[Spoilers for the Season 7 finale of The Walking Dead follow, read at your own risk!]
The Season 7 finale of The Walking Dead offered up a few surprises: The Garbage Pail Kids turning on Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and crew, Shiva the tiger gnawing a few dudes' faces off, and Heapster leader Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) wanting to knock boots with Rick.
What wasn't surprising at all was the death of Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), which was telegraphed a long, long time ago. If her suicidal tendencies didn't give it away, if the tragic end of her relationship with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) wasn't enough, then it was Sonequa Martin Green's new job as a space nerd (I kid, I kid) that made it clear she wasn't going to make it through Season 7. We've been writing our condolences for months.
And given that everyone knew she was dying, The Walking Dead at least made her death count and gave her a pretty awesome send off. She downed that suicide pill Eugene (Josh McDermitt) made several episodes back, and leapt out of a coffin while trying to eat Negan! That's wayyyyyy better than how her bro Tyreese (Chad Coleman) was unfortunately sent off, by daydreaming and then getting eaten. It was especially not bad considering her purpose on the show and connections to everyone else (after the deaths of her brother, boyfriend, and other boyfriend) were always negligible, at best.
Sasha's coffin ride was over-the-top symbolic, but The Walking Dead has never been one to push subtlety. She was, no matter the outcome, a goner, but in taking Eugene's suicide pill, she made her death her own. It was an especially strong statement considering how badly Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tried to recruit her for his cause. I still don't know what the whole plan was, or how Negan ever thought that Sasha was really going along with his plan — one of many plot holes that pockmarked the finale — but Sasha's intention was clear and strong. She may as well have blasted "You Don't Own Me" on her Gen 2 iPod instead of the song she was actually listening to.
Sure, the flashbacks with Abraham probably could have hit the editing room floor. I mean, I never bought their relationship, and the show never tried to push it that hard, giving us one part of an uneventful episode to believe that these two somehow fell in love with each other. Abe fans got one last fix of the creative curser, but these flashbacks didn't help Sasha's death ring any more emotional.
Sasha and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) also spent some time in the finale staring off into space in a weird mid-dimensional fantasy world, which was a puzzle for us to figure out. Again, the finale built up her relationship with Maggie to make her death hit harder, but Maggie's postscript was about Glenn finding Rick more than it was about anything else, and those dreamy shots of Maggie and Sasha looking at the sunset/sunrise became even more confusing and misguided.
The Walking Dead tried to make Sasha's death feel bigger than it was, but it didn't need to. Sasha wasn't in the comic books, and the show had trouble effectively linking her to the other characters. That's what made Sasha's decision to kill herself, which she made without interference or influence from anyone else, the best way to serve her character.
We all knew Sasha was going to die, that was never in question. Thankfully The Walking Dead got the "how" part right.
The Walking Dead will return for Season 8 later this year on AMC.