This review will have spoilers for the season 6 finale of ‘The Walking Dead’ as well as comic book spoilers and spoilers for ‘Breaking Bad’.
What happens when you take a show that has always been known as the show in which any character can die at anytime and you spend a whole season killing off small unimportant characters while slowly building to a huge payoff that never comes? Well, you would get season 6 of ‘The Walking Dead’. Both halves of the season started off promising and then came to a screeching halt with filler episodes. This half of the season spent time building up to the reveal of the newest villain Negan, with the cast and crew hyping up a huge death and this episode being one of the most twisted and dark of the series. What happened in this finale? Rick and the group drove around on the back roads of Washington D.C. trying to find a route to The Hilltop Colony because Maggie is having pains relating to her pregnancy. Meanwhile, Morgan is on the road trying to find Carol who has left because she doesn’t want to kill anymore. It ends with the reveal of Negan putting the group in its place by bashing one of the group’s head in with a baseball bat, except we don’t see it. It switches to first person and the identity of the character is to be revealed in season 7; or in May/June when spoiler sites pick it up. This was an episode hyped up for nothing. The story was pure filler to get to Negan just to end it with a bad cliffhanger that ruins the intensity of the original moment in the comics. I will talk about the positives because there are some to this episode. The only truly good thing about this episode was the acting and the Morgan/Carol dynamic. Jeffrey Dean Morgan absolutely killed it as Negan. The Morgan and Carol story line is the only one from the season that has gotten any real payoff. The rest of the cast did phenomenally well in acting out their defeat at the end of the episode. Andrew Lincoln and Melissa McBride once again shine, as usual. Now let’s rant about that cliffhanger.
Watching them try to justify this cliffhanger on ‘Talking Dead’ is ridiculous. Robert Kirkman said something along the lines of “This is about the group getting put in their place and the person getting killed is where the story really starts for season 7.” Showrunner Scott Gimple agreed saying that it was an emotional moment that was built up and that cliffhangers are good, trying to say it serves the story better and is a “storytelling technique”. It absolutely does not serve the story well at all. When Negan is introduced in the comics and kills Glenn with his baseball bat it is utterly devastating. Rick’s group was overly cocky and Negan put them in their place by savagely killing a beloved member of their group proving that he was, in fact, something to fear. A defeated Rick and company sit with Glenn’s brains splattered all over the pavement. Having to witness that is horrific and it lets the viewers know that Negan is a game changer. The show lost any and all impact of this scene by turning it into a cliffhanger.
The second half of this season has been a buildup to Negan, all of they hype surrounding who he will kill is useless when we don’t see it. We don’t get to see Rick and the group completely defeated, having to bend to the will of a violent psychopath. Instead, they give us a cheap gimmick to get people to tune into the season 7 premiere in October. The gut wrenching moment of watching one of our favorite characters die at the hands of this new villain is gone by making us wait. I can not speak for everyone but I will not care who got killed by the time the new season premieres in October. I hardly care now. A cheap trick to get viewers talking, like the same cheap gimmick of Glenn’s fake out death earlier in the season, show that Scott Gimple and AMC do not respect their show’s fans. This season has been very little but teases and fake outs, trying to get more people to watch the following episode. This is the most watched show on television, they do not have to resort to pointless cliffhangers or fake out deaths to get people to watch. Tell a story. Tell a story that is truthful and respectful. Treat your viewers like the intelligent people they are. When Hank finally finds out that Walter White is Heisenberg in the mid-season finale of season 5 of ‘Breaking Bad’ we knew it was going to go down, and it was a cliffhanger but it wasn’t cheap. It was real, the whole series had been building to Hank finding out that he had been chasing his own brother in law for the entirety of the series and it paid off. It left viewers satisfied but also wanting more, not angry. The best way for this season to have ended would have been to show who got killed, and end it there. The better “cliffhanger” would’ve been wondering how Rick and the group was going to deal with Negan. How would they win? How many more beloved characters would die before Negan was defeated? Remember the season 2 mid-season and season finales? They worked so well because the emotional investment paid off, but left us wondering where the group was going to go next and how they were going to survive.
I will certainly be watching in October when the show returns, not because I absolutely have to know who dies, but because I still have a little bit of faith in this show. I want to believe that all of the outrage at the gimmicks used this season, and the lack of real death and too much filler will make AMC realize that they do not need to resort to cheap tricks to get people talking about their show or to care about the story they are trying to tell. Except I am skeptical that it will happen. AMC has shown they do not really care about ‘The Walking Dead’ by airing a spoiler filled episode recap the night after the episode airs. Or by cramming as many commercials into the show as they can so they can make money. They know a cliffhanger like this should equal big ratings when the show returns in the fall and more viewers equals more money. If only the network cared as much about his show as they did Breaking Bad, allowing them to tell the story they wanted to tell without too much interference or resorting to cheap tricks to get people talking. The reason shows like ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Fargo’, ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Hannibal’ are so incredible is because they respect the material. They do not pull cheap stunts that you would expect to see on a soap opera or boring procedural. So, what did you think of the finale, and this season in general of ‘The Walking Dead’? Was the cliffhanger a cheap trick or a well placed storytelling device? Let us know on Twitter @ComicDrops and you can certainly talk to me about the show @ChrisrrDavis.