Do I even have to put a SPOILER ALERT!!! here?

the-walking-dead-episode-701-carl-riggs-935If you haven’t watched the show prepare for one of the most gut wrenching and disturbing episodes of any television program (and in fact many movies) I have ever seen.

So Walking Dead writers, it’s time for a fresh start.  You came up with the cliff-hanger that left us talking for months and I can’t remember anticipation for a season premiere so high since the whole “Who shot J.R.” thing many years ago (kids ask your parents or maybe even your grandparents at this point.)

So how do we open this season?  With a slow reveal, and while I was anxious to get to the meat of the episode at the time, I really appreciate the slow burn opening now.

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Through all of this are flashback snippets of Rick’s memories of each of his family that were there on the ground.   When Rick does manage to grab the hatchet and climb on top of the RV to escape the walkers, we see the agony.  We know it’s really bad, and just to reinforce that point, Negan is still wandering around carrying his bat Lucile which is literally ¾ soaked blood red.

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I think I have warned just about everyone I know, that in the comics Negan made the Governor look like Mr. Rogers in comparison, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is playing the part like a virtuoso violinist.  (Spoiler alert inside a spoiler:  You aren’t going to like this guy any more than you do now and you probably already love to hate him.)

So who died?  Abraham first and he went out strong.  He even told Negan off even after the first death blow to his head.  Let’s face it, we knew this was happening, he had just broken one heart (Rosita) and was on his way to hooking up with Sasha.  Lesson #1 in the world of the Walking Dead:  don’t even try to be happy…ever…period!

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Darryl being who he is, jumps up and manages to get a punch to Negan face before the other Saviors drop him down.  Dwight wants to shoot Darryl with his own crossbow, until Negan intervenes.   No he wants to break Darryl…he sees that he has potential, so he gets to live.

But Negan now has to make a second point, and this is where it gets disturbing, not just because of who died but the entirely graphic way it happened.

So yes if you don’t know already, Glenn goes down.  We knew he outlived his comic counterpart, we know he skillfully survived under the dumpster last season, and in the end he went down on his knees in front of Maggie.   The first blow to the head should have killed him.  We see it.  We see him eye popped out, huge dent in his head, muttering almost incoherently to Maggie that he will find her. And it just lingers and is drawn out.  Tragic, heart, and gut wrenching.  Then finally without really any trace of mercy Negan smashes what’s left of a semi-alive Glenn’s head into a very large pile of pulp.

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Negan, being the total and complete psychopath that he is, stands gleefully triumphant, large chunks of pummeled flesh still dangling off Lucile, and makes a joke about her being a “vampire bat” thirsty tonight.

Back on the RV Negan starts shooting holes in the roof of the RV to force Rick to move.  I guess fully automatic machine gun vs. hatchet is pretty easy to figure who’s prepared for this confrontation.  Rick somehow manages to escape unbitten, and Negan actually mows down the remainder before they can kill him.   Negan needs him alive and broken.  He needs Rick to understand who’s in charge and why.

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But even as the RV returns from the walker roadshow to where the remainder of Rick’s family are still broken and sobbing on their knees, Negan isn’t seeing what he wants to in Rick’s eyes.  Which leads to One-Eyed Carl being dragged next to his father, having a line drawn in pen over on his left arm, and Rick instructed to cut it off at a 45-degree angle.

Yes folks it’s a good ol’ biblical sacrifice part of your own child will breaking bonus round, Negan has machine guns put directly to the heads of all the other survivors and Rick is given the choice, cut his own son’s arm off or watch everyone there, and everyone back in Alexandria die while he survives a few years to feel the guilt.

Rick can only babble and occasionally plead as Negan starts his countdown.  Even Carl is stronger than Rick at this point directly telling his dad to “go ahead and do it.”   When Rick finally raises the hatchet to strike, Negan stops him.   This is what he wanted.  This is Rick understanding.

Rick and his family are now “owned”  Nothing is what is was for the survivors just hours before.  It’s always darkest before the dawn and it’s only 7am people….it’s going to be a long long long day and more horrible before it gets better.

So walking dead writers…well done.  Actually, Brilliant!!! For the first time in a long time I think you worked the magic perfectly.   I can honestly say I don’t know what this episode will mean to television or even films.  What was shown, how it was shown has many of my die hard horror fan friends asking if that was really necessary, but it was ground breaking, heart breaking, troubling, nightmare inducing, and will no doubt be the center of many water-cooler conversations today.

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About the Author

Ken Toghia is a director, animator, technologist, and horror/haunt fan living in Orlando, Florida. He was raised in Southern California on Friday the 13th films, Elvira’s Movie Macabre, Oingo Boingo Halloween shows, Theme Parks, and Haunts. He started off his career as a Jungle Cruise Skipper and Riverboat Pilot at Disneyland, has a degree in Film and Television from Cal. State Long Beach, and loves to attend haunts and horror films with his amazing wife and sons (who also happen to love this stuff)
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