Since the series’ second season, the TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” comic book has embraced separating an entire season perfectly in half; unusually bridging the two “parts” with a moment that changes the very course of the show’s lead characters. Following the events of season five, the group of protagonists led by a former cop were looked upon as invaders of a foreign land by taking residence in a town barricaded from the world destroyed by an unknown disease. Lets find out what occurred thus far in the seventh season of “The Walking Dead”.
We’re Just Getting Started (Episode 1 – “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”)
The series’ sixth season ended with both a bang and a whimper as viewers witnessed the murder of someone without the actual knowledge as to who suffered the wrath of Lucille. Trying to escape the ominous clutches of The Saviors after Rick Grimes and his fellow inhabitants of the fortified town known as Alexandria tried to assassinate the group in collaboration with another village –The Hilltop – Rick unfortunately led his people right into the literal danger zone. Relieved of their weapons, forced on their knees, and held at gunpoint, The Alexandrians heralded as the town’s greatest heroes and protectors were forced to come face to faces with a sadistic, baseball bat-wrapped-in-barbed wire-wielding sociopath known simply as Negan.
The actual Negan (not one of his followers spouting, “We’re all Negan.”) took his time explaining the rules of this new world he believed he now ruled. What should’ve been a simple conversation about Alexandria and its people working toward the betterment of Negan turned into a literal execution thanks to the fact Negan needed to send a message to the people responsible for killing those who not only follow him, but also fight for him to ensure Negan’s system is functional and beneficial to all parties graced with the ability to live beside him. After a quick selection process, Negan’s favorite toy in the baseball bat he so cutely named “Lucille” collided with the skull of a man finally coming to grips with the potential future he could share with someone who accepted him not as some braggadocios wannabe general, but just a genuine person looking to protect those he loved.
With Abraham’s corpse lying in front of him and his friends as Negan tried to encourage Abe’s ex Rosita Espinosa to embrace what her former love just did to save the lot, Daryl Dixon let his anger get the better of him by attacking Negan. Not taking Daryl’s actions lightly, Negan proved his previous statement true of letting only one outburst pass, but not two. Spinning around, Negan dished out further “justice”.
Following all of this brutality was Negan taking Rick to the side (or more appropriately into their long-standing mode of transportation – the nearly indestructible RV) in hopes of making him understand that Grimes was no longer in control of not only this current situation, but also his life and the lives of those who make Alexandria tick. The Rick Grimes that only hours earlier declared he would kill Negan for everything he had done figuratively melted away as the weight of what Negan had done and what The Saviors could do started mentally tearing him apart. But no greater moment for Rick in realizing he was helpless against Negan occurred when his captor brought him back to the site of his friends’ murders and Rick was ordered to maim his own son by chopping off Carl Grimes’ hand. Pleading with Negan on behalf of his son – someone who accepted his fate just like Abraham before him – Rick verbally embraced his submission to Negan and The Saviors’ need for product; be it food, ammo and medicine. As if killing two men and mentally destroying their leader wasn’t enough, the Alexandrians helplessly watched as Daryl was taken back with The Saviors for potential “rehabilitation”. The incredibly dark, almost breathtaking tone of the season’s first episode not only established Negan and his group’s mentality, but also changed the entire dynamic of the show as Rick, for the first time since his wife passed away, seemed helpless and stupefied to the point he could no longer serve as a leader. Though Rick seemed to be a shell of himself, his allies refused to take this situation lying down like he apparently was after his voyage with Negan.
The core cast viewers had gotten to know since the series’ beginning were slowly broken up by circumstances beyond their control. Look no further than Morgan Jones and Carol Peletier after a pair of armored horsemen saved the wounded Carol after Jones rescued her from sure death at the hands of The Saviors. These unidentified men eventually took the pair to an unknown settlement at that time known as “The Kingdom”. Headed by King Ezekiel (and his pet Bengal tiger, Shiva), The Kingdom was a fully functional town that mixed the best parts of Alexandria and Woodbury featuring running water, crops, and, most importantly, able-bodied individuals ready to defend their homestead. During Carol’s time of recovery, Morgan gained King Ezekiel’s good favor and was asked to help as best he could by training the townspeople and helping them deliver goods – deliver goods to The Saviors. In a shocking twist, as strong as The Kingdom appeared on the inside, the truth was the settlement was just another limb on growing body of Negan’s power structure. Carol soon realized the grime reality of The Kingdom and opted to sneak out when she had the opportunity (after stealing some perishables of course). Sadly and fortunately for Carol, Ezekiel caught her in mid-thievery and convinced her to hole up inside an abandoned cabin outside of the town where she would be left alone, but wouldn’t be too far from a ruler who felt he could let down his guard & royal persona around while unknowingly getting Carol away from the friends she felt she could no longer protect in Alexandria.
One episode later, the focus shifted to Daryl and his precarious predicament under thumb of Negan and The Saviors. No, Daryl’s life hadn’t been on easy street before getting captured, but he at least had his dignity even after situations such as Dwight – Negan’s apparent right-hand man – stealing his crossbow & motorcycle. Even worse for Daryl was the obvious end result for prisoners like himself who didn’t give into Negan’s new world order were chained up and left to be turned (a revelation provided by, ironically enough, Dwight – a man whose viciousness proved to apparently be only a visage to block out the actions of himself and, most importantly Negan including hunting down an escapee and giving his wife to Negan so both husband & wife could live). Daryl eventually made a hearty prison break, but it didn’t end well at all for him as it turned out the whole “escape” was nothing more than a test organized by Negan to really see if Daryl was finally accepting his position under Negan’s rule. Though Dwight did his hardest to “break” Daryl, the will that impressed Negan so much previously was the same that continually had Dixon imprisoned and Dwight questioning how someone in Daryl’s position just couldn’t give into his new lot in life.
Following the tragic loss of her husband at the hands of Negan and suffering from complications due to her pregnancy, Maggie Greene returned to The Hilltop to gain medical attention. Maggie was informed that she suffered from a separation of the placenta from the uterus, yet didn’t lose her child and had the opportunity to recover under the watchful eye of not only her fellow Alexandrian Sasha Williams, but also The Hilltop’s leader Gregory. Fearful that harboring Alexandrians and Negan possibly discovering that The Hilltop was involved in the mass slaughter that had The Saviors come after Rick in the first place, Gregory found himself desperate to keep The Hilltop and his power in order even if it meant giving up his “guests” to one of The Saviors’ commanders, Simon. Thankfully for Maggie & Sasha they had Jesus backing them both verbally and physically when The Saviors initiated a Walker infestation that was only stopped by Maggie embracing her old farmer lifestyle and running over the car used to lure the Walkers with a tractor, and Jesus hiding the pair when Gregory was literally ready to turn them over to their adversaries. The power dynamic at The Hilltop was changing quickly thanks to Maggie displaying her ability to help another settlement survive while Gregory’s lapdog tendencies sent his home further down to the depths of Negan’s rule.
In a surprising showcase, the season’s sixth episode focused on Tara Chambler and her separation from not only fellow Alexandrian Heath, but also apparent civilization until her body washed up onto a shore that was initially inhabited by two girls – one not even a teenager, but trained to kill strangers on sight. Eventually captured and threatened with death, Tara found herself in the middle of a community of women who saw all the males who were once living alongside them struck down by The Saviors. Thinking the Alexandrians had wiped out The Saviors, Tara was informed about how large Negan’s organization is and how Tara returning to her home would comprise this hidden settlement known as “Oceanside” even after Tara offered Oceanside’s leader a chance to fight by Alexandria and finally destroy The Saviors. Thanks to a bond formed between Tara and Oceanside resident Cyndie, Tara was able to fight her way back to Alexandria where she kept her promise to Cyndie of not telling anyone about Oceanside’s existence. It was becoming more & more obvious that the once claustrophobic feeling of loneliness and lacking civilization was melting away with the revelation of not only many settlements existing within figurative arms’ reach, but also how Negan’s touch has affected them all.
Palin’ Around (Episode 7 – “Sing Me a Song”)
Unlike his father, Carl Grimes refused to accept Negan’s hostile takeover lying down. Unknowingly jumping into a Saviors cargo truck alongside Jesus – who was going on a reconnaissance mission to figure out how big Negan’s home place was and how it could be taken down – Carl had one goal in mind: putting a bullet between his new master’s eyes. Sadly for Carl his plan went awry when he was spotted and ended up shooting two of Negan’s men while missing his actual target. What should’ve been a sure death sentence for Carl turned into a literal tour of the compound headed by Negan himself. Throughout their trek, Negan gave Carl a great glimpse into the new life Negan had created for himself including a factory full of subservient workers who would bow to him, an actual harem of wives who would give Carl the ride of his life if he wanted (because Negan was happy to fulfill his wishes), and the punishment that comes with abandoning Negan’s laws.
But nothing was more profound during their trip than a simple sit-down featuring Negan and Carl inside the prior’s “grand” living quarters. Like an excited teenager who finally got his own room, Negan showing off his “cool stuff” to his guest was only outmatched by the tyrant’s instance for entertainment; be it Carl tearfully singing “You Are My Sunshine” before telling Negan about his mother’s death and, most importantly, ordering Carl to remove his eye patch so everyone, including Carl, can see the disgusting sight he’d been hiding since the attempted murder happened in Alexandria that put an unwarranted hole in his face. The awkward, incredibly unconformable time Carl spent watching everything from human atrocities to Negan simply getting his rocks off making Daryl clean up a puddle of urine culminated with Negan personally taking Carl home with the order that he couldn’t cover up his eye. Negan found himself right at home in Alexandria, planning for the future that could include killing Carl and his father while taking baby Judith Grimes as his own. It seemed only fitting that one of the intense episodes of the season thus far focused not only on the nuances that makes Negan one of the most dangerous, yet immature men knowingly walking a planet in ruins, but also gave Carl a chance to prove yet again that no matter how courageous and ambitious he is he’s still just a kid stuck in a world no longer made for innocence.
All Hell Can’t Stop Us Now (Episode 8 – “Hearts Still Beating”)
Not since the literal walls came tumbling down around Alexandria had the town and its inhabitants faced such peril as what was to come courtesy of Negan and his Savior followers. Rick, mentally broken and physically at a disadvantage, succumbed to the will of Negan and spent a huge portion of the season’s first half simply scavenging anything he believed Negan would find satisfying enough to leave his people alone. Similar to the aforementioned Carl, there were others who felt unbroken by Negan’s murderous actions and promising of death to an entire town if he didn’t get what he wanted. Look no further than Rosita – the former “better half” to Abraham. Thanks to her relationship with Eugene Porter that dated before Rick & crew interacted with Rosita, Eugene, and Abraham the first time, Rosita formulated a simple plan. Before Abe’s death, Eugene revealed an incredible discovery in the form of a factory that would allow him to create bullets. Confident not in Eugene’s crafting abilities, but fueled on revenge, Rosita demanded Eugene do something useful for once and make her the harbinger for Negan’s death.
Michonne – who had formed a romantic relationship with Rick over the previous season – too found herself taken aback by the eldest Grimes’ submissive nature toward Negan and not using his time planning for a giant rebellion in the same vein as what happened when The Governor tried to overtake their prison home. Becoming more of a lone wolf similar to how she was introduced to the series, Michonne spent a majority of the season “hunting” with an ulterior motive. Not having the parkour abilities of Jesus, the sword-wielding zombie slayer decided that reconnaissance was necessary in preparation for taking down Negan and The Saviors. With Michonne capturing one of The Saviors at gunpoint, Michonne discovered a horrifying truth: The Saviors’ numbers were greater than anything she could’ve imagined.
On the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Michonne or Rosita stood Spencer, the son of former Alexandria leader Deanna. Spencer, feeling like he was the true heir apparent to the throne Rick “stole” from his mother prior to her demise, took it upon himself to chat it up with Negan after his new ruler returned with Carl in tow. The bond forming between Negan and Spencer seemed to be beneficial on both ends as Spencer looked as a hearty runner ready to deliver any & everything Negan wanted while Negan gained a true servant in the same mold as Gregory on The Hilltop. With Rick being out doing his job in searching for supplies, Spencer tried to usurp Grimes’ leader role while Rick wasn’t there – an act of cowardice in Negan’s opinion; and Negan does not like cowards.
Infuriated by seeing Negan extinguish another Alexandrian’s life, Rosita took her chance to see if Eugene’s craftsmanship was up to par. Shockingly enough, the bullet worked, but Rosita shot Lucille instead of her actual target – enraging Negan to the point he ordered the death of anyone a Savior by the name of Arat chose until the bullet’s engineer showed himself/herself. Though Rosita and Tara tried to save Eugene’s hide, Porter eventually manned up and gave up the truth after resident inventory manager and a woman Negan found somewhat attractive Olivia was murdered. The carnage in Negan’s wake was only outmatched by the realization in Rick that this new world order was no way for him (or anyone else for that matter) to live. Thanks to the help of Jesus, Daryl was able to escape The Saviors’ Sanctuary; reuniting alongside his friends including Rick, Carl, Michonne, Maggie, Sasha, Enid, Rosita & Tara at The Hilltop as an unspoken agreement was made between them that Negan and The Saviors needed to be conquered once and for all. Interestingly enough, Negan might not be the only one looking to take over Alexandria (or maybe help the oppressed town).