The Walking Dead Review: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

Editor’s note: this review of AMC’s The Walking Dead will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.

After a ludicrous cliffhanger and a summer of wondering, The Walking Dead has finally returned, and frankly I’m left a little cold. I’m probably going to be in the minority here, but the season seven premiere just didn’t work for me. Sure, there were some good moments here and there, but on the whole I just didn’t get a whole lot from it. When you balance that against the way The Walking Dead withheld the killing off of characters for the next season, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” felt like a failure.

The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 1 Review

Let’s address the biggest problem first: Neagan. As a villain, he just don’t work, and that’s a damn shame. I like Jeffery Dean Morgan and was really excited when I learned he’d been cast as the show’s next big bad. I had also heard lots of things about the character of Neagan, and was quite excited to see how things would come together. Unfortunately the result is a bit of a mess. I think the big issue is that they’re trying to imbue Neagan with two radically different personality traits that simply don’t work together. His calm menace should be terrifying. His psychotic quips and madman’s humor should chill us. Combine them, however, and he instantly loses all menace.

That’s right, I just said that the man who just beat two men to death with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire isn’t menacing enough. It’s not that I’m desensitized to the horrors of those acts of violence – they were indeed hard to watch – it’s just that the character of Neagan destroys the tenseness of the scene.

So how tense did I find the episode in general? Not very. In fact, my Fitbit (don’t judge me, I’m trying to get in better shape) actually thought I was sleeping during the course of the episode. That’s right, my heart rate was so relaxed that my Fitbit couldn’t tell I was supposed to be horrified. I call that a huge failure.

The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 1 Review

With that out of the way, let’s address the big plot points of the episode. First, Neagan killed off not one, but two big characters. That was tough. I liked both Abraham and Glenn quite a bit, particularly Glenn. Their deaths were absolutely ghastly, especially Glenn’s. And seeing the emotional impact it had on the group was affecting.

The other big moment was Neagan’s breaking of Rick by forcing him to (almost) cut off Carl’s hand. Sadistic as it was, I actually thought this was the strongest part of the episode. Not only did it recall Rick’s missing hand from the comic, but it also mimicked the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Bible. I thought that was a pretty interesting bit of allusion that says some interesting things about Neagan and Rick’s future relationship. It’s also another strange bit of trivia in The Walking Dead‘s confusing relationship with religion, but I’ll let someone smarter than me unpack all that.

High points aside, I was extremely disappointed by the episode, as I was of last season’s finale. I hope the show can correct course and find ways of building characters and telling interesting stories, because I have absolutely no desire to sit down for an hour of misery porn every week.

Grade:
2 zombie heads out of 5

10 Comments

Pi3rK

Well as we can all agree that Negan is kinda “too much”, I’d think that it was just his introduction episode, he will settle down… I guess… Maybe. He looked more like a cartoon or comic character here, but I’m actually fine with it. Worked for me at least.

Clock was ticking on Glenn, he barely escaped death 2 or 3 times last season alone… Liked him, less than Hershel or Shane though. I’m fine with Abraham gone. His character was going nowhere, IMO.

Now, I thought that this episode was good, if not great. Maybe not the usual TWD episode, but hey… There’s a new sheriff in town… Gotta move the lines.

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Dave

Good point on Glenn. A cat only has nine lives, right?

I kind of figured more of you guys would like the episode than not. I’m comfortable being in the minority on this one.

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Dan Burke

Like many, I was full of rage after the season 6 finale, and ready to hate the show forever, but my wife was insistent on watching it anyway, so there I was on Sunday, sitting on the couch with her watching it.

The premier felt forced in spots. I didn’t feel the “look in rick’s eye” that Negan kept going on about. But where the episode got me was when I realized, this episode wasn’t about the killing of two main characters. It’s about watching Rick (and the group) going from feeling invincible to being defeated. It was about breaking Rick, turning him into Negan’s bitch. And it was about seeing Maggie change, as she became determined to exact revenge.

I have avoided the comics, so I don’t know much of what happens next, but with my rage over season 6 curbed, I find myself looking forward to this Sunday.

On another note, talking about the episode with co-workers, we agreed that this should have been the season 6 finale. There would have been better talking points to build up anticipation for season 7 and what’s going to happen next, instead of the singular focus on which character is going to die. And left with this brutality, we could have digested it a while before the story takes its next step.

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Dave

“It’s about watching Rick (and the group) going from feeling invincible to being defeated. It was about breaking Rick, turning him into Negan’s bitch. And it was about seeing Maggie change, as she became determined to exact revenge.”

I totally get that, but it feels like we’re treading on familiar ground here, and much of this was executed better when it was done before.

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Mick

My feeling is that rather than being too much, Negan is trying too hard. It’s like he’s got a list of lines that he thinks will make him sound menacing but can’t quite pull it off.

I like the idea that Negan would relentlessly traumatise Rick until he was broken and unable to resist Negan’s takeover. Then with Rick having been publicly humiliated it would undermine his leadership of Alexandria and further strengthen Negan’s status.

But every time Negan opened his mouth it broke the spell for me.

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Mick

Wow, really? You’d almost think I did it on purpose. 😀

I was thinking more about Negan and his actions vs. his words. He acts pretty smart, I think Negan chose who he killed, and more importantly who he didn’t, very carefully to make sure the Rick’s group was left totally devastated. And the more I see of the Saviours and how large and well organised they are strongly points to Negan being an expert leader.

So is Negan’s way of talking some sort of act? Is he deliberately dumbing himself down to make others underestimate him?

I hope so, because that might add some much needed depth to the character.

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Dave

Interesting points. I would definitely say he choose his kills quite wisely. I am curious about his larger plan, and I hope the mixed up character traits play some sort of role in that.

You’ve got me intrigued.

Jose

I agree 100%, I just wanted the episode to end. Also, if they pretend to drag this Neagan plot line through the entire season then I’m probably out for good, I can’t believe how low this show has fallen from what the first season was like.

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Dave

Oh, I think they’re going to get as much mileage as they can out of Neagan. I just hope they tweak the characterization a bit as they go. I do like the actor, but the writing and portrayal is just killing the tension.

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