Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Premiere


Julia Zaksek, Jr. managing editor

For some unknown reason, probably one with some sort of Freudian implications, I continually choose to watch shows that raise my already abnormally high stress levels. I choose to watch shows where characters I adore undergo extreme emotional and physical pain, witness their loved ones die or die themselves. More often than not, they experience all three. However, after years of gut-wrenching TV, I have never been more anxious than Sunday night when I chose to watch “The Walking Dead” season seven premiere.

Don’t open: Spoilers below.

Okay, so if you’ve been keeping up with “The Walking Dead,” you know last season ended with one of the biggest cliffhangers in television history. “The Walking Dead’s” latest villain, Negan, killed one of the show’s frontrunners. Six months of speculation narrowed it down to either Abraham, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl or Michonne being killed with Negan’s signature barbed wire covered baseball bat, Lucille.

If you’ve read the comics as I have, you know that the familiar face at the end of Lucille is fan favorite Glenn Rhee. However, given Glenn’s miraculous return from the undead last season, most fans figured his death unlikely. Also, he has a pregnant wife. They wouldn’t do that…right?  

When the episode began a little later than we left off, I was not a happy viewer. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure what happened in the 20 minutes preceding the big reveal. I was a little preoccupied with trying to guess which of my favorite fictional characters was lying dead. And, I was slightly distressed about what Negan was going to do with Rick’s axe. I’m pretty sure my body produced enough cortisol for a small nation in that first half-hour…

Alright, I think I’m ready. Let’s talk about it. When Rick finally summoned the courage to “think about what happened,” I felt a confusing mix of dread and relief.

As Negan’s bat jerked in front of each survivor’s sweaty face, I couldn’t breathe. When it stopped on Abraham, I sighed in almost cathartic relief. Don’t misunderstand me, I loved Abraham. He brought some much needed laughter with his raunchy Southern sayings and handlebar mustache. However, if I had to pick a character out of the five I mentioned earlier, it’d be him. He’s the one I identified with the least.

As a fan, I was satisfied. As a critic, I was disappointed. All that wait for a character who’s only been around for two seasons? If only. Somehow I knew it wasn’t over.

Only Daryl could do the profoundly brave, stupid and Daryl-esque thing of landing a right hook on a clearly sadistic man holding a barbed wire club in his hand.  I didn’t expect anything less of him. But I did expect Negan’s bat to come crashing down on his head.

I was shocked when Negan ordered him to be dragged back in line. I didn’t even hear half his explanation. The thought “everything is going to be okay” was almost finished in my mind as Negan spun around and sank Lucille into the top of Glenn’s head.

Credit is due where credit is due: I prepared myself for months, knowing one of my favorite characters was going to leave the show. But I never imagined it would be two.

Before I could even begin to process what had happened, I was forced to go from wondering who would be bludgeoned with a medieval style weapon to if Rick could cut off his own son’s arm to save the rest of the group in a twisted rendition of the story of Abraham and Isaac. What a show.

Throughout all this, I kept dry eyes. Even when Negan gently told a sobbing Rick he didn’t have to make the choice, all I could feel was numb shock. I didn’t need the tissues I had brought with me into the living room–not until that scene. You know which one I’m talking about. The one where Negan’s voice can be heard ominously asking Rick if he really thought “you’d grow old together, sitting around the table at Sunday dinner,” over a fuzzy shot of the gang, safely in Alexandria, sitting down and doing exactly that.

As the camera moves down the table, for a few agonizing seconds, I watched Glenn bounce his future son on his knee while joking with Abraham. And I wept.

This is why “The Walking Dead” is one of the most popular shows to ever air on TV. It’s not because of the gore. It’s not because of the zombies. It’s not even really because of the plot. It’s because even in a widely chaotic world where the dead reign above the living, “The Walking Dead” still has the power to make us feel human.