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If you’re anything like me, then you have spent the vast majority of the summer months discussing at great length all of the possible “what if,” scenarios about whose gray matter was going to see the light of day during the opening minutes of the Walking Dead season premiere this past Sunday. You also probably mapped out all the different paths the show would have to take depending on who they decided on. Some of you were way off, (you knew Daryl wasn’t going to bite it! Come on!) some of you were close, if not spot on. That’s all behind us now. Creatives Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman,and Greg Nicotero have decided on the path they are going to take us on and the journey has begun. Tragically, that meant the brutal death of not one but, two beloved characters. Yes, they’re dead. No, this is not a dream. Their heads no longer exist. 

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Now that their deaths have sunk in, your body pillow has been soaked in tears, you’ve probably posted on social media how upset you are. The memes have hit Facebook, that Glenn and Abraham have been ushered into the great unknown by Harambe or, whatever god you worship. The question now is where do we go from here? I don’t mean where is the show going to go but, that is part of it. What I mean is where do WE, as fans, go from here? Do we remain jaded and cynical or do we open ourselves up for the greatness this season could be? If you’re still a fan that means you’ve gone through the abysmal “Where is Sophia?” patch. You’ve had to suffer through the annoying and poorly written character of Andrea as well as her nonsense story arch (as a fan of the comic this was the worst!). You watched the bland and cliché ridden Governor while he twirls his mustache and oozes lame episode after episode. You’ve watched your beloved redneck with a heart of gold Daryl be pushed to the back burner because they clearly ran out of ideas on what to do with him (but WE RIOT if he dies. Right?). Lastly, fucking Nicholas! That’s all before the fake outs, the episode padding and the cliffhanger even Stallone wouldn’t hang from. Good for you! You’re still here eagerly waiting for next weeks episode.

This is a bold thing to say but, in my opinion, it is the truth. Season 7 is the climax of The Walking Dead series. It just is. There is maybe enough content left to get to a season 9 but seriously, that will be most certainly entering Dexter as a lumberjack territory. No one wants that. To use another Dexter analogy this season needs to be the Trinity killer and not Colin hanks! I guess time will tell if this climax is gripping and grand or, sub-par and mediocre. At some point there will be a final episode of The Walking Dead, it’s just a matter of if any of us are going to care to watch it by the time it happens. Season seven has a lot to live up to on all fronts to win back the people they lost and reenergize the people they’re losing. If the first episode is any indicator then it is at least on the right track.

*NOTE: Fair warning for the rest of this article, I am going by the assumption that you have read the comic. I am going to talk about the plot points a bit although I will do my best to leave out too many spoilers. In trying to craft what the season should be it is a necessity, though.

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If you are not a fan of the comic and don’t have the desire to read all 159 issues I understand. I would recommend that you do read issue number 100 Something to Fear part 4 through issue number 126 All Out War part 12. The content of these Issues not only represent what SHOULD transpire in season 7 but, honestly are the embodiment of everything that makes the comic special. Read it! Now, over the lifespan of the show, there have been many departures from the source material. They Switched character deaths, had multiple character amalgams, invented scenarios and invented characters to name a few. I’m fine with all of it for the most part. Even the die-hard comic fans are left guessing and it keeps things fresh. The problem is all these departures come at a cost. Trying to account for it all left many muddled sloppy moments from season one all the way until Negan introduces himself at the end of season 6. It has annoyed the fans of the comic and has confused the people who just watch the show. Those are not good things.

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The good news is it is all over now! All but one of those loose ends were cut now that the group has prepared to bury Glenn and Abraham. The only thing left to account for, really, is Daryl. Before you correct me yes Carol too but, now that Rick and Michonne are a thing Carol has taken on most of the brooding depression of Michonne’s character from the comic and will likely follow that path which doesn’t change much. Daryl on the other hand, has the ability to either come back full force and add some seriously interesting content to the mix or, slog on how he has been which could easily derail some of the most interesting parts of this storyline. Either by forcing the writers to omit these sequences entirely or, by Daryl just coming in to throw a monkey wrench in it. If it meant killing him to keep the great story, plot twists and intensity intact I’m on board. Yeah, that’s right folks I’m done with Daryl! He needs to go asap.

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Next weeks episode, judging by the trailer is going to focus mainly on introducing the Kingdom, King Ezekiel, and his tiger Shiva. With probable intercuts of everyone picking up the pieces and grieving. It will be one of those slow talky episodes like the one when Morgan became Donatello. If you want a theory here’s one, the episode is going to end with Rick having the town meeting where he bows to Negan’s will but, in secret, confides in Jesus that he’s planning for war. As Negan and the Saviors leave with their first offering from Alexandria, Carl will go missing. He will be stowed away in the back of Negan’s truck as they head back to the Savior stronghold. His plan? To kill Negan. The end. What will transpire in the following episode with Carl and Negan is one of my favorite moments in the entire comic. It’s an important moment that speaks volumes about who Negan is. Ahh but, how can any of that happen without accounting for the fact that Daryl is captured by the Saviors? Do they do the awesome Carl scenes? Do they give the scene to Daryl where it will come off standard issue? What to do, what to do? Will Daryl be punished for Carl’s actions? Hmmm, I think Lucile is getting hungry. See, Daryl is a problem.

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Later on in the season, we will learn that Dwayne is not such a bad guy after all and actually despises Negan and only does what he does to keep from having the other side of his face burned with an iron. He then decides to join forces with Rick and becomes a double agent. How can any of that happen with Daryl around? It really can’t. Who’s going to lead the Saviors after Negan? Dwayne? Or Daryl? More than Likely Daryl which works but to get there it’s just going to be a paint by numbers subplot we’ve seen so many times already. I could go on for more but, the point is it has never been more important how the writers account for Daryl than it is this season.

Sasha’s uncertain fate is also in question since she is also an invented character. She holds aspects of multiple characters from the comic but, now the most important one is that she was in love with Abraham and is now hell bent on getting revenge. The fate of Abraham’s woman in the comic is a dark and twisted one. Really the girl in the comic was forgettable, I can’t even remember her name but, her death was awesome! Now do they give that death to Sasha? God, I hope so. It will arguably be far more shocking than what happened last week.

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Let’s talk about Maggie for a moment. It was very upsetting watching Glenn die no question about it. Watching him sitting with his baby at the fantasy island Thanksgiving dinner pulled every heart string I got. I got Misty. If you are just a fan of the show his death broke you. I do assume you have at least one jerk friend (guilty ) that told you all summer that it’s Glenn but, nonetheless, his loss weighs heavy. It is for the greater good, though. It lowers the stakes so much to imagine them living happily ever after leading the hilltop together. It falls flat dramatically. In the comic Maggie is a survivor but, more of a housewife type character. They made her a much stronger female lead on the show. The switch from housewife to bad ass stone cold leader of hilltop was an exciting transformation. Maggie taking control of hilltop is an absolute certainty. She is on that path. Hopefully,her transformation is as exciting being that she is already such a strong character already. There is potentially a lot of missed opportunity that could happen in this subplot if the writers fail to capitalize on the difference between comic Maggie and TV Maggie. Terminator Maggie is what we need.

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When the smoke clears and Negan is taken down, what are they going to do? Even as a fan of the comic I went back and forth on this one. In the comic, they don’t kill him! Yup, he’s alive and well at least to issue 150. Yeah, I’m a few issues behind. Wanna fight about it? The percentage of fans that haven’t looked at a single issue is far higher than that of the ones who have. I think even though dramatically putting Negan in prison works better, let’s be honest, fans are out for blood! They want his head bashed in. It might rub the fans the wrong way letting him live. You have to know that had to go into Kirkman’s head when they wrote the season. The Hanibal Lector aspect of him in a jail cell is quite glorious though. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can stay as long as he wants, though. Best casting the show has done in its history. He could be the only driving force left to sustain the show to a season 9 and beyond. If they kill him to please people consider that the fork in the proverbial turkey.

The final question and it’s the one for all the marbles, do they contain the entire All Out War series into one season? To me, it’s a no-brainer absofuckinglutely they do. If they break the war into two seasons it fails period. End of story. There is no easy way to bookend it into two seasons and have it work there just isn’t. If they trim the fat of the comic keep it contained in season 7, make smart decisions about what to do with Daryl(kill him), lots of tiger eating zombie action, Opening of Saving Private Ryan level battles, and many Negan scene-stealing moments. I’m good! I am putting my faith in the creators to give us a remarkable seventh season. The sad truth is King Ezekiel and his tiger are but a taste of how surreal and bizarre the storyline goes after the war. It’s a path that works real well on the comic page but much more difficult to imagine in a television show (Even if that show involves zombies)  Maybe they head down the surreal path (I actually hope they do) maybe they forge their own and depart entirely from the comic after season seven. Either way, Its all downhill from here.

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