Oh… man. I’ve seen hundreds of season finales, but rarely have I seen anything as edgy, suspenseful and outright nerve-wrecking as the final 15 minutes of this Walking Dead season. That was some incredible TV and one of the best sequences in the series’ history.
All things considered, Rick Grimes and his crew at Alexandria had been living the good life. They’d set up a comfortable community, got separate houses with running hot water, backyards and BBQs. They even managed to set up a trading system with a neighboring community. For good measure, they efficiently took down the potential next big threat in Negan’s Saviors before they became a major problem. And Rick even managed to find his smile and hook up with Michonne.
Sure they had the occasional minor setback with losing the city mayor Deanna, the replacement doctor took an arrow to the eye and Carol suddenly got antsy about killing, but all in all, they were living the sweet life. Everything was so rosey that Abraham was seriously talking about having a baby with Sasha. Then they met Negan and it all went completely downhill.
The Carol/Morgan scenes didn’t do a whole lot for me. Carol’s final arc this season never managed to feel genuine. Her abrupt anti-killing stance made no sense. It wasn’t like Morgan had this incredibly compelling argument why all life was precious and Carol has consistently been portrayed as one of the more rational members of the Grimes Gang. It wasn’t like she was smiling while she was killing folks, but understood it as a necessary evil for this new world.
Likewise, Carol’s willingness to die came out of nowhere. If she truly didn’t value her life why would Carol have bothered to put up a fight in her initial roadside encounter with the Saviors? In the end, Morgan was proven wrong — not all life is precious as he had to kill Carol’s assailant. Morgan and Carol got some assistance from the cavalry, or what passes for it these days as a guy on horseback and his pal — the same one Morgan spared last week when Rick shot at him — offered their assistance. I’m glad to see there’s more communities out there and more people grasped the strength in numbers concept.
The biggest problem for Rick and company were they had no idea how neck deep and mouth wide open they were in it. Team Alexandria cruised through Negan’s third stringers so easily it was understandable for them to be on guard, but ridiculously overconfident. Rick was feeling himself so much he told a fever-stricken Maggie en route to the Hilltop OB/GYN that together they could accomplish the impossible. And then they started meeting the Savior convoys.
Not wanting to risk Maggie’s health and seeking a more opportune for Round 3 with the Saviors, Rick backed off after trading a few threats. In hindsight, battling that convoy was the best option as every other route was blocked by a larger and larger group of Saviors. This long version of keep away finally came to a close with Eugene suggesting he take the RV while Rick, Sasha, Carl, Abraham and Aaron take Maggie through the woods to Hilltop. This definitely felt like the grand sacrificial moment for Eugene, who got the hero’s send-off. Episode writer and TWD creator Robert Kirkman made sure to lull us in to what seemed a predictable ending for everyone’s favorite mullet hold out.
But that would have been too easy. Instead, the Saviors promptly surrounded the wood convoy and made them get on their knees, placing Eugene in line with them. Next up, Dwight brought out Glenn, Michonne, Rosita and Daryl, who was nursing some unseen bullet wound. With the gang reunited, Negan finally made his long-awaited debut.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan was brilliant. For the second half of the season we’d been hearing about Negan like he was this boogeyman whose name alone invoked respect and fear. And in that one sequence, Morgan delivered on that threat and promise somehow managing to make The Governor seem like a docile, likable guy by comparison.
Negan told Rick and crew they now work for him and half their stuff is now his. Any problems will result in further discipline — like the punishment he would be dishing out with his barb-wire bat named Lucille. Negan played Eeny Meeny Miny Mo as he tormented the group as he held their fate in his hands.
Director Greg Nicotero was creative in this shot giving us Negan’s POV as he brought Lucille to each of Rick’s group before switching it to the victim’s perspective. And to really keep us on the hook for next season, the victim’s identity wasn’t revealed. There’s massive online grumbling about that decision, but that’s the entire point of a cliffhanger. Anyway, I’m a fan of this finale after some very inconsistent final weeks. Start your Season 7 countdown now…
Rating: 9 out of 10