The first episode of season seven of “The Walker Dead” aired and fans got to experience Negan, possibly the most terrifying villain since Hannibal Lector, in popular culture in his full glory. Viewers got to see one of the most aggravating yet compelling cliffhangers in recent television history resolved plus the most horrific breaking of a man, Rick since O’Brien made Winston Smith love Big Brother in the Room 101 scene in “1984.”

Spoilers ahead.

Negan, after walking up and down the line of our heroes kneeling before him, chanting, “Eeny, meeny, miney, mo” as he twirled “Lucille,” his barbed bat.

Then Negan chose Abraham for destruction. The former sergeant makes one last gasp of defiance before the evil leader of the Saviors bashes his brains out. Then Darryl strikes at Negan, so the lesson has to be taught again. Glenn, the favorite of many fans, fell under the bat.

What followed was the systematic breaking down of Rick, the leader of the group, and the grounding out of every hint of defiance The hunt for the axe was followed by a grotesque replay of the Sacrifice of Abraham and Negan forced Rick to lop off his son’s arm, at least up to the point of the axe actually being swung.

Then Rick and the group knows who is in charge and so Negan can safely leave them alone, taking Darryl with him as a hostage. Maggie, understandably, has been pushed beyond the boundary of madness.

One of the aspects of a zombie apocalypse is that the walking dead are not the greatest threat. Once one understands the behavior of the zombies, they can be dealt with. The real threat is people like Negan and the Governor before him, unshackled from the restraints of civilization, finding talents for atrocity that they never knew they had, to be a tribulation on their fellow humans, just trying to survive the collapse of civilization.

The problem is now how to deal with Negan, a man who has equal measures of intelligence and cunning, with the kind of madness that allows him to enjoy inflicting death and mayhem to such an extent that he gets sexual release from it. Season seven will push the envelope of tension and horror.

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