The Walking Dead gives us a Season 7 premiere with all the gore and emotional trauma that was promised by writer and showrunner Scott Gimple and director Greg Nicotero. We waited all summer to find out who Negan had killed, and in the cold open we find we’re going to have to wait a little longer. In retrospect, we did need a few minutes to prepare ourselves for what we were going to see. Rick’s traumatized state was a warning for viewers. It’s going to be bad. Really bad. Worse than expected.
“The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” opens with the aftermath of the killing. We don’t know who is dead, but we know Rick is alive. Rick mutters under his breath, “I’m gonna kill you,” as Negan walks by. This gets Negan’s attention and he gets close to Rick, telling him to speak up. Rick looks right at Negan and tells him, “Not today. Not tomorrow. But I’m going to kill you.” Negan stares at Rick and we hear the forest birds as morning starts to break. Negan takes the hatchet that Rick brought with him, and drags Rick into the RV. He tells the others, “I’ll be right back and maybe Rick will be with me. And if not, maybe we can just turn these people inside out. I mean the ones who are left.”
In the RV, Negan leaves the axe behind him, telling Rick that his best chance is to pick it up and kill him. After a moment’s hesitation Rick grabs the axe, but Negan already has a gun on him. “Look at that. Dawn is breaking. It’s a brand new day. I want you to think about could’ve happened. Think about what happened. And think about what can still happen.” Rick begins to think about the people he cares about, and Negan drives the RV into a group of walkers.
In the grey morning light, we remain uncertain about what’s happened, but whatever it was, it’s left Rick devastated. Negan forces Rick to go out among the dead to retrieve his axe. As all this is happening, we begin to see what Rick has witnessed. We begin to learn what we wanted to know, but we wish we hadn’t.
Negan chose Abraham as his victim. Lucille is a terrible weapon because it turns out you don’t always die after the first swing. Abraham didn’t. Another reason it’s a disturbing weapon is because Negan continued to bash in Abraham’s skull long after he was dead, completely erasing any remnants of his visage.
When Negan holds the bloodied and brained bat in front of Rosita’s face, Daryl can’t control himself anymore. He jumps forward and punches Negan. Immediately, we wonder if Daryl has signed his own death warrant. Dwight volunteers to kill him with Daryl’s own crossbow, but Negan has other plans for Daryl. He decides to take it out on someone else.
Negan tells them he’s a man of his word. He needs them to know who he is and what he’s capable of. We’re shocked when Negan suddenly slams Lucille into Glenn’s head a couple times. In an image taken directly from the comic book, Glenn, bloodied with an eye hanging out, attempts garbled speech. He finally gets out a heartbreaking, “Maggie, I’ll find you.” Negan taunts Maggie and the others with sympathetic words, then proceeds to destroy Glenn, crushing his skull until he’s unrecognizable.
Now we know what Rick has been remembering and what he’s been through as he looks down at the walkers surrounding the RV. Rick pictures all of his friends and family being killed. Rick finally brings Negan the axe. Negan cleans it and tells Rick, “I think you’re going to need it. I just got a feeling. So take it.”
Negan brings Rick back to what’s left of his group. Though Rick had experienced terrifying visions of everyone being killed, it appears, beyond Abraham and Glenn, the others have been spared. They’re still kneeling among the remains of their dead, surrounded by the Saviors. The scene is only made more gruesome by the morning light. Negan tells Rick, “That trip was about the way you look at me. I wanted to change that. I wanted you to look at me a different way.”
When it seems like we can take no more, Negan ties a belt around Carl’s arm and makes a mark. Once he realizes the mark is to cut off Carl’s arm, Rick begs Negan not to do it. But Negan intends for Rick to be the one to chop off his son’s arm. If he doesn’t, Negan intends to kill everyone. Rick is crying, but Carl helps his father find some resolve when he tells him, “Dad, just do it, just do it.” As Rick finally begins to swing, Negan stops him. He tells Rick, “You answer to me. You provide to me. You belong to me.” Rick finally acquiesces.
Things have changed
Through the swing of a bat and some psychological torture, Negan is able to demonstrate his power and break Rick. As Negan points out, “Things have changed. Whatever you had going for you, that is over now.” There was life before they met Negan and life after, because this moment will have changed them utterly, forever.
Negan tells them to go back Alexandria and prepare their offerings. The Saviors load Daryl into the van because Daryl belongs to Negan now. He warns them, “I will cut pieces off of Daryl and bring them to your doorstep. Or better yet, I will bring him to you and have you do it for me.” We see one of the Saviors take a picture of Glenn’s crushed skull for their morbid Polaroid collection.
After the Saviors leave, Rick wants to take Maggie to the Hilltop, but she only wants to prepare for a fight. All the others realize the battle is lost. Sasha finally tells Maggie she’s taking her to the Hilltop and she’s not giving her a choice. Sasha, Rosita, and Eugene take what is left of Abraham’s body. Maggie wants to carry Glenn on her own, but the others insist on helping her. Rick stutters out, “He’s our family too.”
As they drive towards Alexandria, we only see Rick’s haunted eyes. His blue eyes have a very different gaze than what we saw in his eyes as they first approached Alexandria.
See our episode review of “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” here.