We’re all familiar with the phrase “Jump the Shark” (or the more recent “Nuke the Fridge”) when it comes to TV shows and movie series that have outstayed their welcome and have an event occur so insulting to the fan base that it marks the moment where things all start to go downhill. Such a moment concluded the sixth season of ‘The Walking Dead’ last night, and I’m so ticked off, I propose a new phrase everyone can use: “Swing the Bat.”
The 90-minute finale begins with Morgan still searching for Carol. He walks past a sign that says “You Are Alive” – which I believe may be one of the messages he planted himself before he joined back up with Rick and the others this season.
Back in Alexandria, Carl gets ready to head out with the others in an attempt to get Maggie to a doctor at the Hilltop. Enid wants to come along, but Carl wants to keep her safe, so he tricks her into thinking she can go and then locks her in a closet. Carl joins Rick, Abe, Sasha, Aaron, Eugene and (of course) Maggie in the RV as they head out of the community. Rick leaves Father Gabriel in charge to defend the place. That can’t be good news.
Morgan comes across a horse left all by itself in the middle of nowhere. It’s saddled up and seems well taken care of, but that doesn’t stop Morgan from stealing it and using it to further search for Carol. He eventually finds her curled up against a doorway in a small town. She’s injured on her left side, but Morgan manages to get her indoors and bandage her up. Later, Carol tells Morgan how she had to leave Alexandria because she can’t be around people she cares about anymore. She can’t be around them because that means she’ll eventually have to kill for them. Morgan counters by telling Carol that people are all that matter in this world.
The RV is stopped by a group of Saviors blocking the road. They’ve been taking it out on a guy we saw earlier in the episode who seems to be from one of the other communities that is paying “tribute” to Negan. (The man had mentioned something about living in a library.) Rick gets out of the RV with the others to assess the situation. After a brief conversation with the Saviors’ leader about life and death (and how you should treat others “like it’s your last day on Earth”), Rick decides that they’ll find another route, and has Abe (who’s driving) turn the RV around.
A big chunk of this overlong episode is devoted to the group in the RV continuing to run into roadblocks. First, they hit one where even more Saviors are waiting for them, so they turn around again. Then, a different route is blocked by a huge wall of cut-down trees blocking the way. (I’m not even going to ask how the Saviors built this so quickly. Even if they had heavy equipment – as one of Rick’s group suggests – it would have taken all day to do this.) Finally, they find a group of Walkers chained to each other blocking the road. When Rick and a couple others go to clear the obstacle, they notice that each of the Walkers is wearing a personal effect from Michonne, Daryl, Glenn and Rosita – letting Rick’s group know they’ve been captured… or worse.
While this is all going on, Morgan goes outside to kill and cut down a Walker who was hung from a tall metal structure. Returning to check on Carol, he finds she’s abandoned him, so he hops back on the horse to go looking for her. However, the Savior who survived the gunfight with Carol and took her rosary has finally caught up with her. He shoots Carol in the arm first and then a second time in the leg. He goes to fire a fatal bullet into her, but Morgan arrives, shooting the man dead. As he attends to Carol, a pair of guys show up, one on horseback, one not, but both in what looks to be body armor. Morgan tells the standing guy that he took his horse and that Carol needs help. The guys – who seem nice enough – offer to help, and the one not on horseback shakes Morgan’s hand. They don’t seem like Saviors, nor do they seem as if they’re from the Hilltop. So perhaps a new ally? This is Morgan’s last scene in the episode, so any additional info will have to wait until next season.
It’s getting dark now, and Eugene reasons that the Saviors are looking for the RV, but they don’t know how many people might be inside at any given time. He volunteers to drive it while the others all take Maggie on a cot and try to walk her through the woods to the Hilltop. Seems like a great plan… Hey, you know what would have been a better plan, Rick? Just you and Abe going to the Hilltop on your own without the RV and bringing back a doctor for Maggie. But that wouldn’t have been helpful to the writers – who have to get our heroes to continue doing stupid things just to put them in situations like the one this episode ends in.
Sure enough, Rick and the others don’t get Maggie very far when they hear whistling around them in the woods. They run into an open clearing, where they’re surrounded by a big group of armed Saviors. The RV is there too, with a captured and beaten Eugene. The guy who Rick met back at the very first roadblock tells him that everyone is going to need to get down on their knees. Daryl, Glenn, Rosita and Michonne are released from the back of a van and made to get down on their knees as well. Finally, the infamous Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) emerges from inside the RV, carrying a baseball bat with barbed wire wrapped around it, which he has named “Lucille.”
Negan then goes into a long speech that would make most Bond villains jealous – telling Rick and the others how they’re now going to work for him and how he’s going to take half of what they have. He then says that one of them will need to die as punishment for how many of his people they’ve killed up to this point. He goes back and forth among all the potential victims –teasing Carl (whom he figures out is Rick’s son), taunting Maggie (which gets Glenn all fired up), and even getting Abe to rise up seemingly to volunteer his own life in exchange for the others.
When it comes down to deciding, Negan plays a game of “Eeny Meeny Miney Moe,” until his bat points at the one he’s going to kill – a POV shot directly at the home viewer, so we have no idea whom he’s selected. He swings the bat, people scream, blood pours down the screen, and the episode fades to black without revealing the person Negan has killed.
What a crock! It’s one thing to have a cliffhanger ending for your season. It’s quite another to insult the home viewers with what is essentially a huge cop-out. For weeks now, we’ve been teased about the Negan character and promised that when he shows up, it would result in a bad end for one of our regular cast members. Then, after weeks of waiting to see what happens, the show-runners decide to play games and make us wait another six months?! Well, fine… the rest of you can wait. I’m done.
After a season where producer Scott Gimple and the writers tried to trick us two other times with character “deaths” that never really happened (once with Glenn and once just last week with Daryl), when it finally came time to deliver the goods, now they’re going to make loyal fans wait. I can almost hear the conversation in the writing room: “We can turn this into the biggest thing since ‘Who Shot J.R.?'”; “It will be bigger than the whole Jon Snow question over on Game of Thrones!”; “We’ll come back to HUGE ratings in the Fall!”
I had to turn off ‘Talking Dead’ last night after a smug Scott Gimple – and equally smug Robert Kirkman – tried to tell viewers that they ended the finale where they did because “That was the end of that story.” Except you didn’t end the story! You left the end hanging out there. And rest assured that when this show comes back in the fall – while it may reveal who got killed, I guarantee you that the majority of the first two episodes will be spent on what’s going on back at Alexandria; what happened with Daryl, Glenn, Michonne and Rosita during their capture by Dwight; and more about what’s going on with Morgan and Carol. Yes, it will be a good two or three episodes before we see the repercussions of Negan’s execution.
Because that’s how ‘The Walking Dead’ has been for a long time now. Back at the end of Season 3, my fellow HDD colleague Aaron Peck was so frustrated with that season’s finale that he stopped recapping the series. Now after three seasons of my own recapping, I think I’m ready to hang it up. Honestly, I just don’t care anymore. I don’t mind being manipulated as a viewer, but don’t insult me. Mr. Gimple, Mr. Kirkman – you both should be ashamed of yourselves.