It seems fitting that I should be putting this post up today, considering I’m currently sitting in my hotel room in surprisingly peaceful Alexandria (Yes- THE Alexandria!) to attend a wedding for a friend-of-a-friend later on this afternoon.
And of course I’ll be buying plenty of postcards to commemorate my mini-TWD-fan-girl moment before I leave the “Safe Zone” (Get it?! Get ittttttt?!)
I digress. By now most people have caught up with this past Sunday night’s finale to the sixth season of ‘The Walking Dead’, and those who haven’t have probably- in some way- been exposed to the fallout on social media or by word of mouth following the last agonizing moments of the episode before the credits started to roll and Chris Hardwick appeared on screen to welcome a stunned/infuriated audience to the post-‘Walking Dead’ talk show, ‘Talking Dead’.
I admit to being one of those people who, while attempting to be as least-spoiler-y as possible for my friends/followers on the West Coast, the UK, or those who were unable to watch the episode live as it aired- took to the internet to voice my cryptic frustrations and speculations for the show’s return this coming October.
But I wanted to write about the entire sixth season overall- not just the finale (which believe me, I will get to)– and like I’ve done since starting this blog circa season 3- I thought I’d compile my thoughts, likes/dislikes, the best character transformations (and the worst), my new favorite additions/plot points- and things I would have liked to see.
And also, much like my review of season five– I have a bit of a bone to pick with the writers.
In the off chance anyone reading this hasn’t had the chance to catch up with the show/season six just yet- I’m putting all my thoughts behind a “READ MORE” tag so you won’t get spoiled!
CLICK AT YOUR OWN RISK.
If you’re ready to proceed, let Rick’s expression as he listens to Morgan yammer on about all life being precious guide you in…
With the exception of the time jumps depicted between seasons two and three (where the group had been on the road for a few months before locating the prison) and seasons three and four (where they had taken in the remaining Woodbury residents post-Governor massacre and built a home over an unspecified period of time)– ‘The Walking Dead’ has a habit of starting seasons right where the previous one left off. The season five premiere, for example, brought us right back to Terminus- and specifically- the train cart where our familiar group of “heroes” had been kept for slaughter by Gareth and his cannibal pals at the end of season four before Carol swooped in and saved the day.
Season six continued on a similar path, although it kicked off with black and white flashbacks sequences interlaced with full-color “present day” shots (confusing at first. I thought something was wrong with my TV!) to show the motivation behind, and the build-up to one of the most ridiculous ideas Rick Grimes has ever come up with. Now Alexandria’s leader having killed “Porch Dick” Pete and taking over the community while Deanna mourned the death of her husband after the events in the season five finale- Rick has his sights set on a large quarry that has been filling up with walkers not far from their home and which threatens to tear down Alexandria’s walls should the undead find a way out. While there were a multitude of ways the situation could have been handled (does no one believe in just setting things on fire anymore, or am I just a pyromaniac?)– Rick decides to divert hundreds and hundreds of walkers miles away by using some flare guns, Daryl’s motorcycle, and Sasha and Abraham in what I can only describe as the shittiest car ever- and traveling approximately 10 MPH because walkers don’t move all that fast- as a distraction to keep the walkers following their trail.
And of course, everything that could have gone wrong, did- and that was essentially the set up to 6A. While Rick, Michonne, Morgan, Glenn, Heath (from the comics), spineless Nicholas and some Alexandria red shirts attempt to corral and keep the walkers on the road behind Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl- Alexandria is attacked by The Wolves (the grimy-looking villains introduced in the later half of season five)– who infiltrate the community and begin mercilessly slaughtering everyone. It’s in one of the better episodes of the season, ‘JSS’, where Carol Peletier once again shines- disguising herself as one of The Wolves to take them out one by one and keep her people safe- while simultaneously blowing her cover as Alexandria’s homebody after revealing she’s a more than capable fighter and killer.
But by the end of the episode, it’s obvious that having to keep up appearances and do the dirty work is starting to take a toll on Carol- a subject that is revisited later on in the season.
Despite Carol’s valiant efforts, The Wolves have led a large chunk of the the walkers straight to Alexandria- just as Rick makes it back to try and rally the troops even though their home is surrounded by monsters, they’re essentially trapped- and some of their people still missing.
It’s in these lead-up episodes to the mid-season finale that we get to see the absolute character assassination of Morgan. A fan-favorite every time he was on screen leading up to this point, Morgan has become a stubborn, tedious bore and an annoyance with his mantra of “all life is precious” and his refusal to kill- even those that threaten his safety/life and the safety/lives of those around him- which has consequences when he captures the leader of The Wolves and hides him within Alexandria without telling the others in an attempt to rehabilitate him and get him to see the error of his ways. Not only that- but Morgan uses precious resources to try and aid the Wolf- who had sustained an injury prior to the attack on Alexandria. Resources that should have been reserved for, oh- I don’t know- HIS OWN PEOPLE/COMMUNITY WHO WERE ATTACKED?
The decision puts Morgan up there with Andrea in terms of beloved characters that were destroyed by horrible writing and OOC behavior/ridiculous decision making- and not even an oddly placed 90-minute episode based ENTIRELY on Morgan’s journey from his crazed ‘Clear’ mindset to the Buddhist version he is now could get me on board with him. I gritted my teeth every single time he opened his mouth.
The first part of the sixth season also saw what would prove to be an unfortunate re-occurring theme in the form of the “fake-out” death and cliffhanger ending. Cornered with Nicholas, who ultimately gives up and shoots himself after the two try unsuccessfully to get back to Alexandria- it’s alluded via a slow-motion sequence that Glenn falls into a pile of waiting walkers and is torn to pieces. The scene would have been gut-wrenching and an unfair sendoff to one of the original cast members, if not for the fact that Steven Yeun was not present for ‘Talking Dead’, nor was Glenn featured in the ‘In Memorium’ segment on the show- and added to the fact that show runner Scott Gimple released a cryptic “is he or isn’t he?” message to fans following the episode- the entire thing felt like a cheap ploy for ratings, shock value and social media buzz.
And sadly, it wouldn’t be the last time this happened this season.
When it was revealed EPISODES later that Glenn had survived the ordeal by crawling under a nearby dumpster and that the body being torn apart in the aforementioned slow-motion sequence was, in fact, Nicholas’- it left a bad taste in my mouth. Not even the revelation of Maggie’s pregnancy, Alexandria’s walls finally coming down and the community being overrun by walkers in the mid-season finale- nor the first teaser of ultimate bad guy-Negan- as Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl are ambushed by some of his men while trying to get home- could make me overlook it. It felt like the fake-out was a slap in the face to fans everywhere.
Fortunately, the second half of the sixth season started off really strong- with ‘The Walking Dead’ really “going there” and not only having background nuisance and forced Rick Grimes’ temporary love interest- Jessie- bite the dust (with her two kids, mind you!) in he most gruesome way, Deanna facing death and going out like a BOSS on her own terms- and Carl getting his eye shot out- but Alexandria’s wimpiest residents finally toughened up and banded together as a capable unit in the ultimate feel-good moment of the season by uniting to hack away at the walkers that had breached their walls until Glenn, Daryl, Sasha and Abraham showed up to finish the job and save the day (with help from a rocket launcher Abraham had stumbled on earlier in the season and which Daryl miraculously and inexplicably knew how to fire properly.)
From there, after a small time jump, the season continued to gain momentum in regards to the introduction of some incredible new characters (HELLO, JESUS- MY NEW FAVORITE), new locations like The Hilltop, the development of secondary characters that turned out to be fantastic: like psychology-major-turned-Alexandria’s-reluctant-Main-Doctor-Denise, Eugene (who finally found his courage!) and even my former most-hated character, Father Gabriel- who has, much to everyone’s surprise- turned out to be a total and fearless badass. The development of these three characters really stand out for me because they remind me of the similar character development we saw in Daryl circa season two, and more recently- in Carol. They’ve become well-rounded, interesting, and really entertaining to watch.
The second half of the season also saw the blossoming of some long overdue romances, like Rick & Michonne (YASSSSS!) as well as some surprising and unexpected ones- like Sasha and Abraham, Rosita and her rebound-stud, Spencer- and Carol and Alexandria’s overall swell guy, Tobin. While some complained that there was too much romance going on in the show this past season- it didn’t bother me much. These characters are supposed to be as real as possible (given it’s a show about a zombie apocalypse, anyway) and people hook up and fall in love in life. It’s a thing that happens. I think showing that is important. Not only for realism but for the fact that it’s supposed to reflect these characters finding hope and attempting to have actual lives again- because we all know it’s only a matter of time before things go South, right?
With the remaining Wolf being dealt with following his escape from Morgan’s homemade holding cell, his taking Denise hostage in the mid-season finale, and his ultimate demise at the hands of Carol and her spectacular aim- it was made more and more obvious that the second half of the season’s big bad guy reveal would, in fact, be Negan- and as any comic fan will tell you- it was something to be excited AND terrified about. Even more so with the announcement that the man, the myth, and the legend would be played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan- a pretty intense guy in his own right.
As Alexandria grew stronger and stronger, unifying with The Hilltop community to trade supplies and services, and Rick growing cockier and cockier in his position at the end of the world and at the helm of Alexandria as he dealt with (see: murdered) common threat Negan’s men- The Saviors- along the way- it was only a matter of time before he paid the price for his confidence and willingness to murder simply because he felt he could.
After weeks of buildup, ambushes (one of which resulted in poor Denise’s death by an arrow to the skull), Carol and Maggie being taken hostage by a group of female Saviors and then subsequently butchering them one by one before escaping- and Daryl’s increasing recklessness while seeking vengeance against other survivors who had wronged him putting him directly in the cross hairs of one of the more loathsome members of The Saviors, Dwight- the season finale saw Rick and Co. fall right into an intricate trap as the group attempted to move a very ill (and possibly miscarrying) Maggie to The Hilltop to see an Obstetrician that resides there.
The trap is set by Negan, himself- who wants retribution for Rick and his people killing his men.
In the comics, Negan’s arrival is iconic- and marks the end of the line for one of the most beloved members of the group. For that reason, I- with many other fans- had braced ourselves for the worst and for months of grieving between seasons after the unlucky victim was chosen via the infamous “Eeenie, Meenie, Miney Mo” Russian Roulette style of selection. The show had built the season finale up so much, so diligently- that I was sure it was going to be soul-crushing.
And my God- did Jeffrey Dean Morgan OWN the character of Negan once he first emerged on screen. Not only was he intimidating (and oddly charismatic and, not gonna’ lie- kinda’ sexy)– but he looked like he was having a BLAST tormenting a broken and terrified Rick. It gave me chills- and the chills only intensified after Negan made his selection on whom he was going to kill- pointing his “awesome” barbied-wire wrapped bat, Lucille, directly at the camera and proceeding with the skull-bashing. Except the screen went black- and the person on the receiving end of the beating was never revealed before the final credits rolled- marking the second “fake-out”/cliffhanger of the sixth season- and the one people are most enraged about.
Here’s the thing: ‘The Walking Dead’ is one of the highest rated shows, if not THE highest rated show- on television. It has been for years. Tactics like this to generate viewers is not necessary. People are going to tune in. It’s just a given. But dumbing down episodes for shock value, or to get a hashtag trending on social media- and getting downright sloppy and lazy with the writing- is a surefire way to get people to stop watching all together. This fanbase is not stupid. We don’t need “WHO DUNNIT?” style cliffhangers to be entertained. For God’s sake- by the time October rolls around- nobody is going to be emotionally invested in who died. Not the way they would have been had it been revealed to us in the finale.
And perhaps the other frustrating thing is that the ploy for ratings ultimately took one of the most horrifying and recognizable scenes in the comic and watered it down and/or stripped away what made it such a talked about event. Not only do the fans deserve better than that- but so did Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as this episode was his big “here I am!” moment. It’s appalling.
While there were certain aspects of the season I enjoyed- ultimately I felt the writers really slipped in a lot of ways in the sixth season. The desire to generate ratings and retweets on Twitter took precedence over providing the audience with good storytelling and character development. Sure, some of the characters really shone bright (the aforementioned Denise, Eugene, and Father Gabriel- for example) but Morgan’s refusal to kill and constant badgering/harassment of Carol- and even in some ways Carol losing her edge near the end of the season- were just downright painful to watch for a longtime fan/viewer like myself.
Here are some things I’d really like to see in season seven:
1. Carol get the help she needs and come back stronger than ever: Carol is very obviously going through some form of PTSD from all the killing she’s had to do in recent episodes- and has been for a while- and now that she is being taken to what I presume is another community- The Kingdom- after being downright and unnecessarily tortured by a Savior and ready to face death- I’m hoping she can find some the comfort, clarity, and maybe a hug and the long talk with someone she so desperately needs so that she can go back and help the group now that they need her more than ever when dealing with Negan.
On a side note, I really hope Morgan isn’t the one to bring her back from the brink. Even though he broke his code of “never kill” in the season finale to save Carol’s life by putting down the Savior who was hellbent on murdering her- his treatment of her has been infuriating- and something about a man body-slamming a former domestic abuse victim in order to prevent her from killing a murderer looking to hurt even more people (the leader of The Wolves)– doesn’t bode well with me.
2. Less Teenage Angst: Although Carl more or less seems to have it together (the kid is FEARLESS)– season six was loaded with plenty of teenage angst to make even the most understanding and patient person roll their eyes. There was Ron, who couldn’t grasp why Rick had to put down his murderous and abusive father, Pete- and who then went on to (accidentally) shoot out Carl’s eye in his rage after his mom and brother got devoured by walkers (their own fault, really- because screaming/crying when surrounded by zombies is never a good call.) Then there was Enid, Alexandria’s designated moody teenage girl and Carl’s maybe-girlfriend. Having lost her parents and refusing to get close to anyone else for fear of losing them, too- Enid spent a good chunk of season six being a passive-aggressive and stubborn pain in the ass until Glenn had to give her the verbal dragging she so desperately needed. I think she’s finally starting to come around- but it might still be too early to tell.
3. Negan being allowed to thrive: Negan is a scary guy. Let him be a scary guy. Show his brutality and what he’s capable of. Don’t give the audience a watered down version of him like The Governor was. We’re going into the seventh season and it’s time to show fans just how dark, depraved, unforgiving and unpredictable a post-apocalyptic world filled with terrified, crazed, and traumatized people can be. If you’re willing to show a ten year old boy getting torn apart by walkers while his mother and brother look on- then you can show us just what Lucille can do.
4. NO MORE CLIFFHANGERS: The fans deserve more respect than these lame endings and fake-out character deaths. We’re not a bunch of children who need to have things dumbed down for us- and I think presenting a good story- beginning, middle, and end- isn’t really asking a whole lot. We can handle it. I assure you, TWD writers. Please stop making bullshit, lazy calls and tell the story the way it needs to be told- properly.
And so, with all that written- that concludes my review of season six of ‘The Walking Dead’. I’m half-dreading tuning in this coming October because I know I’ll immediately be hit with a character death I should have known about last Sunday- but oh well. Here’s hoping it gets better.
For now, though- I’m off to explore a little more of Alexandria (I still can’t believe I’m here!) and get some breakfast before the wedding!
I’ll leave you with this, because it’s pretty great: