After what could be generously described as an uneven season, we’ve finally arrived at The Walking Dead’s Season 7 finale. Since this one managed to end without a cheap POV camera trick, I already considered it a win. But could “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” also help redeem the glut of subpar episodes that came before it?

Sensory Indulgence

The episode opens with a tight close up of Sasha listening to an iPod, mumbling along to some lyrics, and sweating profusely (which is basically me after fifteen minutes of intense physical activity).

From this vantage point, we repeatedly flashed back throughout the episode to an unseen final conversation she had with Abraham before the Lucille Incident. Sentiments of love, fear, and determination are exchanged, almost always with sad music playing in the background. Same goes for the flashback she has with her (current living) best friend Maggie.

So yeah, in case you hadn’t figured it out yet, Sasha is totally going to die.

Breakfast Can Wait

But first, we jump back to the present, which still has Sasha imprisoned at the Sanctuary with Negan. Despite “agreeing” to help Negan neutralize Rick & Co., she still insists that no one has to die. Since Negan’s an asshole, he insists death is 100% necessary. Sasha manages to negotiate him down from three deaths to one, which is both impressive and another obvious bit of foreshadowing.

Negan also reiterates just how much he likes Sasha, which should effectively remove any remaining doubt about her eventual fate.

Ironing Out a Plan

Back in Alexandria, Dwight is put through some enhanced interrogation by Rick & Co. Considering how he totally betrayed Daryl—and what he’s done to them since rejoining The Saviors—it’s surprising they just didn’t kill him right there…which is definitely what Tara wanted to do.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but for once I agreed with my least favorite character on something. Dwight killed her girlfriend (Denise) and has repeatedly shown himself to be untrustworthy—both to us as the viewers and via Daryl’s time with him pre-face ironing.

Just because Dwight told Daryl to go ahead and kill him (and mumbled some crap about how “you know I’m not lying”) doesn’t mean he can suddenly be trusted—or even deserves to live.

Regardless of all that, Rick sees the potential for a tactical advantage and allows him to speak. Dwight informs them that Negan is showing up the next day with a lot of backup and an even bigger chip on his shoulder due to his discovery about Rick’s planned rebellions.

Dwight then lays out his brilliant plan of cutting logs down to slow the trucks arrival to Alexandria. Once Rick & Co. take care of Negan and his road crew (major assumption there), Dwight would radio to The Sanctuary that everything was fine before letting them inside to kick names and take ass.

That didn’t sound to me like enough of a reason to let the guy go, but Rick does. Daryl informs Rick that whether Dwight is being straight with the or not, he’s still going to kill him when this is all over.

The King’s Speech

Back at the newly Gregory-free Hilltop Community, Maggie listens to Rick’s plan (courtesy of Jesus) and debates whether or not to join him. Since Maggie is awesome, we know she will.

Back at The Kingdom, Ezekiel and his warriors—which now include Carol—come across a very angry and disturbed Morgan. Ezekiel calms him via a reminder that he should honor Benjamin’s memory rather than revert to his previously fractured mental state…and it works!

See kids? All you need to cure someone of PTSD is a good speech by a guy with some community theater experience.

Junkyard Love

Meanwhile, the Alexandrians and the Scavengers prepare for the incoming Saviors. During their preparations, Jadis asks Michonne if Rick is hers. When she answers in the affirmative, Jadis responds by saying she will lay with Rick (in the Biblical sense) once the battle is over.

As you might imagine, Rick and Michonne are both shocked and more than a little grossed out by this declaration.

Seriously, just how weird are these people? I mean, the language thing I can deal with. And the armored walker was actually pretty cool. But what woman in her right mind would say something like that in front of Michonne without caring about the ass kicking she will most definitely receive in the future?

Also, did anyone notice the dye job Jadis had done since the last time we saw her? My friend and colleague Brian Wargel did. I’m starting to think The Scavengers trash city is built on top of a Great Clips and Hot Topic.

The Ice Queen Turneth

Negan shows up and sends Eugene out to speak with Rick. Rick refuses to speak with the traitor, demanding an audience with Negan, instead.

Eugene responds by saying “I am Negan,” proving once and for all that he truly has crossed over to the dark side.

“Business in the front, cowardly betrayal in the back.”

Rick responds to this revelation by signaling Rosita to set off the bomb. When she does, however, nothing happens. What looks like a catastrophic malfunction is made much worse when Jadis and the rest of her people suddenly turn their weapons on Rick & Co.

When Rick asks why she’s doing this, Jadis responds that Negan and his crew offered her a better deal (which I’m guessing involved a large supply of the aforementioned hair product).

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. The woman named after the most evil character in The Chronicles of Narnia turned out to be a bad guy.

“Try reading a book sometime, you sexy simpleton.”

Sasha Smash

It looked like all hope was lost for our heroes. But while all this was going on, we continued to flash back (and sometimes forward) to Sasha listening to her iPod before going to her Abraham Happy Place.

It is eventually revealed (via more flashbacks) that Negan asked Sasha to be inside a coffin. (It’s also revealed that Eugene gave her the iPod, but he’s still a douche in my book). Negan would then bring it out and offer to her alive to Rick & Co. in exchange for a person’s head of Rick’s choosing to get bashed in by Lucille.

Little did Negan know that Sasha took those suicide pills Eugene gave her last episode, effectively turning her into a zombie bomb. When Negan opens the coffin to show her to Rick, Zombie Sasha leaps out and proceeds to wreak havoc. Sure, she may be just one walker, but Negan and his crew are totally surprised and taken off guard.


“STILL THNK I’M PRETTY, BIG BOY?”

This was a brilliant/awesome scene for a couple of reasons. First off, the show managed to somehow improve on the great scene from the comics (with Holly in place of Sasha) that Fear the Walking Dead accidentally/already used.

It also gave Sasha a tragically heroic end to one of the show’s most heart breaking character arcs. The poor woman has lost way more people close to her than Rick, but you didn’t ever see her hallucinating about Abraham’s ghost or constantly on the edge of a mental breakdown. In the end, when there were no other options left, she gruesomely sacrificed herself to give Rick and the rest of her people a chance…

…which they totally take advantage of. Carl immediately makes use of Sasha’s distraction by turning and mowing down a group of Scavengers. The others do the same, resulting in a wonderfully choreographed gunfight. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. Michonne gets her ass kicked, the Alexandrians get surrounded, and Rick gets shot in the stomach by Jadis (!).

Cat and Calvary

Negan gets Rick and Carl on their knees. He then proceeds to do his usual preening and crowing about how he’s going to do something really bad to them. I say that with love, by the way—Jeffrey Dean Morgan may get way too many versions of the same script/speech, but he still crushes it every time, especially here. He also tells Rick flat out that he’s going to kill Carl.

Just as Negan rears back to take a swing, however, SHIVA LEAPS IN FROM OFF SCREEN AND TACKLES THE CRAP OUT OF A NEARBY SAVIOR.

Behind the tiger, Maggie and Ezekiel lead the charge for a massive combined force, taking The Saviors and the traitorous Scavengers completely by surprise. Was the timing ridiculously convenient and contrived? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t awesome, too.

Another brilliantly choreographed fight scene ensues, this time featuring a lot more action and a lot more Shiva. Even my mom, who has absolutely no interest in the show, was forced to put down her adult coloring book and watch the glorious battle taking place on screen.

Negan manages to escape Shiva’s jaws (mumbling incredulously about there being a “freaking tiger”), but a few members of his crew aren’t as lucky. I am not talented or smart/competent enough to make a .gif of Shiva going to town on The Saviors, so you’ll have to settle for this great tweet from @Munson1897:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Speaking of great tweets, Chandler Riggs (Carl) revealed some behind the scenes info about Shiva’s attack that also had to be one of the funniest things ever to watch in person.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

As Ezekiel and Maggie pressed the attack, Rick’s main character antibodies took over, healing his gunshot wound and allowing him to go from stumbling in the throes of death to running heroic posturing in no time.

Jadis, Negan, and their surviving subjects retreat. Michonne nearly dies at the hand of one of the Scavengers, but survives, much to Rick and Carl’s relief.

Editor’s Note: Nick may not have been able to find a .gif, but there’s this YouTube clip I found to be pretty keen:

Watch What Happens

The episode closes with two very effective and poignant codas. On one end, Negan (with double agent Dwight by his side) questions Eugene about how Sasha died, giving us a brief glimmer of hope that The Mullet might not be completely turned. He then steps outside and declares to his subjects that it’s time to go to war.

Back in Alexandria, Daryl finds a toy soldier with the words “Didn’t Know” scrawled on the back. I honestly had no idea what that meant. Thankfully, former student (and person who is way smarter than me) Kate Dantzscher clued me in that Dwight had left it for the Alexandrians.

After finding and killing the zombified Sasha, we close the book on Season 7 with an incredibly touching speech from Maggie, explaining how this all started with Glenn deciding to help Rick when he was trapped inside that tank back in Atlanta and had nowhere else to turn. Her decision to come to Rick’s aid at Alexandria was simply continuing his legacy—and protecting her surrogate family.

The Verdict

Season 7 may have been terrible, but at least it started and ended strongly. Despite the story threads bring poorly strung the last few months, they culminated in “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” quite well.

Morgan and Carol returning to the fight, the communities joining forces against Negan, The Scavengers turning on Rick, Dwight turning against Negan, Sasha dying…it’s all stuff we expected to happen. This time, however, it was at least packaged in a delightfully fun and incredibly well acted episode. And despite my arrogant assertion about this season’s predictability, the finale at least gave us a few surprises, even for comic book readers like me. I really thought Eugene would do something big to turn against Negan (or at least bite the guy’s junk like he did to Dwight).

And how can you not like a battle featuring a tiger mauling a bunch of bad guys?

Let’s just hope that The Walking Dead carries the momentum and goodwill from this finale into a new season that features a great deal more story and action with a lot less padding.

Oh, and by the way…is anyone watching Judith?

The Walking Dead: Season 7, Episode 16 “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” Review
SHIVA!!!
Despite the story threads bring poorly strung the last few months, they culminated beautifully.
There were some genuinely surprising moments--even for comic book readers like me.
Rick's main character antibodies healed that gunshot wound waaaaay too quickly.
As powerful as Sasha's death was, it was also telegraphed from a mile away.
9
Great