“You can breathe, you can blink, you can cry. Hell, you’re all gonna be doing that.”
I wouldn’t want to be Scott Gimple right now. I don’t think I’ve seen so much outrage at a shows season finale since Lost. It actually felt quite like a cliff-hanger Lost would’ve pulled back in its heyday. I actually liked the season finale quite a bit, cliff-hanger and all, but more on that later. First, let’s discuss the impressive and ambitious Season 6 in its entirety.
After the season 5 finale that saw Rick coldly shoot Pete in the head in front of the meek Alexandrians and the newly arrived Morgan, season 6 starts with Rick taking control of the people of Alexandria to combat a growing walker problem in a nearby quarry. Rick believes that it’s only a matter of time before the quarry full of walkers find their way out and head to the nearest food source; Alexandria. The people of Alexandria are hard to convince, and a secret coup is slowly growing against Rick’s dictatorship. The walkers get out and the resulting panic and efforts to subdue them takes up most of the first half of the season. At the same time a bunch of gross dudes called the Wolves are attempting to attack Alexandria and to top it off Morgan has become a pacifist in his time away and now refuses to kill. These first 8 or so episodes take place over just a couple of days and as a result the pace of them never really lets up. It’s some of the best stuff The Walking Dead has ever done and the tighter narrative works well. This first half never really slows down and although a lot takes place in 1 location (the town of Alexandria) it never gets boring, as many accused season 2 of being, which was also predominantly set in just one location. This is because the farm in season 2 stayed pretty much untouched until the finale whereas Alexandria is under constant threat, be it from walkers, wolves, or an internal problem. These problems are usually solved in a loud violent way too, meaning we get some truly bad ass moments for some key characters (Daryl with an RPG is a particular highlight). Those looking for some Rick-action won’t be disappointed either, as the Ricktatorship is back and better than ever. My personal favourite bit is when Rick is surrounded in the broken down RV by the Wolves fleeing Alexandria and he just slaughters about 5 of them in a few seconds. So much much for the whole “We don’t kill the living!”
While this may sound like the show runners giving the fans exactly what they want, the shows does take a few too many liberties with fan expectations this season. There are a couple of fake outs and both are considerably unpopular with some of the more vocal fans. The first one involves Glenn and Nicolas and it is, admittedly, very well done. There’s a great POV shot as Nicolas shoots himself in the head, slow motion as the both of them fall into a crowd of walkers, and some great music by the awesome Bear McCreary. Of course Glenn lives (Nicolas’s corpse strategically fell onto him, protecting him from the walkers as he crawled under a dumpster) and although the show dragged it out a little longer than they needed to, it was good as a one off and one that actually managed to trick some viewers. But once was enough. The show ending the series with a similar cliff hanger was a misjudged move by Gimple and co. Again though, it was a very well done scene and the POV shot was a very cool shot. In fact the whole scene leading up to the infamous final seconds is probably some of the best stuff TWD has ever done. Andrew Lincoln is predictably amazing as the suddenly very terrified Rick but it’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan who steals the show. All doubts about him go out of the window as soon as he steps out and starts spouting some some of the comic’s best lines. Devoid of swearing of course, but that doesn’t even matter, Morgan is so brilliant in the role he doesn’t need the over the top swearing. So it’s a shame that this is all over shadowed by that cliffhanger. And it’s not even bad, like I’ve said already; it’s very well done, but to have no answer to who is killed is a cop out on Gimple’s behalf. Although it’s nowhere near as disastrous as some fans have made out, and the show doing unexpected things is what I generally like to see, it’s the fact that come October nobody is going to care because the momentum will have been lost. Plus set photos will have ruined it for all but the most careful fan. In my opinion the only way to completely redeem it is if the show comes back having killed one major character and then boom, they kill another one right after. It’d certainly make more sense seeing as how the gang has killed about 70 of Negan’s guys.
Negan’s not the only awesome new addition mind, 6 also sees the introduction of comic book favourite Paul ‘Jesus’ Monroe (now Rovia, presumably not to confuse people into thinking he’s related to the recently deceased Deanna Monroe). He’s great and his introduction episode is one of the best in the season, and is a rare example of The Walking Dead bringing a touch of levity to proceedings. Plus it’s a great episode for the shows best friendship; Rick an Daryl, who even manage to fit in a bit of Georgia country music in amongst the bromance. There a lot of good character stuff this season actually, from Eugene’s transformation into a useful member of the gang, to Carol crisis of faith, to the sweet romance between Rick and Michonne. Most are great, and even though some fans complain, some would rather see Carol be her usual hardened killing machine for example, seeing her as an actual rounded character, who second guesses her actions, is even better.
The Bottom Line: The Walking Dead is the best it’s ever been despite a few storytelling hiccups. The season is full of great zombie action, top notch direction (especially the Greg Nicotero episodes) and brilliant character moments, but just remember to ignore the over the top reactions to the cliffhanger. Sure it’s a cop out but there’s so much other great stuff that’s easily overlooked. Hopefully the show will return this strong and confident later this year.
Reviewed By Tom