The Walking Dead: 716 “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
After what seemed like a roller-coaster ride of a season full of ups and downs, The Walking Dead has sadly come to another conclusion. But did the finale leave the show in a good place? When Season Seven started I literally had shivers running down my spine, my body shook from the emotional state it was in. But then the tension quickly went away as I felt ease around Negan (despite my fears over his unpredictability) and I actually grew fascinated with his character and what he would do next.
What I looked forward to the most in this season was witnessing Rick being pushed into the mud, his spirit crushed, as his cockiness and strength was taken away from him. But this didn’t properly get realised, and by the end of the mid-season finale he was back to his old self again, which made the deaths of Abraham and Glen seem rather redundant. Come the second half of Season Seven, Rick was preparing for war against Negan and started to pull the different communities together.
See, my problem with the pacing is that it all felt too fast. Not enough breathing time was given and there were times when episodes seemed either too rushed, or dull because of its forced meaning in order to develop a certain character in preparation for the finale. On top of that I felt Rick hadn’t learnt anything from his past mistakes and was simply repeating himself. At first he seemed quite logical by going to the other communities to make alliances, but when that failed he made a pact with the Scavengers and all seemed to be fine on the Negan front. No! Just having one army doesn’t make you equipped for war!
So with a few more guns, and a handful more people, Rick challenges Negan again, and this time he thinks he can win. Hell no, he can’t. I did like that this finale had a few twists and turn (some of which I didn’t see coming) but it didn’t fully elevate the episode above and beyond an average episode. Sure some cool stuff happened, but not much. Mostly it was simply build-up, which is a cruel tendency that is making The Walking Dead become rather frustrating to watch. It seems more bothered about suspense than execution. All we are teased with is, “Something awesome is going to happen,” before being met with, “Something happened, but it’s not the BIG something, come back next season. Love you fans!”
Season Six suffered the very same thing, but granted at least those last ten minutes was worth it. They had me on the edge of my seat and forced me to want to return for another season. Here, it’s more half-arsed. I mean, I want to see what happens next but I don’t feel the urge that I need to. “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” was certainly a strange finale because it wasn’t crap, but it wasn’t awesome either, narrowly lingering somewhere in the middle.
I guess I was expecting a more explosive finale, having been waiting patiently for something half-decent to happen after countless ‘okay’ episodes which left you with the promise of “something” good approaching. But nothing really happened that was above and beyond what we’ve already seen. I guess it could’ve been much worse. The interesting moments came with Eugene and him publicly declaring his new allegiance, but bless him, he at least tried to create a safe passage for his friends because he didn’t want to see them hurt.
This then led to Rick pretty much declaring that he would’ve happily killed Eugene because he was no longer on their side. Honestly, I was expecting him to put a bullet between his eyes before he went to activate the bombs set up to kill Negan and his crew. But the biggest kick in the nuts was the Scavengers turning on Rick and the others. I guess the weirdest part was I should’ve guessed this was going to happen simply because they looked untrustworthy. Nevertheless, it certainly put a spanner in Rick’s plans as his bombs were deactivated and now the rogue group had them completely surrounded, allowing Negan to regain the upper hand.
Of course I then expected a massacre, but the battle is rather short, with Rick being shot in the side by Jadis, and Michonne being beaten half-to-death by another member of the Scavenger community. This event happens so quick that it’s hard to really understand what has happened. One minute there’s a gunfight and then the next Rick is faced with Negan and his crew who prepare to repeat the events of the first episode. But there’s no indication as to what happened to the other characters that were previously fighting. They have literally upped and vanished, which made the finale feel rather weakly structured.
And this is where repetition creeps in. Prior to all this, the tension was clearly visible as you waited patiently for the confrontation to start, but of course you were constantly wary as to who would strike first and how it would all play out. There was even the indecisive nature of whether or not Dwight was really telling the truth about his intentions to kill Negan. But of course turned out to be true and his story-arc throughout the season started to actually make sense (which thank God because he was really beginning to tick me off simply because I had no idea how I was supposed to react to his actions – hate him or sympathise?)
I even liked how this played into Daryl and his complicated relationship with him, with Daryl being unsure whether to kill Dwight for all the torment he caused him, or to trust the man he first encountered. On top of that was the simple nature of Negan and Rick’s conflict. Negan has certainly become my favourite character within the show (hands-down) and it’s always great to see how he pushes Rick’s button, especially since he’s the first enemy to make Rick kneel and grovel. I know the Governor beat him near to death, but the psychological damage that Negan’s first encounter caused was something entirely different, one that even caused us (the audience) to shake with fear.
One of the elements that I didn’t really give a toss about was Sasha. Now granted, I should have been really happy over this because my wish was granted. But the fact it was too drawn out made it really uninteresting for me. Plus it seemed rather obvious that she was going to bite the bullet, but I suppose I didn’t expect it to happen the way that it did (so I guess I should give credit where credit is due). But the flashback sequences with her and Abraham did absolutely nothing for me (and honestly) felt rather lazily written and extremely corny. It took me right out of the drama at hand, feeling forced and tacked on for the sake of adding more emotion.
Like Beth, Sasha’s death had no real impact and sort of just happened for the sake of, “Oh, we need one of our main characters to die unexpectedly for shock-value.” It was shocking, yes, but not interesting or remotely memorable. At least Sasha’s story-arc was a little more interesting, and wasn’t as drawn-out, and I really loved the villain (unlike Dawn Lerner who was a complete waste of space and should go down in history as the worst television villain of all times).
Honestly, it was really disappointing that the death count was extremely low on this finale, adding to the fact that it wasn’t very explosive, and rather anti-climatic. As Rick wonders the streets of Alexandria after the fight broke out he passes two bodies who I have no idea who they are, nor do I know whether I’m supposed to care. Again, back to square one. Negan has to show Rick who’s boss by killing one of his own, this time Carl. I actually wanted Negan to kill Carl just to shut Rick’s big, fat, mouth. It grinds me after a while because he’s so overly confident and arrogant that it’s just really annoying.
Don’t get me wrong. I love psycho Rick as much as the next fan, but that Rick exited town back in Season Six and hasn’t been back seen since. Left in his place is “daft-bastard” Rick who has no real clue what he’s doing, constantly makes mistakes based on his arrogance, and never really accepts any responsibility for his consequences. The cheek of Rick to spout out his statement from the first episode, in which he proclaims he will kill Negan, is just a simple reminder that Rick has lost his mind by this point and is just full of it. He’s about to lose his son, have his entire town probably burnt to the ground, and have his hands broken by Lucille, and yet he still thinks he can win. off Rick!
Looking back on Season Seven it feels rather disjointed and inconsistent, particularly with the story and its characters. I really wanted Rick to learn his lesson about being over-confident but I didn’t get to enjoy my moment of satisfaction for very long. Plus it’s rather dumb that Negan had to repeatedly showcase his resolve on multiple occasions in order to remind Rick’s group that he means business.
So this final warning seems completely redundant and you’d just think that Negan would have Rick and his group killed on the spot to prevent any more disruption to his control. Plus, I really didn’t like how Negan felt like a major pussy on the battlefield, requiring others to step in for him as he hides behind his slaves. It made it seem like he wasn’t the big man, or if the situation wasn’t under his control. The destructive group that was heavily hyped up in Season Six, and to a lesser extent throughout Season Seven, seemed like a group of push-overs in this finale.
But I guess where the finale did well was the fact that this (once again) is a simple build-up session for the main event (which will hopefully arrive in the next season). I would’ve been really disappointed to see this finale completely ruin (and ultimately waste) the conclusion of the Negan arc. Instead this battle was the just the beginning as Negan ultimately escapes and then declares war on Rick. I guess it was interesting to see the events turn around, thus becoming more complicated. Things seemed more positive when Rick declared war on Negan but now it’s the other way round, things don’t look so good. But at least it implies that Season Eight should be quite explosive (I hope).
In the meantime we are left with Maggie giving a great speech about how Glen essentially brought this family together by saving Rick all the way back in the very first episode, “Days Gone Bye”. It was a rather poetic moment which reflected how important Glen was to the overall show, especially when you consider how his daring deed helped to shape the future of the show through its main protagonist, Rick, who gradually changed and adjusted to the apocalyptic world, moving away from his sense of code and honour, to the man who was willing to do what was absolutely necessary to survive. In that respect it just shows how far the show has truly come. I’m just hoping The Walking Dead can continue moving forward, but please, can we get some of what we’ve been promised.