The Walking Dead has always been about Rick Grimes and how he dealt with the apocalypse; be it with walkers, friends, family, or enemies. This season Rick and his team have crossed paths with Negan and, everything we thought we understood about our friends will change forever. The measure of a man and woman is how they deal with an invincible obstacle. Negan is that obstacle.
Fans of the series will recognize that the title of the S07 premiere is a statement made by Dr. Jenner on Season 1. Jenner said this to Rick right before the CDC imploded; destroying all the dangerous viruses and prions inside. It is a chilling statement, but so perfect for tonight’s episode. The heartbreak begins…now.
They Are Mine
I had to wait until this morning to watch the season 7 premiere of “The Walking Dead” because I was doing a ghost investigation in a cool little café in Bordentown, NJ. Thankfully, my friend Glenn Walker stepped in for me to break the news to the fans of Biff Bam Pop on what took place in S07 E01. Thank you, Sir Glenn! You can read his review here.
Negan, played wickedly well by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, is a dictator and a born tyrant. He knows that to have complete control over a group of people, you first need to destroy their psyche and he does this by making their leader look weak. Negan knew that Rick was seen as a leader to his people, but more importantly, Negan knew that Rick was loved by those he ruled. Love is more dangerous to a sociopath than power because people will brave anything for love.
The show begins with the camera zooming in on the blood dripping from Rick’s face. We know someone has been killed, but as yet, we are clueless. Rick tells Negan that he will find a way to kill him. Defiance is the one thing that can make Negan look weak among his own people. To keep his hold over his own men, Negan must make Rick compliant; a broken man.
When Negan grabs that ax and drags Rick into the camper, we fear what will happen. Negan is a master of psychological bullying. Sometimes, the suggestion of horror to come is more frightening than the actual event. We are still at a loss as to who died, but while Negan drives the camper and taunts Rick to pick up the ax, we relive through Rick’s flashbacks who had died in this episode.
We’ve learned through the seven seasons that the television series doesn’t always play out the way it does in the comics. This is a good thing and one of the reasons TWD keeps us on our toes. Through Rick’s flashbacks as he sits in the camper, we witness the first victim of Lucille, Negan’s barbed wired baseball bat. If you watch the body language of Team Rick, you see one man kneeling straight and upright. While the others secretly prayer, “Not me, God!” “Please, not me.”
One man looked the tyrant in the eyes. This posture proved without a doubt that Abe was a true warrior. He was a soldier trained to meet his death with dignity and honor. This bravery made Abe a threat to Negan. Even during his brutal death, Abe got in the last words, “Suck my nuts!” Then…he was gone.
While Rick and the others knelt there in a submissive and frightened state of mind, Daryl did what Daryl always does. He struck out and punched Negan in the mouth. If we expected Negan to strike back, we forgot how crazy Negan really is. We can see the power Negan wields over his men by looking into their eyes. They are afraid of him. Instead of punishing Daryl, Negan makes Daryl regret his rashness by bringing Lucille down on Glenn.
Through Rick’s flashbacks, we feel that bat pound down hard on the man we came to think of as invincible. We hear and flinch at each swing. We hear Negan taunts, but we also hear Glenn’s last words to Maggie and their unborn child, “I will find you.” As someone who sees dead people and does ghost investigations, these words hit home. Glenn had made a promise to Maggie that even death would not keep them apart; that he would watch over her from the grave. My experience with the spirits has taught me that the dead do watch over us. My father and mother both dead, live at my house and, watch over their children and grandchildren.
This show was never about the walking bags of decayed meat that we call “Walkers.” This show was about Rick Grimes and how he reacted to the apocalypse. Negan knew that he hadn’t completely broken Rick’s will with the two brutal deaths. In order for Negan to feel safe, Rick would have to obey Negan’s every command. Negan accomplishes this by throwing Rick out of the camper and into the midst of a horde of walkers. “Bring me my ax!”
Negan commands and Rick obeys. To refuse was a death warrant for his friends. More important than Rick’s surviving this new ordeal was the way he looked at the shuffling dead. Was he seeing them as they really were? Not an enemy, but unwilling prisoners of a disease the same way that he was a prisoner of Negan.
You can’t have God without the Devil. Good vs. Evil is a game that was started in Eden and is still playing out today with us clueless humans as pawns. Pulling from the Old Testament story of Abraham, Negan tells Rick to cut off Carl’s arm. Michonne begs Negan’s mercy for Carl, but Negan seems to ignore anything the women have to say. He only considers the men a threat.
That bible story about Abraham always bothered me. Why would God tell his loyal servant to sacrifice his son? Why did Negan tell Rick to cut off Carl’s arm? Was it for power? Negan wanted everyone in the group to see that Rick was broken and that he was in total control. Luckily, Carl was spared, but Negan’s last warning before he and his men left, taking Daryl with them, was this, “Disobey and Daryl gets sent to you in pieces.”
There was just one itty bitty problem. Negan apparently assumed that the women of Team Rick were easily swayed. He was wrong. Maggie is out for revenge. She’s not alone. There are a lot of strong women in Team Rick and, any leader who considers a woman a weaker version of himself will not reign for long.
It’s going to take a while to recover from this brutal attack to our senses, but we will because that is what mankind does no matter what life throws at us. It was nice seeing a happier twist, a daydream that never was, with Glenn and his son, enjoying a meal together with the team. R.I.P. Abe and Glenn.