Spoilers through Season 7 of ‘The Walking Dead’ follow.
Sunday night’s season finale of The Walking Dead was finally an episode actually worth watching in a season that was stuffed to the brim with filler, bad special effects, and various other nagging problems. Thank goodness the season wrapped up with a strong finale and didn’t end with an aggravating cliff-hanger.
Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly in the final episode of Season 7, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.”
Probably the best thing about this episode was the surprising twist halfway in, when the Trash People turn on Rick’s group. The moment Rosita tries to set off the bombs, the Trash People turn their guns on Rick’s group. They’ve sabotaged the explosives and struck a deal with the Saviors. I didn’t see that coming, though now we learn how Negan was getting his intelligence on Rick’s plans.
I never liked the stupid Trash People to begin with, and now I have even more reason to despise them. Rick’s group should hunt them down and take them out one by one, starting with the leader with the terrible hair. I still think that this group’s weird way of speaking and odd behavior makes absolutely no sense, but at least The Walking Dead used them to good effect here.
In any case, the surprise betrayal worked great, and made Sasha’s surprise even more important. You could see what was going to happen with Sasha a mile away, but it was still pretty great to have her come out of the coffin and straight into an unsuspecting Negan. He’s so cocky and self-assured, but for one moment he was afraid and caught off guard.
The battle that followed was also great, as we found our heroes on the losing side in spite of Sasha’s sacrifice and Carl’s quick thinking (good for Carl to take advantage of that situation and start shooting, though I’m not sure why Rick didn’t make a move also.) While the fight breaks out on the ground, Michonne finds herself in a pitched battle to the death with a seriously strong and psychotic Trash Woman. I didn’t think they’d kill Michonne off that way, but it was still tense, and even more nail-biting when Negan takes both Carl and Rick captive. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the show had killed off another major character, but of course Carl is saved in the nick of time by King Ezekiel’s tiger.
Once again, Carol is here to save the day, along with the rest of Ezekiel’s “regiment” (I do love how Ezekiel talks, though that’s probably my thespian past speaking; I was in two Shakespeare plays in high school and am a huge dork, so…go figure.) Morgan has joined up with Ezekiel, who seems to be one of the only people who can cut through Morgan’s crazy, and enters the fight guns blazing. Hopefully Morgan can strike a balance between total pacifist and unhinged killer.
Maggie and the Hilltop gang show up at the same time, which is a little convenient but works well for the action, and soon they have the Saviors and Trash people routed. “Alexandria will not fall this day!” Ezekiel proclaims, as Negan drives off flipping them all the bird.
This is all great. It’s exactly the kind of tension and action we’ve been waiting for all season. But the entire time I can’t help but feel like it should have happened in episode 8, the midseason finale, rather than at the end of the season. We took way too long to get to this episode, and so much of the show’s momentum was lost along the way. This was a very good season finale, but I’m not sure it’s good enough to justify the slog we just endured throughout most of Season 7.
I liked how the episode ended as well. I enjoyed Maggie’s little speech, though it felt less like something that a person would say to another person, and more like a letter with voice-over. Oh well, it was nice either way. I like Maggie as a character, and especially when she isn’t laying the southern accent on too thick. It was a touching way to round out the episode. And it was sad when Jesus and Maggie find Sasha as a walker, shuffling through the forest, and do what must be done.
Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of Rick’s group and the Kingdom, a small rag-tag band of freedom fighters, with the massive army Negan has at his disposal, sets the stage nicely for Season 8. There will be blood.
What I really didn’t like about this episode was all the jumping around and the weird flashbacks Sasha had with Maggie and Abraham. I didn’t mind seeing Sasha in the coffin ahead of time, listening to music. A little time-jumping can be effective. But the flashbacks were really weird. I didn’t like how Sasha would say Abraham’s line right before he said it, and the entire scene between the two of them felt forced. I guess I just don’t see them as a couple at all—Rosita and Abraham made way more sense—and the fact that they really were just starting their relationship (something the episode drives home more than once) makes their bond even more fragile. The fact is, they weren’t that close. Maggie and Glenn were much closer and we haven’t had any touching flashbacks between the two of them.
So these scenes felt forced and weird and awkward and just really unnecessary. I think Sasha did deserve something like that to send her on her way—after all, her brother Tyreese got his own time to shine when he shuffled off this mortal coil—and I think any major character who dies deserves to have a fair send-off (again, something not given to Glenn whatsoever.) But I would have preferred to see her flash back to more than just a guy she dated for like five minutes. It would have been nice to see her with Tyreese again, and with Bob, her previous boyfriend. Oh well, as far as complaints go this is fairly minor. I finally have an episode of Season 7 that I liked quite a lot more than I disliked.
Sure, it was a bit predictable that Negan wouldn’t kill Carl; it was predictable that Sasha would come out a zombie; but by and large this episode had some cool surprises.
Oh, and before I forget, what’s up with Carol ordering around Ezekiel’s men? Why is she the boss of the world all of a sudden? Carol is a great character but she’s been really weird lately.
Thankfully we didn’t have any crappy special effects. There wasn’t much in the way of zombies, but Sasha walker was perfectly fine. The battle scene was well choreographed and the whole thing was put together really well. I guess AMC spent all its ugly on that fake deer earlier this season.
A really good season finale at the tail end of a really bad season doesn’t quite make up for all the show’s recent mistakes and shortcomings. On the other hand, it does give me a little hope for Season 8. Not a lot, but a little. I liked how this ended, no gimmicks and no cliff-hangers and no cheap tricks. I like the set-up for all-out-war. I just wish we didn’t have to endure Negan for another season, and I’m worried that the showrunners will pack the next season with lame filler episodes and bizarre character decisions.
Some final, scattered thoughts:
What did you think of the Season 7 finale?