The Walking Dead: The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be Review
The Walking Dead, season 7, episode 1, ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,’ was… well… where do I begin? I guess the obvious place to begin is over the point of the beginning that wasn’t at last season’s end. I don’t think anyone tuning in just for an outcome, to last season’s cliffhanger, really got the point of that cliffhanger. I doubt anyone who walked away from the premier, with just the outcome in mind, really got the point of that outcome.
I think the point of blurring the lines, between those crucial bookend moments, was to divest us of the notion that this new beginning was going to be another new normal. This new beginning, of course, was the first meeting of the Beard & the Bat. That’s not a normal beginning to a new season.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) had finally met a self-styled Warlord his beard couldn’t kill, and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was intent on laying down some prison ground rules, for Rick’s big league rookies. As I’ve stated before, Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn’t as imposing (or as profane, of course) as the source character; but he brings enough charm to the role to make the characterization terrifying, all the same. Of course, it did help that Negan was given a chance to strut his stuff, before it was revealed whose corpse he had been strutting over.
There were likely two ways to come at that reveal. Either you just wanted to get there, or you resolved to keep enjoying the ride. If all you wanted was to find out who got Lucille’d, after being left hanging by the cliff-hanger, then odds are you felt like the show was taking you for a ride, and milking the suspense for more than it was worth. If you were more interested in how the plot unfolds, rather than what the major plot points would be, then a good ride made for a better arrival.
The ride was literal, in this case – Negan taking Rick on a training exercise, since the initial lesson didn’t fully take. Having some idea of what that lesson was, made for great suspense. The first phase of the training exercise made for even more great suspense; but the most suspenseful thing about the episode wasn’t the lesson, itself, but the idea that it would continue. Because of this, ‘The Day…’ became more than just a singular outcome.
I won’t speak for anyone else, but that outcome did make me sick. Not because of the loss – I’ve always wanted to believe that no one was safe/ sacred on this series; not because of the intensity – Negan would have no point to make without it; and not because of the unflinchingly graphic gore – it wouldn’t have been a series highlight (or low-point, depending on your constitution), to such a show, otherwise.
I felt sick because I had time to think about it. Not after the episode – but before & during. For a soldier, what’s worse than knowing you may be marching forward to your death, is sometimes catching sight of the faces of those stumbling back.
I also felt a little sick thinking of fans & critics, warning Lincoln & the Showrunners that the Lucille scene had better deliver, after a fake-out, hype-generator of a finale. Well, the Lucille scene felt like a payoff, then? Were you not entertained? No, that’s not judging, on my part; it’s just the notion of such a scene being considered a crowd pleaser, in any way, that disturbed me, some. for what it’s worth, I did imagine viewers – individually, collectively – going silent, when the payoff just kept paying out.
The real question, I think, was how did they feel about everything else. The time skip plot device was meant to force viewers to sit through the less relevant aftermath, to the big question being answered.
The genius of the device was in the focus & context it provided. Had the beginning been at last season’s end, it might’ve been hard to focus on anything that came after. Would we have paid as much attention to Negan’s words, Rick’s every nuance, or their quality alone time, while no longer scanning for clues to the question, or while stewing over the answer? Specifically, Negan’s point – about what could still happen – took on a whole new dimension, once we were made to realize that the outcome was an ongoing process.
This wasn’t just Negan making a point to Rick & the Roadies – this was a point being made to us, by the Showrunners. We don’t get to guess which one character gets done away with, then wait for a reckoning. They’re going to dislodge any presumptions we may have held, about the cast, about the story, about what is canon. I think that was their point, anyway.
Negan’s introduction was a violation, in every sense; and if you’ve been privileged enough to not know the feeling of someone taking their weight off your neck, I think the end of the ordeal did a decent job of conveying the feeling – that feeling just before you realize you haven’t exhaled, yet.
When the exhale did come, it was given more time than I expected. That was probably for the best. Having some take-away – from individual resolve, to Rick literally putting the Walker problem in the rear-view mirror – was likely better than leaving fans to speculate on what comes next. You know – the ones that didn’t get the point.
Welcome to a new beginning (you little… ).
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