They said someone important would die and tonight we found out just who – eventually, anyway. Moving around in time, TWD tonight actually started with focus on a conflict between villain Negan and Rick Grimes occurring after the villain had killed one of the survivors. Prolonging the controversial cliffhanger that ended last season, viewers had to wait until after the second commercial break to find out just who died.
“You belong to me,” the Jeffrey Dean Morgan portrayed Negan tells Andrew Lincoln’s Rick after almost making him cut off his own son Carl’s arm. The line – and Negan’s taking of the Norman Reedus played Daryl Dixon hostage near the end – actually summarizes the episode and the thrust of most of Season 7 of the show. And after that long extension of the cliffhanger that marked this episode, the audience as well.
The reveal of just who died finally came 20 minutes in, and it was brutal. First Abraham fell victim to Negan’s bat Lucille. Then it was Glenn who was killed as an example to the others after Daryl attempted to attack Negan for killing Abe. It was a brutal blow to the core cast at the hands of the Morgan-portrayed sadistic villain’s barbed-wire baseball bat, especially since audiences had to wait so long for it.
Having already died in the Robert Kirkman comics on which the series is based, the battering death of the Michael Cudlitz-played ex-Army sergeant on TV tonight was but one of many twists and tortures in the 1-hour and 6-minute long opener. Even though there had been some indications that more than one character might be killed in the Season 7 premiere, the additional death tonight of Steven Yeun’s Glenn Rhee character shocked many who were watching the episode at a special event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles amid some very drizzly weather.
Even though the Glenn character was Negan’s actual victim in the comics, many believed that he would make it through the first part of Season 7 after surviving the multi-episode arc last Season in which it was unknown if his character had died from a Walker attack or not. Looks like they, and us in our TWD S7 preview, were wrong on that one.
Still, coming directly off the “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” cliffhanger of the April 3 Season 6 finale where the Saviors and their leader captured Rick, Daryl and more of the core survivors, to call tonight’s bloody opener to highly anticipated and very heavily marketed by AMC would be an understatement. While who would actually die on the death deep TWD was kept under narrative lock and key, AMC was in full PR mode for months. Among other media events, the show and its principals teased out what to expect throughout the summer with appearances and trailers at Comic-Cons on both coasts. The SDCC tease also revealed that the series would be incorporating the Kingdom group from the comics and their leader Ezekiel, to be played by Khary Payton.
While it seemed pretty clear from the NYCC teaser dropped earlier this month in the Big Apple that Lincoln’s Grimes wouldn’t be on the chopping block in the season premiere, the guessing game has reached new heights in recent weeks. Adopting a practice that HBO and Game of Thrones have employed for the past few years and that TWD itself has used for past season finales, AMC did not make any advance screeners of tonight’s premiere available for review or anything else.
Add to that hype machine the fact that TWD is facing a low scoring and long Seattle Seahawks vs. the Arizona Cardinals match-up on Sunday Night Football tonight. During tonight’s east coast airing of TWD over 80% of TV-related activity on Twitter was related to the season premiere. All of which means that the Season 7 debut could very likely see TWD return to the top of both the broadcast and cable mountain with tonight’s Scott M. Gimple penned and Greg Nicotero directed episode. As a bit of side trivia – Sunday’s show is the fourth consecutive TWD opener that has been written and helmed by the EPs. Nicotero and showrunner Gimple also ran point on the Season 6 ‘Last Day On Earth’ finale, with Matthew Negrete co-writing.
Following tonight’s airing of the Season 7 opener, cast members Cudlitz, Yeun, Lincoln, Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Ross Marquand, and Morgan AKA Negan will be on aftershow Talking Dead live from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to talk about the episode, who died and why and the fallout. The actors will be joined by EPs Gimple and Kirkman on the Chris Hardwick hosted show.
Already renewed for an eighth season by AMC, the first part of the seventh season of TWD runs until December 11 with the second 8-episode part expected back in February 2017