The back half of season six has been a momentous build to Negan’s arrival, culminating with tonight’s finale where the super-baddie finally emerges from the shadows to address the shit-show Rick has been putting on beginning with the attack on the Savior outpost in “Not Tomorrow Yet.” Having only heard stories about the apparently vicious boogeyman, Rick launched an assault against his group, the self-named Saviors, and so far, Rick’s group has handled their assaults and escaped mostly unscathed. As it turns out, the opening of last week’s penultimate episode where Rick very confidently — actually smugly and arrogantly — declared that they could take on any and everyone served as somewhat of a harbinger of what was to come.
Rick’s been cocky, he’s been stupid, and as one of my followers pointed out, it’s amazing he ever was a sheriff’s deputy because no one in law enforcement would launch an attack on an unknown enemy without some serious recon. Well, payback begins tonight, and unfortunately, that includes the loss of one of our beloved characters.
LET’S TAKE A TRIP TO THE HILLTOP….AND LET’S TAKE ALL OF OUR BEST FIGHTERS…DOH!!!
Being an avid comic-book reader, I knew that Negan was able to trap Rick’s group for the famous Lucille scene as they were making their way to the Hilltop, primarily because Glenn and Maggie had decided to move there for safety reasons. If the TV series were to align with the comics, then something had to happen to prompt that trip to the Hilltop. Well, as soon as that Denise death shocker happened in “Twice As Far,” I knew immediately that was the setup. No doctor in Alexandria, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) has pregnancy complications, so pack your bags and let’s go on a road trip.
And, that’s exactly what happened last week (with the writers being docked points for the transparent predictability and lack of originality here). Maggie begins having stomach pains, and with no doctor around and not knowing if it’s the baby or some other ailment, there’s not much choice than to go to the Hilltop for help. However, the choice that they DO have is who goes along for the trip. Let’s summarize. Carol (Melissa McBride) has already left Alexandria, and Morgan (Lennie James) takes off after her. Daryl (Norman Reedus) decides to go rogue, and off goes Glenn (Steven Yeun), Rosita(Christian Serratos), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) to fetch the rebel back. So, Alexandria is already way short on defenses, and with a possible pending attack by the Saviors, they really need to keep as many strong fighters at home base as possible.
That being said, what do they decide to do? Maggie gets the golden escort to the Hilltop Colony with Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Carl (Chandler Riggs) AND Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) all going along for the ride. So, if Alexandria is attacked in the interim, that pretty much leaves only Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Spencer Monroe (Austin Nichols), and Tobias to defend the entire community. WTH?! What. The. Hell! Now, I know that Father Gabriel has really become a bad-ass in recent episodes, and Rick has so much confidence in him that he leaves him in charge of Alexandria in his absense. But, man, I don’t know if I would get a warm-and-fuzzy with Gabriel at the helm in the event of an attack. Basically, another dumb-ass decision by Mr. Grimes on a pile of previous dumb-ass decisions. #FacePalm
Given the dire situation and how Rick’s group is scattered all about, you just know the shit-storm of the century is about to hit. And, it most certainly does, but it’s a slow burn — do you know why? Because unlike Rick, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) isn’t stupid, and even more importantly, Negan has ALOT more men to work with thus making it much easier to launch a coordinated counterattack. We already know about Dwight and his group, and as far as we can tell at the beginning of the episode, they are still out there with Glenn, Maggie, Rosita, and we assume, Daryl, tied up. But, that’s only one part of Negan’s planned assault. Another group is revealed before the opening credits even roll and is led by the actor some had thought early on had been cast in the Negan role, Steven Ogg. This Savior is particularly brutal and likely one of Negan’s top Lieutenants. He has as captive a guy who had been part of a group camped at a library who had crossed the Saviors and didn’t follow their rules. The guy begs for mercy but continues to be beaten to a bloody pulp, and then, laid out in the middle of the road.
I’m going to make an example out of you
An example to who?
I think we know the answer to that question. From where I’m sitting, this is the first chance Rick is given to come to terms with the Saviors and avoid any further bloodshed. The Lead Savior’s offer is simple: Rick has to give them all of their shit, and probably someone in his group will die. Of course, Rick continues with his delusion that he’s King of the World and hears nothing of it. So, he gets back into the RV and interestingly enough, the Saviors let them leave. Again, I see this as a warning shot, and you can bet much worse trouble is coming their way.
Next comes the 2nd warning shot, which in my opinion, is an act of genius — a straight line of walkers all chained and handcuffed together blocking the road so that the RV can’t pass. The twist is one walker has Michonne’s vest on, and another walker has Daryl’s black shirt. Obviously the Saviors and obviously an attempt to mess with Rick’s head. After a big firefight with yet more Saviors lurking in the woods, Rick is finally able to cut the walkers free thus allowing the RV to pass, but Abraham makes a very interesting observation.
They’ve got numbers — Abraham to Rick
No kidding! Then, comes the 3rd warning shot — another Savior roadblock with yet another group of completely different Saviors and an even bigger group than the last ones. This is a clear demonstration that Rick’s group is completely outnumbered (and also outsmarted). Perhaps, Rick, it’s time to surrender? The goal is to get Maggie to the Hilltop, right? How can you do that if the Saviors have you surrounded? Only a fool would try to push a 2 ton boulder up a hill!
Well, on we go and then comes the final warning shot — a massive road block made from logs and as an added bonus, the guy from the library camp hung over a bridge, once again as an example. They are trapped, and Rick knows it. Eugene makes one last pitch and offers to man the RV alone while Rick and the rest go on foot, but do you really think the Saviors haven’t thought of that? They are 100 — heck a 1000 — steps ahead of Rick, and you know that’s not going to work. Stay tuned…
MORGAN AND CAROL FINALLY MEET
Of all the character development that has been done in season 6, what they have done with Carol’s character has disappointed me the most. It’s not so much that I don’t like the “new Carol,” but it’s more that it just doesn’t make sense. None whatsoever. It took nearly 4 seasons for this character to go from the quiet, abused housewife to this bad-ass, or as Rick put it last week “a force of nature.” This progression was developed so well, and the writers took their time, thus making the change feel real and believable.
Well, then, out of the clear-blue sky, they have her do a complete 180 in just a few episodes (amounting to a few weeks in real-time), making her wishy-washy, unwilling to kill any longer, and so much so that she packs up and leaves her boyfriend, her family, her entire life behind. Uh, yeah right. It makes no sense, and it continues to make no sense going into tonight’s finale.
Morgan does finally catch up with Carol, and she’s in pretty bad shape. It’s at a library (we assume the same library camp that the guy being held prisoner by the Saviors was from), and everybody there is dead with the exception of Carol. Morgan is able to patch her up, and in a matter-of-fact fashion, tells her that they’re going back to Alexandria. And, Carol, in a similar matter-of-fact fashion, tells him straight up that she’s not. She can’t care about anybody because doing that means you have to kill, and that’s not something she can do. Of course, this means she will likely die being out there all alone, but honestly, she doesn’t seem to care. For the Carol fans out there, this is when you should start getting concerned.
Or maybe not. There were strong hints that Carol would eventually cross paths with that lone Savior who survived her attack in last week’s episode, and she does eventually after ditching Morgan at the library. But, fortunately for Carol (well, I guess — depends on whether you think Carol truly wants to live), Morgan shows up. Just like Carol, he’s forced to go against his own moral code and shoot the Savior (and does so a little too enthusiastically, don’t you think? He unloads the entire magazine!).
The only good thing that came out of this incredibly stupid arc is that I think we just had a backdoor introduction to another group of survivors who call themselves The Kingdom. The 2 guys who show up to help after Morgan kills the Savior are clad in body armor, which is the calling card for The Kingdom. Okay, okay, I can forgive the writers for this absurd storyline if we get The Kingdom (AND Ezekial! We must get Ezekial!) out of it.
All in all, this entire arc has annoyed me. Carol has gone all “life is precious” like Morgan, but the fact is her running off like this may actually be putting the people she care about in danger. Carol’s a hell of a fighter, so is Morgan. They should be back in Alexandria helping to protect the community because the Saviors will most certainly attack and very soon. Morgan said last week that everything “is a circle,” and described how his actions with that lone Wolf ultimately saved Denise’s life who then saved Carl. Well, you can put Carol’s actions in the same context, but unfortunately, the end result isn’t a very good one.
Bottom line — Carol, just stop and go back home. Or, if you don’t like home, then join The Kingdom. Either way, just stop, OK?
PAYBACK’S A FUCKING BITCH — SAYS NEGAN AND HIS LUCILLE
By the time we get to the final moments of the episode, Negan proves that he’s much smarter than our fearless hero and manages to lure all of Rick’s group back at the RV as the setup for the famous Lucille death scene — a moment that’s been buzzing in The Walking Dead community for the better part of a year. Drum roll, please. Most people — including viewers who have never read a single comic — know about this scene, and so, the only questions that have remained is 1) Will the TV series do the source material justice? and 2) Will they deviate from the comics and have another character get the most iconic death in Walking Dead history?
First, holy moly, Jeffrey Dean Morgan! I must admit when his casting was first announced back in November, I was surprised and for a while, I wasn’t even convinced he could do the role justice. But, trust me, all those doubts were put to rest with just this single scene. His voice, his walk, and most definitely his smile — this is without a doubt our Negan. Whoever made this casting choice deserves a big gold star and a raise. Second, this scene was choreographed to perfection. The circle in the woods, the headlights, and oh my God, that eery whistling. None of this is in the comics, which means it likely is the brain-child of geniuses like Greg Nicotero.
Now going into the details of the scene, Negan is, of course, pissed about Rick’s unprovoked attack on his people, but he doesn’t really show it, and when he does, it’s very subtle. Instead, he’s calm, he’s collected, and basically just gives a very eloquent speech about how Rick f*cked up, and going forward, he owns them and to be blunt, they’re all f*cked (minus all the f*ck’s, of course, because heaven forbid we show a gruesome murder AND drop a few F-bombs).
We piss in our pants yet?
Boy, do I have a feeling we’re getting close.
Yep, gonna be Pee-Pee-Pants City here real soon.
Which one of you pricks is the leader?
Hi, you’re Rick, right?
I’m Negan, and I do not appreciate you killing my men.
Also, when I sent my people to kill your people for killing my people, you killed more of my people.
Not cool. Not cool.
You have no idea how not cool that shit is.
But I think you’re gonna be up to speed shortly.
Yeah, you are so gonna regret crossing me in a few minutes. Yes, you are.
You see, Rick, whatever you do, no matter what, you don’t mess with the new world order.
New world order is this, and it’s really very simple.
Even if you’re stupid, which you very may well be, you can understand it.
You ready? Here it goes. Pay attention.
Give me your shit or I will kill you.
Today was Career Day.We invested a lot so you would know who I am and what I can do.
You work for me now. You have shit, you give it to me. That’s your job.
Now I know that is a mighty big, nasty pill to swallow. But swallow it, you most certainly will.
Negan, being the sadist that he is, is obviously giving Rick the false sense that no one’s going to get hurt. Alexandria has to pony up half of its stuff, but no one gets hurt. But, of course, that is very short-lived because Negan quickly introduces his Lucille and then, proceeds to his sick eeney-meeney-miney-mo game to select who gets to meet her for the first time.
I simply cannot decide.
I got an idea.
Eeny, meeny, miney, mo.
Catch the tiger by his toe.
If he hollers, let him go.
My mother told me to pick the very best one, and you are it.
Sooooooo……. Another drumroll, please. Unfortunately, no drumroll is needed. There’s been speculation for weeks — in fact, months — that the finale would end with a cliffhanger with the Lucille death scene being done from the POV of the victim, thus preventing the audience from seeing who drew the short straw. I worried about this, I even got borderline drunk about this tonight, but in the end, those idiots in the writers’ room chose to do it anyways. Really, people? The fans have been waiting for this moment literally for YEARS, and I think it’s a cruel, sadistic joke to make them wait yet even longer until October to find out who “won” Negan’s little game. In short, this is bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.
Also, to pull something like this off and to make it work, you have to invest ALOT of time AND money into it. Finale death cliffhangers are incredibly difficult to do because big shows like The Walking Dead have viewers who live close to the set watching their every move. What happens on set. Who arrives on set. You can bet your entire bank account that fans in the area will be watching like a hawk when filming for season 7 begins next month to see which cast member is no longer seen. And, the ONLY way to get around this problem is for the network to spend major $$$ to film fake scenes with the actor whose character has already been killed off courtesy of Negan and his Lucille. I’m sorry, I could be wrong, but I can’t see AMC forking up the dough to do that.
All in all, a really good season 6 finale, but one that lost a lot of its momentum due to a cliffhanger that, quite frankly, was not needed. Hello! You are The Walking Dead! You don’t need to pull stunts like this to get viewers! I’m giving the episode an A- but honestly, the one thing that is saving it from getting a much lower grade is Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance. Even though Negan appears in only the final 10 minutes, Morgan most definitely stole the show, and as I said earlier, whoever made the casting choice deserves a huge raise. But, whoever decided on this cliffhanger shenanigan — fire the bastard!
The Walking Dead returns for season 7 in October of 2016.
Critic Grade — A-
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com