I'm right there with you. The final moments of AMC's The Walking Dead's season 6 finale left a bad taste in my mouth. I tend to lean towards the idea that the moment was ruined. That come October, we will all have moved too far beyond the shows grasp to keep us interested. Sure, who ever dies will leave behind them a legacy, and it will be initially jarring. However, it will also be a fairly short grieving period, as many fans will have already come to their own personal conclusion on the victims identity. Having come to grips with their favorite characters demise, they will only feel the pain of “I knew it, damn...” before settling in to the next season.
It's rough, and it definitely hurt the moment. However, while many fans have been justifiably angry, I feel we (myself included) may have gotten to close to our collective precious. Once you get too close to something, one of two things will happen. Either we become incapable of seeing it's flaws, or, what seems to have happened here, we too defensive of it. It's not a bad thing, it shows the devotion to someone else's work, which is highly flattering. Unfortunately, it means we can sound a bit too entitled from time to time. Of course, the show runners owe us something for our years of devotion, but perhaps that something is to keep us guessing.
I'm not going to try to change everyone's minds, but I'd like to at least change one or two. For all of the controversy, Season 6 was a powerful season, or so I'll try to make you believe.
One of the biggest running issues with the season, especially the second half, has been Rick. One episode, he's too arrogant to enjoy, and the next he's doing something careless and stupid. His hubris has been added as an “Also Starring...”, and it's become grating. However, it's also way too important to overlook as more “lazy” writing.
We needed this, and all the other characters “stupid” behavior, to emphasize how the group is way over their head. Think about Daryl in “East”, overcome by grief and guilt that his own decisions have caused the group to lose their only doctor, he took off. Everyone, either panicking over their kamikaze friend, or trying to avoid their former lover, who follows him ends up getting captured.
Literally almost every single character who doesn't get roped into some weird excursion by Rick or Daryl are making much more sense then they are, and there's a reason. This isn't just about Rick's arrogance bring the group down, it's Daryl's too. Daryl firmly believes he can hunt down Dwight, and Glenn, Rosita, and Michonne are fully aware he can't. Well, Rosita seems to be the enabler here, but then again, perhaps her arrogance is in question too (spoiler alert: it's not).
All of this macho, killing people to show I'm still the big bad dog around here, is instantly thwarted, and not even by Negan. The real bad guy in the episode was that floodlight bathed clearing. Within seconds of coming upon it, Rick knew. He knew every mistake he has made, and that he let the events of the fifth season, and the season six walker swarm, get to his head. He has put almost everyone he cares about in danger, and it hits him in one second.
Daryl, on the other hand, seems to have had a whole van ride to ponder this over. I never thought we'd see Daryl Dixon look so defeated, like a puppy without it's owner in the rain. He was beat, and while he may live to see his revenge against Dwight, it will have come with a price far heavier then he anticipated. It's because of this, that the driving around makes sense.
Yes, the group could have done well to try something else. Literally anything would have been more interesting then watching “National Lampoons: Walking Dead” for 90 minutes. However, it was completely necessary. It all showed the crack in Rick's facade slowly falling apart, once he realized that each road block was purposely devised, if not just for him. It is confusing how they knew they'd be out (I'm blaming Enid until I receive further clarification on what she's up to), but it still set a tone felt in every living room across America, and in a small 10 square mile fictional section of Virgina. This isn't a game you can win Rick Grimes.
Negan's introduction was almost perfect, though his speech was a bit long. I remember thinking, moments before it was over, “Dude, I hope this picks up a bit cause I'm getting a tad bit bored”. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was everything I wanted Negan to be, and it seems through the fandom, everyone saw him as the bright and shining light of “Last Day On Earth”. His choosing of his much needed example felt so tense and devastating.
I watch the show with my 54 year old father, who besides Walking Dead, enjoys Naked and Afraid and Big Bang Theory. Nothing wrong with those shows, but they don't throw things at you the way Walking Dead does. I guess what I mean is, they tend to be a little more predictable. Still, when I heard my father go “They're not gonna show us!”, I knew we were in trouble. Sure enough, they cut to that POV shot, with very cheesy blood, and Negan's muffled musings about how our favorite (maybe) character was taking it very well.
My disappointment was, as I stated before, for the long term. Scott Gimple has ended each of his seasons with a cliff hanger, one way or another. However, I figured the cliff hanger (figured? No, I hoped) would involve Maggie's baby, Carol and Morgan (that side plot could have been a bit shorter, I'm thinking), or even if the person who had their head bashed in lived. It wouldn't appear they did, whoever they are. I stewed on it for the past two days, and then something occurred to me. We weren't promised anything more then we got.
We were promised Negan. Some sources have stated we were promised his doom bringing abilities be inflicted on a fan favorite. We were never promised more then that, and really, if their going to hold out on us, wouldn't this be the most interesting way to do it. A lot of people feel it was a cheap stunt to ensure ratings and return viewers. However, as many people have said, we were coming back anyways. Maybe this was, to paraphrase Gimple, the end of a story. Perhaps Season 7 will be the story of dealing with the characters death.
Like many fans, I have tried to pick apart the scene for clues, though I chose a different method then many other fans. I looked at the line up, and watched the end over and over. To the teams credit, this didn't get me very far. Turns out even though there's a pattern at the beginning, by the end, it jumps around too much to have any real cadence. It's messy, and chaotic, and I imagine that Gimple and Nicotero were aiming for that.
A lot of this may seem insignificant, and honestly, the cliff hanger never made me mad. It just seemed poorly used, like using a shot gun to shoot a squirrel. The one thing though I can all but ensure is that we'll go through a plethora of emotions before the show lets us know who it is. Some fans are trying to boycott the show, which seems counter productive. One fan even called for the termination of Scott Gimple, which would end the show for good. By that, I mean that no one wants to be the show runner for a show where the fans are willing to destroy the reputation as a show runner. An interim would fill in, either do really bad or get too scared of backlash, and AMC would send Walking Dead behind the shed, crying to it's Mama how it doesn't want to.
I'm excited, especially since the show is going to delve into Negan's back story. Also, after reading the comics, I'm a huge fan of Ezekiel's, and can't wait to see the Kingdom, real tiger or not. I appreciate Gimple's work, even if it tends to lean on stale conventions a bit too much. Last season, during the Noah incidence, I remember comparing the show to The Dukes of Hazard. Every week these crazy survivors get themselves into a new bucket of cream of wheat, and we were just watching them pull themselves out of it. As weird and annoying as the season finale tended to be, I refuse to pretend I won't be on my couch in October, watching the first six seasons again, viciously anticipating what lies ahead.
Who do you think died? Do you care anymore? Do you want to just find out in October when the show comes back?