Melissa Moore ’20 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
Spoiler Alert: This recap contains EXTREME SPOILERS for the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead left viewers in a frenzy last season when the finale ended on the ultimate cliffhanger: who did Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) kill? While this season’s premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” delivers answers, the writers do not treat the audience mercifully, taking 20 minutes to reveal who died.
Unsurprisingly, tensions run high from the beginning, with Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) opening line, “I’m gonna kill you. Not today. Not tomorrow. But I’m gonna kill you,” doing little to help the situation. Neegan and Rick’s interaction and subsequent departure from the scene takes place seemingly right where last season left off. After an intense stare-off accompanied by sarcastic witticisms from Negan, the first of many throughout the episode, Negan and Rick leave in the RV.
Negan explains that he owns Rick, both through his words and his actions, when he goads Rick into attacking him with an ax, only to have been holding a gun the whole time. For the first test of the episode, Negan throws the ax out of the RV and into a foggy crowd of walkers and tells Rick to bring it to him. As Rick fights off walkers, viewers’ screens flash between his actions and his fond memories with each of Negan’s possible victims.
Jumping back in time, viewers are finally rewarded with the unfortunate but expected revelation: Negan has killed Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). This outcome had been predicted by many a fan, but fewer viewers – certainly not this reviewer – expected the continuation of the scene. After the camera pans around the group, and while Negan mocks Rosita (Christian Serratos), Daryl (Norman Reedus) jumps up and lashes out. He is quickly subdued, of course, and Negan decides to use the moment as an opportunity to prove to the group that he truly owns them all and that he keeps his word.
Appearing to be preparing to attack Daryl, Negan turns on Glenn (Steven Yeun) and starts hitting him over the head with Lucille, his barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat. While Glenn was also high on the list of likely victims, the writers still managed to cause as much emotional turmoil to viewers as possible, when Negan pauses his attack long enough for Glenn to deliver his final line: “Maggie, I’ll find you.”
Back in the present, Rick continues to fight off walkers, while imagining Lucille bashing the remaining members of his group’s heads in. Despite some hindrance – and with some assistance – from Negan, Rick retrieves the ax and returns to the RV. Negan again explains that Rick is now his man and will do everything he asks, before the two drive back to the group.
As another test, Negan tells Rick to cut off Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) arm, or he will kill Carl, and Negan begins to count down from three. Shaking, but with the go-ahead from Carl, Rick raises the ax, only to have Negan laugh and disclose that he was yet again exhibiting his complete control over them all.
Despite his confidence, Negan takes Daryl as insurance, promising Rick that he will get to dismember Daryl should any of them act in rebellion. Negan, after warning the group he will be collecting goods from them in a week, leaves with his men and Daryl.
The episode wraps with the remaining members of the group coming together to help bury Glenn and Abraham. It closes with a bird’s-eye view shot of Maggie (Lauren Cohen) alone on the blood-stained ground.
For a premiere, the episode does not disappoint. It is filled with intense anticipation, thrilling suspense, and – while there is less action than is typical for The Walking Dead – enough gore for the viewer to remain on the edge of their seat or pacing around their room.