October 2016 has got to be the spookiest Halloween season of my lifetime, with all those creepy clowns running around menacing our society.
Like for example, Donald Trump running for President. There is an almost surreal sense of lunacy and mayhem, as if life has become a dark comic book. And speaking of comic books, for the 7th year running, we are getting the best Halloween treat going—a brand new season of the beloved zombie apocalypse series, The Walking Dead.
There is no denying that The Walking Dead had a GANGBUSTERS second half to last season. And by that I mean both that the show was AWESOME and our not-so-merry gang of survivors has been irreparably BUSTED.
For the first time since season one, it seems like they are facing an insurmountable enemy; they have long since learned how to handle the threat the walkers present, but will they be so lucky with Negan?
We begin the 7th season with all of our toughest warriors captive to the charming, vicious psychopath (that’s Negan, not Trump!) with the exceptions of Carol and Morgan. But Carol is badly wounded and Morgan is a pacifist—or is he? The final episode’s most surprising moment may very well have been when Morgan unloaded his pistol into the man who had so grievously injured his comrade; a brilliant piece of role reversal as we all watched he and Carol lock horns for much of the season over the to-kill-or-not-to-kill debate.
But killing was the order of the day in this first episode; I think we have all been permanently cured of any impulse we may have ever felt to hit another human being with a baseball bat (you never thought about doing that? Just me?).
We’ve been waiting patiently for the big reveal: who exactly was Negan addressing when he said “Damn, taking it like a champ!” And while I can’t think of a single one of our wounded warriors who would have been anything less than heroic under the same circumstances, it came as no surprise that his victim was Abraham.
It is evident upon watching the enactment of the eeny-meeny-miney-moe sequence from a broader perspective that our fallen comrade made a conscious decision to take one for the team. Abraham’s puffed up chest and defiant glare when Negan pointed at him spelled his doom, as he knew it would. But there was no time to mourn the loss, or even appreciate his heroics, because Negan wasn’t done with the gang.
Not by a long shot, in fact.
While most normal people would have been reduced to a quivering bowl of Jell-O (and as Negan suggested they might, have pissed our pants), we all know by now that normal people do not survive a zombie apocalypse without heavy reinforcements. Abraham’s gruesome death is not enough to break Daryl or Rick, so Negan makes the executive decision that a twofer is in order…and takes Lucille tragically to the head of our beloved Glenn, one of the very few original survivors we had left.
The sequence of events puts the responsibility for this heart-wrenching loss squarely on Daryl’s shoulders, leaving him almost catatonically bereft; but it is Rick that Negan is looking to break, and our fearless leader is not a man easily broken.
In the past, when we have seen his leadership threatened (first by Merle, then by Shane; most memorably by the Governor) there was no doubt that Rick had the moral imperative and therefore the upper hand; Rick was always the good man.
But last season we saw an arrogance and brutality emerge in his character as his world was spinning ever out of control. Previously when Rick has gone toe to toe with his foes he has had righteousness on his side; this time he tried to fight fire with fire without having any understanding of the enormity of what he was up against. But what Rick still has going for him that Negan does not is that the people who are loyal to him love him. They understand that in spite of the stalwart strength and decency of his character, there has been, by necessity a more fluid nature to his behavior.
How quickly will Rick realize that it is his integrity that will prove to be his most useful weapon in the battle against his latest rival?
Negan’s brutal attempts to housebreak Rick all seem to fail until he utilizes Abraham once more—but this time it’s the guy from the Old Testament. As God asked biblical Abraham to kill his only son to prove his loyalty, Negan asks Rick to sacrifice his only son’s arm by his own hand. Finally realizing that he is, as Sarge memorably put it at the end of last season, “Neck deep up shit creek with (his) mouth wide open,” Rick raises the ax. But as in the Bible, this new god he must serve seems satisfied with his willingness to acquiesce and Carl’s arm lives to see another day.
So now we all face a very different landscape in Season 7–with Glenn and Abraham gone, Daryl captured as an insurance policy, and Rick seemingly a broken man. The only faint glimmer of hope is the men who rescued Morgan and Carol last season; will they prove to be allies in the fight against Negan, or are they already on his “payroll?”
For all the answers the first episode provided, it asked just as many new questions. How to move past so much loss while struggling under Negan’s autocracy?
Heart-wrenching loss, stomach-wrenching violence, broken wills, eviscerated hope, gutted resources…welcome back, walkers!
You have been missed!
Read Kara Post-Kennedy every week here on The Good Men Project!