Eenie, meenie, miney, moe. Where Lucille stops, now we know. After months of waiting, various trailers, and cryptic teases from the cast and crew, The Walking Dead answered a long-lingering question in the season 7 premiere: Which member of the Rickatorship did Negan kill?
Well, don’t kill the messenger, but our worst fears were confirmed: Negan had two victims. So you don’t have to wait in suspense any longer, Abraham was the first to go — and the surprising second kill was Glenn. Here’s how we got to this point.
Even though the episode picks up directly where we left the group in the season 6 finale, the story prolongs the cliffhanger. The camera shows a close-up of a horrified, numb Rick, blood from Negan’s first victim streaked across his face. Accompanied by soft whimpers grieving the loss of a comrade, Rick vows to kill the tyrant one day in the future, even if it’s not today or tomorrow.
Negan just smiles and asks one of the Saviors (Simon) to fetch Rick’s weapon, a hatchet. Holding it in his hand, he mentions Simon is his right-hand man and how important it is to have one of those. “I mean, what do you have without it? A whole lot of work,” he says, alluding to a moment fans of the comic books have been wondering about ever since the Governor was first introduced in the TV series. On the page, the villain of season 3 severs Rick’s hand during a hostile interrogation, but the series has been hinting the event might be coming to AMC in some other context.
Negan sheathes the weapon, but then grabs Rick and drags him into his trailer, promising to be right back before laughing that they might not be.
Once in the trailer, Negan tries firing it up, saying he’s going to take his new prey on a little ride. He provokes Rick to grab the axe now lodged in the table, but when he does, Negan is standing there with a machine gun in hand. He knocks Rick to the ground and gets back into the driver’s seat. “I want you to think about what could’ve happened, think about what happened, and think about what could still happen,” he says.
A mist descends upon the road as Negan drives ahead. Walkers smash against the windshield like mosquitos while Rick begins to have flashes of Rosita and Glenn. When the trailer finally stops, Negan sits next to Rick and makes it clear that all his possessions, including his axe, now belong to him. He opens the door and throws the weapon out into the walker-infested beyond, commanding Rick to go fetch his new prize.
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Tossed out, Rick sees more flashes of Sasha, Eugene, Aaron, Abraham, Maggie, and Daryl as he fights his way through a herd of walkers and onto the roof of the trailer. From above, he sees that the pile of logs the Saviors set ablaze to block the group’s path in the season 6 finale has burned through the center, and the man flung over the side of the overpass is dangling from a noose as a member of the living dead.
Rick crumbles to his knees in tears as he sees more flashes of Michonne and Carl, the sound of his grief interrupted by Negan’s taunts: “Bet you thought you all were gonna grow old together.”
NEXT: Rick recalls a horrifying scene
Staring up at the sky, Rick flashes back to what actually happened when Negan swung his bat. Even though fans heavily criticized the show for its prolonged cliffhanger, viewers had to wait even longer as the flashback showed when Negan first began his “eenie, meenie, miney, moe” game — only this time, it’s from Rick’s perspective.
His bat lands on Abraham, who straightens up on his knees to face his executioner with his remaining dignity. After the first blow to the head, Abraham says, “Suck my nuts,” which only makes Negan laugh before swinging his barbed wire-laced bat down again (and again) until nothing discernible remained.
After staining Rick’s face with a twirl of Lucille, Negan exclaims “Look at my dirty girl,” and points his weapon in front of Rosita, who’s left staring at her former lover’s remains. When she doesn’t comply, he screams and shouts, which sets off Daryl: He leaps up and gets one punch to Negan’s face before the Saviors pin him to the ground.
Negan calls this a big “no no,” but stops Dwight from putting an arrow into Daryl’s head with his own crossbow. The Saviors drag him back in line, but their leader isn’t done. Negan reminds the group he said the first instance of disobedience was a free pass, but the second one would not go unpunished. “I’m a man of my word,” he says. “First impressions are important.”
That’s when he turns to strike Glenn, the first surprise blows popping his eye out of the socket. Only one person died during this moment in the comics, and it was Glenn, but the death of Abraham was an attempt at misdirection. With Glenn’s on-screen death came the reintroduction of life-and-death stakes. Virtually inaudible, the only words he can garble out before Negan finishes the job are devastating: “Maggie, I’ll find you.”
Negan gives Rick one more chance to fight through the walkers and get the weapon. He fires warning shots through the trailer’s ceiling to motivate him, forcing Rick to leap onto the hanging walker to avoid injury. He dangles there, his weight threatening to sever the decaying corpse and cause him to fall to the grasping walkers below. He does, but Negan shoots most of the undead before Rick’s forced to scramble away.
Rick finds the weapon in the grass and uses it to hack his way back to the trailer. This time, he sees flashes of Negan hitting other members of the group with Lucille. (The producers filmed death scenes for each member of the group; some thought this was meant to keep the true victims under wraps, but there was a use for the extra footage after all.) The door is locked, but Negan, still playing with his food, lets Rick wait in suspense for a moment before opening the door and firing off rounds into the herd. With Rick safely inside, Negan holds out his hand for the axe, which is reluctantly returned to his grasp.
NEXT: A close shave
Arriving back at the execution site, Negan attempts a sociopathic way of leveling with Rick, saying he understands it must be difficult for him, having been “king sh-t for so long.” Further showing his dominance, he forages in the trailer for a bottle of water and wipes his bloodied axe on Rick’s jacket. But he says Rick can still have a productive life providing for him and the Saviors. He holds out the axe to see if he’ll accept these terms, and Rick does. He has no other choice.
The pair reunites with the rest of the group, but Negan is still not happy with Rick. He explains he took him on the trip because he didn’t like the look in his eye. “I wanted you to understand, but you’re still looking at me the same damn way, like I sh-t in your scrambled eggs. And that’s not gonna work,” he says.
Despite Rick’s cries, Negan doesn’t think he gets the message. He commands the Saviors to point guns on all members of the group before turning to Carl. He ties his belt around the boy’s left arm and forces him face down on the ground. Catching a marker from Simon, he draws a line across the boy’s arm, and Rick has the horrifying realization that he’s going to be forced to perform the deed himself. If he doesn’t, Negan vows to kill every last member of the group, including Carl — but pledges to leave Rick for last so he can live with the horror of his decision not to comply.
Michonne attempts to plead with Negan, but he says the point is to make Rick submit to the new authority. Rick tries to sacrifice himself for his son, but Negan eventually grows angry at his inaction and begins a three-second countdown. Now completely broken, Rick raises the axe to amputate Carl… But Negan kneels down and allows the act to go undone, though not before grabbing Rick by the chin and driving home his warning.
“Today was a productive damn day,” he says. “Now, I hope for all your sake that you get it now.” Before the Saviors depart, Negan tells Dwight to load Daryl into their black van: “He’s got guts.” He warns Rick that if he ever tries anything against him, he’ll come to his doorstep and force him to “cut pieces off of Daryl.”
Rick and the rest of the survivors are left the trailer to “cart all the crap” they find for Negan, who warns they’ll arrive at Alexandria in a week to claim their first offering. Left in the dust along with the bodies of Abraham and Glenn, Maggie struggles to get to her feet and hobbles over to her husband’s remains. She screams for the rest to head back to Alexandria so she can be alone, but they all refuse to leave her and instead come help move Glenn’s body.
Maggie wants them to prepare to fight, but Rick — clearly no longer the Ricktator he once was — is fearful of Negan’s army and what they would do to the now-imprisoned Daryl. As they band together to dispose of their deceased, Rick hears the voice of Negan in his head. A vision appears, one of what might’ve been: The entire group enjoys an outdoor feast as Glenn bounces his child on his knee at the head of the table.
Rick picks up the axe and gets into the trailer, but spots a walker emerge from the woods. As he slowly drives towards the rest of the group offscreen, he sees the dead in his side mirror crouch down to nibble at what remains in the two spots of blood now scorched into the gravel. The camera ends the hour on Rick’s quivering, scared stare.
I wasn’t too emotionally devastated, probably because of the drawn-out cliffhanger. Within that time of suspense, every possible theory was considered ad nauseam and fans came to expect the worst of the worst possible scenario. What if Glenn had been forced to watch the death of a pregnant Maggie? What if fan-favorite Daryl was the one to perish? Yes, the ultimate reveal was unsettling, but those who read the comics up to this point were prepared for Glenn’s demise. This is one of those cases where too much suspense may not have actually helped the end goal.
The group now faces a brave new world — or, as Negan says, “Welcome to a brand-new beginning, you sorry sh-ts.”