What I mean is, why do you continue to watch it? I watch it because I can squeeze a cheap post out of it on Monday nights when the news is slow. That’s a (very small) financial incentive. What’s your excuse? Do you enjoy the taste of sh*t? If so, congratulations. You had a big night last night.
I’m embarrassed to say I was actually excited for this toilet of an episode. Until, that is, Emily Zanotti tweeted this about 10 minutes before it started. Then I knew.
Prediction: Walking Dead will cut to black as soon as Negan swings his bat, no one knows who dies until Sept. Everyone riots.
— Emily Zanotti (@emzanotti) April 3, 2016
Of course. How could it end any other way? How could I have ever thought it would end any other way? How could the same group of exhausted idiots who gave us the Great Glenn Fakeout by the dumpster deliver a satisfying finale? They spent the entire season building up Negan’s introduction, with word spreading far and wide that his appearance in the comics means death for a major character, and then, after 13 hours of build-up, they copped out. Some critics ask what the big deal is; cliffhangers are what season finales are for, right? Nope, not in this case. Here’s a big reason why:
The stress and thrill of waiting for the next big character to die is a burden viewers accept when they commit to a certain kind of drama series (ahem, Game of Thrones). There are usually, though, plenty of other good reasons to keep watching. Unfortunately, this last season of The Walking Dead points to the sad fact that the show views the question “Who will die?” as its only narrative currency…
I’m sure there’ll be plenty of viewers who, though upset by this cliffhanger, will tune in next season anyway. And I’m sure when the network gleefully announces its ratings for this finale, the numbers will be astronomical. Good for AMC, I guess. But more than just being a not-so-great show, The Walking Dead has turned into an aggressively cynical series that seems to care far, far less about giving viewers a good story than it does about getting them to watch at all costs.
Correct on both counts. They teased the audience with the death of a major character three different times this season, only to pull back each time. Everyone remembers the Great Glenn Fakeout but lost in the shuffle of last night’s betrayal was the fact that they handed us a paper-thin “cliffhanger” in last week’s episode too. I’d almost forgotten that Daryl had been shot point-blank in the final moments of the previous hour until the Saviors dragged him out into the circle to kneel with the other Alexandrians at the end of the season finale. There was barely any suspense over what might have become of him. The feeling upon seeing him was just “Oh, right, there’s Daryl, wounded but still alive, of course.” It’s as if the writers are tossing out so many new cliffhangers week to week on their way to bigger and better ones that they sometimes forget to resolve the ones that are still out there. That’s why everyone was waiting for the payoff last night. If killing off major characters is the sole point of the show now, which is pretty clearly the takeaway from the Glenn/Daryl teases, then you’ve got to repay the audience for its patience by delivering in the closing moments of the season — especially when millions of viewers have been primed for this scene. As it is, this felt a lot like the end of season one of “True Detective,” a far superior show but one which also fumbled in the clutch. You can’t spend eight hours building a mystery and then tell the audience they’re never going to know whodunnit. You can’t spend 13 hours building up “Negan takes revenge on Rick’s gang” and then tell the audience to wait six more months to find out how. At this point, the possibility that the whole thing will turn out to be some feverish hallucination of Maggie’s can’t be ruled out.
Even the stuff that came before last night’s big sellout didn’t make sense. Why would Rick and the gang continue to plot new routes to the Hilltop once it became clear that the Saviors had set a trap for them? Why not try to make it back to Alexandria and do what you can to treat Maggie there? Why the hell did they all get out of the RV to inspect the zombie “red rover” when it was abundantly clear that it was bait for an ambush by the Saviors? Rick didn’t know at that point that the Saviors were trying to take them alive; they could have all easily been killed right there on the road. For their part, why did the Saviors insist on playing cat-and-mouse with Rick’s gang when they don’t know how many Alexandrians there are and how many might be coming out to look for Rick’s crew once they failed to return home? Why not kill them immediately instead of loitering on open roads waiting for an enemy of unknown numbers? And what was with all the maudlin music when Eugene volunteered to drive the RV on his own, on what seemed like a suicide mission to distract the Saviors? Five minutes later he’s right back with the rest of the gang kneeling in the circle. That practically counts as a busted cliffhanger in its own right. Eugene, the coward, is about to heroically sacrifice himself so that the others can get Maggie to the Hilltop. Then, one commercial break later, there he is again, having accomplished nothing. Terrific.
Both of the Atlantic’s weekly “Walking Dead” reviewers claim they’re done with the show after last night’s sellout. I’m going to shop around and see if I can’t find some other garbage programming on the weekends to write about on Mondays. (“Fear the Walking Dead,” which resumes next week, still has potential.) I’ll consider sticking with it if it sounds from this summer’s previews like Rick is about to become one of Negan’s henchmen, as that at least would be a dramatic reimagining of the character. It’s hard to believe the writers would do that to their hero, though. He’s the designated Good Guy and therefore must remain Good. Oh, and a prediction: Despite the fact that Glenn’s the one who ends up being beaten to death by Negan in the comics, it won’t be him when the victim’s revealed in the season premiere. A show that’s this gutless isn’t going to start by offing one of its most beloved characters. (We already know the victim isn’t Rick or Carl per Negan’s instructions to his henchmen to cut out Carl’s eye and feed it to Rick if anyone screams during the beating.) It’s got to be Abraham, right? He’s sort of major as characters go — enough so that it wouldn’t be seen as a total cop-out, as it would if the victim were Rosita, say — but not so major that hardcore fans will wail, as they would if it’s Glenn or Daryl. We’ll see. Or rather, you’ll see.