Season 7's finale episode finally regains some of the momentum that the show has lost over the course of a middling run of episodes. However, its future remains murky.
On the one hand, ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ is a vast improvement over the majority of episodes in a season that has only been marginally more entertaining than watching paint dry on a post-apocalyptic wall. In this 90-minute extended finale episode, we finally see the cold war between our heroes and the villainous Saviours turn hot, as bullets fly and blood spills in a high-octane final act featuring delectable scenes of a CGI tiger mauling men. But all of that comes at the conclusion of not only an episode, but an entire season of padding and pondering that has turned away many of the series’ core fan base and resulted in a huge ratings plummet. Was it worth it?
The biggest problem with this episode is that there is no real payoff for all of the build-up. For all of his swagger and rugged confidence, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) doesn’t manage to deal the Saviours much of a blow. Sure, we see plenty of redshirts get cut down in the gunfire, but none of the principle villains get so much as a scratch on them. One could argue that preserving them until Season 8’s ‘All-Out War’ adaptation will, ultimately, result in a more satisfying resolution. However, when Public Enemy Number 1 – bat-wielding comedian Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – is able to escape the warzone completely unscathed, it becomes far more difficult to suspend your disbelief. Whilst Negan’s survival into the next season was practically assured, his continued presence may prove problematic – the ‘charisma’ of the character is wearing dangerously thin, as this episode once again gives Jeffrey Dean Morgan little else to do but smirk and jeer from inside his plot armour.
Other characters perform varyingly. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) is given the spotlight for much of this episode, and she tackles the role well in her (SPOILERS) final appearance on the show, balancing heroic stoicism with some emotional scenes and ultimately proving that her headline casting in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery was no mistake. Meanwhile, we have the warrior woman Michonne (Danai Gurira) grappling with a member of the traitorous Scavengers atop a balcony in a scene that pays homage to a famous panel from the comic books. It doesn’t fare so well here, mostly because the fan-favourite character, alongside Norman Reedus’ Daryl and leading man Andrew Lincoln, is evidently invincible and thus any sense of peril that may have driven the scene is rendered inert. It’s a shame to see such predictable plotting in a show that once boasted a higher cast death rate than even Game of Thrones.
There’s enough here to suggest that the show may find reinvigoration come next season, although I fear that under the same showrunner we may be privy to more filler episodes in order to pad out a sixteen-episode commitment to AMC (Might I suggest a Shiva the Tiger backstory episode next? No?). ‘All-Out War’ is one of the most exciting – not to mention bloody – arcs in the comic book series, but as the perfunctory, tension-building of this season recedes into memory, its hard not to feel trepidation over what is to come. And that’s a very worrying sign.
‘The Walking Dead’ Season 7 finished airing on FOX on April 3rd.