Monday, April 3, 2017

Walking Dead recap: Season 7, Episode 16, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"

Skipping lightly across the surface of relationships and individual states of mind to focus on the stockpiling of weapons or the formation of fragile alliances, The Walking Dead's seventh season was almost exclusively about the march to war. Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) sadistically fetishized slaughter of Abraham and Glenn in the season opener established him as a ruthless despot who could only be unseated by extraordinary means. Several characters, including Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Morgan (Lennie James), and Ezekiel (Khary Payton), tried to resist the call to battle that was Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) unwavering response to Negan's psychotic display, but their reservations were swatted away with no real debate, creating the illusion that war was the group's only viable alternative.

All that buildup created a hunger to get on with the fighting already, especially since almost no other storylines or relationships were developed deeply enough to make viewers care about what happened next. So it was disappointing when the season ended with another inconclusive skirmish between the Saviors and Alexandrians. True, this latest attempt at rebellion was a different order of magnitude than any of their earlier clashes: a de facto declaration of war. But it was so badly botched that it did little to change the balance of power, functioning mainly as a prolonged teaser for the battle that will follow (if the TV gods have any mercy) in season eight.

When the Saviors arrive at Alexandria, the first jolt of surprise for the Alexandrians is realizing that Negan knows about their revolt. The second is that they've lost Eugene (Josh McDermitt)—or so they think, though the audience is offered a thread of hope when Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) says she continues to believe that he will come around eventually. But the real shock is that Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) is a Judas who sold the Alexandrians out to Negan in exchange for a better deal.

The shock of that betrayal makes for an effective plot twist, but it also points to one of The Walking Dead's main weaknesses: Paper-thin character development makes it too easy to be surprised by someone's actions, especially since it's not unusual for someone to act in a way that seems out of character. In this case, though, the mystery isn't so much why Jadis betrayed Rick as why he ever trusted her in the first place. She clearly never gave a damn about his safety or well-being, tossing him off her trash heap to fight with the armored walker on their first meeting, and she was a mercurial and unreasonable trading partner, insisting that Rick's people go back for more guns after they'd risked so much to bring her the first batch. Yet he keeps trying to negotiate with her even after she shoots him, offering to strike a new deal until she casually pushes him off yet another high platform, annoyed that he failed to obey her command to kneel down. Read the rest on The House Next Door

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