A majority of us can categorically agree that this season of The Walking Dead sucked more than any in recent memory. Our sweet killer Carol has withered and become a shell of her former merciless self. The sequence of events were as predictable as normal yet with less gratification. And Glenn’s false demise did nothing but prove that killing off major characters is a bittersweet necessity.
Perhaps the only bright spot in Season 6 was the union of Rick and Michonne. Even that provided little spark and wasn’t nearly enough to push past the formulaic devices that typically drive The Walking Dead, which are primarily: Rick’s crew meets another crew and considers murdering them, morality is debated, they all split up, some get kidnapped, and it all ends with a face off between newfound apocalyptic enemies. Except this time, the season ended with no one getting killed and, while our visceral reaction to the deaths of likable characters is always heartbreaking, we nevertheless accept, as in real life, that the people we love will inevitably be lost. The world feels unreal otherwise.
This cycle of chaos, destruction, attachment and loss is part of what makes The Walking Dead so watchable (other than zombies eating people) and it’s what was taken away from us in the Season 6 finale. Instead, the deeply unsatisfactory ending—Negan bludgeoning an unknown member of Rick’s group with a spiked bat, leaving viewers clueless about exactly who is no longer with us—gave us nothing to grieve about and little to love about this past season. Not to mention, not enough Negan. That may be an overly dramatic assessment for a show that at its base is about avoiding being eaten by zombies. But Rob Bricken summed it up nicely over at i09, writing: “Thanks to this tremendously bullshit cliffhanger, the whole damn thing ended up being less than the sum of its parts.”
It stings. Still, we know The Walking Dead will likely recover from its decision to dangle death in front of us in lieu of a more cathartic finality. Showrunner Scott Gimple insists that the finale’s emotional toying / delay of grief was not forced, though it’s hard to believe him. “We never intend to fuck with people,” said Gimple at a screening of the finale, during a panel moderated by director Paul Feig. “You all just saw the episode and I want to go on record and say we were not trying to fuck with you.”
Isn’t The Walking Dead always trying to fuck with us? Gimple also referenced how the series sticks to the script as outlined in the comic books. “We have 153 issues of story to draw from. I think it’s an amazing thing to have that as a basis,” he said. “We may be remixing it, enhancing it, emphasizing parts of it, but I feel it only makes the tapestry richer. It is the story from the book but we are doing it in different ways.”
Image via AMC