Sigh…Need a Hug After that Walking Dead Premiere? C’mon, Bring It In.

SPOILERS, MY PEEPS. Why would you even click this if you didn’t know who Negan killed tonight?

Okay, hello. How’s it going, champ? Yeah…it’s been a pretty rough day. Hard time to be a Walking Dead fan, huh?

So…as you know, this happened (I’m gonna spare the gruesome aftermath and instead show images from right before Lucille met these skulls):

The recipient of Negan’s twisted game of “Eeny meeny miny moe,” was regrettably Sergeant Abraham Ford. Afterwards, Daryl made the fatal error of trying to take Negan out himself, and doing so caused Negan to rear up and take out a character present in the show since Episode 1.1 and fan-favorite Glenn Rhee. The rest of the episode delved deep into just how sadistic and cruel Negan and the Saviors can be, and was overall incredibly exhausting for anyone who watched tonight.

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I want to go into my experience watching the show tonight. I am still in shock that my best friend won tickets to see the premiere episode tonight, followed immediately by a live taping tonight of The Talking Dead at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I got to see my hero, Chris Hardwick, hosting the biggest panel in the show’s history, featuring Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Norman Reedus (Daryl), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha), Christian Serratos (Rosita), Ross Marquand (Aaron), Josh McDermitt (Eugene), Robert Kirkman (creator), and Scott M. Gimple (showrunner). Also in the audience to support were Melissa McBride (Carol), Lenny James (Morgan), Austin Amelio (Dwight), Alanna Masterson (Tara), Tom Payne (Jesus), and Greg Nicotero (director/makeup artist). Everything was perfect. We had incredible seats, were surrounded by 500 incredible fans, and we all got to experience this episode together.

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All the panelists (sans Jeffrey Dean Morgan), huddled together in the pouring rain.

I have had the outrageous good fortune to attend several panel events, and every time I leave, I am bouncing off the walls with joy and excitement from what I have just experienced. Not this time. I’m sure it will hit me in a few days how much of an amazing evening this was, but for right now, I am absolutely exhausted.

There are really two things that stood out to me this evening: the first was the sound. Every time something horrible or stressful would unfold, hearing everyone around us scream or cry created this tangible energy. As a group, we were panicked, frustrated, terrified, and grieving. Particularly horrifying was the screech let out from all of us at Glenn’s final, choked-out words: “Maggie, I will find you.”

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All of us in that moment.

The second thing that has truly shaken me to my core is the fact that as soon as Negan’s bat hit Abraham’s head, it began to rain. Los Angeles is still in the middle of what appears to be a never-ending drought, and rain is still very much a rarity. Of all days, it rains tonight, on a night that was predicted to have a 0% chance of rain. It rained from that moment throughout the rest of the show and on to The Talking Dead, where it began raining so hard that Hardwick, stubbornly refusing to use an umbrella, had to have his body mic replaced mid-show. The joke throughout the evening was that the episode was so sad, even “Jesus was crying.”

The weirdness doesn’t end there, however. Hardwick wrapped up the 90-minute episode with his typical sendoff, and at that moment, the rain stopped entirely. Soggy and defeated, everyone packed up rather quickly and began to walk back to our respective parking structures. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of the day, perhaps it was all of us walking through a cemetery at night, but we were all silent. It was a harrowing experience.

When I came home, after calling and texting other friends who were watching the episode as it came on in each respective time zone, I went online to see the rest of the United States’ responses. They’re horrifyingly sad.

I want to take a moment to talk about why moments like this can affect fans in such a way. At the end of the day, this is a fictional television show based on a fictional graphic novel. But time after time, in example after example, media is able to capture our imaginations. So why did watching the bludgeoning of two beloved characters send most of the zombie-loving world into an emotional coma tonight?

Because we have spent upwards of seven years with these characters. Because we get to have sixteen hours of time with them over sixteen weeks of the year. We see them at their best and worst, identify with them, and see ourselves in their successes and failures. When we lose them, we lose our family. Tonight I felt like I was in that lineup with the rest of Rick’s group. I was crying just as hard, I felt just as hopeless and panicked. Walking Dead fans are going through a mourning period, and that is normal despite its fictional nature. No one really died. Negan doesn’t exist. But because these characters made us feel, we feel connected to them in a deeply personal way.

I am so sorry. If you’ve read this, you went through similar emotions tonight, and this was just as horrible as was advertised by the cast and crew earlier this summer. But, if nothing else, notice how cool it is that you belong to a community of like-minded nerds that get it. We’re in this together. What Negan did tonight has just become personal, and through this shared pain, we now have an even deeper connection to what will unfold in the rest of this season, and future seasons to come.

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They gave us tiny tissues because they KNEW we’d need them!
All photos by author. Gifs from giphy.
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