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Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead episode “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.”
The seventh season finale of The Walking Dead arrived with about as much excitement and adrenaline as the last 12 episodes. As usual, most of the episode was build-up to what eventually resulted in minimal payoff. Yes, there were moments of tension and emotional catharsis, but they were few and far between.
As expected, Rick led his faithful group—assisted by Jadis and her dump-dwelling followers—on a suicide mission to surprise Eugene and Negan with hidden explosives. Meanwhile, most of the episode was filled with Sasha in a coffin, which Negan intended to use as bait.
As Rick and company planned their attack, Sasha kept on fantasizing about Abraham, getting a much-needed reminder just who her friends really are. Sasha definitely had a plan, one that didn’t involve betraying Rick and her friends.
When Rick asked Negan to open up the coffin to prove Sasha is in fact alive and well, he was caught off-guard by Sasha coming out—not alive, but as a zombie. Eugene proved, despite his claims he is “stone cold Negan,” he is in fact still loyal to his friends.
Many on Twitter are already calling Sasha’s sacrifice the real standout of the episode.
In truth, her decision to end her life and come back as a zombie did give Rick and company an extra boost—even if it didn’t result in Negan’s death. That failure made Sasha’s sacrifice feel somewhat meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Yes, it helped Rick and company escape, but just moments later, Negan had Rick and Carl kneeled as prisoners, threatening to kill Carl and take Rick’s hands for his betrayal.
The episode’s biggest twist involved Jadis and her followers betraying Rick, revealing they actually work for Negan. It was a twist that felt perfunctory, as Jadis had never really been a fleshed out character beyond her initial appearance.
It makes sense that Jadis is loyal to Negan than someone like Rick, who can’t promise much. In the end, Jadis and her followers escape when all hell breaks loose. This probably isn’t the last time we’ll see Jadis, but the way her and her followers were written felt disappointing and lackluster.
With Rick and Carl in Negan’s grasp, things looked particularly dire. As Negan leveled his trusty bat Lucille toward Carl, however, Shiva the tiger leaped into action, dispatching one of Negan’s men. For those who had been wanting Shiva to do something—anything—this season, it was an exciting moment.
As Ezekiel and the Kingdom, joined by Carol and Morgan, charged in guns blazing with Maggie and Daryl, things finally got exciting. It didn’t last for long. Negan and most of his men, including Eugene, escaped. As he questioned Eugene for how Sasha could’ve turned, he walked out to an army of his compatriots promising war.
So if you wanted Negan to die a horrible, terrible death or hoped for the end of his storyline, you were sadly disappointed. Then again, after a season of mediocre and slow build-up, Negan’s death likely would have been disappointing regardless of how the writers did it. As evident throughout the entire season, it was a lot of setup for diminishing payoffs.
Even though Sasha is gone, season 7 will go down as the most disappointing and weakest of The Walking Dead yet. Not much has changed since the first episode. Yes, there have been developments, such as the introduction of new characters and the reintroductions of old characters, but things are pretty much at status quo from when the season began.
The episode’s silver lining was Maggie’s narration at the end. Her line “We came together not as strangers, but as family” surely tugged at the heartstrings of even the most cynical Walking Dead viewer. The last shot of the finale had Maggie holding a pocketwatch—the same one Hershel gave her and the same one that belonged to Glenn.
The callback to Glenn made things come full circle, echoing how Glenn brought them together and how he’s a big reason why they remain together, even if he’s no longer among the living.
The Walking Dead may still be among the living as it has already been renewed for season 8. The show, which doesn’t come back until October, saw declining viewership and mediocre reviews this past season. If it wants to live up to Maggie’s stirring narration, it needs to stop moving at a zombie’s pace and take more risks.
Let’s hope the next season has more excitement and surprises in store.
Dan Marcus is a geek culture reporter based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in First Showing and Trek Movie.