WARNING : SPOILERS AHEAD
Televison has been going from strength to strength over the last few years with many shows upping their game to match the imagination and epic scale of many movies, with shows like Game of Thrones, Vikings, Hannibal and of course, The Walking Dead, presenting us with cinematic episodes far beyond the scope of yesteryear’s TV.
After the explosive and eye-popping (I’m so sorry) mid-season premier back in February to the Season finale on April 4th, I’m not sure my heart has stopped pounding. Episode 609 ‘No Way Out,’ directed by Greg Nicotero, was mind-blowing to say the least. Every individual piece of the story, such as character journeys that were shattered in the first half of the season, were finally pieced together like a beautifully tragic and compelling jigsaw puzzle. In particular Eugene’s speech to Rosita and Gabriel’s speech to his ‘congregation’ have shown how much these characters have grown and earned their place in the group.
There is what I can only imagine must be a difficult task for the writers, producers and directors of the show, in that when a show starts strong it can sometimes flag in the middle, with some episodes feeling more than a little like filler. I feel The Walking Dead has at times been guilty of this, but in this half of the season, the show has learned its lesson, with each episode of equal importance… Or maybe I’m just too easy to please.
With the introduction of Negan’s group ‘The Saviours’ this season, who are really serious, the group has been left with more at stake than ever.
For me it has always been the characters that make the show such compulsive viewing. Yes the violence is gratuitous, though necessary, yes the action is marvellous, the walkers are more terrific and terrible than ever etc. but it’s the characters, from the Atlanta Five (Rick, Carl, Carol, Glenn and Daryl) to ‘Abraham’s Army’ and even newer characters from Alexandria that make the show what it is.
This is a show about people, not just walkers; and whilst I appreciate they play a big part in the show, it is a tale of relationships amongst people and their relationship with the walkers, nature and themselves. As with any great zombie text (the films of George Romero are the obvious example) the undead omnivores are a catalyst for the interactions of the survivors.
The discussions between Abraham and Daryl for example regarding settling down and Maggie’s pregnancy that show how uncertain they both are of the future, yet by the end of the episode Abraham grins at the scan of Maggie’s baby. It shows how in the world of The Walking Dead so much can change, even in a short space of time such as a day.
Michonne and Rick’s relationship felt so natural and I felt it was important that a show so terribly dark (I still have nightmares about Noah’s death) has moments of hope where light triumphs over dark. The Abraham, Rosita, Sasha triangle upset me (I still love you Rosita!) but it did feel natural and demonstrated how hard relationships can be to build in that world. I didn’t love the lack of interaction between Carol and Daryl, but I feel there was a reason for Carol distancing herself from those she loves. This became evident when Carol left the group after her realisation she could no longer kill for those she loved, including Tobias who she entered into a relationship with.
Episode 612 ‘Not Tomorrow Yet,’ also directed by Greg prepared us for the arrival of Negan early on. Rick and the gang went to kill ‘The Saviours’ as part of a deal with the community at Hilltop in exchange for food. It was all going so well until the end, wasn’t it?
Episode 613 ‘The Same boat’ directed by Billy Gierhart, saw Maggie and Carol kidnapped by The Saviours, and whilst they escaped I feel it was this experience that led Carol to leave the group. In meeting one of the captors, Paula, I believe she saw a reflection of herself in Paula’s eyes and saw what she had the potential of becoming if she stayed with Rick and the others and continued to kill for love. Interestingly in the final episode it is Morgan who saves Carol’s life by killing, the very thing that the two had argued about so passionately and where Carol believe Morgan would find his downfall.
In episode 615 ‘East’ directed by Michael E. Satrazemis, Tara and Denise’s relationship had me choked up, especially Tara confessing to Jesus (of the Hilltop gang) and Gabriel that she loves Denise. After all of that Dwight shoots Denise through the eye with Daryl’s crossbow and the pain in Daryl’s face could not have been clearer, I bet he’s regretting not killing him now.
Now that the appropriately named final episode, ‘Last Day on Earth’ also directed by Greg has been aired there’s been a lot of outraged fans who wanted to see who got the beating from Negan, in other words who died. Perhaps this was due to the hype built up surrounding it, recently in his interview with the Empire Online podcast Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) stated he felt sick after reading the script for the final episode and woke up from having nightmares due to it. Several other actors also spoke out regarding the end.
In its defence, I thought they did a bloody (literally) good job considering the amount of pressure the writers were under. We witnessed an epic performance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan (I’ve had a soft spot since Watchmen) and saw Rick, who at the beginning of the episode was so sure of himself and his position, reduced crying and shaking with fear. Rather than seeing who died we saw the beating from the point of view of the receiving end. Still shocking, perhaps more so as it leaves it up to the viewers imagination and you know what they say, leave them wanting more.
I get it, I think, we like to see death but doesn’t it say a lot about society when we’re baying for blood and not satisfied unless we see a beloved character bludgeoned to death?
Isn’t that fundamentally a little sick?
There’s a lot of speculation over who died.
I’m guessing Carl and Rick are safe based on what Negan said. I’m also guessing they’re male based on the phrase, “taking it like a champ,” and how in the comics Negan isn’t really about violence towards women.
Is it possible that Eugene, whilst saying his goodbyes, has just stepped up, possibly into Abraham’s shoes? That Aaron still has a lot of potential and that viewers love Daryl too much to kill off. As much as it pains me to say, I have a feeling it might be Abraham or maybe Glenn but who knows? There are so many theories flying around and knowing The Walking Dead, no one is safe.
I’m counting on losing more than one beloved character next season and I have a horrible feeling about Glenn and Maggie’s baby (could it be a walker?) One thing’s for sure, I’m in this for the long run no matter how much my heart feels like it’s going to break.
Shooting is about to begin for Season seven and will return to our screens around October.