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“The Walking Dead” S7E16: The Bittersweet Alpha and Omega Poison Pill

As AMC wraps season 7 of “The Walking Dead” with episode 16, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”, we have seen the series have ups and downs … some huge downs. The season opener was one of the most brutal episodes not only on the series but in the history of TV in general. Some loyal TWD fans were rightfully turned off by the gratuitous violence of Negan bludgeoning to death two main characters, Abraham and Glenn, and then pushing Rick to chop off his own son’s hand by threatening to bash in the skull of another member of Rick’s tribe. The episode had even the most diehard TWD fans a nervous wreck. But it wasn’t pointless. We have seen a progression of brutal entities among the living. The Governor was bad enough. The Termites were opportunistic cannibals. Negan is a fucking bloodthirsty tyrant who just might kill everyone in a 10 mile radius just to make himself feel big and bad. Fans had to be slapped in the face to fully understand the real danger in this post-apocalyptic world really is the living, and not so much the bothersome walkers. Realize that as bad as Negan is we must anticipate there is somebody twice as bad as him out there yet to be run-into … and somebody twice as bad as that next person ahead. Humanity does not need the ravenous walkers to chew it up. Humans are perfectly capable and more than willing to do that themselves, and with great glee and self-satisfaction. Yes, in the post-apocalyptic world the brutes and beasts and monsters and thugs will bob to the surface and rule what is left of a floundering society. The evil ones always corral and dictate and abuse the weak.

And this whole season of TWD we have been imposed upon that Rick, and by extension the Alexandrians, are weaklings. I cannot help but return to Shane’s admonishment to Rick back at Hershel’s farm that they were fooling themselves settling into a normal routine of daily chores and schedules. That you had to ‘take no prisoners’ because you could barely trust the people you already know but don’t know the depths of their own failings. He felt Rick, and the initial group of survivors, were too naïve and holding onto something that was already long gone … civilization and its laws and humanity. We cannot help but wonder how long Shane might have survived. How would he have handled the Governor and the cannibal clan at Terminus? How would things be going differently if Shane were around with Negan at hand? Would Shane himself have evolved into a Negan-like entity on his own mega power trip?

After the horrific season 7 opener the rest of the episodes seemed a bit mundane and disappointing. How do you seriously top the nuclear bomb action in episode 1 … and should they have? That is the M.O. of Negan and his wicked ways. He shows complete and merciless brute force once and he expects the result to be complete submission out of terror. Yeah, just like ISIS. They behead or burn alive and the rest of the village keeps its head down out of fear. And he even decides when his Saviors aren’t Negan enough and punishes, or kills, them as well. Same with ISIS deciding Muslims aren’t Islamic enough, even in its own ranks. Being “I am Negan” isn’t a shield from Negan’s wrath.

Nobody is convinced of Dwight’s claims of defection from Negan and the Saviors, least of all a bowie knife armed Daryl as Tara and Rosita urge him to kill Dwight, but they take his ideas for blocking the roads to Alexandria with downed trees in order to buy time before Negan’s arrival. The city dump folks roll into Alexandria in garbage trucks and on bicycles. Maggie and Daryl bring the Hilltop fighters down to Alexandria for the coming confrontation. Later we will see non-trustworthy Dwight by Negan’s and the Saviors’ side in what looks like a double cross.

“Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life, Sasha…”

When Negan says the above greeting to Sasha in her cell it starts seeping into your psyche that it would be just the opposite for Sasha. And when she opened the tray of grand-slam breakfast smiling up at her you knew she was not seeing it as some baiting gift from Negan, as he’d intended it to be, but the last meal of the dead woman walking … er, or about to be ‘walking’.

So, as we detected in last week’s episode 15, Negan had gotten wind of Rick’s plan to rise up against him and the Saviors. Negan hoped Sasha being in his back pocket would be an asset to forcing Rick back onto the plantation of terror. Negan tells Sasha that she will help get things back on track with Rick. He has no intention of returning her to Alexandria, but using her to his advantage, and eventually relying on her as a brainwashed leader within the Sanctuary. He tells her that when they get to Alexandria three members there must die, and she will pick them. Somehow Sasha manipulates Negan down to ‘just one will die’. It is at this moment, if you are a mindful fan of the show who analyzes the shit out of it, that you realize the poison pill Eugene gave Sasha last week will come into play. She just needs to time it perfectly.

The episode is a patchwork quilt of Sasha with earbuds and a soothing song of “freedom” as she is lit inside her darkness by the iPod Eugene has given her for the ride in the casket to Alexandria. She asks for some water to take inside with her. At this point I doubt she had filled her stomach with even a scrap of Negan’s breakfast food. After all, an empty stomach is much faster for pills. And at the far end of the episode, after we have seen an unseen scene throughout this episode between her and Abraham that we assume was before they had left for the Hilltop with Maggie at the end of season 6, Sasha calmly takes Eugene’s poison pill and some water. She drifts in and out of her last private encounter with Abraham, and one of watching a peaceful sunset with Maggie. We do not see Sasha’s life flashing before her eyes recalling her long lost love Bob or her also dead brother Tyreese. We are to accept this evolved warrior Sasha who had built on those lost loves and gotten stronger and more resolute because of them. And now, of her three primary losses, Abraham’s was the worst. She could do nothing to revenge Bob or Tyreese. But she could sure as hell fuck up Abraham’s killer’s plan right now and knew it had to count.

Abraham tells Sasha it’s ‘alpha and omega’ … a beginning and an end to what/how/why they have come to this point in time since the apocalypse. If you are a Catholic/Christian you know this is what Jesus Christ knew. He knew He was the beginning and the end. He knew He would die, but also that His death would serve a higher purpose for the future. TWD slips this bit of religion covertly into this new world disorder of Hell on Earth, oddly enough timed almost perfectly with Lent and the death of Jesus. A world torn with oppressed people trying to live their lives in a civilized manner as the wickedness and evil-doers threaten and rule over them, all while the millions of lost souls are trapped aimlessly wandering the Earth unable to pass into Paradise.

“It’s always for someone else,” Abraham tells Sasha before they leave to take Maggie to the Hilltop in her flashback scene. “Both of us know if we’re gonna kick there sure as hell better be a point to it.” He convinces her the trip to the Hilltop doctor is important because Maggie’s unborn baby is the future and had to be preserved…

Yes, Sasha knows this is how it was meant to be. She would take Eugene’s poison pill and die enroute to Alexandria and emerge as a turned walker. She couldn’t be certain how it would actually impact Negan’s meeting with Rick and the rest of her Alexandria family, but she knew Negan would be the one who would open the coffin to bring her out to Rick. He’s just that blatantly an egotistical show-off asshole.

Eugene has a bullhorn atop the flatbed trailer hauling Sasha in the tarped coffin. He informs Rick that resistance is futile. When Rick demands to know where Negan is Eugene responds, “I am Negan.”

Rick counts the loopy intellectual as too far gone and nods to Maggie on the ground to detonate the paneled truck loaded with explosives parked beside the drive outside the gate. However, the group discovers their IED wouldn’t go off as planned to take out Negan’s convoy at the gate … and then the “Salvagers” (the junkyard tribe) who had entered Alexandria as allies of Rick turn their guns on Rick and the Alexandrians. They were the ones who had tipped-off Negan and the Saviors to Rick’s plan, not the Hilltop’s Gregory. No, the Salvagers ‘got a better deal’ from Negan and switched sides, entering Alexandria as Negan’s force on the inside. Negan is a bit surprised Rick was so easily willing to snuff out Eugene. He demands ALL the guns Rick has been collecting for battle … and the pool table and all its amenities.

All seems lost. Negan informs Rick somebody’s got to die for this insurrection. Rick demands to see Sasha, and Negan opens the box…

“Aww honey, goddamn it!”

It’s pretty obvious Negan is not only shocked at Sasha’s transition to walker, but a bit disappointed. He had plans for her. At the very least he would have liked to do the pleasure of killing her himself so her death could serve his purpose. Carl is the first to decide Sasha tackling Negan off the flatbed to the ground while she’s trying to chew his face off is the distraction needed and begins shooting the Scavengers surrounding him, and everyone on the ground begin shooting at the trash hoarders and Negan’s bunch of thugs. It’s good Carl is the one who first jumps into action. He’s grown up in this world for the last few years and has no qualms that seem to laden everyone else’s reaction times. A henchman pulls Sasha from Negan during the crossfire and becomes her first teeth-sinking victim. Rosita is shot but not killed and Tara drags her off the frontline.

“You’re all already dead…”

When the shooting ceases, and the dead lay bleeding out in the streets of Alexandria, Rick is marched up the road by Jadis (she had shot him in the left side and pushed him off the guard tower to the ground below) to a field where Carl is on his knees and encircled by Negan and Saviors and Scavengers. Rick is forced to kneel and must once again endure a colorful lambasting and gloating by Negan. Meanwhile, Michonne is in a battle of her own with a Scavenger sniper high up on a building porch. She’s being beaten to a pulp and being forced atop the porch railing. Michonne is gasping beyong the strangling hands, “We are the ones who survive…” Amid Negan’s diatribe about what he is about to do to Carl and to atleast one of Rick’s hands there is a woman’s scream coming from up the street and Rick watches in horror as a body (obscured a bit by a tree) falls from the top of the distant building. Negan chuckles and taunts Rick’s tear-welling eyes that he just lost his lover.

And here we were again, as we had begun this season 7 of “The Walking Dead” … Rick and Carl on their knees, the helpless father imagining the reality and dread of losing his own son to the extreme violent pangs of this maniac.

Rick, oozing with tears and sweat, as he was in episode 1, leans in nose to nose with Negan and reminds him he will be killing him eventually, even if he takes his hands. Rick drones into Negan’s ear, “You’re all already dead…” Negan looks coldly and sternly back into Rick’s glare and offers Rick the hope that he might be able to kill Carl with one good blow, and winds up ‘Lucille’ for the swing behind Carl. But Negan soon discovers he brought a baseball bat to a tiger fight…

… as King Ezekiel, Shiva, Morgan (yes, Morgan), Carol (yes, Carol), and the rest of the Kingdom come charging in, guns blazing and tiger grazing. The King decries, “Alexandria will not fall, not on this day!”

Negan shrieks and screams like a girl as he dives for cover behind his men. I think Negan’s scared of Shiva. With all the speculating of who should eventually kill Negan I wouldn’t mind Shiva feasting on him as he screams and struggles until he’s dead while everyone watches. On the other hand, I think Negan is afraid of Fr. Gabriel too… Wouldn’t that be delicious?

The Kingdom and the Alexandrians and Maggie’s Hilltop resume firing on the Saviors and the Scavengers as they make haste to bug-out of Alexandria. The Scavengers use smoke bombs to cover their escape. We will deal with them another day as well, I imagine. As Negan tries to find a loaded gun and fire back on his way to an escape vehicle he spots Maggie and exclaims the widow is alive! So, Maggie and baby are no longer safe moving ahead.

Rick and Carl discover it is not Michonne that fell from the roof…

Back at Negan’s compound he confronts Eugene for an answer as to how Sasha turned in the coffin on the journey to Alexandria. Eugene, knowing full-well Sasha had to have taken the poison pill, can only conclude to him that she had smothered inside the box tucked tightly under the tarp. For now Negan sort of accepts that theory. He walks out onto the porch and announces to his gathered throng of Saviors that they will be going to war with Rick, and they cheer.

When the smoke clears we see small groups searching about outside Alexandria. They’re looking for Sasha. It is an unspoken promise that when one of the family dies the others will keep them from turning. But Maggie is convinced Sasha did something in order to turn and be purposeful as a walker to the group, and we know she’s right…

Note: Daryl discovers Dwight has dropped the wood carved toy soldier with a message on it. What didn’t he know? About Sasha being turned (nobody but Sasha knew that of course)? About Jadis and the Scavengers’ deal with Negan to deceive Rick and the group? Is Dwight sincere about being on their side but staying embedded within Sanctuary to benefit the cause of Negan’s final demise?

Live to fight another season…

MORE:

How some people imagined episode 16 would roll, but didn’t quite: The Walking Dead: Watch a Surprisingly Crucial Deleted Finale Scene

Each episode the writers/producers/directors try to pay some homage to various movies that have influenced them over the years. At least one this episode was to John Carpenter’s “Snake Plissken” from “Escape From New York”

As I mentioned above, and I am still digesting the nearly 90 minute extended season finale episode (which is why this post is so long), I saw a lot of homage paid in a bit of a selfless religious parallel in Abraham’s and Sasha’s “Alpha and Omega” philosophy. Sasha sacrificed herself to save others from the devil that hounds them for their souls. She died and rose again, just as several seasons back Maggie’s father Hershel had expressed to Rick on that Atlanta freeway after his farm fell to the horde of walkers, “I can’t profess to understand God’s plan, but Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”

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