“If people die today, it’s because of the choices they make.”
There’s prophetic, and then there’s Eugene. The Walking Dead’s Mr Pragmatism is right yet again. And in retrospect, it’s the second most devastating thing he says, right behind “I am Negan.”
This being a finale, and with Negan being involved, we knew there would be deaths, and indeed there are – although somewhat surprisingly, just the one that can be deemed ‘major’. And sadly her identity comes as no surprise whatsoever.
Having grudgingly admitted that one person needs to die, Sasha seems perfectly okay with it being her. In the past we have been critical of The Walking Dead’s willingness to sacrifice characters cheaply – they began this very season doing so – but here, it makes sense.
She goes out as she wanted, on her own terms, and with maximum impact. While the announcement of her impending recruitment to the USS Discovery robbed her demise of the element of surprise, it didn’t lose it any gravitas. She doesn’t just get a death scene; she gets an epilogue, and it’s one she deserves.
And the show itself improves as a consequence. Here, The Walking Dead finally stops trying to be Mad Men, and becomes a conventional TV show. Sticking to episode structure and promoting fan service isn’t normally something we’d praise a show for, but here it’s exactly what was needed.
Shiva chomping on some Saviors? Check. Negan one-liners? Check. Eugene being enigmatic? Check. A conclusion that is both satisfying while simultaneously drawing a line under what has happened and marking the starting point of Season 8? Again, check.
In short, it achieves exactly what a season finale should. It was never going to mark Negan’s end, as some imagined – driving out of Alexandria with his middle finger raised – he’ll be back. But it has changed things. We saw something approaching worry – or at least something far away from his normal cocksure demeanour – when Rick repeated his promise expressed in the Season 7 opener that he would kill him.
And there’s Eugene. Negan clearly knows that he had a hand in Sasha’s demise, yet he doesn’t execute him on the spot. All in good time.
So that was Season 7. If only it had all been like this.