The Day Will Come When You Won't Be Season 7, Episode 1.
Welcome to the first installment of a weekly column where Gingernutters Kayleigh Edwards and Kit Power take to a shared Google Doc to discuss this week’s Walking Dead broadcast episode in a conversational exchange. Enjoy! Warning: The following conversation contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead, up to and including the events of Season 7, Episode 1. If you don’t want to be spoiled, please turn away now. For those of you who have seen S7 E1, please join in with the conversation in the comments section.
Kit Power: Bloody hellfire! I am literally at a loss as to where to start after that trauma. K, help me out! Where do we start?!? WHERE?!?!?!
Kayleigh Edwards: Right… well… I’ll start with ‘I loved it’!
KP: Fair, fair. I think I’m still processing, but certainly was as intense a TV viewing experience as I can immediately recall. I have to be honest - the finale for S6 left me feeling physically ill and shaken, and part of me was not looking forward to going back to that clearing and seeing what I knew would be a harrowing, brutal scene. What was your take on the set up and the cliffhanger?
KE: I know that many people were furious about the cliffhanger, but I didn’t really get that reaction! Part of me thought ‘oh you’re not going to show us.. You bastards!’, but the other part of me thought ‘well they usually end on a cliffhanger’. Online, I saw many cries of ‘BUT THEY DIDN’T EVEN HINT!’ and I was like ‘yeah dude, it’s a cliffhanger’. The last ten minutes or so of the finale, I was completely engrossed in what was happening (and have ranted many times that Andrew Lincoln’s performance was just superb - his little scared face was making me feel sick!). I thought the set up that led the group to that clearing was great - they were blocked at every turn and even though Rick knew they may be walking into a trap, there was no other choice he could make. I think as far as a season ending goes, it was fantastic. But perhaps I was fine with the mystery because I have total trust in the writers and their intentions!
KP: That’s really interesting - I have to admit that I had my issues with the S6 finale, but none of them centered around the ‘hanger, which I felt was simply TWD doing what it does, albeit in the biggest way yet. My issue was more that it felt - to me - like the group’s IQ plummeted by about 30 points during the runaround. It made for dramatically interesting and visually stunning storytelling - especially the guy hanging from the bridge, and the escalation that gradually exposed the sheer scale of the forces arrayed against our survivors - but I was also a little bit, like ‘Dude, MY spider sense is freaking out! Why isn’t Ricks?’ It is a very minor quibble though, and one that utterly ceased to matter as soon as the gang found themselves in that clearing.
KE: I think a viewer’s spider senses would be going crazy, but you have to remember that’s because we are often privy to information before the group is, like, for example, that the dude they killed in the bunker wasn’t Negan after all. It’s obvious to us at the first road block, I think, that it was a trap. But Rick and co weren’t aware of the sheer size of The Saviours or what they wanted. Rick has been the most savage person he’s known since the Governor; there are parallels all over the place between him and the show’s former villains. It’s funny to think that at the beginning, Shane came off as an evil asshole, but if he were still alive, Rick would be agreeing with him, and probably going further than him in terms of the necessary brutality it takes to keep his group safe from others. His evolution into superhero/total monster (depending on your perspective), has given him an arrogance that made him think there was nothing he couldn’t handle. Now that Negan has turned up with the force and numbers he has, Rick has been shown what real viciousness is! What an entrance…
KP: Yeah, you may be right - and thinking about it, arguably part of the theme of S6 could be hubris. I kept flashing back to the cliffhanger finale of S4, where they’re trapped in Terminus and Rick says ‘they have no idea who they are dealing with’. It was such a punch the air moment, but at the same time ,when you look at all that’s happened since, it’s clear that this fall was going to come at some point.
But yes, what an entrance! And what a monologue! I think the acting performances in this scene were amazing, absolutely everybody was firing on all cylinders. And here ware are, a mere page of text later, at the start of the episode. So I guess my first question is, how did you feel about that opening scene? Seeing the bat, knowing somebody was dead but not who, and that line from Negan - ‘What? Was my joke that bad?’
KE: I thought the opening scene was fantastic. It’s the scene that was offered as a ‘sneak peak’ and I was glad it was the opening scene and not a little scene from later on. I heard a lot of complaints (as the episode was airing… on facebook.. Seriously guys can’t you resist posting spoilers even for 5 minutes?!) that they were ‘dragging out’ who was killed with the ‘fetch my axe’ scene and Rick’s black and white imagination flashes, but I disagree. If they’d have led straight in with the revelation of who died, they would have done so without the suspense they created in the finale. It needed to be rebuilt a bit I think, get us back in a state of emotional panic! What did you think?
KP: Yeah, I agree with that. I also think it’s part of the storytelling DNA of the show, at this point - we’ve had episodes open with an apparently abstract shot, and then the entire show has been about getting back to that moment, we’ve cut away from one group to another for two or three episode stretches - all choices I think were good, by the way, all sound, even bold storytelling decisions - so by TWD standards, taking until the first act break to give us the bad news felt borderline restrained! I think they pitched it just about right - too much longer and it might have gotten annoying, but letting the trauma spin out and build worked for me.
I also think the choice of victim was very smart. We knew from the dialogue at the end of S6 that it couldn’t be Rick or Carl, but other than that, I felt like it was fairly open as to who it might be. I mean, there’s for sure people I’d rather had died than the two who did, but Abraham felt about right, dramatically - he was big enough for it to feel like a loss, but not so big that it felt like a lynchpin had been removed.
And then, fucking hell, they killed Glenn! And it was Daryl’s fault!!!!
KE: I had a feeling it was going to be two of them. One victim didn’t feel dramatic enough considering the wait on finding out who it was. Also, I wondered if they would actually stick to the comic for this episode. That particular issue was the biggest selling indie comic since 1997 when it was released! It was a milestone for The Walking Dead comic so I suspected Kirkman might use it in the show. The second Abraham went down, I thought, ‘oh shit, Glenn’s next!’ Abraham was a big-ish character, but I thought after the finale that it would have to be someone from the original Season 1 cast to really pack the punch! I have a theory about the Daryl thing…
KP: Talk! I demand Daryl Theories!
KE: Well…. Kirkman has been saying forever that all of the characters will have their day and that none of them, including Rick, are safe. Apparently (I don’t know if this is true), Kirkman has been wanting to kill Daryl for a while because crazed fans have been sending him death threats along the lines of ‘if you kill Daryl, we’ll burn your house down’, but the producers haven’t let him because he’s too popular. About two seasons back, I thought that if they wanted to kill Daryl in the story, it would probably be because they want to take Carol’s story in another direction. However… they couldn’t kill Daryl without risking a part of the fan base. Unless, of course, they turn the fans against him first. Even though it was Negan who killed Glenn, about 25% of his fan base have already turned on him because they blame him! I think he’s gonna go out in a guilty blaze of self-sacrificial glory.
KP: Wow. You have given this some thought! It’s interesting, because I can tell you that the Power household viewership of the show will drop by a third if Daryl dies, according to the threats my wife was making to the screen when we watched this episode - so based on that tiny sample size, your theory may have some legs! Why do you think that Daryl has inspired that kind of following, yet while the loss of Glenn hurts (and we should talk about that, because boy does it hurt) it doesn’t seem to have caused that kind of reaction? And how do you think the loss of Glenn and Abraham impacts on the group dynamics going forward?
KE: Losing Abraham has had a hell of an impact, especially on Eugene, because he probably feels totally lost now. Sasha just had her possible love story cut off, and Rosita just watched the strongest man she knows, and loves, get battered to a pulp. I think that Rick will draw on Abraham’s strength at some point, and Carl will too, since Abraham really did take that like a champ! Losing Glenn is just devastating to everyone. I’m curious about Carol is going to react to his death, and the news that Negan has taken Daryl.
Perhaps Glenn’s death hasn’t had the same impact as the Daryl’s actions have had on the fans, because they fake-killed him before. I think the writer’s probably fake-killed him with that dumpster scenario to dampen the impact now - if we weren’t already a bit desensitised to the idea of Glenn dying, they may well have had an uproar. I’m still wondering if Glenn’s even really dead this time.. Maybe with some camera trickery they’re going to reveal that he actually crawled under the van and was hiding the whole time while Negan just smashed a pumpkin to pieces. Maybe it was Nicholas’s eye but it was on Glenn’s face so it looked like Glenn’s eye? WHO KNOWS?!
I think Daryl’s following comes from his cool factor, to be honest. He’s the dude with the motorbike and the crossbow, and the leather.
KP: That’s fair. I also think, of the whole cast, he and Michonne are the people most of us would want as friends while the shit was going down.
How did you get on with the scenes between Negan and Rick in the campervan? I thought the acting all round was knockout, and the axe test felt appropriately brutal. This was all about enforcing that Negan is the ultimate will-to-power bad guy, a ‘might is right’ barbarian king. Basically my worst nightmare, at least in terms of an authority figure. And what about the threat against Carl? Did you think that was actually going to happen? Because I did…
KE: I thought that Carl was going to grab the axe himself and chop his own hand off. He’s so ballsy now, and cares about the group enough, that I wouldn’t have put it past him. I have no doubt that Negan would have made Rick do it, if it wasn’t for the fact that Rick had a full scale emotional collapse in front of him and he was clearly defeated. I loved the scenes between them in the van, I thought they were really well paced and did a good job of establishing what their relationship will be going forward.
KP: I gotta say, the moment where Carl said ‘Just do it, Dad’ just about finished me off - I didn’t think the show could make me feel any worse… and then it did. Amazing dramatic moment, and the fact that Negan stopped him doesn’t change the fact that Rick was absolutely going to do it. And he knows it. Chilling.
I found the removal of the bodies really painful too - again, the whole cast just knocked it out of the park, and as Rick watched the walker feast on the stained ground, it wasn’t hard to empathise with his despair. I know the last episode and this one have gotten a lot of criticism, but I think some of that can ignore that stuff like this, scenes like this, can only really have an emotional impact if you’ve grown to care about the characters - and that takes good acting and good writing to pull off. And I respect anyone who says after these episodes ‘this show is too bleak for me’ - because, yeah, it’s really, really bleak, and right now it feels like it’s going to get worse before it gets better. That said, it didn’t feel manipulative to me - it felt more like a harsh delivery of a very harsh reality - sometimes bad people win, and good people get mangled. What do you think?
KE: Without terrible things happening to the characters we love, there is no story in a zombie apocalypse. They need things - and people - to overcome. The Governor was a challenge, a super flu threatened to take them down, they’re all infected, etc. Each ‘bad guy’ must ‘out bad guy’ the last, otherwise the group aren’t facing anything new to learn to adapt to and deal with. I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand why so many people went batshit over the gore… I mean, it’s a show for an adult audience and it’s set in the zombie apocalypse! I think, if anything, it’s about time they amped it up a bit! I’d also disagree with those who say that the gore was added in place of ‘good writing’. I think it’s on the contrary actually. That violence is who Negan is, it would have been bad writing to have dulled that down. I would even consider it censorship, in a way, if those deaths had not been so brutal. They were an important element of showing us and the group, very quickly, who Negan is. If he’s willing to commit such a horrible, violent act straight off the bat (wahay!), then what will he do if they really piss him off?
KP: Right. And it fits perfectly with whom and what we understand Negan to be. He can kill the entire group, if he chooses. His only reason not to is because they can be resourceful and benefit him with their labour. So he has to show, unambiguously, that he is in charge and prepared to kill them all if they step out of line.
I really think the reaction wasn't to the gore, but seeing the gore applied to characters they had an emotional attachment to and investment in. And you know what? Yeah, that DOES hurt, it DOES feel horrible. That’s the point. That’s why it’s happening, but in story and outside. I had bad dreams for a couple of days after the S6 finale, and again after watching S7E1. I can’t remember the last time any fiction did that. It’s unsettling. It’s unpleasant. It’s (part of) what the show does. And again, I respect anyone who says that it isn’t for them, that’s obviously fine. I don’t think even I could handle it every week…
And on that point, what did you think about next week's sneak peek? Because I’ve got to say, I will be glad to be out of that fucking woodland clearing…
KE: I’m looking forward to it but I hope they manage to pull of the whole Shiva thing without it looking or seeming ridiculous. I would have forgiven them for not following that part of the comic, if they’d chosen not to. Sometimes, what works on a page doesn’t translate so well on screen!
KP: Well, I’ve not read the comics, so I have no idea what to expect! But I loved the image of the Knight on horseback at the end of S6, and it does give a hint that Negan may not be the only sizable force rising up in the wider world of TWD. I find the idea of rival armies, with our heroes caught potentially between the gears, really exciting. I also just have to applaud that the show is in it’s 7th season and is still finding ways to shift scale, tell new kinds of stories, and adjust the stakes. I think it deserves a hell of a lot of credit for that, if nothing else. Any other closing thoughts on S7 E1?
KE: Just that I’d like to mention that story aside, it doesn’t get enough credit for it’s technical aspects. It was shot and framed beautifully and very cleverly, structured in a way that made you go ‘what, no! It’s the end already?!’, and executed (he he he) in a way that had half the audience screaming and crying and having emotional reactions to it. The fact that it’s classed a horror show means that the ‘academy’ won’t be awarding Andrew Lincoln with a ‘Best Actor’ trophy any time soon, and the writers won’t get the artistic recognition they deserve either.
Other than that, I think it was a hell of a way to start the new season and I can’t wait to see what happens!
KP: That’s a hell of a good point, actually. This show has been consistently innovative in how it’s shot and directed, and the production values in so many areas aretop drawer. And this episode was yet another shining example of that innovation and talent at work. It’s in the nature of work that is restless and pushing envelopes that not everything it attempts will land perfectly for everyone, but you have to respect just how hard it’s still striving, seven seasons in.
Well then. This time next week for S7 E2? :)
KE: Looking forward to it!
KP: Cool. Let’s hope they give Lucielle the week off…
Please leave your thoughts on S7, E1 of The Walking Dead in the comments below, and join us back here next week for our take on S7, E2!