Okay, here it is. The season finale of The Walking Dead. (This level of tension is why I have trouble watching horror that doesn’t have any comedy in it.) Man, I just know, in the immortal words of Kevin Hart:
Okay, now that I’ve finally got my emotions in some kind of check about this, I just want to say Wheeww! That was some seriously tension-filled drama right there, even when I knew what was going to happen. In the interests of full disclosure, I did read some bios about Negan before the episode aired, so I kind of had some idea what was going to happen as far as his introduction and where things might go.
Lets get this out of the way up front. All of you who are anger-tweeting the shows creators about not knowing who died, I don’t understand how you didn’t see that coming. Its called a “cliffhanger” and its very purpose is to get you to return next season. That horrible frustration you’re feeling right now is a feature, not a bug. Not just that, but he Walking Dead ends every season on a cliffhanger, so how didn’t you know it was going to do that this time? Not only did I know it was going to be a cliffhanger, I knew where that cliffhanger would and should occur, for maximum frustration levels for the viewer, because if I was the show runner, its how I would’ve done it. I understand why people were angry. (You’re supposed to be angry.) I just don’t understand why people were surprised.
Well, anyway, there’s not a whole lot of plot to get through in this episode but there is a lot to discuss. Rick And the crew in the RV spent most of their time running away from The Saviors, who were determined that they were finally going to have it out with this little upstart crew, who kept brutally killing their people (burning them alive, blowing them up with rockets).Trying desperately to get Maggie to Hilltop (we still don’t know whats wrong with her), the crew kept running into larger and larger groups of Negan’s people who kept doing creepier and creepier shit to unsettle them. And it worked! I know I was unsettled.
Why so many people decided they needed to make the trip with Maggie to Hilltop is anybody’s guess. No, seriously! I mean everybody. All of Alexandria’s heavy hitters decided to take a road trip. Really?! I mean Eugene, Abraham, and Carl could have stayed home. I also wonder if, after this horrible event with The Saviors, if all of the fight has gone out of Eugene? I wouldn’t blame him for giving up on being a hard ass after meeting Negan.
The first group they encountered on the road seemed relatively small, but well armed, and Rick correctly, didn’t want to have a showdown with them, while Maggie was sick in the vehicle, which is exactly the decision the Saviors knew he would make. The Saviors had Rick figured out at every turn, which was also pretty creepy. Even the seemingly spontaneous idea to split up, with some of the crew on foot and Eugene in the RV, was predicted by them. At one point, Rick and the others come across a line of Walkers chained across the road, and find that one of them is wearing a lock of Michonne’s hair.The tension grows tighter when Rick realizes they have the other members of his group.
The point of all this is not just to herd Rick and the others towards a particular location, or show him what he’s up against, but also to completely demoralize Rick, so that he stops fighting. Negan wants them alive but needs to bring Rick to heel. The Saviors want him to understand that this confrontation is going to happen, no matter what. Actually, what Negan says is correct. The Saviors have been pretty nice to them. Negan is showing Rick that they could’ve killed all of them, at any point along the continuum, but they want don’t want a fight that would potentially reduce both group’s numbers. They want to maximize their gain, which is why Negan leaves so many, of the groups that he annexes, alive.
Oh, and all that whistling, which I thought was pretty funny at first, is a lot creepier coming from several dozen people in a dark forest.
Oh, but you want to hear about Negan. Well, that was certainly a grand entrance. He talked for a while, and I mostly dismissed the things he said, because whatever it was is only in service to this ego. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, The Comedian from the Watchmen, did a bang up job, which I never doubted he would.
I’m less concerned with Negan’s part of the story and his odd, paternal interest in Carl, than I am interested in Carol’s and Morgan’s narrative Morgan, who had continued the search for Carol without Rick, finds an abandoned horse and then Carol, who has been wounded. She tells him she is leaving the group because she has decided to give up killing, and if she stays she will be forced to kill, because she loves them. She’s not wrong. Her need to protect the others from danger will push her to kill again.But what she doesn’t understand is that she is not the only one with that burden. Morgan tries to explain to her that the group needs her and will kill for her too. Which he does, giving up on his pacifist philosophy to save Carol’s life from the Savior who was stalking her in the last episode.
All of the decisions that the characters made all season have finally caught up with them. Morgan and Carol talk about “The Price”, not knowing that the group is about to pay the ultimate price for having made the decision to kill any Saviors they encountered, from their first meeting onward. Yet I don’t believe the outcome would’ve been any different. These two groups were on a collision course even if Rick and his group had never fought back. Negan would’ve killed one of them anyway because that’s what he does with every group. Rick’s group killing all the Saviors they met simply prolonged the inevitable.
I also got the impression from Negan that he sort of admires Rick and his crew. He certainly seemed impressed with Carl. (I thought it was because Rick’s group is so dangerous and Carl’s the youngest one there. Negan seems very intrigued by that. Probably because there aren’t a lot of very young people left alive in this world.) Rick’s group, as small as it is, managed to take out a lot of his people. Negan can see that they’ve got skills and training and went through some trouble to craft an elaborate scheme for them. If he can harness them as a resource this is a good thing for The Saviors, although I don’t believe for one second that there will ever be peace between these two groups or that Negan will even survive this.
Questions: Has Morgan decided to give up pacifism? If he does, will there be a price for him too, as Carol says? Where are Tara and Heath and what are they going to think about their new arrangements with The Saviors when they get back? Especially Tara, who doesn’t yet know Denise is dead. How are the Alexandrians going to handle this news? Who are the people on horseback that Morgan and Carol encounter?
As for who dies? I don’t particularly care because its not who dies that is my main focus. My focus is: what happens after that? What will be the repercussions of Negan killing one of Rick’s crew?
See, Rick and the others aren’t the only ones who have to pay a price for killing. Negan is subject to the same rules as everyone else, and sooner or later he’s gonna have to pay, too.