Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 16: The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

It's the Season 7 finale of The Walking Dead!

Now that was a finale! Finally, something actually happened on this show. If only the writers could learn to space out the action a bit more evenly during the year, and stop treading water until the dreaded season ending breaks.

SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON!

This week we get the tragic and not the least bit surprising sendoff of Sasha Williams, who first appeared way back in Season 3 in Made To Suffer. Unfortunately her departure wasn't exactly a surprise, especially if you're a reader of the comic or you read entertainment news.


Since the writers could never think of anything to do with Sasha, they slowly turned her into Holly from the comic— a character who met a shocking and grisly end. Additionally, Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Sasha, recently announced she'd been cast in CBS' doomed new Star Trek: Discovery series. 

Showrunner Scott Gimple claimed this wouldn't be a problem, claiming in interviews that he was willing to work with her schedule so she could film both shows. Fans didn't buy that for a minute, as we all know Gimple is a lying liar who lies. Plus that's exactly the sort of thing you'd say if you didn't want the public to know one of your stars was jumping ship. 

And the fans were right. Gimple lied, Green left the show and Sasha assumed Holly's fate.

Well, sort of. Once again, Gimple took a simple and memorable scene from the comic and utterly ruined it by trying to add one of his trademarked "twists" to it. The Sasha/Holly scene was a very iconic moment in the comic, one that readers remember years later. 

Instead of following the scene as written in the comic, Gimple muddied it with weird flashbacks and fantasy sequences. And even odder, he topped it off with the bizarre concept of transporting Sasha in a goddamned coffin! Jesus wept. Just follow the goddamned comic for once, wouldja Gimple?

This episode made a YUGE deal out of Sasha's death, which seems puzzling to me. Despite the fact that she had no depth or dimension, she was positively revered in this send-off episode. But why all the hoopla? 
She's always been a second-tier character at best, one we never really knew much about. Everything about her was informed by her various relationships to men. She was Tyreese's sister. She hooked up with Bob Stookey. She became Abraham's lover. But who the hell was SHE as a person? Don't look at a the writers, they dunno either!

As for my predictions for how the rest of the season would play out— eh, I got a couple right.

I called the fact that Sasha was inheriting the Holly storyline. Well, more or less. I knew Negan would bring her back to Rick as a peace offering and she'd be a walker, but I didn't foresee the whole ridiculous coffin theme. Who would have?

I also said we'd see Gregory arrive at the Sanctuary, asking Simon for help in eliminating Maggie. I also predicted that Negan would then gut Gregory like a fish for being such a little bitch, like he did when Spencer tattled to him. That didn't happen in this episode, but I'm betting we'll see the scene early in Season 8. 

And I predicted that Dwight was planning on switching sides, or would at least ask Rick's help in killing Negan, and that's just what happened this week. Of course that wasn't really a prediction per se, since it happens in the comic. But whatever. I'm still counting it.

SPOILERS!


The Plot:

We open with Sasha in her Iron Man helmet, er, I mean inside some dark, enclosed space, listening to music on an iPod. This is one of those "non-linear, twisted timeline" episodes The Walking Dead writers love so much, which makes writing these recaps a pure joy. That was, I say that was sarcasm, son.

Cut to what is apparently a few hours earlier, as Negan enters Sasha cell, saying, "Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life, Sasha!" Houston, we have a title! He tells her she's going to help him get Rick and Alexandria back on track. He also says that in order to do that, his bat Lucille's gonna have to take out three more of Rick's people. She tells him no one has to die, but he insists punishment is necessary. She finally bargains him down to just one. Gosh, I wonder which one that'll be?


In Alexandria, Rick and the others question Dwight (who showed up at the end of last week's episode), asking him why he's there. He says he wants the same thing they do— to see Negan dead. Daryl doesn't believe him and shoves him against the wall, holding a knife inches from his eye. Tara (who's angry with Dwight for killing Dr. Cloyd last season) urges Daryl to just do it and kill him. Dwight tells Daryl that he should know from bitter experience that he doesn't lie. Daryl stares intently at him and slowly lowers the knife.


Dwight then warns Rick that Negan knows he's planning something, and is coming for Alexandria. He says he can slow down Negan, but it's up to Rick to kill him. He says if Rick does so, the Sanctuary will follow him. Rick trusts Daryl's judgement, and says he believes Dwight. He lets him go back to the Sanctuary.


At the Hilltop, Jesus tells Maggie that Gregory's left for the Sanctuary. She immediately takes charge, and tells Jesus the Hilltop's going to join Rick's fight.


Meanwhile King Ezekiel, Carol and several knights march toward Alexandria to help. Along the way they meet Morgan, who's planning to storm the Sanctuary along. Ezekiel talks him into joining them.


We then see Sasha listening to music in the dark place again, as she experiences a series of annoying flashbacks and fantasies. These are actually peppered throughout the episode, but I'm gonna round 'em all up right here. 


Sasha fantasizes about Abraham, who tells her he's going to help Rick escort Maggie to the Hilltop, where Dr. Carson can treat her. Sasha asks him not to go, as she senses danger. She says she had a dream that he died, but he deflects her concerns, saying they're going to triumph over the Saviors.


She tells him they're due to sit out a mission, but he insists he's going. She gives in and says she's coming with him.


Sasha then has a flashback to the Season 6 episode Them, when she and Maggie sat on a log watching the sun rise after a storm. Symbolism Alert!


OK, back to the regularly scheduled linear episode.


At the Sanctuary, Eugene and Sasha chat before Negan's convoy leaves for Alexandria. She tells him she still hasn't give up on him. He tells her she can ride up front with him and the other Saviors, but incredibly she insists on riding inside a coffin on the back of a truck (!!!). Even Negan himself tells her she doesn't have to ride in it, as he thinks it's odd. Negan! Sasha tells him she "needs the rest."

Seriously, The Walking Dead writers? You really just made a character willingly lie in a coffin, and yet you expect us to be surprised later when we find out this is her last episode? Well done

Eugene gives Sasha an iPod to listen to while she's inside the coffin, and tells her the trip will take about two hours. Sasha listens to her music and enjoys her flashbacks for a bit, then pops Eugene's poison pill (that he gave her last week) into her mouth.

In Alexandria, we get a montage of Rick and the others preparing for Negan's assault. Rosita sets a bunch of explosive charges, with the help of Jesus and Aaron. The weirdo Scavengers, led by Jadis, arrive and join the Alexandrians. They set up defensive positions around the wall. Michonne sits in a bell tower with her sniper rifle, joined by Tamiel, a Savior woman. Rick and Jadis stand on a platform next to the gate.

Negan's convoy arrives, and Eugene appears, trying to talk Rick into standing down. Rick says he'll only talk to Negan, but Eugene replies, "I'm Negan." Rick nods to Rosita, who pushes the button on her detonator. Unfortunately, nothing happens. Suddenly Jadis pulls a gun on Rick, as all the other Scavengers turn on the Alexandrians! Up in the bell tower, Tamiel turns on Michonne as well. Rick tells Jadis they had a deal. She calmly says that Negan made her a better one.

The gate opens, and Negan saunters in. He tells Rick he knew all about his little plan all along and had his people defuse the bombs (just how that was accomplished is left to our imaginations). He says it's all over and there's nothing he can do about it, yadda yadda. Rick tells his people not to drop their weapons.


Negan has Dwight and Simon bring out the coffin and set it upright on the back of the truck. Negan tells Rick that he brought Sasha back to him, all safe and sound. He says he'll let her go if Rick gives him everything— all the additional weapons he scraped up, all their supplies and even his pool table. Oh, and he wants Daryl back too. And Rick will have to choose another victim for Lucille.


Rick says he wants to see Sasha before he makes a decision. Negan opens the coffin, and Zombie Sasha lunges toward him, knocking him to the ground. Boy. I sure didn't see THAT coming down Main St. like a Thanksgiving Day float! Carl uses the shocking moment to shoot several of the Scavengers, as war breaks out. Rosita's wounded, and Tara drags her off. In the bell tower, Michonne and Tamiel begin battling with one another. Unfortunately Michonne gets the worst of it, taking an epic beating.


A redshirt Savior pulls Sasha off of Negan, and she attacks him instead. Simon grabs Negan and rushes him to cover like he's the President or something. Jadis shoots Rick in the gut and pushes him off the platform. She jumps down and forces him to walk. He sees dozens of dead Alexandrians lying in the streets.


Jadis takes Rick to a clearing, where the Saviors are holding several kneeling Alexandrians, including Carl, hostage. Yawn, this again? She forces Rick to his knees. Suddenly he hears a woman scream, as someone falls from the bell tower. Gasp! Could it have been Michonne? That's sure what the writers want us to think!


Negan enters and does a replay of the Season premiere, saying Rick's going to have to pay and needs to be taught a lesson, and on and on. He tells Rick he's going to kill Carl in front of him, and then Lucille's going to "take his hands," which I guess means he's going to beat them till they come off? Rick also repeats what he said in the season opener, saying he's going to kill Negan, and his Saviors are all already dead.


Negan smiles and lifts his bat. Just as he's about to bring it down on Carl's head, Shiva the tiger leaps into frame. For some reason she jumps on a redshirt Savior behind Negan instead of him, which doesn't make any sense, but let's just move on. Suddenly King Ezekiel and his knights appear, along with Maggie and the Hilltopians. They attack the Saviors and the Scavengers, quickly turning the tide in the battle. Negan sees Maggie and is furious, realizing that Rick lied to him about her death. Really? That's the most important thing to him at a time like this?


Negan orders a retreat, and he and the Saviors, along with the few remaining Scavengers, hightail it out of Alexandria. As Daryl shuts the gate, he finds a little carved wooden soldier. On the back is a message that reads, "Didn't Know." This is obviously from Dwight, meaning he was unaware of the Scavenger's betrayal.


Rick runs toward the bell tower and sees Tamiel lying dead on the ground. He realizes Michonne's OK (sort of) and flies up the steps to find her. She's not in very good shape, as she looks not unlike Stallone at the end of Rocky, but she's alive.


Back at the Sanctuary, Negan asks Eugene how Sasha could have possibly died while sealed inside an airtight coffin. Eugene says it's probably because she was sealed inside an airtight coffin. Negan eyes him suspiciously and says, "Maybe." He then addresses the Sanctuary and tells them, "We're going to war!"


Back in Alexandria, Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel, the leaders of the three united communities, give a speech to the survivors. Maggie monologues and says that this all started when Glenn decided to help Rick, which all lead to this moment.


Thoughts:
• Sigh... why must nearly every episode of this series feature some kind of twisted timeline? Flashbacks, flash forwards, flash sideways— you name it, The Walking Dead's tried it. Jesus Christ, if I want a convoluted time shenanigans I'll  watch Doctor Who! Just show the goddamned events in real time already.

It reminds me of the Deadpool movie. Despite the fact that I like that film quite a bit, even I have to admit it used a flashbacks to mask the fact that it only contained about thirty actual minutes of story. I have a feeling that's what's happening on The Walking Dead. Your script's only twenty minutes long? Tell it in flashback format! Guaranteed to stretch it out to a smooth forty five minutes!


• Dwight tells Rick he wants to help him take down Negan. He says, "I can slow them down, bring some trees down in the road, buy a little time for you guys to get ready. If you can take them out, that's where we start. You kill them, I'll radio back to the Sanctuary." Rick then says, "The Sanctuary?" Dwight replies, "Where Negan lives. That's what they call it."


Seriously? Rick doesn't know Negan's colony is called "The Sanctuary?" In all this time he's never heard anyone mention it before? Not even Carl or Daryl, both of whom actually spent time there?


• When Maggie's discussing strategy at the Hilltop with Jesus, we see Enid pick up a baby and take it out of the room. Was that Baby Judith? What's she doing at the Hilltop? Did Rick pawn her off on Maggie to keep her out of harm's way? Honestly it doesn't seem like the Hilltop's much safer than Alexandria these days.


• I wonder if Michael Cudlitz, aka Abraham, came back just to film this episode, or they had the season planned out in advance and he shot his farewell scenes months ago? He's sporting his Abraham crew cut and walrus mustache, so I'm betting they probably filmed his scenes way back when. I can't believe he walks around like that in his everyday life!


• When the weirdo Scavengers first arrive at Alexandria, most of them are carrying the guns Rick stole from Oceanside. However, one gangly-looking Scavenger has apparently armed himself with a large red umbrella! Wow, I bet that'll have Negan quaking in his boots!

• I have to admit I laughed when Jadis offered to "lay with" Rick after the war was over. 


That said, I still say that three and a half years (which is how long most sources say have passed in the world of the show since the zombie outbreak) is nowhere near long enough for such a society of bizarre weirdos to have evolved.


• This episode is actually combines and condenses several issues of the comic, specifically Issues #113 through #119. That's actually a good thing, as the conflict between Rick and Negan was drawn out a little too long on the printed page. Negan comes to Alexandria and threatens Rick, Rick goes to the Sanctuary and threatens Negan, Negan brings Holly back to Alexandria and attacks, lather, rinse, repeat.

• As Negan's convoy arrives, Eugene appears and uses a bullhorn to try and talk Rick into standing down. Well, at least I think that's what he's doing. His actual words are: 
"All points are covered. Every contingency is already met. I come armed with two barrels of the truth. A test is upon you, and I'm giving out the cheat sheet. H-Hello. I come salved with the hope that it is my dropped knowledge that you heed. Options are zero to none. Compliance and fealty are your only escape. Bottom-lining it— you may thrive, or you may die. I sincerely wish for the former for everyone's sake. The jig is up and in full effect. Will you comply, Rick?
After that tortured, convoluted opening statement, I was hoping Rick would say, "What the hell are you even talking about?"

Since he first appeared, Eugene's seemed like he was somewhere "on the spectrum," as his speech pattern has always been stilted and overly verbose. But this season the writers have gone way overboard with him, as they seem determined to twist his speech into ever more impenetrable knots. It was mildly amusing at first, but now it's just annoying.


It reminds me of how Yoda's speech has evolved over the years. When he first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, he spoke fairly normally, only twisting his syntax when he was trying to act like a crazy little hermit. By the time the Prequels came out, he was saying stuff like, "Around the survivors, a perimeter create!"


It's time to dial Eugene's syntax back a notch or twelve.


• OK, I did NOT see the Scavengers' betrayal coming, so that was a nice surprise. They don't appear in the comic and were created just for the show, so I had no idea what was going on with them. Well done, writers!


So what was up with the Scavenger's betrayal? It's kind of vague, due to their bizarre, impenetrable and ridiculous way of speaking, but as near as I can tell, Negan made them a better deal. When Rick tells Jadis, "We had a deal," she says, "Tamiel came for the boat things. Followed ones who took. Made a better deal."

From that I gather that "Tamiel" is one of the Saviors, who I guess found the Saviors and took the supplies they stole from the houseboat earlier in the season. Jadis apparently followed Tamiel back to the Sanctuary and for some reason told Negan about her deal with Rick. I guess he then made her a better offer, instead of bashing her head in with Lucille. As I said, it's all pretty vague.

• A while back I noted while Andrea's long dead on the show, she's still alive and well in the comic, and it appears that the writers are merging her character with that of Michonne.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the bell tower scene in this episode, in which Michonne battled one of the Saviors and darned near got killed. The exact same scene happened in the comic in Issue #113. There Andrea battled a male Savior in the bell tower, and was practically beaten to death before finally overcoming him. In the comic Rick even hears a scream and thinks Andrea's been thrown from the tower to her death!


• I'm struggling to understand why Negan was trying to use Sasha as a bargaining chip with Rick. Nothing about it makes any sense.

See, in the comic, Negan knew Rick was planning to strike back at him, so he went to Alexandria on the pretense of trying to talk things out. He even seemingly brought Holly back safe and sound as a peace offering. Holly's then unmasked, we see she's a zombie, she bites Dr. Cloyd and in the confusion Negan orders his men to attack. Negan had Alexandria surrounded, but used Holly as a diversion.


In this episode, Negan comes to Alexandria on the pretense of trying to talk things out, and then gives the signal for the Scavengers to turn on Rick and his crew. The Alexandrians are all now completely screwed, with no possible way out. Negan has the complete and total upper hand. Yet for some reason he gives Sasha (who he thinks is still alive) to Rick as a peace offering, and not as a diversion. But why? Why offer an olive branch to Rick AFTER he's sprung his trap on him? 


As I said, it just doesn't make any sense. It's like Gimple wanted to change up the comic storyline a bit, but didn't stop to think how his alterations would effect the scene.


• All through the "Negan Returning Sasha" scene, I sat there scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell Gimple was thinking when he (co) wrote this episode. Seriously? Negan brings Sasha back to Rick... in a goddamned coffin? 

When this scene appeared in the comic, it was elegant in its simplicity. Negan brings back Holly, she's wearing a bag on her head but appears to be fine, the bag's removed, she's a zombie and she starts attacking Rick's people. All very straightforward.


For some reason, Gimple thought it this simple scene would be vastly improved by stuffing Sasha in a coffin and having Negan drag it all the way from the Sanctuary. It's just so... nonsensical.


And talk about telegraphing a scene! Is there anyone out there, even the densest viewer, who didn't figure out that she was dead in there? Jesus, they might as well have painted "Don't Dead, Open Inside" on the outside of the coffin! 


Was this coffin scene another one of Gimple's ham-handed attempts at symbolism, like Carol literally seeing a storm cloud on the horizon in Bury Me Here? I can just imagine it. Gimple was writing this script and paused, thinking to himself, "Well, it's OK, but it needs something more. Something really clever, to inform the audience about what's going to happen. Something that represents death. Like a grave. No, a cross. No, I've got it! A coffin! I'll have Sasha travel back to Alexandria inside a coffin!" And then I've no doubt he leaned back in his chair, took a sip of coffee and congratulated himself on another award-winning script.


Once again, Gimple takes a simple scene from the comic and completely ruins it, muddying it almost beyond recognition. If Gimple's not careful, his name's gonna become a new verb, meaning "to needlessly complicate or destroy something." As in, "The factory was running smoothly until Steve came along and Gimpled it."


For the sake of comparison, here's the superior way the Holly scene played out in the Issue #119 of the comic (WARNING! Naughty language ahead!):


Negan shows up at the gates of Alexandria with Holly, as a "peace offering"to Rick. In true hostage fashion, she's got a bag over her head.

Rick calls to Holly, telling her to follow the sound of his voice.

Dr. Cloyd, who was still alive at this point in the comic, runs out to intercept Holly.

She pulls the bag off her head, and hijinx ensue, as Negan gives the order to attack.

See? It was much simpler and made much more sense in the comic. No clumsy coffins anywhere to be seen.


• After being absent for most of the season, Negan's stylish red cravat makes its return in this episode. I guess this must be his "Head Beatin' Scarf," that he only gets out when Lucille's hungry.

By the way, Negan really needs to get a new schtick. His "Line "Em Up And Beat "Em In The Head" act is getting old fast.


• Negan threatens Rick (again) by saying he's gonna kill Carl in front of him, and then Lucille's gonna "take his hands."


It's no secret by now that in the comic, Rick lost his right hand years ago (courtesy of the Governor). Gimple says it's never gonna happen on the show though, as it would require tons of green screen effects and be prohibitively expensive. Still, they manage to stick in a "missing hand" reference at least once per season.

• The Shiva Attack was awesome! Easily the best moment of the entire season. Hopelessly contrived of course, as she appeared at jusssst the right moment, but still pretty damned cool. Kudos to the producers! Best of all, Shiva looked completely real to me. Hundreds of times better than some of the wonky effects we've seen this season.

That said, why the hell did she attack that redshirt behind Negan? Why not go after the guy swinging the baseball bat? I know the real world answer— because Jeffrey Dean Morgan has a two year contract with the show. But I can't think of a good in-universe reason why she didn't pounce on him.


It's also fortunate for the Alexandrians and the Hilltopians that Shiva could instinctively tell they were good guys, and only went after the Saviors.

Shiva actually does attack the Saviors in the comic (under slightly different circumstances though) in Issue #114 of the comic.

• After Negan and the Saviors retreat, Daryl closes the gate and spots a little wooden figure with the words, "DIDN'T KNOW" scrawled on the back.

This is obviously a message from Dwight, telling the Alexandrians he wasn't aware the Scavengers were going to betray them. We've seen Dwight carving figures in the past, and in fact Daryl saw this particular one in Dwight's room when he escaped the Sanctuary.


This is proof that Dwight's telling the truth, and really does want to take down Negan.


• All season long I've been going on about how the writers deliberately keep the locations of the various communities vague, for storytelling purposes. It's a cheap bit of plot trickery, but I can understand why they do it. If they establish that Alexandria is a two day walk from the Hilltop, that'll cause problems someday if they ever need Rick to get there in an hour. So I get all the ambiguity.


This week though we finally get a tiny location clue. When Sasha's preparing to leave the Sanctuary in her coffin, she asks Eugene, "A couple hours to get there, right?" He replies, "At least. Might be a circuitous and janky route. With what they're planning, they could be watching the roads."

So we now know that the Sanctuary is at least two hours away from Alexandria by car. It's not much of a clue, but hey, it's something. And it could helps a bit to explain why it took the Saviors so long to discover Alexandria.

Anyway, so much for this episode. It's time for The Sixth Annual The Walking Dead Season End Awards, Even Though This Is Season 7! On with the Awards!

Fastest Fall From Grace Award
For the second year in a row, Scott Gimple, come on down!

Last year I note that Gimple took over as showrunner in Season 4, and immediately solved a lot of the show's problems, as well as writing some of its best ever episodes. Sadly that all changed in Season 6. He stretched six episodes worth of story into sixteen, gave numerous characters drastic personality changes (many of which happened offscreen), turned most of the characters into poor decision making imbeciles, and completely botched the most famous moment from the comic.


Welp, he did the same exact thing in Season 7. He had the opportunity to redeem himself with the season premiere, but he STILL insisted on twisting the timeline with flashbacks and fantasy sequences, forcing the audience to piece together the events, which once again, completely ruined the impact of the storyline.

He did the same damned thing with the Sasha storyline in the season finale, diluting another powerful moment from the comic. And of course there was all the obvious padding and foot-dragging, as he continued stretching a handful of episodes into a full season's worth.

He's lost any and all goodwill he ever scored with me, and the sooner AMC boots him off the show, the better.

Bad To Worse Award
Once again, this award goes to showrunner Scott Gimple!

I spent quite a bit of time last year ranting about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Season 6 finale, in which showrunner Scott Gimple inexplicably decided to obscure the identity of Negan's victim, spoiling his introduction for all time and pissing off fans of both the series and the comic.

Gimple could have redeemed himself with the Season 7 premiere, but instead he did the same goddamned thing! The episode opens AFTER the infamous head-bashing scene, and we're then treated to a confusing series of flashbacks, flash forwards and flash sideways as Gimple jealously doles out information, leaving it to the audience to piece everything together into a coherent narrative. 

Whatever happened to just telling a story from point A to B?

As proof of Gimple's disdain for the audience, you need look no further than the way this Season 7 premiere is structured. Incredibly, the episode doesn't pick up exactly where Season 6 left off, but begins after Negan has already killed two of Rick's crew. Just who he killed though is none of our business. We don't find out who was murdered until halfway through the goddamned episode, when Rick takes the time to lie down and have a flashback. Are you f*cking kidding me?

For a horrifying moment, I honestly thought we weren't going to find out who died in the premiere. If that had actually happened, I was fully prepared to drive to Scott Gimple's home and punch him in the dick. And then I'd get mad!

Where's My Fainting Couch Award?
This award goes to select viewers of The Walking Dead, who complained that Glenn and Abraham's deaths traumatized them so much they decided to stop watching the series.

So let me get this straight— you stopped watching a show in which people routinely shoot, decapitate and dismember zombies because it's suddenly too violent. Got it.

Reddest Redshirt Award
Goes to Ben, one of King Ezekiel's knights from the Kingdom. Ben first appeared in The Well, and the second I saw him, I knew he was doomed. He was just too young, eager and decent to survive in the world of the show.

Does Negan Better Than Negan Award
And the award goes to Steven Ogg!

When Negan first appeared back in Last Day On Earth, I praised Jeffrey Dean Morgan's terrifying performance, saying he was perfectly cast. 

I meant what I said at the time. Unfortunately after that initial appearance, Negan has inexplicably devolved into a bizarre, quippy, semi-buffoon. 

Steven Ogg began appearing on the show this season as Simon, Negan's right-hand man. In my opinion, Ogg would make a much, MUCH better Negan than Morgan. I kind of wish they'd cast him in the role instead.

Vague Geography Award
Goes to the Post Apocalyptic Settlements of Virginia.

This has been going on for a couple seasons now, but it's only getting worse. There are now at least six thriving communities on the show— the Sanctuary, Alexandria, the Kingdom, the Hilltop, Oceanside and the Scavenger's dump. Every one of these communities have been going on supply runs for years, yet only recently became aware of one another.

Isn't it amazing that in all those trips of ever-increasing distance, the various groups never once ran into one another? What are the odds?

Earworm Award
Goes to Easy Street! C'mon down and get your trophy!

In The Cell, Daryl's being held captive in a tiny darkened room in the Sanctuary. Dwight psychologically tortures him by playing the song Easy Street, but the Collapsable Hearts Club (and yes, they either knowingly or mistakenly spelled "collapsible" wrong), twenty four hours a day.

It's a relentlessly upbeat and peppy little ditty, and you'll never hear a more insidious ear worm in your life. It was stuck in my head for two or three days after the episode aired.

Unfortunately, since the song is only a few months old, technically it shouldn't exist in The Walking Dead universe. In the world of the show, the zombie apocalypse started three or four years ago, meaning there probably aren't too many bands out there writing new material.

Shallow Grave Award
Goes to Negan, for his inexplicable obsession with Maggie.

In the episode Service, Negan strolls into Alexandria and wonders what happened to the "sick girl," aka Maggie. Rick tells him Maggie died, even going so far as to dig a fake grave (which he filled with supplies) for her in the Alexandria cemetery. Negan is disappointed, as he wanted to take her back to the Sanctuary with him.

Then in the Season 7 finale, Negan spots Maggie during the big shoot out at the end and roars with rage at being lied to. I have no idea why the fact that she's actually alive is so important to him, but apparently it is.

Fat-Shaming Award
Goes to Negan.

In Service, Negan tours Alexandria and sees Olivia, the rather, um, voluptuous gal who's in charge of inventory. He says, "...I can't be the only one to notice that you got a fat lady in charge of keeping track of rations, can I?"

#fatshaming!

Prolonging The Agony Award
Goes to Season 7, the first half of which featured FIVE episodes that were supersized, lasting between fifty and sixty two minutes, as opposed to the usual forty five.

Unfortunately there was barely fifteen minutes worth of story in these episodes, resulting in LOTS of padding and wheel-spinning.

Worst Waste Of A Character Award
And the winner is Heath! 

He was a major character in the comic for many years, so it was fun to see him finally introduced on the show in First Time Again. Then POOF! He completely disappeared. He showed up briefly once or twice afterward, but so far his non-presence on the show has been a big disappointment.

Then to make matters even worse, he was seemingly killed OFF CAMERA in Swear!

Why the hell did they bother to add him to the show if they were never planning to use him?

What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been Award
Goes to The Walking Dead's timeline, which for the past two seasons has seemed impossibly compressed.

For example: Heath and Tara went on their epic supply run in Not Tomorrow Yet, which aired on March 6, 2016. We don't see them again until Swear, which aired November 27, 2016. That's almost nine months between the two episodes out here in the real world. Yet in the universe of the show, only two weeks passed between those episodes!

That means that in just fourteen short days Rick & Co. killed the Saviors in the satellite station. Dwight killed Dr. Cloyd. Maggie began having complications with her pregnancy, and they tried to get her to the Hilltop. Everyone was captured by Negan and his Saviors. Negan killed Abraham and Glenn. Carol woke up in The Kingdom and met King Ezekiel. Daryl was taken to the Sanctuary, where Dwight began his program of psychological torture. And Maggie made it to the Hilltop and decided to stay. Whew!

Most Comic Book Accurate Episode
There were so many this season, it's hard to choose. The season opener featured tons of dialogue from Negan that was taken directly off the page. Something They Need featured a near rape scene that was very comic accurate (other than the fact they substituted Sasha for Holly). There were many other episodes that featured moments taken straight out of the comic.

In the end I'm gonna have to give the award to Sing Me A Song (the one where Carl infiltrates the Sanctuary and Negan takes a shine to him). Most of the plot, nearly all the dialogue and even the stage directions in this episode were ripped straight off the page.

Interminable Pregnancy Award
This one's easy, as it has to go to Maggie Green-Rhee!

She first announced she was pregnant in the Season 6 episode Now, which aired on November 8, 2015. It's now April 2017, and somehow she's STILL pregnant. Even more puzzling, she's not even showing yet!

The point at which pregnant women start to show varies wildly from person to person of course, but it's generally accepted that it happens at the beginning of the second trimester,  which is around the four month mark. That means that approximately four months have passed on the show since November of 2015!

Worst Shot Award
Rosita Espinosa, come on down!

In Hearts Still Beating, Negan wanders into Alexandria and Rosita decides it's the absolute best time to use her one and only bullet (made by Eugene) to kill him. Despite the fact that she's standing literally five feet away from him, her magic bullet somehow manages to miss his head and lodge in Lucille. Groan!

Either Rosita is the world's worst shot or Negan is secretly a Jedi, and used Lucille like a light saber to stop the bullet.

Most Contrived Zombie Killing Method
Goes to Rick & Michonne, for their cool, yet absolutely ridiculous "Zombie Clotheslining" trick in Rock In The Road.


See, Rick and Michonne just happen to find two cars with a taut steel cable stretched between them, that just happen to be fully gassed, just happen to be facing the same way on opposite sides of the road, and just happen to be positioned on a curiously empty stretch of highway. It's like the entire situation was set up specifically so they could mow down a herd of walkers. Amazing!

I could see something like this happening in a comedy/horror film like Zombieland, Scout's Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse or even Z Nation, but it seemed wildly out of place on The Walking Dead.

Pox-Eclipse Award
Goes to Jadis the Scavenger in New Best Friends!

The Scavengers all pepper their speech with weird, incomprehensible slang, like they live in some futuristic post apocalyptic movie like The Hunger Games or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

According to some Walking Dead websites, the zombie outbreak started less than three years ago. That's hardly enough time for such drastic changes to develop in any community's language, no matter how isolated they may be. Such deviation would take hundreds of years. She speaks like she's from a society that's forgotten the old ways of her ancestors, who lived inside towers made of glass and rode metal birds in the sky.

Any second I expected her to start talking about the "Pox-eclipse" and say, "Time after time I've done the Tell. But this ain't one body's Tell. It's the Tell of us all." 

Worst Special Effect Award

It's a tie! The Award goes to the Rick Garbage Dump Vista in New Best Friends and the Bambi Shot in Say Yes.

The Walking Dead has always had pretty impressive effects for TV. That all changed this season. I don't know if AMC switched to a cheaper effects house, or they had no money left in the budget after paying for all the Shiva shots, but this season featured some of the worst CGI I've ever seen.

Coolest Walker Award
Goes to Winslow, the Armored Zombie in New Best Friends.

Dumbest Idea Award
Goes to Eugene Porter!

When Negan complains that his perimeter walkers decompose too quickly in the hot Virginia climate, Eugene comes up with a doozy of a suggestion to preserve them. This involves coating them with molten metal to both armor and protect them.

Ehhhhh... I don't see any way this could work. Tin has one of the lowest melting points for a metal at 400ยบ F. That's still hot enough to burn through a walker's skull or cook its brain into mush, rendering it useless.

Plus it seems like it would be hard for a walker to even lift its limbs if they were coated with heavy metal. And the sun beating down on all that metal is gonna turn the armor into an oven, effectively cooking the walker inside.

No Kids Allowed
Goes to Negan and the Sanctuary!

After Eugene starts living in the Sanctuary, he finds a stuffed animal and takes to carrying it around. This brings up an interesting question: Are there kids in the Sanctuary? If so, we've yet to see any. You'd think there'd have to be at least one or two running around somewhere. Does Negan not like kids, and so outlawed them in his little kingdom? 

Actually there don't seem to be kids in ANY of the communities, except for the Kingdom

Architectural Award
Goes to Whoever Fixed Alexandria's Walls!

The first time we saw Alexandria back in Season 5, the wall surrounding the community was held up by supports struts on the OUTSIDE. I pointed out that this seemed like a very bad idea, as a large enough horde of walkers could simply push the wall inward. Or someone like Negan could knock out the supports and bring down the wall that way. In Say Yes, it appears the walls have finally been fixed, as the supports have been moved to the INSIDE.

Least Efficient Way To Kill Walkers Award
Goes to Carol Peletier.

In Bury Me Here, Carol sees five paltry zombies milling around. Instead of just shooting them or dispatching them quickly with her knife, she grabs an old traffic sign, somehow hauls it up into a tree, sits on a platform and then uses the jagged end of the sign to stab the walkers as they lurch toward her.

Diversity Award
Goes to The Kingdom.

In Bury Me Here we see one of the residents is Nabila, a hijab-clad Muslim character.

I am 99% convinced that her inclusion is meant as a big "F*ck You" to Donald Trump and his ridiculous, ineffective and unconstitutional Muslim Travel Ban. Her appearance is too perfect to be coincidental.

Much Ado About Nothing Award
Goes to both The Kingdom and the Sanctuary.

In Bury Me Here, Simon brings a squad of Saviors all the way to The Kingdom (which we now know is about a two hour drive) to pick up a dozen melons. That's it! Twelve melons. When he sees they're one short, he actually comes back the next day to pick up the twelfth.

Those must be some damned good melons!

Symbolism, Thy Name Is The Walking Dead Award
Goes to the episode Bury Me Here.

The Walking Dead has never been particularly subtle when it comes to symbolism. Remember last year's Start To Finish, in which a horde of hungry ants swarms all over a plate of food in Sam's room, shortly before Alexandria's overrun by zombies? This week's episode takes the visual metaphors to hilariously obvious heights.

Nibila informs King Ezekiel that there are weevils infesting the Royal Garden. Hmmm... some kind of pest infesting the place. I wonder what that could possibly mean?

At one point Carol's working in her garden, and literally sees a storm looming on the horizon! I honest to god laughed when I saw that one.

After Benjamin's killed, Morgan inadvertently refers to him as Duane, which was his late son's name. Do... do you think it's possible Morgan might have thought of Ben as a son?

Later Ezekiel and Henry plant a new garden, one without pests. Could it be that this represents King Ezekiel's decision to finally fight back and rid themselves of the Saviors once and for all?


Whew! That's it for the Annual Awards! See you next season!

2 comments:

  1. I have a backstory idea for The Scavengers. They were all mime artists. Somehow survived (being silent and all that). Somehow managed to find each other (or from the same mime school). It would explain their dress code, behaviour, they way the [learned to] talk. Could even make a 6 part mini-series spin-off called 'Fear The Walking Mimes' I think it's a winner!! :-)

    As 'Zombieland' showed us. Clowns are scary but there is nothing more scary than a Zombie Clown except perhaps a Zombie Mime - they'd sneak up on you real quiet.

    And what was that deal between Jadis and Negan? 12 what? Melons?

    Finally, the soundtrack score for the second half of the season was very different to what has come before. More animated, aggressive, tension filled and action oriented.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ha! I like your "rogue troop of mimes" theory. It's the only thing that makes sense!

    ReplyDelete

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