“Hang on to the world as it spins around/ Just don’t let the spin get you down/ Think of moving fast/ Hold on tight and you will last…”
Sasha listens to Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free” when the season 7 finale begins, her face illuminated only by the glow of her iPod. She’s no longer in the cell at The Sanctuary; the rumble of the road accompanies the melody as she slips into a flashback, featuring a surprise return of Abraham. He wakes her from a nap before they bring Maggie to Hilltop, a trip that leads to his death.
If it’s true that life flashes before one’s eyes in the face of death, then this is Sasha’s moment of reflection. It’s also a moment for the show to look back on all that’s come before and, hopefully, move forward.
This flash of Abraham and another of Maggie frame the extended finale of a season marred by the character’s demise. In the morning, Negan brings a pancake breakfast, complete with a blueberry smiley face, for Sasha. “Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life,” he says, giving the episode its title. He explains that it’s up to her to get things with Rick back on track after a little birdie revealed to him his plans for rebellion. (We’ll get to which little birdie in a moment.)
At Alexandria, the group is struggling to accept the surprise aide of Dwight, who claims he wants to help kill Negan. Tara urges Daryl to kill him instead, still haunted by the memory of Denise, but even as he has Dwight pinned against a wall with a knife, threatening to gouge out his eye, Daryl decides to spare him. Dwight warns that Negan is coming the following morning but offers to chop down trees and block the road to give them more time to prepare. As he rides off to execute the deed, Daryl promises Rick vengeance if he’s lying.
Another flash of Sasha telling Abraham she had a dream of his death interrupts Negan’s plan for his captive, though he mentions Lucille will “get her three” with plans to pull the victims “out of the pool.” She says no one needs to die, but it’s her tears that squeeze a touch of sympathy from Negan, who settles on killing just one. Punishment, he says, is a necessity that “built everything we have.”
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Rick won’t have to face Negan alone, however. Maggie suggests to Enid and Jesus that she lead the Hilltoppers to Alexandria to fight back, while we see Ezekiel marching Carol, his tiger Shiva, and other forces from the Kingdom. They stumble across Morgan along the way; he set up a barricade as a means of ambushing The Saviors on his own, but Carol reminds him that an army of one approach doesn’t work against Negan. Despite Morgan’s dramatic and tortured descent into a psychotic break, Ezekiel is able to persuade him to join their regimen with an impassioned speech about “capricious malevolence” and honoring the memory of Benjamin.
The sun is hanging over the church steeple when Jadis and her junkyard crew enter Alexandria. Daryl, Rosita, and Aaron are wiring bombs in a truck just outside the front gate, Michonne is loading guns on a nearby roof, and Jadis even makes a pass at Rick in celebration of their eventual victory. Negan and Simon are stuck waiting for their men to clear out the trees Dwight cut down earlier, so everything seems like it’s going to plan. But the threat of Negan’s little birdie still looms.