Episode Title: Last Day on Earth
Original Airdate 4-3-16
I’m just going to get this out in the open right out of the gate: that wasn’t a cliffhanger, it was a dick move.
So the “90-minute” finale (with enough commercial breaks to rival the Super Bowl), was split into two plot lines. One was Morgan, on horseback, looking for Carol. He finds her in pretty bad shape and tries to convince her she needs to come back to Alexandria for stitches and healing. She refuses, gives him the slip and ends up on the wrong side of a gun held by the one Savior she failed to kill on the road in the last episode. He shoots her in the arm and leg, and walks away, but she taunts him into coming back to finish the job. As he’s about to pull the trigger, Morgan shows up and gives the man a chance to back away, but eventually nixes his “all life is precious” mantra and kills the Savior to save Carol.
The other story focused on Rick, Abraham, Sasha, Carl, Eugene and Aaron all piling into the RV to take a very sick Maggie to Hilltop, so she can be checked out by the doctor. They are stopped by a group of Saviors on the road, exchange some words, then turn the RV around to go another way. On every possible route to Hilltop they are blocked by too many Saviors to break through. Eventually, they all end up surrounded in the dark woods by dozens of Saviors, where Glenn, Rosita, Michonne and Daryl are brought out to join them, all eleven of them on their knees. And then they get to meet Negan. He tells them he’s not happy about them killing so many of his people, but he’s not going to retaliate by killing all of them. He wants them to work for him and bring him half of everything they have, no matter what. However, someone must bear the burden of all those deaths, so he taunts all of them while making his decision. When he finally does, the camera switches to first person perspective as Negan swings his barbed-wire-wrapped bat, Lucille, and then cuts to black as the sound effects of someone’s head being bashed in continues. But who’s head? Well, we won’t know until October.
I’ll go ahead and praise the episode for what I liked: the Saviors and Negan. They were so well done. When everyone was hyping up the Governor before his arrival in Season 3, I became genuinely excited. Then I actually watched him and thought “That’s it? This is what everyone’s been so excited for?” I found him more annoying than anything really. So I started to get a sinking feeling when the same hype started around Negan’s debut. This time it was all justified, but more on him later.
I think the introduction of the Saviors has been pretty good overall, with a few missteps here and there. However, last night as the RV had to turn around and around to try to sidestep them, the sheer volume of this group and what they could accomplish in so little time was staggering and quite scary. I’m quite intrigued to learn more about them in the coming season (almost more than who won’t be around anymore). Ever since Alexandria attacked their compound, killing 20+ men, who seemed to be the only ones, I’m most interested to know how they are settled. Do they have multiple locations, so no other group can take them out at once? Do the men and women sleep in different places? Are there any children? Do they work for anything of their own (crops, livestock, etc.) or just take from everyone else they come across? And how did Negan amass such a following?
So back to Negan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan killed it. He’s clearly a bad guy, from our perspective, but I can see where in his own mind, and the minds of his people, he’s just doing what he has to survive, unlike the Governor who kept Walker heads in fish tanks for funsies. And Negan is also incredibly charismatic. Sure he’s scary as hell, but he also emanates this sincere likable quality as well. So really it’s not that difficult to see how Negan gained power and followers with a personality like that. And after his amazing, but way too short, 10 minutes of screen time, I just really wanted to watch The Watchmen again, which is saying a lot since I don’t really care for that movie.
Unfortunately, the slow build of tension leading to Negan’s scene was lost thanks to an overabundance of commercials and Carol/Morgan scenes. I will genuinely be surprised if this episode actually hits sixty minutes once it’s on DVD and streaming without commercials. The constant interruption was beyond obnoxious. I know AMC has to pay the bills, but damn. And I could have slept just fine at night if I didn’t get any resolution to Carol and Morgan in the finale. Their scenes weren’t interesting enough to justify taking away from the main story that had been building for the last eight episodes. Without all of that white noise, this could have been a taut hour-long finale with one central focus. But it would have all been lost anyway when the ending cut to black.
Now, I don’t mind cliffhangers. The Season 2 finale was good, as the Farm fell and the Group weren’t really sure what the future held. The Season 4 finale was awesome with everyone locked up in a train car in Terminus, surrounded by cannibals. Both left me wanting more without pissing me off. But what we got this season was just mean.
They have stirred the pot for months. We’ve all known Negan would make his debut last night. And though I haven’t read to his introduction in the comics, I still knew enough about him to know that someone BIG was going to die. And someone did (maybe), but they decided we weren’t worthy enough to know who just yet. They had our interest and heart rates at an all time high, then copped out. They owe their fans much more than that. I genuinely feel used, even more so than when we found out Glenn crawled under the dumpster. Not only that, but depending on who died on the end of Lucille, we need time to process (I would definitely need to process Glenn more than Eugene, or Michonne more than Rosita), which we could easily do over the next six months. But no. Instead we’ll have to learn in the premiere, during a frenzy of introducing a new season, potential characters, plots, etc. It was just a bad decision all around.
I’m not one of these fans so angry that I’m declaring to Twitter that I’m officially done with the show. All those idiots know they’ll be back next season to find out. But what I won’t do is speculate and debate who died. During The Talking Dead, Gimple and Kirkman claimed there were clues as to who it might be. I’ve seen various fan theories online today debating the shadows cast on Negan before he swung the bat and the lighting source, which could help determine who in the line-up it was…blah, blah blah. I don’t care. I mean I do care who died, of course, but I don’t care to play in the show runners’ reindeer games. This is what they want. They want fans discussing their theories for the next six months. But that’s not what this show is really about. As much as I enjoy The Walking Dead, it is very surface level. There’s no need to dig deep, and I don’t want to. It’s not Lost (an example Gimple threw out last night too). That’s not why I watch it. I might get attached to characters like they’re family, but I’m not wasting my time making this into something it’s not. And that’s why they pulled this cheap shot. But this is one fan who won’t give them the satisfaction.
And this is last I have to say about it until we get answers in the Season 7 premiere, except for some grumbling (very likely) during next week’s season wrap up.