Warning: This post will contain spoilers for the seventh season premiere of The Walking Dead.
It's been six long months since we were last teased with the disappointing cliffhanger of The Walking Dead's sixth season. Thankfully season seven's premiere episode doesn't waste time with anything else.
Well, a little time. Like 20 minutes.
Let's get the big question out of the way: Who did Negan kill?
It's Abraham. But not just Abraham. It looks like Glenn's time has finally come ... for good.
Neegan just threw a two-for-one sale and murdered two people, which definitely counts as a twist that I did not see coming. Even though Glenn dies at this point in the comic too, his last horribly conceived brush with death felt like such a cheap twist that surely the writers wouldn't simply kill Glenn here. Right?
Before all that goes down though, Rick dons his best Humphrey Bogart impersonation and tries to threaten the man carrying a bat wrapped in barbed wire, Negan, who's surrounded by an army of armed gunman. Rick is a plucky, "never say die" type of hero. At the end of the second season, Rick laid down the law for his group of followers. At the end of season four, Rick told his post-apocalypse family that their captors were screwing with the wrong people.
This is different, however. Negan wants to make sure Rick knows that he's the baddest villain the group has come across thus far. So he grabs Rick by the scruff and hauls him into the RV. He taunts and teases Rick at every turn. Rick still has some fight left in him, so Negan spends most of the episode trying to break him.
They drive to a very Silent Hill-inspired area and Negan tosses Rick's axe out the window, telling him to fetch. It's a way to demean the usually strong character while seeing if Rick can follow orders. And, I guess, to see if he can survive against a horde of zombies in the fog.
Rick has flashes of each person kneeling at the ambush site. Just when it seems like it's curtains for Rick, Negan helps him out with some assault rifle support, turning the entire scenario into an odd trust-building exercise. Rick is obviously worried about his friends and family, and generally goes along with whatever Negan wants.
At this point we finally flash back to Negan's dance of death. The show's premiere is so obsessed with its last season finale that it takes up most of the episode. Abraham goes down like a champ. To a large extent, it makes sense. He had very little to do in his character arc or plot development, and I had found his romantic interest in Sasha off-putting.
But wait, there's more! Daryl flips out — he will absolutely not be cowed into submission. But it costs them greatly. Negan warned that the first one was free and in a giant upset, Negan and Lucille down another of our group — one that's been there since the second episode.
I half-joked that Glenn should turn to the camera and wink after Abraham went down. I sobered up pretty quick when he gurgled out Maggie's name with his eye popping out of his skull — exactly like how his gruesome death was detailed in the comic.
Following that, we're back to our current time-frame, having returned from his odd fog-trip with Negan. Rick isn't quite broken yet, so Negan has another trust-building exercise lined up. This one is straight-up biblical: cut off your son's hand. Because I said so.
The hand thing is yet another nod to the comics, as Rick famously loses his hand fairly early on to the Governor. The show sets up an interesting twist, as well as yet another horrifying moment. Negan gives Rick an offer he can't exactly back down from — do it or I kill everyone.
Rick will do whatever Negan says at this point
Rick finally loses his mind at this point, and it's awful to see. To see our hero, who once tore out a man's throat because he had no other weapon to save his son, be forced into this is sickening on many levels. The Walking Dead can be a gory, horrific mess sometimes, but this episode was some serious psychological torture.
Negan stops him at the last moment, proving that he has all the control, and Rick has none. Rick will do whatever Negan says at this point.
Despite being broken, our survivors pull together at the end. Daryl is taken captive again. They gather up their fallen friends. Sasha agrees to help Maggie get to the Hilltop.
Oh yeah, remember Maggie? She was half-dying from labor pains in the finale, hence the reason they were even out here. She's pregnant, in horrible pain, and just watched her husband get brutally beaten.
She blames herself, but the group will have none of it. While they're not exactly galvanized into vengeance just yet, they do seem closer than ever at the end.
No word yet on Morgan and Carol's adventures, or the ones left back at Alexandria. I definitely could have done without that horribly cheesy Sunday dinner scene. Hey, Walking Dead, don't end this episode like every Fast and Furious movie. You haven't earned that yet.
Jeffery Dean Morgan: The Walking Dead has already had its share of the Lawful Evil villain in the Governor, but Morgan really creates a commanding presence with Negan. His pragmatic style is oddly infectious, despite his proclivity for violence. He's always in control, and that makes him frightening.
Carl's hand: "Just do it." Carl is stone-cold. This whole series is a just the prologue to Carl being the badass loner wasteland warrior.
Rick: For the first time, we really saw Rick completely unravel. He's been beaten down before, like when Lori died, but he's always been quick to bounce back and be the natural leader that he is. This time, he's a whipped dog. We'll see how long it lasts.
Abraham: Poor Abraham. Glenn is an infinitely more important character, so your death now means nothing. You're the one the writers used to set up the twist second death. An ignominious end, even for you.