(WARNING: Major spoilers for Season 7 of The Walking Dead below.)
Well...it finally happened. After 6 1/2 long months we finally found out who received the intense and bloody beating at the hands of Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and his barbwire-covered baseball bat, Lucille. It wasn't necessarily who you might have thought. At least, not at first.
From this point on you're going to get some pretty gruesome and explicit spoilers from the Season 7 premier of The Walking Dead so, you've been warned. Don't go complaining in the comments after. Last chance to turn around.
Sgt. Abraham Ford As Well As The Show's Heart And Soul, Glenn Rhee, BOTH Met Their Demise
But everyone is writing about that. My Facebook newsfeed was blown up this morning with reviews and articles about the episode, the shocking deaths, how true it stayed to the comic and how it's now in close competition with HBO's Game of Thrones for intense and graphic death sequences.
So, while all of that is true and great points to touch on, it's not something that this writer needs to tackle as well and beat to death like a red-headed behemoth or a Korean on the side of the road.
The episode achieved success on so many levels. Not the least of which was, of course, the incredibly dramatic deaths that undoubtedly left many fans sobbing and scarred for the foreseeable future. But those deaths, or their graphic nature, are not what truly struck a chord and made the episode as powerful as it was. So, at this point, I would like everyone to take a second and deliver a thunderous round of applause to:
The Episode's Writing, Acting And Directing
From the moment that "Last Day on Earth" finished airing at the end of Season 6 and audiences were left wondering what happened and who had just been beat to death, something completely unbeknownst to us was started. The fans who were raging on the Internet and venting their frustrations were being set up for a reveal that would test their patience and rock them to their core.
Everyone wanted to know how the episode was going to start. Would it just pick up where the last episode finished and we'd be thrown in to a graphic head-bashing of a certain beloved character right off the bat (No pun intended)? Or, would we still be teased and strung along?
It ended up being the latter. And while, yes, it was mildly frustrating at first, the payoff ended up being so worth it. Executive Producer and episode writer Scott M. Gimple crafted a meticulous story that didn't just reveal a death sequence, it set a mood and took the audience on a soul crushing journey with the show's main character. The episode opens up post-death with a splatter of blood across the right side of Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) face — indicating that someone to his right had died — and suddenly the cogs in the viewer's brains started turning as they tried to figure who it could have been.
Immediately after, we see Rick dragged into the RV as the camera slowly pans down to a pile of hamburger meat that really could have been just about anyone. Gimple went on to say during the Talking Dead segment after the premiere that it was just as important for the audience to go through this journey and feel what Rick felt to fully understand the episode's outcome.
About 20 minutes into the episode it is revealed that the character who met his end by Negan at the end of Season 6 was, in fact, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). It was a great moment in the episode and one that, honestly, I saw coming. That character was already dead by this point in the comics and he had been building to his inevitable end with a lot of character development. It was a pretty satisfying moment to not only know who died, but to even get one last Abraham insult in the form of "suck my nuts."
But It Didn't End There
Fans of the comic were undoubtedly a little annoyed that the victim wasn't Glenn (Steven Yeun) — as he was the winner of the eeny meeny miny mo game in the comics. However, after an outburst by Daryl (Norman Reedus) wherein he struck Negan in the face, Negan had to "shut that shit down!" After a brief back and forth, he had to "get back to it" and subsequently swung around to start beating Glenn over the head, mimicking the exact scene as depicted in Robert Kirkman's comic book.
Gimple and [director] Greg Nicotero crafted an absolutely masterful scene that was not short of suspense, shock and probably a lot of tears.
All of this is, of course, being told out of time as Rick reflects on the events while on a soul-crushing submission ride with Negan.
And that brings us to the episode's performances. Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz, of course, did phenomenally well for their final outings as these fan favorite characters. Josh McDermitt did a fantastic job as a tearful Eugene who is unable to hold back his flood of fear and emotions, and Lauren Cohan (Maggie) — who probably had one of the largest ranges of acting in the episode — went from sick and weak, to scared, to unbelievable grief and then to the most shocking amount of strength that any character could display.
Andrew Lincoln Deserves A Long Overdue Emmy Award For His Performance In This Episode
From the moment of that final scene in Season 6, Andrew Lincoln — a symbol of strength and unwavering leadership for the series — is the epitome of a broken man. This episode only pushed that further. Gimple was absolutely right — it was important for the audience to go on this journey with Rick to really grasp and accept his subjugation at the episode's end. And Andrew Lincoln played it to the T. It was one of the most powerful, intense and completely believable performances I have ever seen in my life, and one that the Emmy voters cannot possibly ignore.
The Walking Dead has spent six years topping the charts on ratings season after season. It is the most popular show on television, with the most loyal fan base, and the most talented group of writers, producers, crew and actors there is. The fact that the Emmy Awards have continued to snub it year after year (except for this past year with nominations in new categories for stunts and makeup) is mind-blowing.
So, following this tremendous episode, I'm starting the hashtag movement #EmmyForTWD and I want to see this show finally get the recognition it deserves. The writing, directing and acting are all as good — if not better — than any of the nominated shows year after year and this episode only cemented that fact.
If you think it's too late for this show to get some Emmy love, remember that Star Trek: The Next Generation didn't receive its nomination for Outstanding Drama Series until its final season.
Click on the video below to learn more about the baseball bat-swinging killer Negan:
What do you think? Was this one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead ever? Did Gimple, Nicotero and Lincoln crush it?