It’s hard to believe, but here we are once again at the end of another season of The Walking Dead. This has not been the best season of the show, but neither has it been the worst (check back next week, when I’ll post an article on my overall impressions of Season 7). But as poor as the season has been at times (Episode 706 “Swear” anyone?), I still feel that it can be redeemed by a strong finish this week; lord knows, the show needs a strong kick-butt finale to leave us wanting more, and hopefully one with action that won’t leave us with bad feelings in our stomachs (click here for my review of last week’s episode, complete with my reasons why Rick and the group crossed a few lines). As usual, this preview assumes you’re up to date on the show – scroll down past the spoiler warning for the goods.

[Spoiler Warning: This Sneak Peek of The Walking Dead Season 7 Finale, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” includes promotional material from AMC, discusses recent episodes, assumes a knowledge of everything that has happened in the series to date, and will speculate on future events. Read on at your discretion.]

Episode: 716
Airdate: April 2, 2017
Directed by: Greg Nicotero
Showrunner: Scott M. Gimple
Written by: Scott M. Gimple, Angela Kang, Matthew Negrete (written by); Frank Darabont (creator); Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard (series of graphic novels)

This week’s IMDB episode synopsis: “The stakes continue to grow higher as paths cross; The group enacts an intricate plan.”

Wow. Not particularly telling, this time around, unlike the last couple which gave us a fair bit of info. To parse this out – things are going from the frying pan into the fire. The intricate plan part of it is precipitated by the final completion of the anti-Negan anti-Sanctuary alliance – with the guns and ammunition unceremoniously stolen from Oceanside last week, the Scavengers’ part of the bargain is now in full effect. So at this point, we have: Alexandria, The Scavengers, The Kingdom (although Rick isn’t aware of it at this point), and a few Hilltoppers led by Maggie and Enid (who may or may not be a part of events this week). That’s a lot of firepower, but I suspect they’re still out-gunned by Negan’s Saviors. Their only advantage at the moment is surprise, and how much of that do they really have, considering that Negan seems to think that he needs Sasha to help make things “right” again with Rick?

To get a few more insights, let’s take a look at the two preview videos released by AMC this week. First, the Sneak Peek video:

We’re in the Kingdom for this one. Ezekiel speaks as Morgan looks off into the middle distance. “Accompany my regiment,” he says. “The Saviors are a dragon with many heads, their numbers legion. We must seek allies in this endeavor.” He pauses, and looks at the armor Morgan is wearing. “That’s Benjamin’s armor,” he says, and Morgan briefly glances at him. “Do you wear it to serve you, or do you wear it in his honor?” Morgan looks distinctly uncomfortable. He wants to answer, but seems uncertain how to. “Morgan,” Ezekiel says, a note of understanding in his voice – Morgan looks at him again, this time holding Ezekiel’s gaze. “You are not stuck. Join us on this journey, to create an alliance. Fight with us, and we shall defeat them, so that no one will suffer under their capricious malevolence again.” How can you not love Ezekiel’s words? Morgan looks off again, and shakes his head, turning it into a brief nod. Ezekiel looks at him intensely, saying, “And we start once more for the fallen.” He turns back to where his soldiers are lined up, Carol with them holding a machine gun. “For the Kingdom…For the glory of victory.” Gerry is there, holding Ezekiel’s standard, and Diane, one of his warriors, holding Shiva’s chain. He takes the chain from her hands. “Ho!” he shouts, and they start moving forward. Carol walks on the other side of Shiva, and gives Ezekiel a brief smile. They’re heading to war.

This is an intense scene, and Khary Payton’s King Ezekiel is at his enunciatory best. He and the writers actually had me checking google to see if the “we start once more” was a line from Shakespeare. Morgan is conflicted throughout the monologue, and Lennie James’s ability to act without speaking is on fine display. Morgan’s had to struggle with his inner demons more than anyone else this season, and here we’re seeing the result of not only losing his son-surrogate (Benjamin), but the putting aside of his personal code of ethics. He didn’t just break his code in killing Richard three weeks ago; by doing it with his bare hands, he committed fully to a betrayal of the self he’s constructed over the last couple of years. He doesn’t just feel guilty – he feels lost. I wouldn’t want to be standing in his way as he tries to figure out who he needs to become now.

It’s also clear at this point that the alliance isn’t completed. They’re clearly heading for Alexandria, as it was Rick who proposed an alliance to him in the first place, back in Episode 709. Ezekiel has no way of knowing that a) the Scavengers are on-board (or even that they exist, for that matter), or that b) Rick has found a metric crap-tonne of guns and ammo. This is the best of all worlds for Ezekiel. He’s taking a huge chance even moving forward at this moment, although he knows that matters are coming to a head with the Saviors. Richard’s death will only assuage and distract them for so long, before they figure out that the game has changed. There’s also the issue of possibly being seen moving to Alexandria – it’s a pretty safe bet that Gavin, the Savior in charge of interactions with the Kingdom, would be keeping an eye on things. Don’t be surprised if we see a confrontation before Ezekiel and his regiment can arrive at Alexandria.

Now let’s take a look at the “On the Next Walking Dead” video:

As usual, a montage style. We begin with a bunch of people on bicycles followed by a garbage truck arriving through the gates of Alexandria. This is, of course, Jadis and her group of Scavengers showing up at Alexandria as their part of the deal made with Rick back in Episode 710. I love the fact that they’re driving a garbage truck – nice detail. Cut to Tara positioning a car against another, blocking a road. Cut to Savior mainstay Simon, his crew using chainsaws to unblock a road covered in downed trees, Dwight speaking in voice-over: “I can slow them down.” Rick, holding his gun on Dwight’s head – “Why?” “‘Cause I want Negan dead.” Sasha in her cell, the door opening and light falling on her where she is laying down. “What do you need from me?” said as we cut to her sitting up, Negan’s hand and Lucille in the frame. Cut to Negan, bandanna around his throat, “You are going to help me make sure things get back on track today.” As he speaks, cut to Aaron, Rosita, and Daryl coiling up stacks of dynamite in the back of a cube van, and then to Carl with a machine gun manning the walls of Alexandria with others. The camera pulls out – there’s a whole array of people on the wall, all armed, with Rick and Jadis in the foreground. Quick cuts to Daryl (with Tara in the background) and Rosita at the gate, everyone looking somber and ready as the background music escalates to a climax. Cut to black and silence – beat. Sasha in voice-over: “No one. Has to die.” Close-up on Negan with Lucille over his shoulder, and a horde of Saviors behind him, Dwight just out of focus in the near background. “You are wrong.” A series of flash cuts: a row of shopping carts blocking a road (Richard’s trick from Episode 713); the Kingdom regiment, guns at the ready, camera focused on Carol in the middle; Morgan, for a tenth of a second, Carol to his right; the regiment, once again before they left, as Ezekiel is not yet with Shiva; then Ezekiel holding Shiva’s chain, glancing at Carol as she grimly looks back at him; Michonne pulling her sniper scope away from her eye, looking surprised and worried; Sasha and Eugene walking side-by-side inside the Sanctuary, a shadowed figure behind them; Jesus and Maggie in the forest, looking at something that seems to worry them; Carl in the fore with Rick behind him, running through Alexandria with their machine guns; Daryl shoving Dwight up against the wall of his cell, pushing his great big Bowie knife in the sometime-Savior’s face, and then a close-up of Daryl looking down the blade; Rick in a two-shot, from the right and then the left, coming around the front of the motor-home, raising his machine gun into firing position and panning from his right to left.

And last part of the montage? Seven seconds. Thirteen shots of eleven different scenes in seven seconds. Whoever puts together these montages is getting way more efficient. Pretty soon, they’ll be layered subliminally, and I won’t be able to parse them out for you at all! So what we have here is what appears to be a steady build-up toward a direct confrontation with the Saviors for the first time. I worry that the brief appearance of Sasha and Eugene means we might be getting a Governor-with-Hershel-and-Michonne type moment (remember from back in Episode 408 when the Governor had Michonne’s sword?). I don’t think Negan is going to get rid of Eugene – he’s potentially too useful to him – but Sasha is by no means safe. Typically someone important dies in season finales and premieres, so don’t be surprised to see her go.

For the rest of it, it’s good to see that Jadis and her people are as good as their words. They’ve received the guns they asked for, so now they’re showing up to fight Negan. It still doesn’t excuse Rick’s behavior in taking the guns from Oceanside in the first place, but at the very least we’re going to be getting some narrative momentum. Negan, for his part, looks far too confident in the shots we see him in. For a guy being confronted for the first time by an organized resistance, he really doesn’t look to concerned at all. That said, it could be indicative of the way they manipulate scene order for the preview videos – he might not look quite so confident after facing Rick and the Scavenger group up on the walls of Alexandria.

The scene that worries me the most is the one with Carl and Rick running through the streets of Alexandria, guns at the ready. This indicates that there may be a breach of the walls, meaning they lose their only advantage in the moment, which is the protection those walls offer. And what is it that Jesus and Maggie see while coming through the forest? Things are coming together, but the allied groups are still widely dispersed, with any Hilltop help a day away, and Ezekiel only moving now with Carol and Morgan in tow, an indeterminate distance away.

Things are going to come to a head this weekend. There will be shots exchanged, there will be people killed, there will be an open ultimatum given to Negan and his Saviors – Rick’s had enough, and he’s ready to fight. And so are the rest of the Alexandrians. It will likely be something of a cliffhanger, with unknowns and unanswered questions. But with any luck, it will also be the strongest episode of the season. We’ve had two seasons at Alexandria now, one and a half since the threat of Negan and his Saviors emerged. It’s time to stand up and fight back. Hopefully, this weekend’s season finale will provide the catalyst that is needed, and finish off Season 7 on a high note.