On the whole, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” is a slow burn, even for an episode of The Walking Dead, but somehow manages to be kind of interesting, though ultimately rather disappointing.
1. The Strange Case of Sasha Williams
The overall use of Sasha in this episode is very strange. The cuts to her in the casket, listening to her iPod (which is somehow still charged) and not actually being in danger of running out of air (despite the acknowledgement of the problem in the final scenes) tend to make the entire experience more surreal than unnerving, more confusing than disturbing. Even when she ended up taking the cyanide pill herself, the suicide seemed more like a relief than anything else.
For a character who didn’t really have much role in the series in recent episodes beyond “that woman who’s friends with Maggie and Jesus and is hated by Rosita,” it was pretty hard to feel sad for her death. She seemed more like a plot device than anything, especially in this episode.
2. Alexandrian Standoff
The opening to the fight seemed rather by-the-numbers to start with. The talk between Rick and Negan (and Eugene, sort of) was very similar to the talks with the Governor Phillip Blake in sesaons past, but due to the sheer numbers on both sides, the lack of real reason to care about most of the people in Alexandria, the extremely weird portrayal of Jadis’ group in general, and characterization of almost anyone of the Saviors themselves beyond jerks, none of it really seemed to matter.
Jadis and Farron’s revelation of their betrayal was a relatively good point, but even that seems to barely matter. The reasons for this will be explained further down.
3. Exit, Pursued by a Tiger
The entrance of Shiva to the battle that ensued afterwards was rather humorous, especially once it was repeated in a manner akin to a cartoon.
The battle itself, with the culmination of Maggie and Ezekiel’s plans, was very satisfying, though it ended up coming rather late in the episode, leaving the feeling on the majority of it all pretty hollow.
But still: a tiger jumps in out of nowhere and tackles someone in a zombie show. That is something you don’t see every day (and, judging from their apparent lack of peripheral vision, neither do the Saviors).
4. The Invincible Rick Grimes
Over the course of the show, it seems that Rick doesn’t really have any lasting physical harm to himself. He gets his hands threatened in this episode, but goes back to his “I’m going to kill Negan” attitude, which is pretty weirdly placed given he is in a very similar situation to the one in the season premiere. It’s probably meant to say he’s grown better, but it comes across as very odd.
If he had lost the use of his hands, or at least of one hand, in a permanent way, perhaps he would seem more relatable as someone who could be forced into the situations he is in. As it is, Mr. Grimes seems to be pretty much unstoppable, which takes a lot of the tension out of the threats he faces. This is especially prominent in how he doesn’t even seem remotely upset beyond anger at the prospect of Carl possibly dying to Lucille’s strike. His blubbering apology in the season premiere added pathos, but here, he just seems to not care at all, making it hard to care whether or not his family actually survives.
5. All-Out War?
By the end of the episode, we seem to be on the way to a true war between factions. Battle lines are being drawn… but it barely felt like an opening. Instead, it felt more like a random skirmish. The Woodbury-Prison war felt more like one than this, and the sides were smaller.
Perhaps later episodes in next season will make up for this, but on the whole, this finale felt somewhat lackluster.