TV Review: The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16 “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” ends with a touching tribute

Curious choices defined The Walking Dead’s season 7 finale “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”, and while it didn’t quite make up for what’s been an average season at best, it featured all the big beats characteristic of a landmark episode mixed in with those small character moments that teetered between nauseating and genuinely touching.

In a similar fashion to her brother’s episode-long death, Sasha was given a triumphant and expected end that satisfied everything we’ve come to notice about her character. It seemed a contrivance at first to bring back Abraham for a series of flashbacks, had while Sasha was dying from one of Eugene’s suicide pills in a coffin on the way to Alexandria (while listening to Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free”). Though as it went on, things became clearer; the episode breaking up a prior conversation between Abraham and Sasha gently arguing about whether or not to go help Maggie – a decision which led to Abraham’s death – highlighted first the tender connection between the two, which was never really sold on us while Abe was still alive, and second the protective and sacrificial role Sasha has been playing this season. “Maggie’s gotta take care of Maggie” she said as the conversation neared an end, something Abraham had the good sense to call out knowing that Sasha instantly regretted saying that, which made her more resolute to protect Maggie out of some sort of instant guilt. Sure, it was awkward and slightly cheesy watching the two “play house” when the show neglected to build up any sort of chemistry between them, but given the circumstances surrounding it, the scenes had a calming tone that anchored Sasha’s arc and brought closure to her final relationship.

Of course while all this was happening Dwight warned team Rick about an impending visit from Negan, offering to slow them down from the inside and give Alexandria time to prepare. This included inviting those Garbage Pail Kids over, who arrived armed to the teeth, and tasking Rosita with preparing all that dynamite they found a few episodes ago, a series of explosives she lay just outside of the gates. This wouldn’t be The Walking Dead if that plan actually worked.

The first spanner in the works came with Eugene who arrived on the first truck to try and convince Rick to surrender. When it became clear that Eugene had became part of the hive-mind that is Negan, Rick gave the signal to Rosita to detonate all the explosives but when she went to sign her ex-bff’s fate the trigger failed. Cue second spanner.

It didn’t work having Rick so easily trust the garbage kids in the first place (never trust someone with a haircut that horrendous) but the writers, for some reason, put faith in Jardis and her team, and their awfully vague way of talking, actually being believable. Trying to kill you by throwing you into a pit with a metal walker and then being incredibly vague about helping you? Yeah those are two red flags. Regardless, the whole scavenging for guns thing that defined the tail-end of this season relied on Rick’s trust, weakening not only his character but just about every Alexandrian who went along with it.

I would hope most of us saw that betrayal coming from a mile away. But it was all executed rather nicely, having Jadis and her team pull their guns on the Alexandrians only to then have their advantage spoiled by Sasha. These constant turning of the tables gave the entire sequence a sense of tension the show has been lacking all year, and though it was all rather predictable, it kept moving along at a nice, exciting pace. Even the choice to have Sasha’s longest flashback just when Negan opened the coffin, stretching out the “big reveal”, strangely worked in the end as undead Sasha came lurching out to Negan and startled everyone, giving Carl an opening to flip the script on the garbage kids.

Though this was a larger scale battle than last season’s “No Way Out”, the big horde-battle from that episode was handled much more delicately then what we got here. The shootout between the GPK/Saviours and Alexandria was all over the place, a mess that only got worse once The Kingdom and The Hilltop arrived. With the exception of Michonne’s fight against nameless garbage kid (let’s just call her Helga) and Rick/Carl on their knees, breaking the fight into focused character struggles (for example, Glenn saving Maggie in “No Way Out”) was a technique that could have worked in the episode’s favour but instead we got one big, shaky and hard to follow gun fight where the only saving grace was a surprise intervention from Shiva (the tiger), who saved Carl and somehow knew who and who not to kill.

I like that both Negan and Jadis escapes with their respective groups, giving us hope for an exciting start to next season now that “All Out War” has begun. I think it’s great that Negan now suspects Eugene (for giving Sasha the pill) and still somewhat trusts Dwight. What I didn’t like however were the smaller details that were completely overlooked and took the episode’s credibility down a few notches. For example, there is absolutely no way in hell walker Sasha would have just strolled off into the woods with all that noise to attract her to Alexandria, but I guess it was a necessary contrivance to amp up the emotion when Maggie and Jesus had to put her down.

Then came the finale montage, a beautifully done tearjerker with Maggie’s speech turning out to be a eulogy and tribute to Glenn. Her reflecting on Glenn and the very first time he saved Rick, which led to everything that’s happened since, and using that to justify her decision to lead The Hilltop to Alexandria actually made sense, and even though there was a bit of repetition in the speech – for dramatic effect of course – it highlighted just how important he was to the group. It made sense as the only way to close out this season, a tender and heartfelt moment where the writers finally acknowledged what a huge loss Glenn’s brutal death was.

REVIEW SCORE: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights

  • A beautiful way to bring Abraham and Glenn back into the show and pay tribute to their deaths.
  • Sasha’s sacrifice.
  • Sasha’s flashbacks gave reason to her character.
  • Jadis propositioning Rick in front of Michonne.
  • All those stressed, contemplative looks from Rosita and Rick when Eugene showed up.
  • The Kingdom and The Hilltop come to the rescue.
  • Negan’s reaction to Shiva.

Lowlights

  • Messy action scenes.
  • Not breaking the fight up into smaller bits.
  • Rick ¬†acting surprised when the garbage kids turned on him (Glenn’s right, he is a dumbass).
  • Needs more Shiva kills.

The Walking Dead will return in October 2017.