…I know. Believe me, I know. If you’re here, it’s to comiserate and read what I have to say about The Walking Dead, and you are either pissed off beyond all reason or are still reeling from the Season 6 finale, which wrapped up what I considered to be the best B section of the best season yet.
This episode has been anticipated for…pretty much ever. I started watching The Walking Dead (thanks to a friend who introduced me to most of the shows I currently watch and simultaneously and subsequently ruined my life!) back in the Spring of 2014, and even then, just as Season 4 was wrapping up, Negan-buzz was thriving. Then on April 1st, 2015, moviepilot.com thought they’d play an April Fool’s joke on the fans and made a fake announcement that Robert Pattinson had been cast as the bat-wielding baddie. On top of that, again and again, the writers have teased this particular episode’s signature kill as it applies to the comics, wherein Negan cracks open the head of fan-favorite Glenn, and gave actor Steven Yeun many moments in the show where he interacts with a bat prop. Then, of course, once a casting call that matched the description of Negan’s character surfaced, it was announced that current Batdad Jeffrey Dean Morgan had been cast in the role, and that “your property now belongs to Negan,” in the Season 6 mid-season finale.
I was excited for Negan’s arrival, seeing as I for some reason have a thing for villains. Let’s not forget that I am perhaps the only person on Earth who decided on Episode 4.16 that Gareth, the sassy cannibal leader of the newly introduced Terminus, was going to be the biggest, baddest evildoer the show had seen. Three episodes later, showrunner Scott M. Gimple killed him off unceremoniously, for which I wrote an In Memoriam song which will likely be the closest I ever get to songwriting fame, I’m afraid.
However, once we got closer and closer to his television debut, my excitement at seeing Negan quickly turned into dread. In what I consider to be one of the best build-ups to a character reveal that I have ever seen in television, we learned that his group, The Saviors, were not to be trifled with. Also, the stakes were raised to massive proportions: in the past season, we have developed a pregnant couple, killed off half of Alexandria in the course of a single episode, brought two integral characters together into an intimate relationship, saw the draining effects of the apocalypse fully take hold, and absolutely feared for the life of Daryl Dixon, whose death I’m fairly certain would cause an uprising unlike any that the world has ever seen.
It also didn’t help that we kept getting quotes from the people directly involved with the finale about how it made them feel:
“I felt sick to my stomach when I read the script. It was the first day in the whole six years of working on The Walking Dead that I was late for work because I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was so angry and frustrated and I felt sick. And that was just after reading it.”
“I didn’t want to go to work that day. It took a really, really long time for everybody to feel okay again after the finale, let’s put it that way.”
“It was so very dark. I couldn’t say anything after I had finished reading it. I felt like I had dropped into a black hole.”
So when it finally came time for me to watch the finale (because of my current time zone, I’m about eight hours behind that of the East Coast, therefore putting me in full technology blackout for most of the day), I began my typical habit of writing down my reactions to moments in the show live as they play out to send to my Walking Dead fan friends later.
My remarks began fairly sassy, as per usual:
– I want anyone to call me “Fine” like Morgan says it to that horse. #goals
– Yep. Let’s pack up all the characters we care about and drive them into the most dangerous situation imaginable. What could possibly go wrong?
Then, as things started to escalate, they took a turn:
– How many of these damn Saviors are there? Oh my god…
– I would be in the fetal position in tears if I was in that RV and kept getting blocked out. Like…just tears. All the tears.
And then it only got worse:
– I hate this. I HATE this. I HATE HATE HATE THIS. My anxiety is off the charts with this episode.
– Oh my god this is awful. This is truly the worst.
– They’re screwed. They’re utterly screwed.
I stopped writing when the climax of the episode hit, where our main characters were all snatched up by hundreds of Saviors as they eerily whistled a bone-chilling series of notes. Our group was forced to kneel, all of them quaking and terrified. Jeffrey Dean Morgan made his grand entrance as Negan, and delivered a monologue so amazing that I was absolutely fixated.
Well…fixated and terrified.
As Negan’s monologue progressed (it goes on for about 10 minutes), I felt myself get more and more panicked. Negan felt to me like a tensed rattlesnake; ready to strike at any moment. The performances from everyone in the scene were out of this world. The fear was tangible, my heart was pounding, and suddenly I found myself out of breath and in tears. Then, the moment of truth arrived…
Eeny…meeny…miny…moe. Catch…a tiger…by…his toe. If…he hollers…let…him go. My mother…said…to…choose…the…very…best…one…and…you… …are… …it!
– Negan, in his last few lines of Episode 6.16
We knew going into this that a main character was not coming out of it alive. Since Glenn’s unexpected death in the comics made Negan’s introduction absolutely iconic, it pretty much guaranteed that the show’s depiction of the same entrance would deliver just as much (if not more) horror with a beloved character. Debate has been sparked for weeks now on who would taste the wood and steel of Lucille (the name of Negan’s weapon), but uncertainty still remained.
That uncertainty still exists, and will exist until October, because the final frame shows Negan swing Lucille right at the camera. We are put in the perspective of whoever the unlucky recipient of that blow was. The sound becomes distorted, as the victim looks at the ground. Looking up again, we catch sight of Lucille coming back again for another thwack! Blood runs down the glass, and the victim now is collapsed on the ground. We are in black, but we can hear Negan keep swinging. Keep swinging. Keep…swinging.
The hashtag #WhoIsIt is a trending topic on Twitter currently, because we don’t know who was killed tonight. Whoever was chosen, there is not a single outcome where the victim is not someone we will be devastated at having lost. Currently, not even the cast knows who got to meet Lucille. Fans are certainly outraged at the cliffhanger ending, but I don’t know if it’s because I’m still processing or trying to make my puffy eyes swell back down to a manageable size, but I’m oddly okay with the ending as of right this moment.
Let me explain: if we knew who was killed tonight, that would be it. We’d be left without hope, no speculation, no conversation. Just, “Did you watch the finale? ___ died. Crazy, right?” While some might argue that the closure received from that sort of an ending would at least relieve some of the anxiety, I argue that knowing would leave us stuck feeling absolutely hopeless, and that’s not a way to leave fans for an entire summer.
Of course, this is a very smart move on the writers’ part, and will certainly warrant high ratings at the Season 7 premiere, but Gimple in The Talking Dead episode succeeding the finale explained his motivation behind the staging of the finale as follows:
“We want you to be one of those people in that line-up. We want you to feel that suspense, and that terror, and that pain too. And we’re going to deliver a story to you next season that justifies it.”
It worked on me. I was a blithering, sobbing mess by the end of it, and I no longer want Negan around. I take back everything I said: make this guy go away!
In all seriousness, however, I do think that the best days of The Walking Dead are still ahead. There’s still so many directions in which the story can go, and the production value of every episode just continues to increase as the stories become more metaphorical and meaningful. And I really can’t wait to see how Jeffrey Dean Morgan does as he digs in further to the character we’re all going to hate to love and love to hate.
So be you furious, sad, unresolved, or still remarkably anxious like me, rest assured that I will be waiting with bated breath for the Season 7 premiere in October, and we can all arrange a group therapy chat afterwards if necessary.
In the meantime, I’m officially dubbing the upcoming season #SpeculationSummer! Speculate wildly, my friends!
Featured Image and Photo edited by Author from www.freestockphotos.biz