Well, between last night's soulcrushing Walking Dead season premiere and HBO's latest episode of Westworld, Sunday proved to be a field day for caved-in skulls on cable television.
Okay. We admit it. We were getting ready to tear the season premiere to shreds for once again copping out on a major character death after Negan initially chose Abraham. Between the Great Glenn Fakeout of Season 6 and its protracted, unwelcome cliffhanger, TWD spent much of last year cheapening its own brand.
Then that happened. And lo, credibility was instantly restored.
From displays of dominance to faction elimination, a look at which characters saw their prospects rise this week.
Joe Brosnan: Negan
Could it really be anyone else? (Well, I guess it could also be the bloodthirsty Vampire Bat known as Lucille.) Negan’s brief introduction last season made one thing clear: he was here to fuck everyone’s day up. Mission accomplished.
What stood out this episode for me was how devoid it was of hope. In previous seasons, when our beloved group squared off against other villains, we never really shook in our boots. Sure, the Governor chopped Hershel’s head off, but something about the eyepatch, the katana, and the tank in the background made it feel almost comical. And when the gang was captured and placed in a shipping container, the scene didn’t end until Rick reminded everyone that that the people from Terminus were (cue dramatic music) “screwing with the wrong people.”
But here, with all of our favorite characters knelt in mud and defeat, there was Negan sauntering about as if he were a cruel combination of Babe Ruth and Harley Quinn. And in an effort to one-up the Babe, Negan called his shot twice.
Pritpaul Bains: Daryl
It'd be easy to pick Negan here, but technically speaking, Negan didn't really rise because, well, he was already at the top—it's just that Rick and his group didn't know it yet.
Instead, I'll go with Daryl. In the battle between Rick's right-hand man in the comics and his right-hand man on the show, the non-canon character won.
Let's not forget that Daryl's inability to control his emotions directly led to Negan executing Glenn. Goddammit, Daryl. Would it have killed you to exercise a little restraint? And going back to last season's penultimate episode, Daryl storming off like an angst-ridden teenager determined to avenge Denise's death is what allows The Saviors to capture him, Rosita, Michonne, and … Glenn, in the first place.
Clearly, he's playing the long game to secure his position at Rick's side. Is Daryl the Littlefinger of the zombie apocalypse?
Adam Wagner: Carl
Goddamn. On Saturday, Kyle Hendricks showed he had ice in his veins when he Charlie Brown walked back to the dugout after each shutout inning, showing no emotion as he wrecked the LA Dodgers in the NLCS. Then, on Sunday, Carl was straight cooolllld-bloooded as he dealt with tragedy.
Don’t get me wrong, Carl has seen some shit. Long been the days of the hopeful, naïve child—he’s been shot twice, killed his own mother, watched the people around him constantly die, and witnessed his dad do unspeakable things. Watching him hardly flinch as Negan turned two of his friends into mincemeat pie and then give his dad the courage to “just do it,” I realized that Carl might have evolved into his final form: Corrallllll. I foresee him wrecking some of Negan’s gang—possibly even Negan himself.
From poor decisions to lost lives, a look at which characters lost ground this week.
I mean, aside from the obvious, Abraham kind of loses twice this week. Not only does he get his head split open, but come on—which member of the viewing audience is even going to remember his death and final one-liner after having witnessed Glenn's face being mashed into a stuttering puddle of blood, brain matter, and one perfectly preserved eyeball?
I'll give Abraham this: “Suck my nuts” is a good way to leave on a high note.
The only thing harder to look at than Glenn’s protruding eye was Rick’s constant bulge-eyed look of confusion/fear/dread. In an episode that finally featured the famed scene, I never thought I’d find myself wishing a different character would put his eyes back in his skull…
Rick 3:16 just smelled what The People’s Champ was cooking. Negan broke him down into a subservient, crying, snot-nosed mess that went from “I’m going to kill you” to “Puh-puh-puh please don’t dis to me.” I know that things are likely to change throughout the season, but for now, I’d like to keep emotional Rick where he belongs: in Love Actually.
How can your heart not break for Maggie? She’s pregnant, sick, and she just watched her husband’s head lose a one-on-one battle with a Louisville Slugger. She could not save him. She could not scream. She could barely cry. If she reacted audibly at all, someone else would die. It wasn’t until hours later that she was finally able to properly grieve, and the lasting image of Glenn’s final moments on Earth will undoubtedly haunt her forever.
Here’s to your health, Maggie. You need to get better and raise yourself one hell of a kid—a kid that would make Glenn proud. I’m afraid the world might have lost what little humanity it had left when it lost your husband.
A tribute to the late, great Hershel Greene, this section searches for the best displays of humanity amidst chaos this week.
Glenn was always looking out for everyone else’s needs. Unselfish and helpful to a fault, even with his eye go-go-gadgeting out of his skull, he still managed to garble out an attempt to comfort Maggie. And while I’d argue saying “I’ll find you” while half your skull is bashed in comes across as more of a nightmarish-sounding, horror movie threat than loving, comforting final words, Glenn was always thinking of others—all the way up until the final blow was struck*.
*Who knows: those fingers twitching at the end could have been an attempt at sign language, so maybe he was trying to comfort her even after the final blow? Or maybe Glenn somehow found a dumpster to hide under again?
Rick has oscillated pretty regularly between different ends of the spectrum of humanity since the start of The Walking Dead. From ex-cop trying to preserve the ideals of a lost world to the jaded give-no-fucks dictator of Alexandria, he now finds himself in the unenviable position of being forced to admit that for once in his post-apocalyptic life, he is completely, utterly beaten and at the mercy of a man with more power and capability than himself. He's been humiliated—broken psychologically to the point where he has no fight left in him at all. He's never experienced this degree of helplessness in his life.
Yet there he is, at the end of the episode, realizing and acknowledging the situation he and his group have found themselves in, consoling everyone and doing his best to adjust his friends—no, his family, as he so emphatically noted—to a new and extremely uncomfortable reality. Hershel would be proud.
JB: Simon the Henchman
In the spirit of playing devil’s advocate, I’d like to remind everyone that prior to Negan’s double kill last night, Rick’s group had murdered dozens of members from Negan’s camp. While it’s true that Rick never sadistically lined up his captives in an assassination line, that’s only true because Rick doesn’t take captives. He’s purely a shoot first, ask second kind of guy. All that is to say that I find it difficult to blame Negan’s followers for their enthusiasm shown during the episode.
And despite the group’s seething hatred for Rick and company, there was Simon remembering Daryl’s name—an act that proves Negan’s people aren’t all that different than the group we’ve been following for seven years. We just don’t know their full story.
Negan? Sure, he’s a monstrous motherfucker. But the rest of that group? I’m willing to bet they’re not all as villainous as the dim lighting and dark clothes suggest.
- Let's give a big hand to both Carl and Rick for managing to hang onto theirs—again. Seriously, they've said they're not cutting off Rick's hand because it'd be too much to deal with in CGI/prosthetics, so they're not cutting off Carl's now. Teasing it was fun, but this is bordering member berries status. (AW)
- I member when they cut Rick's arm off in the comics! (AW)
- I’ll miss the Abrahamisms. (AW)
- Anyone else catch that guy snapping a photo of Glenn’s pulverized head? Not exactly a typical Kodak moment. (JB)
- Reek, Reek, it almost rhymes with Rick. (JB)
- Negan has no idea how lucky he is that Carol wasn’t with the group. She’d have squashed that shit down. (PB)
- Keep an eye out for the return of Rick's murderbeard, folks. You know it's coming back this season after everything that happened last night. (PB)
Zombie Kill of the Week
Shout out to the zombie hanging from the bridge, who suffered pretty much the worst case of rope burn ever, thanks to Rick.