The Walking Dead: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life
The stakes were sky high for the season finale of The Walking Dead. No, not so much for the characters. They were just involved in a poorly plotted skirmish with Negan and the Saviors that wouldn’t actually resolve much of anything. No, the real stakes were for the show itself. The sixth season finale ended with an infuriating cliffhanger that alienated much of The Walking Dead’s loyal fanbase. Since then, AMC’s crown jewel has been shedding viewers. This season needed to end with an episode that didn’t send viewers into a rage. The result was an overlong episode that mostly chased its own tail but at least it didn’t actively troll its audience. That counts as a win, right?
This episode ran for approximately an hour and a half and a good chunk of that extra runtime was devoted to Sasha. For the last couple of seeks, Sasha has been involved in a suicide mission. Up to this point, her motivation for getting herself captured and almost certainly killed has been murky at best. She’s been upset about the death of Abraham – a guy who dumped his girlfriend Rosita for the opportunity just to flirt with her. It was Rosita who actually came up with the idea of charging headlong into the Savior’s compound Thelma and Louise-style. But after their sniper plan encounter a minor setback and plan B to rescue Eugene resulted in the revelation that Eugene did not wish to be rescued, Sasha made the curious (stupid) decision to lock Rosita out of the compound and take on all the Saviors by herself.
Since then, Rosita returned to Alexandria with Dwight as her prisoner. In all the excitement over Dwight switching sides, Rosita hasn’t bothered to tell anyone that she lead Sasha to a pointless death. Or that worse still, Sasha could be captured by the Saviors and tortured into revealing all of their plans (not that Rick ever came up with much of a plan beyond “get more guns”). Eventually, Rosita lets it slip that Sasha is in trouble and everyone just shrugs it off. It is the finale after all and someone has to die in a season finale.
The season has clearly been leading up to Sasha’s death. But if you had any lingering doubts about the character’s fate they were put to rest when the episode opened with an unexplained shot of Sasha listening to music in the darkness. For the first forty minutes or so, the episode cuts between Sasha-related flashbacks. We keep seeing Sasha in darkness muttering words which are revealed to be from her last peaceful conversation with Abraham. It was fun to see Michael Cudlitz and his facial hair back on the show for a minute. But the point of the flashback seemed to be to assure us that, yes, Sasha and Abraham really did have a meaningful if short-lived relationship. It just all happened off camera.
That’s the level of story-telling we’re dealing with on this show. The entire season builds to a character sacrificing herself because of the loss of a character with whom she had a relationship which was never actually depicted in any meaningful way until so they had to shoehorn it into a series of flashbacks in the episode in which that sacrifice takes place.
But that’s not all. There are also flashbacks to Sasha’s negotiations with Negan. He has a very convoluted plan that involves a dramatic reveal that Sasha is his hostage – something Rick already knows and doesn’t seem especially concerned about. Negan wants to trade Sasha for three Alexandrian redshirts whom he will beat to death. Sasha talks him down to one, but it’s all completely pointless because she has a convoluted plan of her own.
Negan locks Sasha in a coffin and leaves her in it all the way to Alexandria. At this point, he thinks Sasha is cooperating. Why not let her get in the coffin just before they arrive at their destination? Because then Sasha’s big plan won’t work. Even given Negan’s flair for showmanship, there’s no reason for the coffin business at all. Or to use Sasha as a hostage. As far as he knows, Negan has already managed to recruit Sasha to his side. Why not use her for something more productive.
By the time Negan reveals Sasha in the coffin, he already has the upper hand. It turns out the strange tribe of Mad Max rejects Rick risked his life to arm struck a side bargain with Negan behind his back. It’s a neat surprise, but man does it ever make Rick look incompetent. Given what we know of Jadis and her strange little group, they never seemed like especially loyal allies. But Rick trusted them completely despite having been told by Dwight that someone had tipped Negan off to their plan. In short, Rick is the worst.
But a hero is only as good as his villain and Negan is as bad of a villain as Rick is a hero. Rather than take yet another opportunity to kill Rick and cripple Alexandria, Negan starts showboating. He pulls out the coffin and opens it to reveal his hostage, Sasha. Why does he need a hostage when he already has the entire town surrounded? Because of reasons. Stop asking questions! The big reveal is that Sasha has taken the suicide pill Eugene gave her last week and is now a zombie. Zombie Sasha lunges out and starts eating Saviors.
Is this a good plan? What if she hadn’t turned into a zombie in time? Then her corpse would have just tumbled out? Or what if the pill hadn’t done the job? She’d just be in bad shape. Or what if Negan had pulled over to check on her along the way like any sane person would? The odds of Sasha’s self-zombification plan working were incredibly slim. Wouldn’t she as a zombie be thrashing around inside the coffin making it painfully obvious something was up? If she wanted to kill Saviors, wouldn’t she have been more of a threat with a functioning brain? Maybe grab a gun and try to turn the tables? I can’t think of any advantage to Sasha’s suicide plan.
All of this leads to Negan confronting Rick. We have seen this play out several times over the course of the season. Rick reverts back to threatening to kill Negan as he did in the season premiere. We saw how well that worked out for him. This time, it looks like things are going to be even worse as Negan prepares to murder Carl. This is prevented by Carl’s impressive plot armor in the form of a CGI tiger. Despite having made absolutely no effort to rally his allies, the Kingdom and Hilltop forces arrive just in time to save Carl and send Negan packing.
The episode ends with one of The Walking Dead’s signature uplifting montages complete with narration by Maggie. After Rick tells Maggie she made the right decision to ignore his orders to stay out of the fight, Maggie goes to great lengths to the season together by talking about what an inspiration Glenn was to everyone. And that’s it. Roll credits. Negan lives to fight Rick again next season. Oh joy.