The Walking Dead Season 6 Finale: All That Hype Amounted To... Nothing?
The sixth season of The Walking Dead, with its 90 minute runtime, meanders along for quite a while and tests the audience's patience before getting to the biggest reveal of the entire show for the last 10 minutes, and is ultimately quite unsatisfying.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD TV SHOW FOLLOW THIS
After teasing this moment in the very beginning of the second half of this season, The Walking Dead gives us the moment we have all been waiting for: The arrival of Negan. For those unaware of the comics, Negan is the charming psychopath leader of a group known as the Saviours. His weapon of choice is a baseball bat he fondly calls Lucille, and "she is just, awesome!" in his words. But, to get to this point in the episode, we had to go through a lot of what many would consider filler, and a whole other storyline that could most definitely have been dealt with better, or even delayed to the next season, as opposed to the decision the showrunners made.
The episode picks up right where we left off last episode, wherein Maggie started experiencing some serious pain that was probably pregnancy related. Rick and Co. have to get to the Hilltop Colony and get the doctor to check on Maggie, and that is quite a long drive from Alexandria. What follows is what I guess the showrunners intended to be a display of just how wide the territorial control of the Saviours really is. Every road Rick and co. take towards the Hilltop Colony is blockaded by groups of gun-toting hardass dudes from Negan's Saviours. Even when they change track and try to take alternate routes to the Hilltop colony, the Saviours have blockaded every single road that can possibly lead to the Hilltop. I know that it could be hard to swallow, how the Saviours are able to know precisely where Rick and co. are, but I'll bite. I don't mind that aspect so much as how repeatedly the show seemed to want to make that point. Not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES Rick and co. are stopped by a blockade of Saviours who just creepily stand there or shoot a couple rounds in the air. This definitely seemed to me like a ploy just to get the runtime to 90 minutes, as opposed to the usual 60 minute run, to stuff more ads into the finale.
But that's not the only storyline taking place. On the other side of things, Carol has departed from the group, suffering from a crises of conscience after the brutal encounter during which she escaped from a hostage situation with Maggie by violently eliminating her enemy. I'm totally into that aspect of her character. I think Carol is one of the best characters in the show, seeing how frail she was in the beginning of the show to how she became a total badass through the 4th and 5th season. I was initially worried that she wouldn't be given enough screen time this season, but the second half of this season proved me wrong with that aforementioned encounter. She finds herself at gunpoint from a guy whose group she massacred previously out of necessity, even though she clearly didn't want to do any more killing. The dude who has her at gunpoint tortures her with gunshots to non fatal areas instead of killing her, and this was not the fate I had in mind for Carol. I mean compared to the amazing farewell the show gave to Tyreese last season, I expected much batter for her, so I never thought for a second that she would die then. But Morgan interferes, and finally kills her captor, in his first kill ever since he adopted the whole "All Life is Precious" motto, which was alright.
The final act of this episode is dedicated to once again driving home this concept that the Saviours are everywhere and are the real ones in control, not as Rick previously thought when he took down a whole bunch of their people before. It goes without saying that this is the strongest part of the episode (Well, everything except the final shot, which we'll talk about soon). Rick and co. decide to walk it to Hilltop while Eugene bravely volunteers to drive up the RV in an attempt to fool the Saviours to thinking everyone is still in it. Needless to say, it was a hopeless plan from its inception and intentionally so, since the writers want to show us the power and influence Negan wields. The camera pulls up and wide as dozens upon dozens of men whistle asynchronously in the creepiest and most effective part of this season ever. Rick and co. are brought to their knees and Rick is paralysed with a look of utter hopelessness and despair, pale to the bone. With everyone down and broken mentally, Negan steps out of a door and delivers the inevitable epic monologue of a psychopath who possesses an ironic sense of rational thinking that contrasts with his insane madness. The only compensation for us the audience is that Negan will not kill all of the group because he needs them to work for him. But for all the Saviours that Rick and Co. have taken out, punishment is abound and Negan makes it clear that Rick's sins against the saviours have to be punished, so someone is clearly going to die at the hands of his beloved Lucille. So who is it?
We don't know. That's the truth of it, the final shot of the season, after Negan plays a creepy game of "Eeny, Meenie, Miny, Mo" to choose who he is going to brutally beat to a pulp, takes into first person mode such that we are unable to decipher who is the one getting beaten up in the final shot. But someone does get beaten up, blood trickles down our eyes as Negan exclaims "Damn, taking it like a champ!" and continues to deliver several severe blows to the head of whoever dies. This is without a doubt the most problematic part of this season. The very ending of this season, with all the hype that has surrounded Negan's ominous arrival, is a damn cliffhanger. So we are left to talk off-season and speculate about who got ended until the show returns in season 7. The fans of the show naturally felt cheated and critics across the board have called this on the ploy that it is. I really wanted that tension filled up and satisfied in some way by seeing who Negan chooses to kill, but it turns out that we will never know for a few months. Greatly disappointing in my opinion. Not only because they simply had the gall to not give us the closure this season needed, but because it just feels like the writers couldn't decide who to kill and just thought, "Let's table that for the next season..."
I'll obviously be returning to watch the next season, but as a critic, not as a fan. For quite a while I've been giving the show a pass on quite a few episodes that pretty much just wasted time meandering around familiar territory, or just giving us things we didn't want to see, but I want this show to be good, as any fan of anything wants their entertainment to be. So, if they don't show us who got beaten up in the season 7 opener, to quote Negan himself"I'm gonna beat the holy hell out of one of you" writers.
Apart from this galling element, the last act of the episode was quite effective up to that point. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is super creepy and psychopathic and inspiring(In his character's point of view) at the same time. He is one of the main redeeming factors in this episode. I am wholly excited to see what he brings to the show next season as a series regular.