The Walking Dead: ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ Season Finale Review
“Alexandria will not fall, not on this day”.
Warning: We’re talking about the season finale of The Walking Dead. Of course there’s spoilers down below.
If I were to define season seven of The Walking Dead in one word without sounding like a complaining asshole, I’d probably call it… sluggish. I’m not calling it that just because it lacked a lot of action and zombie slaying. There’s plenty of reasons why I feel it was sluggish. I mean, this season wasn’t technically bad by any means. There was just too much pussy footing around. Too many episodes focused on one or two locations, when there was time to feature multiple characters and situations. It wasn’t until the season finale to finally feature every cast member on the show and every faction in one episode. “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” is a genuinely good episode, filled with the development we’ve been craving, an all out battle against the Saviors, freakin’ tiger attacks, and a lot of emotion. It packed everything you would hope from a season finale. However good this episode was though, it felt better than what it honestly was only because it gave us so much of what the rest of the season had been lacking.
I was nicely surprised by how well this finale got us to the beginning of the war that’s been slowly brewing. I honestly didn’t expect the full scale firefight that went down. Somehow, this episode managed to cover all of my concerns from last week’s review in a swift fashion. I felt there was too much to do before the battle against Negan began. Yet, everything I felt needed to be shown – such as Sasha and Negan working together, the guns being delivered to Jadis and her trash gang, Dwight convincing Rick he’s on board, the Kingdom and Hilltop checking in – was worked on within minutes or went in a different direction than I assumed, so that we could get the war started. So much was covered in this finale, it makes me wonder why they couldn’t cover more ground during the season.
One of the most important duties of this finale was to serve as Sasha’s swan song. It’s a shame her role was coming to a close after evolving into quite the bad ass, but I’m sure we all suspected ever since Sasha stormed her way in The Sanctuary a couple of episodes back, this was the end of the line for Sonequa Martin-Green and her character. It was a clear sign this was Martin-Green’s last season of TWD when she was cast in the upcoming Star Trek series. The good thing is, she went out on her own terms. She sacrificed herself by drinking Eugene’s poison pill so that she’d pass away and become a walker to give her friends a fighting chance when Negan opened that casket. Anybody else find it trippy that we actually saw Sasha die in the first shot of the episode, and didn’t even realize it?
While the events setting up for the battle at Alexandria were unfolding, in between time, we jumped around the final morning and moments of Sasha’s life, a calming moment between her and Maggie sitting on a log during a sunset, and a recollection of her and Abraham spending their final moment alone together before they joined up with Rick and the others to take Maggie to the doctor at Hilltop. First of all, it was good to see Michael Cudlitz reprise his role. He pretty much gave his best performance in this guest spot than any average episode he co-starred in. Second, their scene together was a nice touch. We never really got to see those two act as a couple during their brief time together. It’s sad knowing she had a dream suggesting Abraham was going to die. And then shortly afterward, they headed out on an excursion that would result in Abe getting killed. Sad indeed.
Jadis and her trashy people ended up being traitors. I mean, who didn’t see that coming, really? Rick should have. You can’t trust anyone with a haircut like Jadis. I wish I had expanded on how much I didn’t trust or like the garbage people in my past reviews. I just knew the guns that were given to them would end up being aimed at Rick and his people. Rick should have at least had a backup plan. One thing that was irritating me was when the shooting started, why didn’t Rick attempt to disarm Jadis? He was a cop, he could have easily knocked the gun away from her. Plus, out of all the shady people our team has come across, I never could understand how they never even suspected these weird talking, half-dead acting jerks. Not even Michonne suspected them. And she got her ass beat because of it. Thankfully, their true colors were shown in this finale. It’s not something that will be stretched out until next season. Hopefully, they all parish by next season. Although, the awkward moment Jadis said she wanted to lay with Rick made me chuckle.
Dwight may actually be on board with Rick and Daryl. He was pretty convincing when he said he wanted to help fight against the Saviors. He did keep his end of the bargain by cutting down trees to delay the Negan’s arrival into Alexandria. During the shooting while the Saviors were retreating, he left behind one of his wooden carvings with the words “didn’t know” written on it, indicating he wasn’t aware Negan made a deal with the trash people. Of course Dwight went back with the Saviors to the Sanctuary, he had to – which, by the way, it was the first time Negan’s home was called that in the show. He needs to stay close to Negan to keep his trust while taking apart the Saviors from the inside. Plus, he’d have to sleep with one eye open at Alexandria. It would make a lot of sense if Dwight made a pact with Eugene next season. Eugene tried to limit the violence by talking with Rick before Negan stepped in. Plus, Sasha told him she still believed he could do that right thing. I may not be a fan of either Dwight or Eugene, but there’s evidence that the two could turn the corner and aid Alexandria in the right direction to winning the war. Besides, with Negan suspecting Eugene had something to do with Sasha’s death, Eugene better think about having Negan bumped off.
Before we get to the good stuff, I should mention the finale had some good dramatic beats to it. As I stated already, the scenes with Sasha and Abraham worked well by showing us they truly had a connection. Likewise when Rick saw that Michonne was still alive. The most emotional beat of the episode was obviously Maggie’s voice over monologue explaining how everything started because Glenn showed courage and a great kindness to helping Rick on the day he rode into town and was overpowered by walkers. It was a fitting tribute to Glenn, even if it was a bit heavy handed. As a fan, It still hit me in the feels. That’s something I can always count on from The Walking Dead.
Okay, so finally, let’s talk about that insanely great climax. Alexandria bursting into gunfire was exactly what I was hoping for. This season has had the least amount of action with little else to offer. Plus, our characters needed a win. After losing so much during this season, they needed a chance to show off their bad assery. Even though this was the start of the war, and there’s a long road ahead that will result in a lot of good people dying, this felt like a win for not only Alexandria, but for the audience. This was our reward for sticking with this slower paced season. Our heroes like Rick, Daryl, Carl, looked like bad asses, while the Saviors and the trash people dropped like flies. I did have some minor grips with the direction though. While I loved the shots of our main characters shooting their weapons, I would have liked to see more bodies drop. At times, it was confusing to know who was shooting who. Still, the gunfight was very immersive, and I loved seeing all three factions – Alexandria, Hilltop, The Kingdom – come together and spraying bullets against their enemies, while Shiva the tiger leaps onto a number of bad guys, but not good guys. She’s apparently that well trained. It was extremely convenient how the Kingdom and Hilltop arrived at the exact moment they were needed the most, but that’s fine. It’s funny how no one could shoot a big ass tiger in the midst of all the chaos too, but Shiva must be really good at dodging bullets. It was also convenient that no one of importance died during the battle. Either way, even with its flaws, it was a truly bad ass and memorable battle.
What I found the most interesting was how Rick and Carl found themselves in the same position they were in during the premiere. They were once again on their knees at the mercy of Negan and Lucille. Obviously, there was a better outcome for Rick and Carl, but there was some development that I think some people missed or are not talking about. I think most people can see that Rick understands that some of his people are going to die. Now, it’s clear Negan can see that. Rick gave him that same “I will kill you” speech from episode one. Only this time, it really seemed to rattle Negan. Not only does he truly believe Rick wants to do it, but he knows he probably can. When Rick and Negan collide, it’s explosive.
Overall, this was a satisfying finale for a season with so many issues and shortcomings. The betrayal of Jadis had no effect whatsoever because her and the Dumpster Gang had no ounce of trustworthiness in them anyway. Yet, it did bring forth a very suspenseful standoff that led into one of the best and most needed shootouts of the series. We got a nice farewell to Sasha. It was appropriate that Maggie would be the one to put her down. Despite some flaws, this was a very well directed episode that even featured nods to John Carpenter films. Most importantly, we finally saw the beginning of the war. Yes, it should have come sooner, and getting there was rough, but hopefully we’ll have a faster paced season eight with better writing and quicker development.