The reveal of Sasha’s death in The Walking Dead season 7 finale was so powerful, much like the reveal of brother Tyreese’s death, both of which were directed by mastermind Greg Nicotero.
While Sasha’s death was very much her own experience and a riveting story unto itself, I could not help but identify some similarities in the way her brother Tyreese’s death was portrayed in season 5 of The Walking Dead.
While the episodes for both of the Williams siblings were very emotional, they were very artistic in nature as well.
Episode titles play with time
Tyreese’s death episode was titled ‘What Happened and What’s Going On”. Sasha’s death, of course, occurred in the season 7 finale titled ‘The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”.
First of all, both episode titles are a bit verbose. But they both also make references to time. Tyreese’s episode title makes reference to past and present, while Sasha’s makes reference to the future. Interestingly, if you put both titles together, you get the full experience of time past, present and future, which sounds more like the circle of life, than death, itself. Hmm . .
Both of the Williams’ siblings death episodes begin with flashforward scenes.
In the case of Tyreese, many suspected we were seeing Beth’s burial having just picked up after her death at Grady Hospital. In actuality, we were flashing ahead to Tyreese’s gravesite.
Sasha’s death was seen in the beginning of the episode long before she is actually transported in the coffin to Alexandria. Of course, it is not explicit, and one could easily have presumed she was still in a darkened cell overcome with the desperation of her situation.
Both deaths were actually revealed in the first few moments of the episodes without the audience knowing exactly what was transpiring. Very clever!
Visitors from the past
As Sasha’s and Tyreese’s deaths unfold on screen, they are both visited by memories or visions of past relationships.
Tyreese “sees” Mika, Lizzie, Beth, and Bob all encouraging him to let go. But Tyreese is also taunted by the Governor and the nefarious Martin for not being more aggressive.
There are opposing messages from the different visitors. In the end, he trusts the comforting words of his friends over the taunts of his enemies. He dies peacefully accepting himself for who he is.
Sasha’s recollections or visions are with Abraham and Maggie, both of whom she cared for so deeply. She also felt strong loyalty to both. But, she too, experienced some conflict of interest in her memories. In her flashback with Abraham she struggled with the decision of choosing between self-preservation and making a sacrifice for the well-being of someone else. In the end, she chooses the selfless route by joining the group to take Maggie to Hilltop in her flashback, just as she did in death by sacrificing herself to give Alexandria a chance against Negan.
Fellow writer Susie Graham has commented that she has always found a form of beauty in walkers. So, it seems fitting to me that, Greg Nicotero, the mastermind behind these “monsters”, could also inspire us to find beauty in death, something else people often see as ugly.
Greg Nicotero is an artist and that artistry shines through in both Sasha and Tyreese’s deaths. Both will continue to be so memorable large in part to the beautiful imagery used to reveal their final moments.
Can you identify other similarities between these two episodes? What are the hallmarks of The Walking Dead episodes directed by Greg Nicotero that you appreciate the most?