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– by Anthony Esteves

“Negan Runs The Show”

It was just this past April when we were left wondering who was about to experience their last day on Earth. The ferocious Negan was singing his nursery rhyme, waiving the barbwire-wrapped Lucile at Rick’s Survivors, deciding on who to pummel to a bloody pulp. It feels like just yesterday, we were left wondering who’s POV we were experiencing as Negan unleashed Lucile on our unknown victim’s skull. For months, we’ve speculated as to who we thought the unlucky one would be.

Last night, we got our answer… And what an answer it was.

In the opening of the season 7 premiere, Negan is celebrating the work of he and Lucile. Rick, who seems to have lost all control, can only utter to Negan that someday, he will kill him. Negan, unfazed by this, drags Rick into the RV. The camera pans down and reveals blood and brain fragments amongst the gravel… But who was it?!

I’m getting there.

Negan takes Rick on a little joyride before parking the RV in an area filled with walkers. Negan, holding an assault rifle in his hands, puts Rick through a bit of a physical and psychological test, forcing Rick to play fetch and have him retrieve his hatchet, which he had tossed onto the roof of the vehicle. It is on the rooftop where we witness through Rick’s flashbacks who Negan’s victims were…

You read that right. I said victims.

Negan’s first step up to bat was against the skull of Abraham, who was able to utter the words “suck my nuts” before Negan unleashed the fury of Lucile, leaving only a puddle of blood and pieces of skull and brain matter. Moreover, just when you thought that would be it, that the loss of Abraham and a minor revolt by Daryl that was put down was all you could bare, the show stays true to its comic book roots and Negan brings down Lucile’s wrath upon Glenn. Maggie looks in horror as Glenn, with the front of his head caved in and left eye protruding, attempts to say “I love you” to her. The others can only look in horror as the loyal, dependable, persistent survivor and love of Maggie’s life is viciously killed, having his skull destroyed by Negan’s vicious tool.

And even after all that, there is one more test that nearly destroys Rick. One that effects his as a leader, as a man and as a father.

The theme of this episode was pain. A pain felt emotionally as much as it is physically. Rick is no longer in control. He is beaten down and broken by Negan. Whatever sense of safety and supremacy the survivors had in Alexandria has been stripped away after one night with Negan and his crew. They have been converted into slaves whose only purpose is to provide for their new leader and they are fully aware of the fate that awaits them if they do not do so.

This season should provide a unique aspect for its viewers. While Rick’s people have faced adversity time and time again, they have always seemed, for the most part, to succeed and remain in control of their fates. Now, they have no control. They are powerless, kept alive only for as long as Negan deems it. It is story arcs like these that keep a television series exciting. Developing an unimaginable obstacle and experiencing it through the eyes of complex and relatable characters, not to mention characters with an ever growing fan base, is what keeps this show thriving as arguably the best show on television.

Can’t wait to see what Negan and Lucile have in store for us next week.