The Walking Dead: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life Review
The Walking Dead, season 7, episode 16, ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life,’ delivered a better beginning to season 8, than ending to season 7. As such, it summed up a season that came up short, overall. The title hearkened back to last season’s finale, of course, explaining why so much time & effort went into Rick (Andrew Lincoln) & Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) rubbing a respective beard & bat in each other’s faces; but, at best, ‘The First Day’ was a last chance to get the season 7 dynamic out of their system – and they weren’t alone.
Numerous bottle episodes kept promising a number of characters would eventually get over themselves. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) got over her loss, Morgan (Lennie James) got over his pacifism, and Carol (Melissa McBride) got over the need to restore her own humanity. The Rosita (Christian Serratos) scar may have been left on the loose, but this episode focused on Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) coming to grips with loss, losing, and pulling a win from both. Just the kind of thing time in Purgatory ideally helps with – but telling us maybe too much about just how Sasha was going to get over.
We’ve seen this Purgatory before, of course – Ty had one of his own, for his farewell episode – further reinforcing the idea that Sasha was getting the send-off.
I was kind of surprised that Negan missed Sasha’s inference, after she agreed to the sacrificing of one Alexandrian. The inference was there, all the same, making the episode as much a resolution to Sasha’s side-story, as it was a culmination of Rick’s coalition quest. The problem was that it wasn’t as well handled as previous send-offs. I suppose this had to do with the ep having too much to do; so the best thing to be done was find a way to make that send-off useful – only that got telegraphed, as well.
See, the thing about Purgatory (and sensory depriving caskets, I guess) is that the rules of time & space don’t apply. Real-time events wouldn’t necessarily line up with Sasha’s recount; so by the time Sasha’s plan intersected Negan’s, the disconnect had already been strongly suggested.
It was still a useful scene, however, and lent itself to a series of monkey-wrench moments; but let’s go back to the gathering of monkeys bearing wrenches.
Bicycles were a nice touch, for the Scavengers’ arrival at Alexandria (a missing reality of the setting, actually); but I really liked the practical logic of the Garbage Patch Kids riding in garbage trucks. I also think that Janice (Pollyanna McIntosh) is officially my favorite addition to the cast. That direct dog-speak just cuts through the usual speechifying (a missing necessity of the settings, I was reminded). One bit, to her directness, did kinda leave her in the dumps with Michonne (Danai Gurira), however. Personally, I’d say Rick may have earned some Warlord perks of his own… but I wouldn’t say that out loud. Not to Michonne, anyway.
In any case, Janice would earn a place in the dumps for more substantial reasons; but that comes later – and I still appreciated the directness of both Janice and her followers. I mean, since hints were being dropped, anyway, why expect subtlety from the grease elves?
I’m not sure what the showrunners had in mind, regarding Alexandria’s fortifications; but I can tell you those walls are only good for stopping foot traffic. A stand-off line of assault rifles would do a lot of damage to anyone standing behind them.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still holding out for a Eugene (Josh McDermitt) double-agent whammy; but his Master-in-Hell routine has been coming along pretty solid. The guy seems to actually have more swagger to him, as Sanctuary’s Engineer. I was not surprised that he missed Sasha’s inference, however, and saw more merit to Rosita’s disgust than usual – and that was even before the whammy that did come.
As much as I appreciated the scale of the whammy that did come, there was enough to the episode’s set-up to already give away its twist (and I don’t mean the Trojan casket). If that wasn’t enough, Negan said it, himself – timing.
Maybe the showrunners counted on us getting too wrapped up in the moment to remember what was coming, and too thrilled at its arrival to wonder how it managed to do so unnoticed. Impossible to miss, at this point, was the fact that Negan has joined Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Carol, and a few others, in having some job security. In other words: none of these people were in any real danger, this fight. Bullets, blows, blades, and bites were meant for random other underlings, for now.
So what was the point of all the threat & execution of violence? So we get to see the contrast to how the respective sides deal with things not going to plan.
Now, I appreciate a protracted running battle – and all the catharsis that comes with it – but there was just something corny as Hell about this one. The liberties taken with automatic weapons were pretty much summed up by Negan’s outgoing salute to the effort. He might as well have been directing it at the viewers.
Still, catharsis is as catharsis does; so if this is what it took to get everybody on the next page, fine. No more Morgan Monk; no more runaway Carol; no more emos-gone-solo (fingers crossed); some competent counter-balancing (all due respect to Negan, but I mean the Scavengers – not the Saviors); and no more waffle diplomacy. No more bleeding budget on an idle digi-Tiger, either.
The 7th season of The Walking Dead had the most promise, but delivered little more than a set-up for an even more promising 8th season. It would probably be unreasonable to expect next season to live up to its source material; but I have every reason to expect it to deliver more than this season did. Despite a relatively ham-fisted climax, this could still be a decent opening shot, to the Battle of Five Communes.
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