SPOILER WARNING: Major Spoilers ahead for "The Walking Dead" television series and comic book.
Is it safe to come out now? Seriously? Because after Sunday night, we're still biting down on our sheets, hugging our pillows and bawling our eyes out. If ever there was a candidate for the most gutwrenching season premiere of any show ever, this would have to be atop that list. "The Walking Dead" warned us that this episode wouldn't be easy to get through and boy, were they right.
The show lived up to its promise and delivered one of the most emotionally traumatic pieces of television that stopped us walking dead in our tracks. Opening up with Negan smashing Abraham into oblivion was something we could have accepted, but to then see him follow through and pummel Glenn at a time when we thought one of the show's most beloved was safe was a curveball that left us gasping for breath. We decided to dissect what's surely the most brutal episode to date.
15 Batter Up Abe!
If anyone could have withstood the first crack of the bat, it was Abraham. As Rick began to flashback to the night of, it was revealed that the person who got smacked for a home run was none other than the strong but gentle giant, who was fingered by quite a few as a potential victim. He's been a great leader on show, but the fact he's been dead in the comics was a red flag. It's still a huge loss loss that does bear a lot of emotional heft to it. Even in death, he remained resolute and a rebel. "Suck My Nuts!" he defiantly spoke to Negan, who proceeded to thwack away in front of the likes of former lover, Rosita, and bestie, Eugene. It was a fitting end to one of the series' strongest characters and one that physically weakens our heroes, given that he was just as much brawn as he was brains.
14 Game Recognize Game
That's a saying we hear a lot in American sports these days, but it's something Negan definitely takes to heart. You can tell from the outset he has an underlying respect for Rick Grimes. He knows that Rick's taken out quite a bit of his army and he senses how much everyone looks up to Rick as an alpha. So Negan's all about exerting dominance over Rick and really showing who the big dog is. He decides to take Rick for an RV trip at the start of the show to goad Rick into killing him, which Negan doesn't make easy with his gun towards Rick chest. Moreover, he sends Rick to get an axe on a suicide mission. It tests Rick's capability, but it also sets Negan's sights on exactly what he needs to break Rick, mentally. While he establishes who's the alpha, Negan also hints to Rick that worse is yet to come.
13 RIP Glenn
Rick's descent into madness is just beginning, because as he flashes back to his group's torture over Abraham's death, Negan taunts Rosita with the bloodied bat. Lo and behold, Daryl breaks free and smacks the villain, who proceeds to "shut that shit down" and hold true to his word by turning Lucille on Glenn. It's issue #100 all over again as he beats Glenn to a pulp, eye popping out the socket, stuttering "I'll find you again" in a moment of raw heartbreak to his wife. Negan ain't one for romance, though, and he pounds another of the group into mulch. Each thump of the bat really resonated as we bid adieu to someone who's been there from the start, leaving a pregnant and despaired Maggie. It'll be interesting to see how the guilt plays off with Daryl in the episodes to come, but for now, we're still in shock over the gruesome panel-for-panel execution.
12 Prisoner of War
In the comics, Carl decided to take matters into his own hands and stow away to Negan's camp to kill him. He took out a few more of Negan's men, which irked the villain as expected, but they managed to subdue Carl only for him and Negan to spend some quality time together. Having taken Daryl as this POW, we're wondering if this insight into the method behind Negan's madness will now fall on the shoulders of Daryl. Peeking behind Negan's curtain was a very crucial part of the comics, as it showed his stance on sexual violence towards women and also, how he treated his men, namely Dwight -- which led to Negan's downfall in the books. It's yet to be seen if this Judas route is the one the television writers are going down, but seeing that banter with Daryl and Negan could make for some classic moments. After all, Daryl, guilt intact, has a lot of hate towards Team Negan. Seeing Negan take Daryl as his prisoner was cerebral, as one of the series' biggest badasses just got relegated to the role of shackled pet.
11 A Pound of Flesh
Two heads are better than one, especially if you're making a point that people are your property. If an exclamation point is needed, then Negan really rammed it home when he forced Rick to save his crew by amputating Carl's hand. It was a great tribute to fans of the comic, who remember how The Governor disarmed Rick, and it showed how much power Negan truly wields. As Rick got ready to drop the axe, Negan stopped him and let everyone know he was just toying with his new pets. It was sadistic, uncalled for and demeaning. In other words, it's right up Negan's alley, and to see such a sense of humor after killing two people shows he really is a selfish despot. If anything, he's riled up Carl even more, which could see Rick's son evolve (or devolve) down a very intriguing path of retribution against a villain who knows no bounds.
10 Battered, Bruised and Truly Broken
Having seen Maggie grow from Hershel's daughter, helping out on the farm and tending to the wounded, to the woman that fell in love with Glenn and became pregnant with his baby, made it really difficult to sit through as she watched her husband being beaten to death. With the unborn Hershel in tow, we were hoping the writers wouldn't pull a Judith and actually allow both parents to live. When the dust settled, hearing her wailing in vengeance, as well as how she needed to get back to the Hilltop, was just too much. She still kept Rick's posse in mind and warned them to get to safety, as all she could focus on was burying Glen. As Sasha stepped in to take care of her, we saw everyone band together once more because they realized that Maggie was destroyed beyond words. Seeing such a harsh, cruel fate befall her is something that'll reverberate for the rest of this series.
9 Real Saviors Wanted
What really drove the nail -- or bat, as the case may be -- home was when Maggie asked if they'd be firing back against Negan's outfit. Rick, truly defeated, replied by telling her that they couldn't afford to against an army of Negan's size. He warned that it would end in the death of them all, which was tough to swallow; but for the first time ever, fans saw the entire crew deflated and accepting of the loss. This was one of the first white flags we've ever seen them raise, and in all fairness, who can blame them for cowering in fear? Team Rick clearly knew they underestimated these Saviors and they paid the ultimate price. While resistance is sure to come from Carl, Rick knows that self-preservation is paramount at the moment. So until The Kingdom or Hilltop steps up, it's all about rebuilding for now. After such an attack, what else can our heroes do?
8 And Death Becomes Carl
It's pretty clear what Carl thinks of Negan. As evil as he's come across, Carl may still be the only one who's unafraid of him. We saw Carl's response when Negan called him over for the amputation and it was all rebellious. He remained unflinching when Rick was about to drop the axe, and kept staring at Negan, as if to tell him that while he may have gotten to Rick, he hasn't gotten to the son. Carl's scowling eye remained fixed on Negan throughout, so apart from the comic arc of stowing away to Negan's headquarters, we could see him actually heading out on his own on a one-man assassination mission. If there's one person who won't sit tight and pay tribute to Negan, it's Carl. Is this a smart move? Only time will tell, but we can see the hot-headed youngster rashly taking matters into his own hands.
7 Poor Eugene
Eugene really went through a grinder watching his longtime friend Abraham expire. For all the ups and downs in their relationship, they really did care about each other and if it's one person who can harness this fear into something more useful, it's Eugene. In the comics, he's always been one of the minds behind the scenes, tinkering and working towards solutions. He eventually began building bullets and an armory of weapons for Team Rick, so with the impending war to come with Negan, he could well be a trump card to rally Alexandria and the Hilltop. This could also be a time for him to step up; Rick needs leaders, after all, and he's two short at the moment. Eugene could also find a way to become Rosita's knight in shining armor, in an even bigger way. He isn't the kind of character Negan would pick on to make an example and in this instance, that could prove to be a haunting mistake for our nefarious bat-swinger.
6 Where's The Backup?
Last season, we saw Carol and Morgan meet The Kingdom. With teases already emerging of Ezekiel, we all harbored some glimmer of hope that Team Rick would meet up these kindred spirits and realize that it's not as bad as it seems. Meeting them at the end of the Season 7 premiere would have offered a small sigh of relief. Alas, the writers wanted to work us in... and so they did. We got nothing from the other forts that are eventually meant to team up with the Alexandrians against Negan's forces. This episode was all about the pain to take back to Alexandria. There wasn't any sign of the outside world, which helped build the notion that Rick's squad is well and truly alone. Let's hope this is rectified ASAP, because we really didn't like that feeling of isolation and desolation on a Sunday evening!
5 Michonne Depowered
How often have we seen that assertive look on Michonne's face? How many times have we seen her calculating a plan in her mind, even when all appears doomed? Well, that seemed a thing of the past, as for the first time, we see her clueless and panicked. With the stakes higher than ever, everyone in the group realized that "expendable" was the word of the day. It's not often that we see our icons and superheroes like this. Even without her sword, Michonne's always been self-assured; but in this case, as the tidal wave called Negan swept through town, it was all-too-obvious that this situation wasn't ordinary. Seeing Michonne fold is a stark reminder of how Negan brings titans to their knees, and how much he makes The Governor look like Mother Teresa. Their world has indeed taken a turn for the worse. This of course, begs the question: if the heroes are quivering, then really... who can save the day?
4 The Dwight Complex
Dwight's been quite a polarizing figure in the comics, as he betrayed Negan, the man who took Dwight's wife from him and burnt his face. While those seeds have been hinted at on television, should we root for this? Dwight really has it in for Daryl and threatened to kill him with the bow and arrow after Mr. Dixon smacked Negan, only for Negan to condescendingly tell Dwight to back off. It was a confusing scene, as it hinted that Negan had no respect for him and treated him like a typical lackey. But it still didn't add enough fodder as to whether Dwight could be the redemptive key against Negan. Either way, Dwight's disposition thus far is nothing but unlikable, and to be honest, one death could have swayed things in his favor. But two? That makes feeling some empathy towards Dwight an unlikely prospect. If anything, it just fuels us with more rage, and desire to see Daryl take him out.
3 The Axe Effect
There's just too much foreshadowing with that axe between Negan and Rick. We really thought it would come full circle with the chopping off of Carl or Rick's hand, but it's pretty clear that while the writers are holding the cards close to their chests for now, something big is coming with this weapon. We think the chance is gone to disarm any of the Grimes, but after Negan took Rick for that joyride and made him work for the axe, our minds started ticking. In the comics, Rick stopped Negan and sentenced him to life in prison, but if he does that on the show, maybe it'll be at the expense of Negan's hands, so he can't swing for the fences anymore? Just some food for thought. After all, Rick needs an equalizer for that vampire bat. Plus, we're two murders in, and we can't see Rick being that lenient.
2 Requiem for a Dream
First off, that dream sequence where Rick saw everyone safe, happy and eating lunch was one of the most beautiful scenes in the show. It offered hope for a better tomorrow. In context, however, it's painful, because it shows what Negan took away with his kills. Seeing Abraham next to Glenn as the latter played with his child was really unsettling, because it displayed just how dark, unfair and uncompromising the world of "TWD" is, where the real monsters aren't zombies but humans. It reminded us of Rick's depression when Lori died and it'll definitely put him back on those wheels, while quite a bit of his current stable experiences agony like never before. This dream really was a soul-crusher that showed the severity of Negan's threat, and also, plundered that little thread of light that lifelong fans of the show harbored. This sequence embodied such indescribable pain, even in a simple shot of joy.
1 Finally... Rick is Afraid
We saw glimpses of this as he lay on top of the RV amid the zombie horde, recalling Negan's victims. But at the end of the episode, the weight of everything sank in, juxtaposed against the clear baby blues of Rick Grimes. The duality that stood in this contrast was second to none as Negan's victims, his own brush with death chasing an axe, as well as almost amputating his son's arm, all began to cave in. For the first time in the show, tears truly told how afraid Rick was of the unpredictable territory to come. This landscape shift was seismic and we saw it reflected in his eyes as he quickly surveyed the past. It was a simple, poetic ending that shunted Rick and his people into a darker, inescapable future, travelling down a precipice that hinted at no tomorrow. As we saw clips teasing the rest of the season, we caught Rick telling his people that Negan's in charge, not him. Point made.
What did you guys think of the Season 7 premiere? Did you have the guts to push through to the end? Let us know in the comments!