The Walking Dead wrapped up its seventh season with a bang and a bite. At long last, the war with the Saviors has begun. It's Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom vs. the Sanctuary and the Heapsters, whose betrayal of Alexandria set the episode's big action in motion.
Before the fight, though, we said goodbye to Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green).
The episode begun with a close-up on Sasha's sweaty, pained face in the dark as she listened to music. She was drifting in and out of consciousness and half-remembering, half-imagining her life with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). She didn't want to fight at that moment, she just wanted to stay home with her man.
That was intercut with Sasha's conversation with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The ostensibly deleted scene released on Friday wasn't deleted at all, as he came in to Sasha's cell and told her that she was going to help him get things back on track. She was adamant that no one had to die, but Negan has to punish someone. They eventually negotiated that just one person has to die. It was her.
Over at Alexandria, Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) got in Dwight's (Austin Amelio) face as Dwight pleaded to let them help them, explaining about how Sherry saved them all. Daryl finally lowered his knife from Dwight's eye; Rosita (Christian Serratos) finally mentioned that the Saviors have Sasha, and that letting Dwight help may be their only chance to get her back. Dwight warned that Negan's coming tomorrow, and said that he can help slow him down. Dwight has even bigger plans for how to help beyond that, and outlined his plan about how Alexandria could wipe the Saviors out with his help. He said he could convince the rank-and-file laborers at the Sanctuary to join him, and then they could all go outpost to outpost and kill the Saviors at each one.
Judith was at the Hilltop for safekeeping. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) explained the situation to Jesus (Tom Payne), who said, "It's all about to happen." Gregory's gone, off to the Sanctuary to snitch, and Maggie's in charge. She decided to lead the Hilltop into battle.
Morgan (Lennie James) was still having doubts about fighting alongside the Kingdom until King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) gave him a pep talk. The knights — and the tiger — rolled out, and we didn't see them until later, when they made a very grand entrance.
The Heapsters arrived at Alexandria to pick up the guns, and Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) asked Michonne (Danai Gurira) if she'd be alright with the big weirdo having sex with Rick (Andrew Lincoln). (Their reactions will make great gifs for when somebody says something awkward, by the way.) Explosives expert Rosita and her crew rigged up some dynamite, while Michonne found a sniper's nest. The tension was building.
The Saviors finally showed up, with Eugene (Josh McDermitt) passively threatening his old friends, saying, "Will you comply, Rick?" Rick asked, "Where's Negan?" and Eugene answered, "I'm Negan." Traitor! Rick gave the signal to set off the truck bomb and it didn't go off. Then the Heapsters turned their guns on the Alexandrians. More traitors! Jadis said they made a better deal with the Saviors. Rick made a mistake trusting someone with a haircut like that. Someone like that has no shame.
Negan then presented Rick with a coffin, saying that Sasha was in there, alive and well. He'd give her back in exchange for the guns, Daryl, the pool table and one person of Rick's choosing to be sacrificed to Lucille. Rick asked to see her — and then it cut back to Sasha's memory. Abraham told her that everything they do, they do for someone else. If they die, it will be in service of something bigger. It's almost verbatim what Sasha told Rosita before they went to the Sanctuary. Back in the recent past, Eugene gave her an iPod. Remember how big iPods used to be? Remember iPods at all? She got in the coffin, put on Donny Hathaway's "We'll All Be Free," and swallowed the pills.
In the present, zombified Sasha rushed out of the coffin and jumped on Negan, and everybody started shooting. Carl (Chandler Riggs) shot a Heapster. Rosita took a bullet. Zombie Sasha got pulled off Negan and killed the Savior who gave Enid a grammar lesson a few episodes back. Jadis shot Rick in the hip and kicked him off the wall. She marched him through the Unsafe Zone to where Negan had Carl kneeling. "This is just gonna make you sad," Negan told Rick. Negan reminded him that he's not someone to f--- with. He decided Carl — remember Carl? We haven't seen much of him in 7B — had to die. Just then, Rick saw somebody fall from a house. He thought it was Michonne. Negan said he's also going to smash Rick's hands. Rick reiterated what he told Negan when he killed Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham: that's he's going to kill him. Not today, not tomorrow, but someday.
Negan smiled, like "whatever, bro." And as he brought up the bat to smash Carl's dome, TIGER ATTACK! SHIVA ATE A DUDE'S FACE! The Hilltop arrived at the same moment, and the tide of the battle turned. The Saviors and Heapsters were on the defensive. The Heapsters set off smoke grenades and fled like the cowards they are. The Saviors retreated, too.
Rick found the smashed body of a Heapster, then ran upstairs and found Michonne, bloodied but alive. "We are, we will," he told her, and they embraced.
Back at the Sanctuary, Negan asked Eugene how he thought Sasha died. Eugene said she suffocated. But Negan stared for a very long time, and said "maybe." Just when Eugene thought things were copacetic, he's in trouble again. Negan stepped out to his kneeling gathered subjects, and said, "We're going to war!"
Jesus and Maggie found Sasha in the woods, and Maggie put her down. Daryl found a lead army man on which "DIDN'T KNOW" was written, presumably left there by Dwight, meaning he didn't know that Sasha was dead and the Heapsters would betray them. The leaders of each community spoke to their gathered people about what's to come.
Over that, Maggie gave a speech about how Glenn's faith and self-sacrifice made this all happen, way back when they all first met.
"We were in trouble," she said. "We were trapped. Glenn didn't know you, but he helped you. He put himself in danger for you. And that started it all. From Atlanta, to my daddy's farm, to the prison, to here. To this moment now. Not as strangers; as family. Because Glenn chose to be there for you that day a long time ago, that was the decision that changed everything. It started with both of you, and it just grew. All of this. To sacrifice for each other. To suffer, to stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live. To fight for each other. Glenn made the decision, Rick. I was just following his lead."
The season ended on a shot of Maggie's father Hershel's (Scott Wilson) pocket watch in her hand. Hershel had given that watch to Glenn. The speech ended the season on a hopeful, thankful note, far from the bleakness of where it started. Glenn and Abraham's deaths lingered over the whole season, and the finale made sure that their deaths weren't in vain. They died so the people they loved could live.
It was a solid end to an inconsistent season. It was certainly a much more satisfying ending than Season 6's cliff-hanger. It ended a chapter. Season 8 will turn the page.
The Walking Dead will return for Season 8 in late 2017.