Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Walking Dead S7x1 Day Will Come When You Won't Be

The Day Will Come When You Won't Be recap
Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
The Walking Dead's season six ended not with a bang but a few whacks by Lucille. We finally pick up from The Last Day On Earth. There's nothing left to wait or lose. You've been warned : this post contains spoilers.

At the time of the recent finale airing, questions overwhelmed the summer break: how was the show going to conceal the victim's identity? could the cliffhanger be successful?

Well, it did and it didn't. Five months off gave fans ample time to speculate the hell out of every hint. And it's not like AMC was hiding much either: Actors instagramming other projects at the time of filming. Greg Nicotero, Michael Cudlitz, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan criticized fans over spoilers but then spilled the beans themselves. Twenty-four hours before the season started, even Fox International showed footage of the second episode.

With the network always promoting Negan and who might die, and so much churning the rumor mill, our curiosity literally beat the second arrival with a dead horse. Trying to regroup, producers and creators promised "rewards" by the way of not only revealing Lucille's victims but that it would contain hyper violence.

By the time Day Will Come When You Won't Be strolled in, the hung-over reputation of The Last Day On Earth became comfortable but also cringe-worthy.

If the finale was a traffic route where every decision led to a worse back-alley, the second half halted us in our tracks to strip away the last pent-up hopes for an exit strategy. Relentless hype didn't overshadow Negan's overexposed power play, but it didn't seem to know if the best route was to be straight-forward or in artsy chunks.

To start, it took a good half hour of repetitively teasing us with what we'd been overexposed to all summer long; glimpses of who could die and how horrible it would be to lose him/her/them.

We physically returned to the group kneeling after someone/people were Lucille'd. Despite the then unknown details of who was killed, Rick refused to obey and be made an example of. So to knock his point out of the park, Negan dragged him to the RV for an emasculating trip of mind-games.

In the midst of a foggy road, Negan threw Rick's old ax out into a sea of hungry walkers, and like a dog, he was forced to go fetch. Similar to the lagging quarry escape plan last season which flipflopped between locations and characters every week, Rick's internal debate to fight or surrender squeezed every last bit of this fan's patience.

As he physically thwarted the zombies, the struggle was just as strong mentally. Melancholic memories of his family played. But the show-reel wasn't deeper than the ads AMC promoted by procrastinating who died with who might've been slain. Rick versus the walkers expressed his own purgatory (shadowed bodies grabbing him from all directions to echo all the people who's died under his command), and Andrew's great acting, but the scene itself wasn't engaging.

We wanted the torture to be over, and were we in for a whopper of a reveal. The Lucille scenes were probably more graphic than most could imagine. While Rick's game of walker tag didn't excite, sitting in the iconic line-up was purely claustrophobic. Kneeling like our beloved Team Family, all we could do was witness the slaughter and realize no one was coming to save them.

Abraham was the initial pick. If you didn't know from the spoilers, or picked up on the ginger's body language, Abe wasn't going to follow orders. Of all of Negan's relentless rhymes, only one could fit 'taking it like a champ'. Like a loyal soldier, he flashed Sasha with their peace sign when he was chosen, refused to go down after the first blow, and uttered one more colorful phrase.

The scene itself felt tacked on for what was to come, even though both took the same amount of time. Watching Negan hack Abe was numbing, but the emotional impact was lesser so. Unlike other deaths, no matter how bloody and grim they were, this felt downright unapologetic - as if the more gore packed in would make up for the highly debated cliffhanger.

The sole consolation of Abe's death was how he went out with valor and not standing down. It wasn't just that he didn't crumble under Negan's bullying, it was his journey of self-realization since last season.

Despite being a leader to his pack of Eugene and Rosita, he became a loyal supporter of Rick pretty steadily. His adrenaline rush to knock off walkers transformed into establishing a family. Though he and Rosita never reconciled with his abrupt break-up, his interest with Sasha had potential to be long-lasting. He came to terms with Eugene leveling up as a survivor. Except for his dreams of the future, every loose thread was knotted.

Self-awareness is a beautiful thing, but in fiction, it's also a calling card. If I'm being honest, his arc predicted his demise early. Abraham's death was ruthless but expected, if not accepted in advance. Though Abe and Michael were appreciated pals, there wasn't much room for surprise or denial that this was his end.

After Abe was beaten to a pulp, Negan taunted Rosita to look at the carnage using Lucille as obvious phallic symbolism. To unleash his anger Daryl threw himself at Negan (even though they just witnessed him beating a friend to death and Negan's army were all armed). But with that, the one freebie for rebellion Negan allowed was mute.

What obliterated the episode into shards of feels was the practical replication of Glenn's comic book fate. The obvious set-up with the camera angling wide to show Glenn resting behind Negan predicted what couldn't be stopped. One swift twirl and whack. Our beloved pizza boy was clobbered.

But it just wasn't one whack. The decimation of our irreplaceable underdog played to the utmost effect, almost caricaturing the plight into torture porn - blood, brains, skullcap hanging off the barbed-wire bat, eyeball dangling out, choked last words uttered, a rinse and repeat of everyone's horrified responses.

*sigh* In the midst of waiting for this moment to come true, muddling muddling through Abe's no-lesser-violent goodbye, and preparing a farewell weeks before, it's not easier to believe that Glenn is gone. Watching such goodness massacred was completely draining. We somehow transitioned from seven years of this amazing character to not having him around (alive) anymore.

As fitting as the comic book aligned with the show and engaged in this wish fulfillment, and as great the cast is, it didn't lessen the feeling that his death felt like a rug getting ripped out from under fans. As much consolation there is of Yeun honoring his love of the graphic novels and his character's fate, a part of me feels like Glenn deserved better; not to suffer the magical dumpster fake-out; to have everlasting happiness; not to die for Maggie to rise to the Hilltop Colony because he and her were equals to each other on all levels. Glenn getting Lucille'd didn't have to change but a send-off to the tune of Tyrese's poetic in 'What's Happening and What's Going On would've felt less cold.

Except to hold onto his other half which always gave him strength, the lack of closure of his fate didn't reflect what we always loved about him....If Glenn stood for anything it was to believe in something and to hope no matter what. To the point that, as Yeun's wife put it, he died still not thinking about himself.

Not surprisingly the carnage wasn't over until the next morning, but the day ahead still felt dark. Exhaustion set in, but Rick remained defiant. So his buttons were pushed until they finally popped up until Negan forced him to almost amputate Carl's arm. These threats finally grounded our sheriff into docility, but did nothing to feel like the final blow to his pride had depth to it.

Negan was then, for now on, in charge. At least, that's how it seemed. With a laid-back smile and flit of his hands, Negan sent his troops away, dirt ruffled under their feet as they left our group in the literal dust. I love Rick more than anything, but truth be told, the women were worth rallying behind.

Essentially, Maggie is who we'll tether to after losing Glenn. Even after Rick acquiesced to Negan, I still didn't think he had fully surrendered. When she stood up and demand they go to war, for him to go home and get Alexandria ready, it was like a force of nature exploding in grief, anger, and determination.

“By the time we see that happen, there’s such a fucking fire burning so strong in her belly.”

What happens now and how we come back is all for honoring Glenn and Abraham. She has to get to the Hilltop Colony, and become an even bigger leader than the duo already was in order to more forward.

Was Maggie's pain eased or deepened because her family was with her? It's hard to tell. She felt guilty they were out there 'because of her', but it wasn't her fault. To many Daryl is an easy target for blame, but no definitive point of evidence or going back in time to change actions can undo the massacre. Negan was going to liquidate his enemies no matter what, and Daryl is going to take this with him for the rest of his life. It only pains me to think she's dealing with Glenn's death will shoulder Abe's too.

If Maggie's brittle solidarity wasn't a glimmer of hope, the exchange between Rosita and Sasha culminated every unspoken scene they hadn't had before post Abe/Rosita break-up. Unfortunately Abe's death served as our saving grace from any possible superficial love triangle so the women could meet in the middle. Like Maggie, Sasha has lost everyone but mustered her strength and vowed to reach the Hilltop Colony to honor her boyfriend's mission. She also approached Rosita to take Abraham to be buried. Their one exchange shared so many unexpressed emotions between them: forgiveness, understanding, acceptance. Together, lets put the fallen to rest.
We bury the ones we love, we don't burn them. - Glenn, season 1

Unlike the existential title conjuring heartbreak, The Day Will Come When You Won't Be had potential to be a heavy hitter but was fouled up with abstract narrative and messy planning. Acting wise, the cast is always stunning. But Greg Nicotero's direction was in perfect synchronization to Gimple's writing: build a straight-forward climax by going the long way 'round. The episode primarily drove home a narrative and a villain's legitimacy by candidly showing depravity instead of giving viewers powerful exits to beloved characters.

Since season seven is considered the series' reboot, Abe and Glenn's deaths offers a new course to chart. Despite all the hype for the premiere, talk of the future doesn't center on the emotional impact but if the show went too far. To be honest, I'd agree.

In the beginning, the series was an exploration of survivors trying to remain human in an inhumane world. Through trial and tribulation, it was eventually instilled that walkers were child's play compared to what people can do. When we lost light-hearted characters before, we had others to give us hope. Now as it has been cemented for the past season or two that people are worse than zombies, the show's is steadily centering on inhumane people in an animalistic world.

Even if the first episode had to establish carnage to re-inflate Negan's domination, the foundation is shaky at best. With the group's intended justice aside, where is the moral compass to keep us inspired to move forward? The premiere didn't answer that. Instead we face a similar trek ahead: one hammy schoolyard bully exacting dominion over our own only on a much grander blood-shedding scale.

Critical comebacks over the violence often rest on the obvious: well it's an apocalypse show it's going to be violent, or anybody who is happy in this world is going to die accept it. Yes, thrilling walker kills and stomach-churning deaths have always been apart of the show. But people, community, and relationships have been the fabric while violence was a mere thread. Having too much of the latter creates a dangerous tipping point. By which the gaping holes Glenn and Abe left behind could've reverberated for future reasons on its own merits without the exaggerated slaughterfest.

For as empty and relieved we feel that this has finally over with, the premiere re-ignited a sense of prepping for the future. How does Eugene transform? how does Maggie strategize against the Saviors? What will Tara and Enid do if/when they find out about Glenn? How is this going to affect Carol? We've spent so much time running from walkers, we forgot what people can do. Zombies seem like walks in the park after Negan, but what he doesn't know is that he's screwing with the wrong people. It may not be today or tomorrow, but Rick makes good on his promises. Maybe the wait will be more worth it the next time.

Additional Thoughts

+ Welcome back to Walking Dead Wednesday! Hope you enjoy these recaps. Gonna do my best for ya'll!

+ Jeffrey Dean Morgan is suitable as Negan, but he still comes across as comical instead of terrifying right now. I have a lot to say about the character, but didn't want to make this recap longer than it was. Perhaps I'll make an addendum next week.

+  CARL. He didn't flinch when Negan was going to chop off his arm. He smart-mouthed him when Negan wanted him to get on the ground. He held his own even when Negan held Lucille to his face. He snarled like a wolf when Glenn was attacked. This kid is so underrated.

+ SASHA. Oh my god, girl. I HAVE YOUR BACK.

+ Carl and Maggie's hug, and even him saying, 'I got her' was EVERYTHING.

+ Maggie was last seen in the forest by herself...but wasn't Sasha going to go with her??

+ I will find you. Awww, fuck.

+ In Rick's vision, Sasha and Abraham are having a baby, they're all eating spaghetti, and Judith is wearing Carl's sheriff hat. DAMNIT.

+ Don't know if it was the rush of the moment - but after seven seasons we couldn't trend Glenn or Daryl's name correctly on twitter?! And poor Abe didn't trend at all.

+ Why is Dale's RV apart of everything horrible and heartbreaking in this world? One second it's providing shelter for rick against the wolves, and carrying Maggie to safe haven, and the next it literally brings everyone to death's door. Dale would not approve.

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