4.0

The Walking Dead Season 6 Finale Review

"The Last Day on Earth" - Season 6, Episode 16

TV Reviews The Walking Dead
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<i>The Walking Dead</i> Season 6 Finale Review

Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters.

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Josh,

Are they serious?

You spend 90 useless minutes dragging the whole thing out, and then you literally drag it out into the next season?

I’m sorry, but this was terrible. We knew the ENTIRE time that we were going to get to the end, meet Negan, and watch one of the group die. In fact, we’ve known that for about four episodes. All 90 minutes leading up to that point, with the herding of the RV, Carol and Morgan’s drama, Father Gabriel coming of age, could have been done in ten minutes. A generous ten. Instead, we take the entire damn time to get to the end, AND THEY DON’T F$*%ING SHOW US WHO GOT KILLED?

It’s probably Eugene. They were telegraphing all episode that he was kaput, and we saw almost none of him during Negan’s rant.

By the way, Negan seems cool and all, one of his first lines was this: “Gonna be pee-pee pants city here real soon.” That’s what we’ve been waiting a month to see. “Pee-pee pants city.”

And even though we’ve been anxious to see him, even his intro was way too long. By the time he was pointing his bat at each character, it was like the show was actively mocking us. Could be it him? Her? Him? Her?

That’s what this episode was, in a nutshell: Stringing us along like idiots, and then mocking us for being stupid enough to go along with it. How deeply, deeply unsatisfying.

I’m cutting this email off now in protest, because unlike The Walking Dead, I don’t feel like repeating myself over and over.

I really, really thought this was a bad episode, and a tremendously unfulfilling end to what started out as an excellent half-season. You can probably tell that I’m actively frustrated as I type this. I couldn’t be more disappointed right now, and I can’t waste any more words on it until you sound off.

Blech.

—Shane

PS – It’s 10 minutes later, and I’m still infuriated. I’m at the point where I’m looking around the Internet for other reviews to see if I’m alone here, or if it was just as aggravating as I thought. I would advocate giving this episode a straight 0.0.

Is that a reactionary score? Sure. One hundred percent. There’s something to be said for the build-up, and the production value was high, and the acting wasn’t appreciably horrible. But when you’ve led us along in such agonizing half-steps for the last three episodes, when we knew exactly where it was headed, you have to deliver something more than this. Way, way more.

The trick to good art is staying ahead of your audience, and the writers and directors of this show have been way the hell behind us for a while now. I can’t emphasize this enough—meeting Negan was a given going into tonight. Someone getting badly hurt or dying from the core group was a given. And somehow, they thought it would work to lead us to that point and no further. On some level it’s stupid to have strong emotions like these about a show, and I get that, but I still think that in the little bubble of TV drama, this was an inexcusable and obvious misstep.

Basically, the eyes of the TV universe were on The Walking Dead, and they failed miserably.

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Shane,

I get your frustration. I really do. It was a cheap ploy to get us all wondering who just died, and the answer isn’t coming for six months, give or take a few days (the Season 7 premiere date hasn’t yet been announced). They’ve been teasing this moment all season (anyone who’s read the comics knew somebody was getting killed by Negan—it’s just how he operates), and the tease continues.

So yes, I agree, it was an unsatisfying ending to say the least, especially after 90 minutes of build-up. But that build up was tense. Watching Rick’s confidence crumble each time they encountered another show of strength was kind of heartbreaking. That speech he gave Maggie about them being able to do anything together rang hollow by the time they were running through the woods and Carl echoed it back to him. They’ve been operating under the assumption that they could take down The Saviors because it’s been easy so far. Rick’s group has survived Atlanta, survived the prison, survived The Governor, survived Terminus and found safe haven in Alexandria. And now they’re on their knees.

And Negan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Lucille. That monologue. Here’s the first adversary since The Governor worthy of taking on Rick Grimes. Yes, he said “pee-pee pants.” And he was still a badass. He was toying with Rick most of those 90 minutes just like director Greg Nicotero was toying with us. It seems like you liked it about as much as Rick did.

It didn’t help that the whole Carol subplot was equally as frustrating. The adversity she’s facing is all of her own making. And the end result was that Morgan realized how equally ridiculous he was being. Sometimes you have to kill to protect in the zombie apocalypse. It sucks, but it’s what you do, can we all agree please, yes, let’s move on.

Then there was the psychological games of Negan, making sure that Rick’s group wasn’t just captured, but demoralized, without hope of ever winning. Of course, the Grimes Gang has been underestimated many times before, but the challenge begins from a point of utter weakness. The Saviors have the numbers, the muscle and all the power right now. Season 7 is set up for a hell of an obstacle to overcome.

So why are we so angry? I think there’d be less complaining if it wasn’t for the big Glenn fake-out earlier this season. There are signs of the writers getting gimmicky to hold our attention when it’s just not necessary. They wanted to create a “Who shot JR?” moment, and they kind of did. We’ve got six months to wonder whose head just got bashed in.

Eugene? They certainly set it up that way with the long goodbyes. Abraham? Just when he starts talking about having kids. Glenn? Comic-book readers might have an argument there. Carl or one of the women? If they want to turn Negan into a despised villain. Rick? No.

Of course it’s harder than ever to keep a secret like that as fans and Redditors will be snooping through contracts and set-visit photos. We knew Glenn was alive and that we haven’t seen the last of Jon Snow, who knows nothing.

But give me more here, Shane. You’ve slept on it. Did you wake up angry? Can you find moments in “The Last Day on Earth” that you enjoyed? If we’d have seen Lucille bashing in the head of a beloved character would that have made you happier? What’s really your issue with the Season 6 finale from a show that has given us so many great endings?

—Josh

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Josh,

So, the nicest thing I can say about this episode is that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was pretty excellent as Negan, despite the fact that his monologue had lines about pee-pee pants and ran for an annoyingly long time. We’ve been waiting for Negan for a long, long time, and I really think the writers botched the shit out of that scene. Even so, Morgan did the best he could, and his best was pretty damn good. With good writing, he would have been stellar, and more than anything his appearance made me sad that he and the Governor will never share the screen. But maybe a Morgan/Morrissey duo would be too much evil/awesome/swagger for one show.

As for this morning, I’m no happier. I’m less angry, but the frustration has been replaced by apathy. I’m with Alan Sepinwall, who called the episode hilariously stupid and who said he’s done watching the show. That’s honestly how I’m feeling right now—there are lots of reasons to like The Walking Dead, but you can only be treated like a drooling idiot for so long before you start to say, “Okay, maybe this show isn’t designed for me.” There’s an old saying that if you treat your audience like poets and geniuses, they will be, and I suppose the converse is that when the shows you watch treat you like a slack-jawed moron, well…perhaps you should look in the mirror.

I started to get really annoyed this half season when Carol had her out-of-nowhere personality flip, and it got worse when they undercut the logic they’d been obeying all year by letting Dr. Oatmeal die, which needed to happen to put Rick and company on the road for the finale, but just felt super manipulative. Then we’ve got the Saviors, who have been extremely stupid all season, only to pull off the greatest piece of military strategy in zombie apocalypse history.

There’s just no consistency to the show, either in the plot or the characters. What we have instead is a group of writers who plot out Point A, and plot out Point B, and then totally stop giving a shit about how we get from one to the other. This is not just insulting our intelligence—it’s an all-out assault, and it’s a repeated one. I’m going to start calling the collective writing team “Lucille,” because my self-respect has just been caved in by multiple blows from a metaphorical barbed-wire bat.

The thing is, yes, there are vaguely positive things you can say about this episode. But the failure was so total, and so overwhelming, that adding those disclaimers would be irrelevant. At the heart of this episode, your two essential ingredients are a boring build-up and a horrible pay-off. Reading Reddit, and the user comments on reviews, a lot of people are making comparisons to the Game of Thrones “Red Wedding” scene. As in, this could have been TWD’s equivalent, and they blew it hard. Last night could have been a powerful display of upheaval—the reverse of everything Rick had started to believe about himself and his team—and instead they deprived us of that moment.

It’s almost a guarantee that we’re going to learn who died between now and the start of next season, due to some kind of leak or on-set espionage. The news will come like a whimper, and last night it could have come like a sledgehammer. This is nothing but a missed opportunity, and it’s the kind of missed opportunity that really, really devalues the show in my eyes.

Sorry Josh, but I just can’t be positive about this. The mistake, to me, was too massive. All I can really say is, Game of Thrones premieres in three weeks. That show is everything this one is not, and I can’t wait to start feeling good about my TV choices again.

—Shane

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Shane,

I was in New York last night, having a lovely dinner with my uncle during the finale and then my hotel room was woefully without AMC. I tried to figure out ways to stream to no avail and the FOMO was rising. But I’m now glad that I actually read your first letter before watching the episode this morning. It certainly lessened the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under me at the end, knowing that it was coming.

I’m not ready to give up on a show that I’ve enjoyed for six and a half seasons just yet. I still care about at least some of these characters, and I think the show has needed its Negan for a while. But my dinner out was much more enjoyable than “The Last Day on Earth.” And unlike previous seasons, I’m not in that big of a hurry for The Walking Dead’s return, even though it means finding out who just died.

Just please don’t let it be Daryl Dixon,
Josh

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