Chandler Riggs in a scene from The Walking Dead.
Chandler Riggs in a scene from The Walking Dead. Contributed

The Walking Dead s7 finale review: Let the battle commence

"Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life," Negan tell Sasha at the beginning of The Walking Dead's seventh season finale with no clue her actions will spark the very moment his rule will begin to spiral out of control.

It's a prescient line planted by the writers who know exactly what's to come later in the episode because, sure enough, by the end of the AMC series' seventh run - a season that's received its fair share of harsh criticism - things will never be the same again.

Could Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) be one of the bravest characters the show has seen? Quite possibly.

The moment she requests the suicide pill from Eugene, she knows full well that to take Negan down, she'll have to become the weapon.

Holing up in a casket as The Saviours drive her back to Alexandria to wreak murderous havoc, she swallows the tablet and casts her memory back to a heartfelt encounter with the man she loved, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) which pepper the episode hammering home the notion that this is a character whose shelf life is up.

It's always sad to see old-timers depart the series, and Sasha - who was first introduced back in the third season's prison arc - is no different (especially when reflecting upon the fact we see her die in the episode's very first scene without initially realising it) but it's her final moments that'll endure as her most memorable.

Negan, prepared for his showdown with Rick, opens the coffin only to find a reanimated Sasha baying for his blood.

It's a typically well-directed moment by guru Greg Nicotero insofar that you come close to falling off your seat despite fully expecting it - but it's what follows that will take your breath away in a manner this show has failed to do since arguably Carol's takedown of the cannibalistic Hunters at the beginning of season five.

Having been betrayed by Jadis (Pollyanna MacIntosh), a character now rivalling Gregory as the most eye-scratching, the Alexandrians use Sasha's martydom as an opportunity to turn the tables.

Gunfire ensues, blood is spilled and, ultimately, déjà vu is experienced: Rick and Carl find themselves knelt at Negan's mercy as he primes Lucille for them.

Unbeknownst to the viewer, this moment is pure set-up for the amalgamation of every plot strand this season has followed since last October heralded by the hugely unexpected appearance of King Ezekiel and his pet tiger Shiva that may have you on your feat shouting at the top of your lungs in celebration.

The Kingdom - led by Ezekiel, Carol and Morgan - and the Hilltop - led by Maggie and Jesus - all arrive, wreaking vengeance on The Saviours. It's thrillingly-paced, blisteringly-edited set piece, the effect of which could only have been achieved had the writers taken their time to languidly sow the seeds throughout this past season.

It's a series highlight filled with fleeting character interactions that you may not notice the first time around (Rick and Morgan's nod will spring hairs on end; Negan's middle finger as he's chased out of Alexandria will make you howl).

As an extended battle sequence, it sparks anticipation for the battles to come in season eight - and, for many viewers, it's a perfect slice of humble pie.

More of the same next year, please.



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