Strong ‘Walking Dead’ Finale Leaves Fans Weirdly Excited About the Future

A triumphant death and a well-timed assist from a tiger gave the rip-roaring season 7 finale some much-needed catharsis

(Spoilers ahead, obviously, for the season 7 finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”)

One of my biggest complaints about “The Walking Dead” in general is it rarely allows anyone to have time to enjoy victories, thanks to its insistence on filling every possible moment with existential dread. Not so for several episodes on season 7, however — including the finale.

It was a near thing, of course. This show can’t ever just let Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and co. win a fight straight up and call it a day. They had a plan for dealing with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors when they paid a visit to Alexandria. It didn’t work, because their new allies, the Scavengers, betrayed them after having worked out a better deal with Negan offscreen.

Then came the first moment of triumph, and the best death of a major character we’ve seen on “The Walking Dead” so far. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), who had been locked in a coffin during the trip from Sanctuary to Alexandria because Negan loves being theatrical, had secretly taken Eugene’s suicide pills on the way over. When Negan popped the coffin, Sasha came out a walker, giving the Alexandrians just enough of a distraction to get the fight started (shout out to Carl for taking the initiative there). In death, Sasha gave our heroes a fighting chance.

But then they lost, and once again Rick and Carl were on their knees. Negan said he was going to kill Carl, and Rick didn’t give up his fighting spirit the way he did last time they encountered Negan this way. And, thankfully, Rick kept the conversation going long enough that their real allies were able to save the day — Negan was just about to kill Carl when a flipping tiger flew into the frame and ate one of the Saviors.

That tiger, as we all know, is Ezekial’s (Khary Payton) Shiva. The forces of both the Kingdom and the Hilltop showed up just in time to win the first battle of the war against the Saviors. Negan got away, yeah, and a lot of Alexandria residents died — but, hey, those were all just extras. The main characters made it out of this one alive. Except for Sasha, who went out triumphantly.

And to cap it all off, Maggie got to give a touching speech about #family over a montage at the end.

So another season of “The Walking Dead” is down, and this time we get to go into the offseason feeling pretty good. Yeah, we know things are going to get bad next season once the war really kicks off, but it’s nice to be able to enjoy this win for a while.

Fans on Twitter are pretty much in agreement on that point, as you’ll see in my selection of the social media reaction below. Check it out.