away, this horrific episode was determined to make viewers wait with bated breath for the final reveal of its victims.
The episode began with Rick being dragged away from the scene by Negan, thrown unceremoniously into the van, and driven away for the two to talk one on one. As Negan antagonises Rick and tells him to “think about what happened, and what could still happen” in an attempt to inspire subservience, we see through black and white flashbacks emotional memories of each member of their group. Coupled with powerful music and the image of our leader laying down and crying atop the van, surrounded by walkers after having been made to fetch the axe that Negan threw up there, these small, happy snippets pull at the heartstrings in a way that inspires a wish to simply halt everything, so that we don’t have to see what Rick already has.
The show must go on, however, and before long we see via flashback what happened. The people of our group are lined up on their knees, surrounded as if by a firing squad. Negan’s playful game of eenie meenie miney moe ends with him choosing Abraham, who after the first hit to the head defiantly says “suck my nuts,” a last line that while in character, ultimately falls somewhat flat. A character that was never particularly well developed, Abraham’s loss nevertheless still hurts, but feels like an anticlimax after such sensational build up. However, it turns out to be a mere red herring, as the real climax occurs when Negan suddenly and mercilessly sinks his bat into Glenn. This happens as punishment for the punch Daryl threw at Negan in retaliation to Abraham’s killing, meaning that in a heartbreaking turn of events, one beloved character indirectly caused the brutal death of another.
A selfless, reliable, caring member of the group, Glenn’s death is agony to watch. In a moment gruesomely recreated from the comics, the first hit to the head causes Glenn’s left eye to pop out while he is still alive, before he’s killed by further blows. This scene is deeply upsetting, as pregnant wife Maggie cries next to him, and many have been left wondering if replicating such a moment from the original source material was really worth it. This episode has accurately been described as a gore-fest, and while it undoubtedly succeeded at creating shock value, it feels almost disrespectful to a character that didn’t deserve to go out this way. Then again, we can hardly expect the zombie apocalypse to be fair. Glenn’s death also feels slightly undermined by the numerous occasions it’s been teased before, most famously last season where audiences were deliberately left hanging for several episodes wondering if he was dead or alive. In this sense, it’s almost a relief that Glenn’s story has finally reached its end, much as fans will sorely miss the former pizza delivery boy.
The memory of Glenn’s death concludes the flashbacks that catch us up to the beginning of the episode, which then continues with Negan and Rick returning to the others, where in another attempt to subdue Rick, Negan gives him a choice to cut off his son’s arm or everyone dies. This finally breaks Rick, and upon seeing his submission, Negan lifts the ultimatum and leaves with his gang, leaving the group with the corpses of their fallen friends. Earlier in the episode, Negan had taunted Rick about thinking everyone in his group would one day have sunday lunch together when the apocalypse was over. Near the end, an imaginary scene plays out featuring exactly this, with Abraham there and Glenn at the head of the table with his future child. It’s painful, beautiful, and bittersweet.
Overall, it was another stellar performance from Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan after his debut in last season’s finale. That being said, the true star of the show this time was undeniably Andrew Lincoln, whose acting really made the emotional horror hit home. Delivering lines such as “he’s our family too,” to Maggie about Glenn in a heartfelt, broken way that reduced viewers to tears, few actors could have carried the episode perfectly as he did.
Missing from the ensemble completely were the diplomatic Morgan and fan favourite Carol. This division of storylines is a somewhat frustrating repetition of a technique used before on The Walking Dead, especially in an episode that could have been particularly interesting had it featured these characters as well. But regardless of which characters were present and which weren’t, the fact remains that the Atlanta Five - the five characters that have stayed alive since Atlanta in season one - are now the Atlanta Four, and for fans that have stuck with The Walking Dead and these characters for years on end, that’s one hell of an emotional blow.