The Walking Dead season 7 premiere, The Day Will Come When You Won't Be, took twenty agonizing minutes to reveal which character got beaten to death by Lucille. The wait was as crushing as expected, opening a distinctly different chapter in television's most watched show. Two beloved characters were dispatched mercilessly by Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) barbed-wire wrapped bat. Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) was the first to meet his grisly end. Then when Daryl (Norman Reedus) attacked him, Negan decided another lesson was due. He savagely tears into Glenn (Steven Yeun), mocking him, as he pounded his face to a bloody pulp. The Alexandrians have a new master. Their lives all belong to Negan now.

The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere opens with the side of Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) face covered in blood. He and the surviving group are still kneeling in front of the RV. The deed has occurred, but at this point we still don't know who has been killed. Negan presents Rick the axe of the man he bludgeoned. Rick says he will kill him, not today, or tomorrow, but his time will come. Negan laughs. He grabs Rick and pulls him into the RV. He cuts the axe into the table, and then takes the wheel. As they drive off, he continues to taunt Rick. Rick grabs the axe, but Negan is ready. He turns around swiftly holding a machine gun.

Negan has driven the RV to the first blockade the group encountered. This is where a walker was hung from an overpass. Negan opens the door and tosses the axe outside. He tells Rick to bring his axe back to him. Rick is thrown outside to the pit of walkers. He fights his way unto the roof of the RV. Then, in flashbacks, we finally see what happened.

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Negan made his rounds amongst the Alexandrians. He squares up on Abraham, who looks him defiantly in the eyes. Negan clocks him. Blood pouring from his face, Abraham, spit and vinegar to the end, tells Negan to "suck his nuts". Negan laughs off his bravado and beats him to death. As the group watches in horror, Daryl breaks free and punches Negan. The lesson has not been learned. Negan spares Daryl, but then takes a mighty swipe at Glenn. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) screams in terror as Negan methodically dispatches Glenn.

Rick cries on the roof of the RV. His respite is short-lived as Negan starts shooting through the roof. Bring him the axe. Rick jumps unto the hanging walker. The others start pulling him down. Negan shoots them through the back window of the RV. He tells Rick that he's running out of time to save his friends. Rick imagines Negan beating the others to death. He finds the axe and attacks the horde of walkers. He is about to be overcome when Negan let's him back in the RV. He stares into Rick's eyes. Rick is still defiant. Negan wipes off the bloody axe on Rick's jacket.

Negan drives the RV back to where the Saviors are holding the group. He positions Rick in front of everyone. Then Negan tells Carl (Chandler Riggs) to step forward. He throws the boy to the ground. Pulls up his sleeve, then draws a line across Carl's elbow. Rick must use the axe to cut off his son's hand. If he doesn't, he will watch them all die, then the destruction of Alexandria. Rick weeps in agony. Negan begins to count down. Carl says that it's okay; he has to do it for them to survive. Rick pleads for mercy as he raises the axe. Negan stops his hand. He stares Rick in the eyes. The defiance is gone. Rick has been broken.

Negan tells his men to take Daryl hostage. He leaves Rick the RV and the axe. He will come to Alexandria in one week to pick up half of their supplies. If Rick tries anything, Daryl will pay a severe price. His men take photos of Lucille's handiwork. The Saviors leave the group at daybreak beside the smashed bodies of Glenn and Abraham. Maggie is distraught. She tells Rick that she will go to the Hilltop alone. That he must get back, prepare to take revenge. Rick replies he cannot, the Saviors would kill them all.

The episode ends on a somber note. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) bury Abraham. Carl, Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Aaron (Ross Marquand) lay Glenn to rest. Sasha will accompany Maggie to the Hilltop to see the doctor. The rest of the group gets in the RV. As Negan's voice over taunts them again about happy endings, we see a scene of everyone at dinner, laughing and smiling. Glenn, holding his child and Abraham are at the head of the table. As Rick drives away, he looks back to see a walker eating the pieces of Glenn and Abraham left on the ground.

After months of build-up and speculation, we got the carnage as promised. The deaths of Glenn and Abraham mark a turning point. Negan is clearly the master of this new domain. He has whipped Rick into submission by raw brutality. The Alexandrians must now supply the Saviors or be destroyed. The Walking Dead succeeds by being unpredictable and cutthroat. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan was magnificently villainous. He is vicious, but to serve a purpose. He took Daryl to control Rick, but I have a feeling he will find use for Daryl's skills. The season begins with tragic losses. We'll see if Negan gets his comeuppance, or if Lucille gets more screen time bashing in brains as the season continues next Sunday on AMC

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Julian Roman