An easy way The Walking Dead can begin to fix itself after an underwhelming seventh season is through what makes the show entertaining in the first place: grisly, gory deaths. At the onset, that was mostly through its zombies, but the introduction of Negan — a villain with a penchant for smashing people in the head with a baseball bat — was another bloody avenue for the series.
In that sense, The Walking Dead delivered in season seven's midseason finale.
(Editor's note: Spoilers for The Walking Dead midseason finale ahead.)
For anyone who's read the comics, Negan's second trip to Alexandria brings back one memory, and one noun: guts. That's when happens when the Alexandrian most viewers have come to hate, Spencer Monroe, approaches a now clean-shaved Negan about ousting Rick as the leader of the group.
Attempting to cozy up to Negan with whiskey and a game of pool, Spencer tells Negan that when his mother was in charge, things in Alexandria were running more smoothly. If he were the leader, instead of Rick, he'd be better equipped for the group and bringing supplies to Negan and the Saviors. Spencer intimates that Negan should kill Rick and let him take over.
It doesn't sit well with Negan, however, that Spencer is doing this whilst Rick is out foraging for supplies. Negan doesn't think Spencer has any guts, so he finds out for himself by disembowelling him in front of a slew of Alexandrians. It didn't seem to bother the fanbase.
It's gruesome, yes, and with Rosita watching, understandably enraged, she fires the bullet she saved for Negan (with Eugene's help) in his direction. Incredibly (really though, what are the actual odds?) she doesn't hit Negan — she hits his beloved bat, Lucille. Negan reacts as you might expect: He's really pissed and wants her to pay.
But more importantly, he wants to know how she was able to make a bullet after the Saviors got rid of all of their weapons. She doesn't give up Eugene — she says she was working solo — but after one of Negan's lackeys is ordered to shoot a member of the group at random, Eugene gives himself up. Unfortunately, Olivia is the Alexandrian killed, a crappy and unfitting sendoff for a character who dealt a satisfying slap to Negan in the previous episode.
With Eugene's confession, Negan takes him back with his group — presumably he'll be in the same boat as Daryl, listening to "Easy Street" thousands of times — and leaves a bloody mess for Rick and the group to clean up. It's the final straw for Rick; after half a season of being subjugated to Negan and the Saviors, he's finally ready to fight back.
Elsewhere, the Kingdom's Richard talks with Morgan and Carol about a similar prospect, explaining that the current truce between his community and the Saviors isn't built to last. Instead of waiting for the Saviors to strike, however, he wants the Kingdom to attack first. The only issue is he doesn't have much in the way of support; having Morgan and (quasi-love interest?) Carol on his side when speaking with King Ezekiel would help a lot.
But Carol continues her protest of just existing on the show, saying she just wants to be left alone. This has turned into a recurring theme for the character, a frustrating hindrance for someone who — just a couple seasons ago — had one of the series' most interesting character arcs, complete with an insane Of Mice and Men homage. We'd be quite surprised if she was actually left alone, Carol will come back to the foray eventually. Perhaps after she learns about what happens to Glenn and Abraham (do we need a running count of characters who still have no clue what happened?).
Daryl, meanwhile, finally escaped the Sanctuary with the help of a mystery Savior leaving him a note and unlocking his cell — our money's on a turncoat Sherry or Dwight. After shedding his prison garb and devouring a jar of peanut butter (the most relatable thing Daryl's done in a while), he makes his escape with Jesus, but not before running into Fat Joey. "I'm just trying to get by, just like you," Joey pleaded, before Daryl bashed his head in with a steel pipe.
"It ain't just about getting by here," Daryl says to Joey's corpse. "It's about getting it all."
Michonne draws a similarly grim conclusion when an unnamed female Savior conveniently shows her the Saviors' main camp, and its plethora of inhabitants, before giving Michonne the opportunity to escape. It comes at a cost — Michonne kills her using a silencer from the car's glove compartment — but she returns to give Rick the last bit of courage ahead of the near-insurmountable odds of taking out the Saviors. "We're the ones who live," she tells him. "That's why we have to fight."
Rick, Michonne and other Alexandrians reunite with Maggie at the Hilltop Colony, and now the latter half of season seven is primed to emulate the comic book's "All Out War" storyline, with the Hilltop, Alexandria and the Kingdom waging war against Negan and the Saviors. It couldn't have come sooner. After an excruciating set of episodes with ineffective world-building, The Walking Dead's seventh season could finally get back to a compelling storyline. All it took was some guts.
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