Did The Walking Dead go too far? Breaking down the Season 7 premiere

Spoiler Alert: The following discusses plot points from Sunday night's The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere, "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be."

 

Overview: We literally pick up where the Season 6 finale left off, with Rick defiantly telling Negan that "I'm gonna kill you" in the aftermath of what Negan, and Lucille, just did to their family.  Of course, that kind of reaction doesn't sit well with Negan, so he drags Rick into the RV for the opposite of a joyride.

For those expecting immediate gratification in regard to the cliffhager deaths, too bad. Who got the ugly end of Lucille wasn't revealed for 20 minutes, and then it plays out in eight excruciating minutes of viscera, extra-crunchy sound effects, and the most graphic special effects work ever presented on the series (and that's saying a lot).

Negan then proceeds to break down any last vestige of Rick's fight in a series of increasingly demoralizing moments meant to rip any lingering leadership ambition from his soul.

Highlights

Really? Is there something to cling to this week as a highlight? How about Carl keeping his arm? Let's all give a cheer that we didn't have to experience that moment of awful in full glory.

I'll also give it to Jeffrey Dean Morgan for his absolutely terrifying embodiment of Negan. Morgan's such a pretty man, and a charmer, in real life that I thought I'd have a hard time buying him as the character.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I was every kind of wrong. By episode's end, I didn't even want to look into his diabolical face anymore. He certainly sold his position as alpha male of the series. His quipping didn't elicit any smiles, but rather a deep sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. In one episode, he's eclipsed every other Big Bad on the series.

And with that being said, EPs Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman certainly effectively broke down Rick (and the audience's belief that Rick couldn't be broken) in the span of a shattering hour. After six seasons and countless low moments experienced by all the characters,  the writers knew they had to go somewhere they'd never gone before in hammering home the point of these people being forever changed in a moment by one man. They got the job done ... but was it worth it?

Greg Nicotero also gets kudos for directing the hell out of the sequence where Negan pushed Rick to the moment of chopping off his own son's arm, only to have Negan call it off at the last second. I defy anyone saying that they weren't on the edge of their seat with sickening dread through that whole horrifying game of chicken.

Lowlights

And so we must ask: Was that level of depravity and gore unleashed upon two characters, played out graphically, in the TV medium, something the audience needed to see in all of its lingering, stomach-churning detail? The Walking Dead has always been a boundary-pushing horror series covering topics like cannibalism, child murder and countless other nightmare-inducing moments. But the presentation of Abraham and Glenn's murders was definitely new territory for the series. The candid violence was beyond disturbing for my taste, with troubling camera shots that seemed to revel in the headless torso that filled the frame.  I got the point with the sound effects of Lucille mashing bone to pulp. Did we need to repeatedly see the aftermath of Glenn's bulging eye socket, Abraham's soiled pants post death, or the brain matter in puddles? I don't think so.

We also have to go back to Glenn's death. The show ripped up its own death handbook last season with the Glenn fake-out that lasted episodes, to the frustration of fans and critics. And it was frustrating because the show was doing its best writing in Season 5 and up to the third episode of Season 6. It didn't need to play with the audience to earn real emotion for a character like Glenn. What added insult to injury is that most people knew what the inevitable outcome of Negan's summer-long cliffhanger was going to be. If you read the comics, you knew Glenn had to die to move the story forward.  So, there was no surprise in this reveal, aside from the addition of Abraham, which felt like an add-on to earn them just leaning on Glenn's death. I cried my tears for Glenn last season, so there was nothing in the well for me tonight with this outcome. There would have been buckets if not for their narrative psych last year. Steven Yeun deserved better. 

"Oh S--t!" Moment

Where to start:

Abraham's defiant "Suck my nuts" before he got smashed to a pulp,

Daryl sucker-punching Negan in an act we all cheered for, then immediately regretted as Negan's ire and retribution took Glenn from this world,

Glenn managing to get out "Maggie, I'll find you" as his dying words,

Negan wiping the blood on the ax on Rick's jacket,

The entire sequence in which Negan demanded that Rick chop off Carl's arm in order to save the rest of the group and Alexandria,

Daryl being dragged away by Dwight to be Negan's new toy,

The walker going to town on the blood pools left by Abraham and Glenn.

Overall

The Walking Dead turned a corner tonight from being a dark exploration of post-apocalyptic humanity that also had some gross zombies, to a show that presented one of the most disturbing and harrowing hours of TV ever. A lot of the audience isn't up for what we saw tonight. Hell, I regretted eating dinner an hour before the episode at certain points. When that walker hobbled out of the woods toward Rick at the RV, it felt like a quaint threat. How do we ever take a walker serious again after what we witnessed at the hand of Negan? And do we ever want to see something like that again? Some will, a lot won't. I know I'll never watch that episode ever again.

What did you think of “The Day Will Come When You Won't Be." Was it a step too far? Or did The Walking Dead up its game in your eyes?

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