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"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"
The Walking Dead episode
Maggie sasha
The scene is a callback to the season 5 episode "Them": Maggie and Sasha watch the sunrise. The episode details flashbacks of Sasha to show her decision to sacrifice herself for the group.
Episode no. Season 7
Episode 16
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple
Angela Kang
Matthew Negrete
Featured music "Someday We'll All Be Free" by Donny Hathaway
Original air date April 2, 2017
Running time 60 minutes
Guest actors
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Something They Need"
Next →
"Mercy"

"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" is the sixteenth and final episode of the seventh season of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead, which aired on AMC on April 2, 2017. The episode was written by Scott M. Gimple, Angela Kang and Matthew Negrete, and directed by Greg Nicotero.

In the episode, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) comes to terms with the decision to commit suicide while in captivity in order to kill Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) reanimated. Brief flashbacks show her short-term relationship with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and her friendship with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) as a reason to sacrifice herself to protect her friends. Further storylines include the start of the build-up to the All Out War arc with the various aligning survivor communities facing off against Negan and the Saviors.

This episode marked Sonequa Martin-Green's final appearance in the series as Sasha Williams. Cudlitz reprised his role as Abraham in flashbacks. Khary Payton, Steven Ogg, Katelyn Nacon and Pollyanna McIntosh reappeared as guest stars, before being upgraded to series regulars for the eighth season. This episode was also dedicated in memory of American comic artist Bernie Wrightson, who died on March 18, 2017.[1] The episode received positive reviews from critics.

Plot

Cutaways throughout the episode show Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in a dark, secluded and enclosed space, listening to a song on an iPod, while struggling to maintain consciousness. During the music, Sasha has flashbacks about separate past events with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

At Alexandria, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and others are surprised to find Dwight (Austin Amelio) in a prison cell. He insists that he is there to help them kill Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). He warns them that the Saviors have captured Sasha, and are planning an attack on Alexandria. Dwight offers to stall them and Rick tentatively agrees. Rick contacts Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and the Scavengers to tell them that their help is now needed at Alexandria.

In the Sanctuary, Negan visits Sasha and tells her that three people from Alexandria must die for their transgressions, but Sasha bargains him down to one and agrees to help with his plan. The Saviors prepare a convoy, which will include putting Sasha inside a casket atop a flatbed truck for the trip. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) provides Sasha with an iPod and some water for the trip before the casket is closed. They encounter a roadblock set up by Dwight, delaying their arrival at Alexandria, by which point all of the armed Alexandrians and Scavengers are in position to defend the walls.

Eugene attempts to negotiate with Rick, who is standing with Jadis on a guard tower at the gates, but Rick refuses and they stand their ground. Negan begins to taunt Rick, revealing that he was prepared, as Jadis and the other Scavengers suddenly turn their weapons onto the Alexandrians, having taken Negan's offer over Rick's. Negan has the flatbed with the casket pull up, and prepares to show them Sasha, offering to let her live if Alexandria surrenders and turns over all their possessions; otherwise all will be killed. Rick demands to see proof that Sasha is alive, and Negan obliges, pulling open its cover.

In flashback it is shown that, after the casket was closed, Sasha ingested the suicide pill that Eugene had given to her the day before. When Negan opens the casket the reanimated Sasha attacks him, creating a distraction that allows Carl (Chandler Riggs) to take a shot at the Scavengers. Chaos erupts as the Alexandrians fight against the Saviors and Scavengers. Rick attempts to help but Jadis continues to hold him at gunpoint. Negan is rescued from the turned Sasha and orders the Saviors to execute "Plan B". When Rick tries to negotiate a new deal, Jadis refuses and shoots him in the stomach and pushes him off the tower, after which she climbs down and leads him away at gunpoint.

Jadis takes Rick alongside Carl, also captured by the Scavengers. As Negan prepares to kill them with his baseball bat, Lucille, suddenly Shiva the tiger mauls a Savior guard, and shortly afterwards the Kingdom and Hilltop forces led by King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Maggie, including Carol (Melissa McBride), Morgan (Lennie James), Jesus (Tom Payne) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) flood in to attack the Saviors and Scavengers. Rick and Carl overpower their guards and join in. Negan, Jadis, and the other Saviors and Scavengers are forced to retreat, though Negan is shocked to find Maggie is still alive, having been led to believe that she had died. Rick races to find Michonne (Danai Gurira), who had been battling a Scavenger to death, and they embrace.

The Saviors regroup at the Sanctuary and Negan asks Eugene if he knew how Sasha died; Eugene feigns the suggestion that she may have died from suffocation in the casket. Though doubtful, Negan accepts Eugene's hypothesis, and tells the other Saviors that they are going to war.

In Alexandria, Maggie and Jesus tearfully put down the reanimated Sasha. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) provides a eulogy for the fallen. Daryl discovers a note from Dwight, asserting he was unaware of the Scavengers' betrayal. Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel agree to combine their forces to launch a war against the Saviors.

Production

Sonequa Martin-Green 2016

Sonequa Martin-Green made her final regular appearance as Sasha in this episode.

The finale marks the final appearance of Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams, having been on the show since the season three episode "Made to Suffer", which aired on December 2, 2012. The death is a remix of the character Holly from the comic book, however there are some significant differences.

Scott M. Gimple stated on Talking Dead that “It was always about Sasha not being a victim. She had wanted a weapon from Eugene. She wanted a knife. She didn’t get one, so she became the knife.” Martin-Green explained Sasha's decision to sacrifice herself and felt that it was “right and complete”. She said, “It was quite poetic [...] it was the perfect end to my story, the perfect culmination of my life. I felt like all of my roads had led to that moment of getting to that place of complete selflessness. Also, it was beautiful because the way I saw it, that warrior spirit lives on. That even in death, I was still going to fight, because I had realized my purpose. It had been revealed to me. Everything before that had been self-preservation, self-defense mechanisms, basically self-obsession. And over the course of my life as Sasha, it was progressing beyond that to the point that I said, ‘O.K., I now have a greater purpose that is much bigger than me, that’s for the future, and I’m going to do it even in death.’”[2]

Speculation had arisen over Martin-Green leaving the show to play the role of Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery. However, she dismissed these claims and said, "...what was happening on Walking Dead was already underway. It was the path. It was definitely in place. And then as we were going into the very end of the season, the very end of our shoot for the season --- that's when the opportunity for Star Trek came. And so I know some people might think that I left Walking Dead to do Star Trek, but it did not happen that way. It was after Walking Dead was already ending that the opportunity for Star Trek came."[3] Martin-Green said she was aware of the death of Sasha for a while, though was unaware of the details "until a few weeks before". She said, "I didn't know it would be the suicide pill and the Negan of it all. What Scott did tell me is that it would be heroic and sacrificial and that it would be perfect end to the story. He'd thought about it for a long time and had a vision of it for a very long time."[4]

Although Tyreese is not mentioned, Sasha's death serves as a parallel to her brother's death scene in the fifth season episode "What Happened and What's Going On". Both episodes begin with a flashforward of the deaths (although this is not known until the end of the episode) and feature re-appearances of dead characters, as well as the episode titles referencing time.[5]

Reception

Critical reception

"The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an 81% with an average rating of 7.5 out of 10, based on 37 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life" overcomes sporadic doldrums with an action-packed battle sequence, satisfying and innovative storytelling, and impressively imaginative use of a tiger.[6]

Jeff Stone of IndieWire gave the episode a "B-" grade and summarized it saying, "The Season 7 finale is poorly paced, but has enough thrills to get by." Stone appreciated that Sasha "went out fighting in her own way" but was highly critical of Negan saying, "Negan proves he’s still the dumbest villain of all time, because even after all that, he refuses to kill Rick." He criticized Maggie's ending speech and called it "repetitive and sappy".[7] Kevin Fitzpatrick of Screen Crush gave the episode a positive review saying, "It’s a strong finish to an otherwise uneven season that already alienated many viewers with its premiere, and I appreciate the level of artistry on display in smaller moments like the callback to Sasha and Maggie watching the sunset, or that closing montage. The Walking Dead could use more episodes operating on this frequency, and I suspect there’s lessons to be learned here.[8] Blair Marnell of CraveOnline felt the episode "gave Sasha a memorable send off…and then it just kept on giving it to her. The intercutting between Sasha’s dream reunion with Abe, her time with Negan and Eugene, and her final moments in the coffin was an interesting way to chronicle the last hours of her life. But it went on for far too long." Overall, she noted the slow pacing and filler episodes of the season and felt "it robbed the series of its urgency". On the upcoming war, she assessed, "In theory, the “All Out War” storyline could and should be more intense, but this show's recent history suggests that its approach isn't going to change. Eventually, the audience's willingness to put up with the sluggish pace will catch up with this series. Given the declining ratings, it's possible that it's already started to happen. The Walking Dead has pulled off some amazing feats over the last seven seasons, but even this show can't last forever."[9]

Stuart Jeffries of The Guardian called it "a satisfyingly gaudy ending, with mobile caskets, shots to the gut and the return of Shiva the almighty CGI tiger."[10]

Kevin Yeoman of Screen Rant felt the episode was "a drag" but assessed that Sasha's death served as the episode's highlight. He went further saying, "Her plan, to become a spring-loaded zombie in Negan’s coffin [...] worked like a charm and the episode’s technique of filling the frame with Sonequa Martin-Green’s face while she listened to some Donny Hathaway and reminisced about Abraham set the tone for her departure and suggested that even with the loss everything would be okay. Surprisingly, that’s where ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ excelled. At making one character's death feel like it meant something after so many of them have increasingly felt like distractions from a go-nowhere plot. In the end, Sasha's death also provided a necessary distraction, one that let Rick and his crew turn the tables on the duplicitous Jadis and her junkyard kids, and finally push back against the bully in the schoolyard. It's just too bad the rest of the hour wasn't as effective as losing Sasha."[11]

Elise Nakhnikian of Slant Magazine was critical of the ending but praised Sasha's scenes. She assessed the ending as a whole, "...it was disappointing when the season ended with another inconclusive skirmish between the Saviors and Alexandrians. True, this latest attempt at rebellion was a different order of magnitude than any of their earlier clashes: a de facto declaration of war. But it was so badly botched that it did little to change the balance of power, functioning mainly as a prolonged teaser for the battle that will follow (if the TV gods have any mercy) in season eight." Nakhnikian felt Sasha's subplot gave the "most emotionally engaging moments, as it did in “Something They Need.” She assessed that, "The irony of her entering a casket so fully alive and coming out of it (un)dead is poignant, and the initial challenge of figuring out what's happening in her scenes is intriguing, as close-ups of her sorrowful face in the dark give way to flashbacks to her conversation with Abraham and occasional shots of her sitting quietly on a bench next to Maggie. Unlike Maggie's final voiceover about the power of the community Rick's group has established, which tells us nothing we don't already know in language too pedestrian to stir any emotion, Sasha's story resonates, letting us mourn the loss of a character whose best epitaph is delivered by Negan: “You are smart, hot as hell, dignified as shit, and you don't suffer one goddam fool.”[12]

Ratings

The episode received a 5.4 rating in the key 18-49 demographic, with 11.31 million total viewers.[13] It is the show's lowest-rated season finale since season 2.

References

  1. Stolworthy, Jacob (April 3, 2017). "The Walking Dead season 7 finale: Who is Bernie Wrightson, the person episode 16 was dedicated to?". The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/the-walking-dead-season-7-finale-episode-16-who-is-bernie-wrightson-dedicated-loving-memory-a7663661.html. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  2. Bradley, Laura (April 3, 2017). "Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green Explains Sasha’s “Poetic” Fate". Vanity Fair. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/04/walking-dead-sasha-death-sonequa-martin-green-talking-dead. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  3. Schwerdtfeger, Conner (April 9, 2017). "Did Sonequa Martin-Green Leave The Walking Dead To Make Star Trek: Discovery? Here’s What She Says". CinemaBlend. http://www.cinemablend.com/television/1645179/did-sonequa-martin-green-leave-the-walking-dead-to-make-star-trek-discovery-heres-what-she-says. Retrieved April 9, 2017. 
  4. Goldberg, Lesley (April 3, 2017). "Sonequa Martin-Green on Her Journey From 'Walking Dead' to 'Star Trek'". The Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/walking-dead-season-7-finale-sonequa-martin-green-star-trek-discovery-990836. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  5. Phillipps, Tracey (April 3, 2017). "Greg Nicotero’s signature on both Sasha and Tyreese deaths". Undead Walking. http://undeadwalking.com/2017/04/03/greg-nicoteros-signature-on-both-sasha-and-tyreese-deaths/. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  6. "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life". Rotten Tomatoes. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_walking_dead/s07/e16. Retrieved December 14, 2017. 
  7. Stone, Jeff (April 3, 2017). "‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ Ends The Season With An Adequately Satisfying Bang". IndieWire. http://www.indiewire.com/2017/04/the-walking-dead-review-season-7-finale-spoilers-recap-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life-1201799786/. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  8. Fitzpatrick, Kevin (April 2, 2017). "Review: ‘Walking Dead’ Finishes Strong (But Predictable) in S7 ‘All-Out War’ Finale". Screen Crush. http://screencrush.com/walking-dead-season-7-finale-review/. Retrieved April 2, 2017. 
  9. Marnell, Blair (April 3, 2017). "THE WALKING DEAD 7.16 ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life’ Review". CraveOnline. http://www.craveonline.com/entertainment/1242463-walking-dead-7-16-first-day-rest-life-review. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  10. Jeffries, Stuart (April 3, 2017). "The Walking Dead season seven finale – The First Day of the Rest of Your Life". The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/apr/03/the-walking-dead-season-seven-finale-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  11. Yeoman, Kevin (April 2, 2017). "The Walking Dead Season 7 Finale Review & Discussion". Screen Rant. http://screenrant.com/the-walking-dead-season-7-finale-review-negan-rick-death/. Retrieved April 2, 2017. 
  12. Nakhnikian, Elise (April 3, 2017). "The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 16, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"". Slant Magazine. http://www.slantmagazine.com/house/article/the-walking-dead-recap-season-7-episode-16-the-first-day-of-the-rest-of-your-life. Retrieved April 3, 2017. 
  13. Porter, Rick (April 4, 2017). "Sunday cable ratings: ‘The Walking Dead’ finale lowest since Season 2". TV by the Numbers. http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/daily-ratings/sunday-cable-ratings-april-2-2017/. Retrieved April 4, 2017. 

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