The Walking Dead seemed like an impossible dream before it came true. I mean, a TV series featuring flesh-eating zombies every single episode? Come on. Never gonna happen. But clearly, somebody cared enough to get the ball rolling, and before long we had a bloody, visceral, George A. Romero-inspired TV show that zombie fans could really sink their teeth into (sound familiar?). The end of Season 5 saw Rick executing his future girlfriend’s husband in front of the entire walled-off town of Alexandria, with the town leader, Deanna, effectively submitting to Rick’s methods as a leader.
Season 6 sees Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and all the inhabitants of Alexandria attempting to lead away an enormous swarm of “walkers” (or “roamers”, depending on who’s talking) from accidentally wandering towards their town. But like all their plans, it goes wrong and half the swarm they were trying to redirect winds up surrounding all of Alexandria. Meanwhile, a new human threat has surfaced, when they encounter well-armed, well-organized squads claiming to be working for someone named Negan, who wants half of all their supplies at all times. Having just secured Alexendria, Rick and everyone else go on the offensive, hitting Negan where it hurts, just like they’ve done with so many of their enemies in the past. But this is a threat unlike any they have ever encountered before, one even Rick may not be able to handle.
As a fan of the comics, I watch this show expecting specific events to unfold in specific ways. While it may constantly separate me from the events onscreen, with half of my attention always in the comic book universe, I still live for those unexpected moments where they go against the current rather than with it. For example, when certain characters die even if they’re still alive in the comics, or when other characters, who were weak and die easily in the comics, go on to become total badasses on the show. But this season, however, plays it very close to the comics, with the least amount of resistance to the source material (aside from changes already made in previous seasons). And as a fan of the comics, playing it too safe like this doesn’t pull me more into the show, it pulls me more out of it. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel adaptations work better with a sense of independence rather than strict dependence.
This show was never more popular than when The Governor was terrorizing our heroes at the prison. So clearly this show needs a diabolical human villain. So when I heard the show was finally going to introduce Negan, whose every second word in the comics is the F-bomb, I wondered how he’d be handled on AMC where the F-bomb never happens. Without giving too much away, I will say that Jeffrey Dean Morgan makes the character his own, with supreme confidence and an unsettling smile. He will be a force to be reckoned with next season, even if they did wait too long to reveal him this season.
It seems everyone is talking about that insane cliffhanger of an ending. That unknown POV death scene fans of the show will have to wait six months to identify, while I’ll be spending six months wondering if it’s the same person as in the comics. It is cheating people out of a truly shocking finale. Putting a question mark on the whole thing doesn’t increase the suspense, it increases our exasperation. And as soon as Season 7 premieres, that POV impact will lose 100% of its luster forever. Cliffhanger secrets like these are absolute poison for TV. You remember how long you waited rather than how suspenseful it was. It’s not like the fans wouldn’t have tuned in for Season 7 if they had seen who’d bitten the dust. But nothing could possibly shock or satisfy fans after having waited six months. It’s not unforgivable, but they should have known better.
3 out 5