[Yeah, spoilers ahead. These are for episode 16, 'Last Day On Earth'. If you haven't watched it, go take care of that before reading this]
Okay...so that happened.
As much as we all feared the producers of 'The Walking Dead' would give us a cliffhanger, we were also hoping they wouldn't. Well, they did. And we'll have to cope with it for the next six months or so.
'Last Day On Earth' wasn't an action packed episode, differently from many of the others we've had in this season 6B. It continued the build-up from episode 15, coming to-fro Morgan and Carol to Rick's group on the way to the Hilltop. It built up, alright. It all went quite well and it worked for the climax that was Negan's debut, but that cliffhanger...it made it a bit anti-climatic if you ask me.
There were, though, some great easy-to-miss moments and inferences, so since this is supposed to be an in-depth review, let's start from the beginning...
YOU ARE ALIVE
As Morgan likes to say, everything comes full circle, and his story seems to be getting to that. In season 3, we found Morgan in a bad place emotionally and psychologically after the death of his son. He took it upon himself to make sure the world around him was "Clear" and he used quite the amount of written signals to warn anyone off. Then, this season on "He's not here", we got more visual clues as he continued to clear his path while still learning to deal with his loss.
Those were Morgan's darkest moments and, after Eastman, he actually found his way back to his humanity - so much so that he's been pulling everyone around him to it. The sign he sees, in the pre-opening sequence in the finale, was a nice omen to that. He knows he's alive and he values it now, quite the contrast to the man he was before. It also contrasts to Carol's present state of mind, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Throughout the finale episode, we saw the Survivors tiding up their loose ends, which helped to put a final stop to the present 'World Order'. There are plenty of dialogues in this particular episode that do a great job of showing us things will never be the same for them - or for us, for that matter.
In the beginning, there's Carl telling Enid that, if he doesn't come back, she has to 'JSS', exactly the way she said to him on her farewell note in episode 2 this season.
There's Aaron telling Rick he'll have to punch him in the face again to prevent him from going to the Hilltop, just like Rick did when they first met.
Gabriel also gets closure when Rick accepts him, not only as a babysitter for Judith - come on, you know he is! - but also as being able to protect Rick's 'flock', which Gabriel failed to do for his own.
Abraham and Sasha have a pretty emotional interchange, when he finally admits that he's ready to move on and start a life with Sasha, which both of them never thought they'd do again, after he lost his family and she lost Bob.
Maggie said she believes in Rick now, after she started doubting him as a leader back in season 2 and, finally, Carol gets some seconds of freedom from being who she doesn't wish to be, when the Savior is about to kill her.
The producers and show-runners have said that Negan brings an end to the world as we know it, and this episode did a pretty good job to close up those story-lines making room for what's to come.
An Even Larger World
On the previous episode, 'East, we saw a man in armor, looking for his horse and using a Hilltop spear to kill walkers. Rick and Morgan met him at a farm and Morgan actually saved his life when he prevented Rick from killing the stranger. Turns out, Morgan was right once more about the 'what goes around comes around' thing, because that stranger saves Morgan and Carol's life in this finale.
And he and his friend on the horse are indeed Kingdom soldiers who, I must add, look exactly like their comic book version. For those who don't read the comics - why, oh why? - the Kingdom is another community such as Alexandria and the Hilltop. Just like those communities, the Kingdom people and their - uh - King despise Negan and what he stands for. We'll get to know them a whole better in season 7, but suffice to say they'll be great allies for Rick and the Alexandrians.
This episode offers a nice Easter egg of the Kingdom, in a picture of a castle on the wall above Morgan's head, while he's talking to Carol in the library. There's also a drawing of a child next to it, perhaps hinting at Maggie's and Glenn's baby - or even Judith - surviving in this new larger world.
The finale centers on two Survivors' groups, leaving out the group Dwight captured on 'East'. We do get some tidy bits from Glenn's, Rosita's, Daryl's and Michonne's perspectives though, in spaced dialogues they heard while trapped inside the back of a van. "It's yours right? Yeah it's yours", probably refers to Daryl's crossbow now belonging to Dwight and the Saviors seem to mention Alexandria when they say "home...get their weapons". Interesting to notice that the Saviors have been spying on the Safe Zone, so they might just as well have seen the new watch towers and the weapons Maggie and the others stored next to them.
At the start of the episode, we see the Saviors capturing a man, seemingly from a different community, who apparently rebelled against Negan. They talk about his home and how they killed everyone in the library, starting with the "one who shot first" by hanging him.
Later, Morgan finds Carol in that exact library and puts down that hanged man, whose noise was attracting more walkers. We understand that those people must have died pretty recently judging by how 'fresh' the walkers were when Morgan sees them. That also gives us the knowledge that Carol and Morgan can't be that far away from where Rick encounter the first Savior road block, since the man from the library - who was latter also hung by the Saviors - was on foot in the woods when we first see him.
After surviving in the TV series this long, Carol's character seems to be reverting to her comic book persona. In the books, Carol dies when she lets a walker bite her, after she'd lost hope and her reasons to live. That's an euphemistic view of suicide, an idea that, some episodes ago, all of us viewers would laugh at had it come up. Now, who's laughing?
Carol's grown and developed as a character in so many different layers that it would seem preposterous to even consider her going out like that. She's suffered and endured loss and pain like no other character except from maybe Maggie, making her one of the strongest Survivors in the group. But it seems she's ready to let go of everyone and everything, when she tells the Savior aiming a gun at her that "She's gonna die, so there's nothing wrong with her anymore". Morgan believes she'll come back from this, but at this point things don't look too promising for her.
Enter Negan, Exit...[cliffhanger]
Four months of anticipation, theories, speculation, and driving us crazy with the intense hype that built up over Negan and his mind-blowing introduction. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the comic's big bad with a lot of attitude and a whole less swearing. Watching 'The Negan Scene' - that's how I'm calling it! - was like flipping the pages of Kirkman's issue 100, nearly word-by-word. For comic readers, seeing that moment come to life on the screen was absolutely epic, as well as frustrating.
The tension was there, the hope that someone would come and save the day was there, this big, friendly-looking villain was there, the fear and the confusion in Rick's and the groups's demeanor was there. The graphic, mortifying, nightmarish death wasn't. When the screen faded to black and all we could hear was Lucille bashing something - at this point I'm not even sure it was a head - for a total of eight times, I thought back to the comic book and felt a bit disappointed.
For TV-only fans I imagine 'The Negan Scene' had a somewhat different effect, but after all the teasing that the season finale would be intense and heartbreaking, we were left hanging. Literally.