The Walking Dead gives us a spectacular introduction to Negan in the Season 6 finale “Last Day on Earth.” In typical The Walking Dead fashion, we’re left with a dramatic cliffhanger. Must be they’re worried people won’t keep watching the most popular show on cable TV during Season 7. That strategy may backfire.
In terms of audience response to the final scene, “Last Day on Earth” doesn’t seem to be getting the “Who shot J.R.?” response The Walking Dead might be hoping for. In the modern world of social media and instant feedback, this kind of cliffhanger feels played out. The result is a season that ends with the audience feeling angry and frustrated.
Dear Walking Dead—What’s the Deal with “Last Day on Earth”?
Heading to the Hilltop
Maggie’s pregnancy crisis forces the gang to head to the Hilltop. Anyone still at Alexandria with any kind of fighting skill decides to join the posse. It is pretty dangerous outside of Alexandria because the Saviors have been circling the community, but having Rick, Carl, Sasha Abraham, Eugene, and Aaron all take Maggie to the Hilltop seems very short-sighted.
What seems to be downplayed here is the risk to Alexandria. Is getting Maggie to the doctor really worth risking everyone’s life? With all the heavy hitters gone, Alexandria seems incredibly exposed. Maybe Rick trusts Father Gabriel, but after only a few rehabilitation episodes we’re not there yet. We’re not even sure we trust him to get Enid out of the closet, let alone keep Alexandria and Judith safe.
“Last Day on Earth” is Rick Grimes’ comeuppance. Rick has become increasingly confident and was bound for a fall. In the RV, Rick tells Maggie:
“Everything we’ve done, we’ve done together. We got here together and we’re still here. Things have happened, but it’s always worked out for us ’cause it’s always been all of us. That’s how I know. ‘Cause as long as it’s all of us, we can do anything.”
When Rick finds his entire crew has been captured by the Saviors, he is horrified. Negan tells Rick, “Sucks, don’t it? The moment you realize you don’t know sh*t.” During the final scene with Negan, Andrew Lincoln does an impressive job of showing how Rick’s world is falling apart amidst the terror of what’s happening, without even speaking a word.
Negan and the Saviors
The threat of the Saviors was very well done. The worsening conflict with the Saviors continued to build the tension throughout the episode, culminating with the meeting with Negan in the woods. The Walking Dead showed us that the problem with the Saviors was literally growing in scope and size. The moment that Rick, Sasha, Carl, Abraham, and Maggie found themselves in the woods surrounded by terrifying whistles was amazing to watch.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan gave us an impressive introduction to Negan, increasing our apprehension and fear with each passing moment. When Negan declares that he will punish one of them, Abraham stands and offers himself, but gets little response from Negan. Instead, Negan takes his time deciding who it will be, increasing their terror as he draws it out. He gives some special attention to Maggie and Carl, both figures it would be particularly hard to lose being that one is a pregnant woman and the other is Rick’s son. Of course, many of these characters would be hard to lose, all for different reasons. Finally, he randomly chooses his victim and then, just as in “East,” the scene ends with blood on the camera, rather than revealing who faced the brunt of the bat called Lucille. It was a disappointing end to what otherwise was a good episode.
The scene with Negan is shocking, but it’s hard to mourn a mystery victim. We’re left more stunned than sad as when “Last Day on Earth” comes to an end. Though our astonishment quickly turns into irritation when we realize we won’t know who the victim is for 6 months. The Walking Dead leaves a staggering amount of emotional capital on the table. It builds the tension and apprehension throughout the episode, without designating a character to be the focus for the emotional buildup that’s created.
Carol and Morgan
In the moments between, Carol and Morgan provided some light in the darkness of The Walking Dead. In her despair, Carol rejects Morgan’s attempts to help her. She explains why she can’t go back to Alexandria: “If you care about people, there are people to protect, there are people you will kill for. If you don’t want to kill … or you can’t … then you have to get away from them. You do not get both.” Morgan eventually saves Carol from the Savior tracking her. Carol’s warning to Morgan is confirmed when he has to kill the Savior.
We haven’t seen Morgan’s code put to the test before, so it’s not clear if killing one person to save another goes against his beliefs. It appears that Morgan has come to see the necessity of killing in certain circumstances. He might not kill to save himself, but he is willing to kill to save someone he cares about, especially when there are no other options.
Despite themselves, Morgan and Carol have impacted each other’s values. They’ve both tried to do what they think is right, even when it’s been hard. For Carol what’s hard is killing, while for Morgan it’s making the choice to not kill. Carol and Morgan experience everything being a circle when the man looking for his horse arrives on the scene. The unquestioning willingness of the football-pad-wearing horseman to help Morgan and Carol was a refreshing moment in an otherwise suspenseful, but bleak, episode of The Walking Dead.
Last Day on Season 6
There were some strong parts to “Last Day on Earth,” such as the growing realization those trying to get to the Hilltop are becoming ensnared in a trap, Morgan and Carol finding help from the man in football pads, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s outstanding performance as Negan. Despite these positives, killing a major character without revealing their identity tarnishes “Last Day on Earth,” and corrodes our feelings about what has been a strong season of The Walking Dead. Let’s hope for a shiny new Season 7.
For our full recap of “Last Day on Earth” click here.
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Yes, that anticipation did turn into irritation and, to me, downright disappointment. It makes you wonder why the actors talked about this emotional moment, if not just for a ratings grab. It robs the finale of any tension of what already didn’t need to be a 90 minute episode, what with the commercial breaks and all. A good episode and while I wish he had a bit more charisma, Jeffrey Dean Morgan did bring Negan to life. But that cliffhanger episode feels like an opportunity wasted. It doesn’t make the episode terrible, in my eyes, but with it being the last thing you remember, it’s the one big moment that sticks with you and it’s enough to knock the finale down a peg.
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All the talk about this being the best episode yet was really overblown. It may have helped ratings, but didn’t do the series any favors in terms of audience response. Though the episode was more good than bad, all the hype left us expecting more. Even that would have been alright if the series hadn’t left us feeling so stilted at the end. Not cool. Not cool.
Good i love every walking dead episode.
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i hate the show now
It certainly has changed, particularly over the last two seasons.