The Walking Dead: 701 “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
It’s finally come people, the day we discover just who met their grim fate at the hands of Negan.
Spoilerphobes, walk away now…
My God, this was a torturous episode. I’ve not encountered television like this. From start to finish this narrative had a hold of me and left me feeling uneasy throughout as my emotions were tested. What made matters worse was the clever pacing of the episode, to which we didn’t actually see who died until a good ten minutes into the narrative. In that time the episode left you tense for completely different reasons, making the overall experience even worse as you was given element after element to which served only to make you feel genuine dread.
Rick has always been a fascinating character because of his determination, which often leads him to harsh decisions and questionable actions but he does it anyway because he knows he has a set mission and that is to protect himself and his family. His best moments come when he completely loses himself in anger and goes crazy. This happened a lot throughout Season 6 and ultimately led to his over-confidence in ‘defeating’ Negan. Naturally everything turned upside down when he came face to face with the man himself, a moment that left me shaking because I was truly scared for these characters. Seeing Rick cower with fear and appear completely desperate sent shivers down my spine. This opening episode pushed that boundary as we see his character put in a situation that truly tests his spirit. After witnessing his friends beaten to death at the hands of Negan he showcases his inner anger and tries to intimidate Negan, but naturally the murderous psychopath isn’t phased and goes about to break Rick in the cruelest way possible.
The entire episode is dedicated to showing us who Negan is and what he is truly capable of. “Last Day On Earth” was a mere taster, which is the truly scary part. Anyone who was horrified by Negan’s presence in the Season 6 finale will be given a rough ride during this season premier as Negan is shown to be the most heartless, ruthless, and menacing specimen of man you’ll ever see. Negan always appears to be enjoying himself, enjoying his presence as the dominate creature who can end everything at the click of his finger, as well as demand whatever he wants through sick, twisted games that break apart any idea of resistance. This episode goes to assure you that Negan is in-charge and Rick doesn’t have much of a chance against him. Everything Rick has done up until this point means nothing anymore. Shane, The Governor, Terminus, these things don’t compare against Negan. Those enemies had some kind of human element that pulled them back whereas Negan is almost pure instinct. He hasn’t got a moral compass and certainly doesn’t take into account feelings or emotions. There is only his will and if it isn’t obeyed then he will without hesitation make an example of you.
It was painful seeing Rick slowly brought down to his knees and watching his determination and confidence stripped away. What made this narrative all the more interesting was knowing that Rick’s actions had caused these events to unfold. His over-confidence in fighting The Saviors cost them dearly and Rick is aware of this and will have to live with the guilt of poor leadership. Also we have never truly seen Rick powerless. There has always been signs of a way out, even in the most dire of situations. But this time I am utterly clueless as to how Rick will defeat Negan because at the moment he holds all the cards. Negan has demonstrated what he can do, and what he is willing to do to maintain his idea of order and this doesn’t leave Rick and his group with any tactical advantage.
Now for the worst part. It was a tense few moments but we finally got to see who Negan killed with Lucille and it wasn’t pretty. You didn’t want any of these characters to bite the dust, especially in the grizzly fashion that was demonstrated. Abraham was unfortunately picked and true to his character he didn’t go down without a fight and threw a comeback at Negan before being beaten to death. Looking back it seemed logical that Abraham was going to be chose because he had been through a lot of development during Season 6, to which his character almost found peace in the world and began to enjoy the idea of settling down with the woman he truly loved. Also his farewell scene with Eugene became the true nail in the coffin because we knew Eugene wouldn’t be picked for such a grand moment (it simply wouldn’t have been as effective).
Alas though, Negan wasn’t finished. Not by a long shot. As the leader of The Saviors warned them in “Last Day On Earth” if one of them tried to interfere again then he would dish out more punishments. Daryl naturally retaliated after the death of Abraham and this left me even more tense than watching Abraham’s death. I knew what this moment meant and I was filled with dread knowing that Negan would kill again. Having known there were rumours that Negan would kill two characters it helped me slightly prepare for what happened next. I actually would’ve preferred it if Daryl had died because at least he was a strong character that I felt could’ve handled such a horrific death, similar to Abraham who took the blows without fear.
Sadly it was poor Glen who was dealt the card of tragedy as he was struck by Lucille. The worst part was that Negan left him partially alive in a state of pain and death, his eye hanging out of his socket clinging onto life as he tried to reassure his shocked wife (and fans). It was truly brutal. Abraham’s death was sad but you honoured his death because of his confidence, but with Glen it was just horrifying to watch because it was unexpected and his character was more innocent and had a lot more to leave behind. Watching this beloved character, one of the few existing members of Season 1, beaten to death to the point where he wasn’t recognisable was just too much to bare. This scene literally left me shaking and I was convinced I was going to hyperventilate due to my rapid breathing.
The tears came later on, in the conclusion, when you watched Maggie breakdown. This was just unbearable because of all the implications involved. Maggie had lost everyone she’d known and loved by this point and had finally regained confidence that she could find happiness through Glen and their expected child. And now even Glen has been taken from her. This, along with the sadness of those who loved Abraham, just made this final scene a gut-wrencher where I couldn’t help but cry in complete sadness.
The final instrument of torture came with Negan finally finishing off Rick by forcing him to cut off Carl’s arm or his entire group would be shot down. This really did cement Negan being an unstoppable killing machine that wanted nothing but to secure his cruel and vicious ownership of the land. By this point you really hated his character and wanted him to die for all the pain and suffering he had caused. The punch to the stomach came when Rick was forced to lift his own axe to cut off his son’s arm, to which Carl encouraged him in order to save his family, and then was told it was just a sick exercise by Negan to finally break Rick’s will.
This episode gets full marks because of all the emotions it made me feel. It was an experience like no other and really showcased how a good television series can push the boundaries in making you give a damn. I was invested from start to finish, caring about every character onscreen and felt what they were feeling. It’s fair to say that The Walking Dead is an inconsistent show with its many ups and downs, but when it goes up, it really does go up and this will remain my favourite episode for a long time to come.
Now I am left puzzling over what will happen next in Season 7. The bar has been raised and with all that has happened in this season premier I really have no idea how Rick can turn things around. Also I really can’t wait to see how this episode’s events reshape the character’s world.