After the heart-stopping season six finale, season seven started tremendously. Our heroes at Alexandria are pit against a villain like no other, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). But he isn’t just one man, he is everywhere. In essence season seven follows characters like Maggie (Lauren Cohan) trying to adjust to life after the death of her husband, but also the Alexandrians trying to adjust to a routine in which Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is not in charge. We are also introduced to more communities, including arcs with Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) at The Kingdom with King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his tiger Shiva. Negan is in charge and has made them an offer they can’t refuse. Or so we think.
The Walking Dead barged into season seven with one of the most anticipated season premieres in television history, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”, an episode in which we found out who died, and turns out it was to be a double whammy, Abraham bowing out as well, but not before telling Negan to suck his nuts. Season seven is my favourite to date, as it was well-paced throughout. For the first time in the show, I felt connected to the characters, which included Maggie, The Kingdomers and Jesus (Tom Payne). It was a slow-burn that led to an epic finale “The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life” which I can only assume will lead to the much-talked about ‘All Out War’ storyline from the comics in season eight.
Well, Andrew Lincoln, what a performance! What an actor! For ninety minutes in the season premiere, Rick was dysfunctional. He was shattered to the point of disrepute. Negan had broken Rick to a point of submission. He now realised that there was no going back to their previous life, which was a sort of utopia in a dystopian world. Misery, torment and destruction only begin to describe the reality of Rick and his friends. He was their leader, and one guy with a wired baseball bat and a gang on motorcycles had come in and ruined their lives in a matter minutes. Don’t get complacent, nothing lasts forever.
Season seven was all about picking up the pieces of a broken Alexandria, but more so broken people and destroyed spirits and identities. It’s a quest to reclaim some of what was taken. So those who died, didn’t die in vain. Negan took everything from them, that goes past more than the tangible things of their world. You can get food and guns back, but reclaiming your dignity? That’s something that’s a little more difficult to acquire. Dignity and self-respect are abstractions, as we see through characters like Daryl (Norman Reedus) who spends a great deal of time beating himself up over Glenn’s death. Heartbreaking stuff.
My reaction to season seven can be explained in a single quote: “I don’t know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way” says Carol. The Saviors are the Mafia and if you don’t pay up, you have date with Lucille. Period. No buts. The best parts of the season were not just the scenes with Negan, but the whole arc with the folks from the Kingdom as well. And I thought I’d have to wait until June for another season of Game Of Thrones. Ezekiel’s medieval lingo was excellent. He’s one smooth guy. He’s going to steal your girl and there’s not a single thing you can do about it. In “The Well”, and the other Kingdom episodes, I couldn’t stop watching his majesty. Brilliant.
The Saviors are a Crime Family, and everyone must kiss the ring of Don Negan. As much as I hate Dwight (Austin Amelio), his scenes with Daryl are truly great. They bounce off each other, and they’re magnetic to engage with. I caught onto this in “The Cell” and I was in awe of their camera presence. From the beginning of the series, I’ve been an on and off admirer of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). But episode seven “Sing Me A Song” gained the Carl Fanbase one new member. Attacking Negan like a badass was enough to sway me, and what’s more, Negan respects him for it. Yes. Good. He showed more balls than Rick, that’s for fucking sure. Damn Carl.
In a way, Morgan as Negan with the Saviors reminded me of Fassbender as Edwin Epps in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. The Saviors are his slaves, but they don’t even know it and how he treats them is often grotesque. Epps treats his slaves as objects, much alike how Negan does with his gang. In addition the way he swaggers around like he owns the place (pretty much does) is so alike to Epps on the plantations in McQueen’s slavery drama. These are two very different works of visual art, but they’re antagonists are alarmingly uncanny. Morgan dominates every scene he’s in: comedic, charismatic, commanding and chillingly psychotic. He was never predictable and Morgan doesn’t put a foot wrong.
The season finale was a great episode, but quite predictable. I sat there waiting for The Kingdomers to show up,and that they did. Shiva jumps out of nowhere as Negan is about to kill Carl. Though, his face when he sees that tiger is meme-worthy and certainly worth a screenshot. But we could have had a shorter finale, cutting to credits as Negan is about to swing at Carl. I found the ending moments, as engaging as they were, all too clean a cut. The arrival of Negan and the Saviors with all the other factions, including the Hilltop guys headed by the spineless Gregory (Xander Berkerly), should have been rougher. It was quite easy, when it should have been a fragmented axe covered in clumps of skin and blood.
If season eight follows the much-hyped ‘All Out War’ arc, season seven will be just entrée for a much awaited main to come. Rick has united the surrounding kingdoms in a hope of taking out Negan. This season has expanded the world even further and has given viewers more meat to chew on. This is my most-enjoyed season of the show so far, and if it is any example of what is to come, I can hardly wait.