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The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 16, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 16, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 16, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

Skipping lightly across the surface of relationships and individual states of mind to focus on the stockpiling of weapons or the formation of fragile alliances, The Walking Dead’s seventh season was almost exclusively about the march to war. Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) sadistically fetishized slaughter of Abraham and Glenn in the season opener established him as a ruthless despot who could only be unseated by extraordinary means. Several characters, including Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Morgan (Lennie James), and Ezekiel (Khary Payton), tried to resist the call to battle that was Maggie’s (Lauren Cohan) unwavering response to Negan’s psychotic display, but their reservations were swatted away with no real debate, creating the illusion that war was the group’s only viable alternative.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 15, "Something They Need"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 15, “Something They Need”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 15, “Something They Need”

Aside from the armored walker that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) fought in the junkyard where Jadis’s people live, it’s been months since roamers posed a credible threat to anyone on The Walking Dead. They’re usually just a slightly titillating excuse for some action, and the catalyst for a jolt of camaraderie or tension among the humans they encounter. True to form, the barnacle-festooned skeleton that stumbles into focus at the start of “Something They Need,” and the herd that materializes behind it, lurch obligingly into Oceanside just as Rick’s arms raid is teetering on the edge of catastrophe.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 14, "The Other Side"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “The Other Side”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “The Other Side”

The absence of dialogue in the scenes before the opening credits of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Other Side,” makes Maggie (Lauren Cohan) seem nearly iconic: a legend in the making. Throughout these scenes, she teaches knife-throwing and does that benevolent-leader thing of acknowledging people by placing a reassuring hand on their shoulder. It’s good to see her, since she’s been absent from the last few episodes, and particularly gratifying to see her looking good, almost as happy and loose as Rick and Michonne did during their extended supply run in “Say Yes.”

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, "Hostiles and Calamities"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Hostiles and Calamities”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Hostiles and Calamities”

The gods must have heard my prayer. Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Hostiles and Calamities,” takes a break from the hatchet-faced military strategizing and obligatory slicing and dicing that’s lately dominated the show to look at Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Sanctuary, that Dantean dystopia with an Orwellian name. The death count isn’t quite zero in this episode, but Dr. Carson’s (R. Keith Harris) Holocaust-evoking demise feels anything but titillating or gratuitous. And, for the first time I can remember, not a single walker is whacked, though one does lose its bottom half, along with some gooey innards, as part of its slow slide toward total disintegration.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 8, "Hearts Still Beating"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Hearts Still Beating”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Hearts Still Beating”

This season’s start was as bleak as any in The Walking Dead’s history, but the show’s midseason finale closed on a major note of hope. Tested by the fire of Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) sadistic dictatorship, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and most of his core group wound up stronger than ever, determined to stand up to their tormentor—and to do it together. “Hearts Still Beating” ends on a shadowy figure who’s spying on our survivors, the close-up of his (or her?) boots establishing that it’s the same person who shadowed Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Rick on their supply run earlier that day.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 7, "Sing Me a Song"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “Sing Me a Song”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “Sing Me a Song”

The Hitchockian opening scene of tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Sing Me a Song,” makes clever use of Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) inscrutability. Walking down an initially empty country road and whistling “The Farmer in the Dell” to attract her prey, Michonne is the epitome of the existentially alone western hero she personifies more than anyone else in Rick’s group as she sets a walker-lined trap whose purpose is disturbingly opaque. The close-up of the sword and walkie-talkie she leaves behind as she drags a body down the road is a particularly unsettling bit of misdirection: Is she planning to commit suicide by walker? And even if she’s doing something else, like setting things up to make it look as if walkers got her so she can go underground, how long can she survive without that sword?

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 3, "The Cell"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Cell”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Cell”

The latest colony explored on The Walking Dead is Negan’s dispiriting dictatorship, a world of gunmetal grays and muted greens and blues whose residents exude an air of beaten-dog obedience. Angela Kang’s screenplay efficiently establishes both the riches that are available to the Santuary’s elite and the price paid by one and all for their relative safety and comfort.

The stage setting starts with the opening scene, in which Dwight (Austin Amelio) moves through the compound to build a sandwich, taking bread from a group of chefs in a big kitchen, adding mustard so unnaturally yellow it can’t be homemade, and passing by a bunch of chickens to get tomatoes and lettuce from a garden. The room where Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) receives people is a time capsule from the pre-walker world, with its comfy armchair, bookshelf, and matching kitchen cabinets. Luxuries like booze and cigarettes appear to be plentiful, at least for Negan and his inner circle.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 7, Episode 1, "The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 7, Episode 1, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

My husband used to fret that I was convinced civilization was about to collapse because I watched zombie movies, but he had it backwards. Having grown up in 1950s and ’60s Detroit, I saw firsthand how fragile even apparently solid social infrastructures can be, and ours seem particularly vulnerable these days. To pick just three existential threats out of a very large hat, hackers are poised to shut down the Internet, a foreign dictator plays chicken with nukes while an American presidential candidate keeps asking why we don’t use ours, and a global refugee crisis makes homelessness in New York City look manageable by comparison. That’s why I love stories about the zombie apocalypse: They’re a safe way to explore my fears about the breakdown of society, and to imagine how we might rebuild our lives and create communities after a major disaster.

The Walking Dead Recap Season 6, Episode 16, "Last Day on Earth"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 6, Episode 16, “Last Day on Earth”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 6, Episode 16, “Last Day on Earth”

Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “East,” ended with what felt like a dozen cliffhangers. Maggie, after getting a new hairdo for reasons that were far more symbolic than practical (if she were truly concerned about a walker grabbing her by the hair, she would have cut it a long time ago), clutched her stomach in agony and fell to the floor. Did she lose her baby? Carol, after obliterating a group of Saviors, set off for destinations unknown, with Morgan and Rick hot on her trail. Is she forever lost to her friends and surrogate family at Alexandria? And, of course, there was Daryl’s blood as it splattered, like something out of a pulp film, on the camera’s lens as Dwight shot him from behind and said, “You’ll be all right.” But is he truly all right?

The Walking Dead Recap Season 6, Episode 15, "East"

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The Walking Dead Recap: Season 6, Episode 15, “East”

Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Recap: Season 6, Episode 15, “East”

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead is a coup of sorts, and one that you might have seen coming. After all, “East” was co-conceived by Scott M. Gimple, whose last teleplay for the show was “Here’s Not Here.” The lessons learned by Morgan in that episode are pointedly advanced here, and in ways that suggest that “East” was written by Channing Powell as a riposte to last week’s “Twice As Far,” which was so cagey about so many of its characters’ intentions that Denise’s self-psychoanalysis at the end came to suggest both a weird telegraphing of her death and a meta-textual frustration on her part with the show. Much of what felt hidden last week is refreshingly, if bluntly, laid on the line here, but with a price, as “East” confirms my suspicion of The Walking Dead’s dubious opinion of one of its most finely shaded characters.