I know a lot of folks thought Season 7 of “The Walking Dead” was a dud. I wasn’t one of them. I think that sometimes we need to take a step back – whether in a book series or a TV series – and engage in a bit of introspection and character development. I think that’s exactly what Season 7 did.
The opener was one of the most difficult things I’ve seen on television. It was emotionally draining – and this is coming from someone who doesn’t get emotionally entangled with TV characters (can’t say the same for books, though). It was a burdensome, violent, frightening episode in which we saw two beloved characters violently murdered while their loved ones watched, and in which we saw how to emotionally break a man – just force him to chop off his own child’s hand or condemn him to watch as you kill everyone he cares about.
I view the rest of the season as the result of that complete breakdown. It’s not that I think Rick is a bad leader. I think he’s very human, with a lot of human failings and weaknesses. Sometimes he’s naive. Sometimes he’s irrationally obstinate. Sometimes he’s just broken and scared. How many of you would keep your wits about you after seeing two of your closest friends clubbed to death and then being forced to nearly chop your own son’s hand off in exchange for allowing the rest of your loved ones to survive? So yes, it’s understandable that Rick lost it. I don’t know any human being who wouldn’t. So it makes sense that the rest of the season leading up to the finale would step back a bit and allow the characters to breathe and to regain some semblance of sanity.
I mean, how long would it take you to recover after you realize that you were broken to such a degree, you were nearly willing to chop your own child’s hand off in order to prevent greater carnage?
The remainder of the season was spent regaining a bit of courage, a bit of sanity, a bit of defiance, and ultimately getting ready for a showdown. After an overwhelming amount of savagery and casual brutality coming from Negan the entire season, it was nice to see a return to rebellion. He figuratively “slid his dick” down Rick’s throat throughout the season, relishing his role as tyrant and rubbing it in Rick’s face every chance he got. It got a bit burdensome, even though I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is incredible in that role! It was good to see Rick risen up from the ashes of his complete breakdown and once again threaten to destroy Negan, although the betrayal by the Junkyard Freaks had him doing that deer in headlights thing for a bit.
Carl, who for several seasons was this annoying, whiny kid, whom I wanted to beat with a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat myself, became a true badass. From the moment he told his father “Just do it,” as Negan demanded Rick take his own child’s hand in exchange for the lives of the other Alexandrians, to yesterday’s complete lack of hesitation, as he turned around and ventilated a bunch of Saviors – or maybe they were Junkyard freaks – after utter chaos broke out due to Sasha’s dramatic self sacrifice, Carl is no longer a sniveling whiner, but a warrior, as is fitting for a kid who grew up during the zombie apocalypse.
And Sasha… Oh, Sasha! This episode was a nice closure for that character, who took a ride on the crazy train for a while after the loss of her brother and her boyfriend in previous seasons. She went from fearless and somewhat bossy, to traumatized and enraged, to finally at peace and happy when she and Abraham became a pair. In her relationship with him, she also discovered who she was – someone who will make the ultimate sacrifice for those she loves.
And that’s exactly what she did.
Sasha’s demise wasn’t a surprise, but it was magical. Heartfelt, courageous, filled with love, and totally devoid of regret. This is what she was born to do – to take care of those she loved – and that’s exactly what she did in her last act, sacrificing herself, turning into a zombie, and giving Rick and crew a chance to fight. She was never going to allow Negan to use her to harm her family, and she did it right.
Oh, but the season was so slow, some have said!
Well, you know, sometimes it needs to be. After the brutality we witnessed in the first episode, it was time to regroup and allow the characters to heal.
Oh, but it was too violent! Negan was too brutal!
We seem to forget that the Walking Dead aren’t the zombies, but the survivors themselves – not just because they all carry the zombie virus, and not just because they’re all going to die and likely resurrect at some point, barring a traumatic brain injury imposed by some sympathetic soul – but because of what many of them have become: soulless, vicious, power hungry, savages. Sasha did not become one of the Walking Dead last night, despite having reanimated into a zombie. But Dwight – until he decided to help bring Negan down (not sure I trust him completely with that) – became the Walking Dead by betraying every sense of decency and morality, torturing Daryl, putting a bullet in his best friend’s back and allowing him to turn.
Oh, who would hold a gun like that? That’s not a realistic rifle! *insert self aggrandizing “I’m a gun expert” comment here*.
It’s a fucking ZOMBIE SHOW! Jesus Jumpin Christ in a Bubblebath! No, they’re not going to get firearms 100 percent right. No, they’re probably not going to hold them properly, OK? It happens. You’re not going to get a huge degree of realism there. But what they do really well is psychological development. How will society react after a complete breakdown? How will people behave? What kind of new societies will emerge? How does one retain his or her humanity in the face of unimaginable horror and unbridled evil? How does one survive psychologically?
Couple of other thoughts.
Even though we knew Eugene was a self-serving coward, I was so disappointed and downright pissed off that he learned nothing from the brutal loss of his friends! He’s a traitor of the worst kind, and I hope he dies slowly and painfully. Yes, I realize he gave Sasha the poisoned pill and the iPod with the tunes on it, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that he is the ultimate betrayer. I’m hoping Negan finds out it was he who gave Sasha the pill and tosses his cowardly ass into the fire like he did with that doctor a few episodes ago.
The Junkyard Freak chick is beyond weird, as is her whole crew. How does an entire population of people devolve into a self-serving horde that barely speaks English and has no respect or understanding of human life in just a few years? In today’s society freaks find one another on the Internet and gravitate toward one another in a weird gravitational pull scenario. The Junkyard Freaks seemed to have found one another and devolved together.
I don’t think it’s altogether unusual that Negan survived. Any dictator with a following as strong as his will see his closest acolytes sacrifice everything to ensure his safety, and his survival would be their primary concern. Besides, the big war is coming, and Negan is the big bad!
Look, if you just tuned in to see zombies eating people and a whole lot of accurate firefight sequences, the show is probably not for you. It has plenty of that, sure, but the show is not about zombies. It’s about people.
I tune in to examine some of man’s darker flaws, his nature in the face of a societal breakdown, his emotional survival strategies. That fascinates me, and I thought last night’s finale delivered well!