YOU ARE ALIVE
The Walking Dead is a maddening show. Not so much a “love to hate” show, but a show that can be loved and hated in almost equal measures. The Season 6 finale, Last Day on Earth, evidences both The Walking Dead’s best qualities and its worst ones in abundance. There was much that was stunning, and much that was just like, oh come on, really? Because this is a whole blog post, and not a tweet, I will certainly be getting into more detail on both the love and the hate.
But first, A CLIFFHANGER? REALLY? That is just bullshit. You can say, what was I expecting? It’s a TV show, isn’t a cliffhanger de rigueur? No, not really. I mean, I’m fine with the fact that a cliffhanger exists, but you can’t argue it’s necessary to bring in the audience when the show already has mega-high ratings. A show that popular can afford to reveal something major in the season finale and trust the audience to return. Obviously, the producers would argue that the reveal is Negan himself, but in interviews, all the major players have said, ‘Oh, don’t you worry, we’re not teasing, there will be serious, important deaths in the season finale’, so the refusal to reveal who (and confining the “who”—at least in this episode—to one person) is a cheat.
Pissing our pants yet?
Last Day on Earth did some wonderful things, especially introducing Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. With all the tension surrounding this character, the slow build, the growing aura of terror surrounding the Saviors, this had to be done right. The raid on the Saviors compound was the very definition of “too easy”—we didn’t see all that for us to be done with the Saviors, and we didn’t see some random guy identify himself as Negan, for that to be that. So, the ultimate introduction of Negan and the true size of his army had to scare the pants off of us. More importantly, it had to scare the pants off of Rick’s crew. And boy howdy, that all worked. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was great. Rick was dripping with terror. The army was three levels past imposing into Holy Shit.
Another thing that was done very well was giving everyone a strong character moment. It’s like the writers have been on the internet and learned that we all figured out that when someone gets a character moment, they’re going to die. So, in service to the cliffhanger, everyone got the death knell character moment. Well done, truly.
Here’s what didn’t work, though. I get that Maggie was very sick. Maggie had Plot Device Disease, a terrible condition of pregnancy that causes everyone to pile into an RV. But by the second roadblock, Rick and crew should have known that they were well and truly fucked, and that every route would be blocked. The leader at the first road block told them as much. Again this episode, Rick said, “Just as long as it’s all of us we can do anything.” This is not only arrogance, but foreshadowing—we know it’s not going to be “all of us” any longer.
I honestly don’t know what we are to assume is wrong with Maggie—I’m not a medical professional, but it doesn’t fit the symptoms of any complication of pregnancy I know of. Preclampsia doesn’t have fever. Eclampsia is defined by seizures. Most other alarming conditions of pregnancy–placental abruption, ectopic pregnancy–would be accompanied by mild or severe vaginal bleeding. Either they made something up, or they’re too delicate to talk about vaginal bleeding, which is nastily ironic in an episode that introduced Lucille.
Hey, why doesn’t our gang have a cool name? There’s Hilltop, Wolves, Saviors, and the people Morgan encountered appear to be folks from the comics who have a cool name as well, but I won’t spoil that. How come I keep having to say “Rick’s crew”? We need a name. Arrogant Assholes is what I’m toying with at the moment.
Arrogant Rick was somehow unable to discern that these roadblocks meant…there would be roadblocks, or he was too arrogant to imagine that could stop him. He should have gone back to Alexandria and then they’d have to do their best with medical textbooks. Not a hopeful solution for Maggie, but dragging her through the woods on a stretcher is definitely not better.
Did you notice that there were no women in Negan’s crew? On the roadblocks (including last week’s roadblock that encountered Carol), in the woods, and in the compound that Rick and the A.A.s raided, it was all men, mostly big, burly men. Then the group that captured Carol and Maggie were mostly women. Seems like Negan is segregating genders.
Meanwhile, Carol and Morgan are in a parallel story, not at risk from the Saviors (yet) and having encountered what’s obviously a different group, and a much friendlier one at that. Carol’s whole sudden turn into moral confusion, suicidality, and stupidity is not well-written. I think moral confusion and post-traumatic stress, not to mention grief, are absolutely legitimate to play. What drives me nuts is Carol’s notion that somehow, being out in the world on her own will result in her killing less, when her first eight hours disproved that theory. Morgan’s relentless kindness, though, is its own kind of badass, and I’m coming to appreciate it. I assume whatever horrors await the group currently held captive by Negan, Carol, Morgan, and the People With Horses and Padding will play an important role in a rescue.
Or, I don’t know. Maybe a rescue isn’t necessary. Negan said that he needed Rick to work for him, so that seems like he intends to free them and send them back to Alexandria—exactly what he did with Hilltop, after all. I guess next season, then, is Alexandria in service to Negan, and how to fight back, and again, that’s where Morgan and his new friends will come in. (I can’t go by the comic books, here, they diverge too much—keep us guessing.)
So, Walking Dead, you have pissed me off with your stupid Carol and your stupid Rick and your pseudo-disease and your shitty cliffhanger, but you have thrilled me with your incredible cast and strong pacing and terrific world-building, so I’ll be back for Season 7, and find out who’s death I have to mourn.
What about you, Basketcases? Who do you think died? Will you be back to find out? Does Negan scare the beejeezus out of you?