WARNING: There are major spoilers for all of The Walking Dead season 6 and the finale Last Day on Earth below.
Ok, Walking Dead, I’ve had just about enough of your bait-and-switch bullshit. Glenn’s dead! Oh, wait, no, he’s under a dumpster. Daryl’s been shot! Meh, it’s just a flesh wound, don’t sweat it. And then there’s last night’s finale, Last Day on Earth. Thematically speaking, the ending of last night’s Walking Dead episode was absolutely perfect. The entire finale dealt with the illusion of certainty, those haunting moments when you realize that your beliefs and reality at best only bear a passing resemblance to each other. In that respect, Last Day on Earth’s ending was a masterful statement. In all other respects, of course, it was complete and utter bullshit.
Ok, let’s back up a bit. Rick and pals have been feeling a bit cock o’ the walk lately, having wiped out what they believed to be Negan’s entire crew. Their pantry full, their sentries placed, they think they have mastered this here apocalypse and they’ve got it all down on lock. Anyone steps up to tell ‘em different, Rick’ll just 'reason' with them, most probably by shooting them in the head. Rick is still certain that so long as they stick together, there isn’t any challenge they can’t overcome. And he is about to find out how very, very wrong he is.
Maggie’s medical situation has gotten worse, and Denise’s death has left Alexandria without a doctor. The plan is to take her to Hilltop, where there’s a proper doctor, so Rick loads up the RV and pretty much any character you care about that isn’t Carol or Morgan comes along for the ride. (She, by the way, is still having a wee bit of a breakdown. Morgan finds her and tries to persuade her to come back to Alexandria, but she’s not having it. She ends up shot, but some nice people on horses agree to take care of her. So that’s those two sorted.)
There’s a bunch of bluster in the RV about rawr, we’ll take care of anything that gets in our way and rawr, you’ll be ok Maggie, and then, hang on… there seems to be a bunch of people blocking the road. This is the first altercation Team RV will have with Negan’s crew, and they stupidly don’t think much of it. Civilized threats are exchanged, Rick swaggers around, and the RV departs, seeking out a different route to Hilltop. But the next way forward is blocked as well, by an entirely different group of Negan’s people. And the next. And slowly, painfully slowly, Rick begins to realize how well and truly fucked they really are.
It’s an incredibly taut hour as we watch our survivors - because that’s what they are, ours - devise plan after plan, only to have them all fail. What’s horrible isn’t that they’re failing and that Maggie might die, what’s horrible is our growing realization that maybe they deserve whatever’s coming. Viewed from our perspective, the deal with Hilltop to eliminate Negan as a threat was a calculated risk. Alexandria was starving, this would give them food… and it’s hard to argue that Negan’s people wouldn’t kill them if given half a chance. But killing folks in a stand-up fight is a far sight different from knifing them in their sleep. And even if that was a morally ok thing to do, maybe they should’ve taken a little bit more time knowing the enemy, rather than just going in and letting the blood flow. But Rick’s gotten caught up with this idea that killing is What They Do, and of course everyone is following his lead because, as Maggie weakly tells him in the RV, “I believe in you, Rick.”
And so here we are. In an RV in the dark, driving in ever-tightening circles, low on gas. Can’t run, can’t fight, can’t win. But Eugene comes up with one last, noble plan: Negan’s crew are tracking the RV, not the people in it, per se, so he’ll drive on alone and let everyone else take Maggie on foot to Hilltop. He’ll likely get caught, of course, but Eugene 2.0, the braver model, is ready for that. It’s an ingenious plan, one that offers the necessary sacrifice to Negan, and for a brief moment, we think it’s going to work. That Team RV will once again take a hit, but ultimately prevail and get their own way.
Eugene does, indeed, get caught, and the rest are surrounded as bone-chilling whistles taunt them from the trees. This is when we begin to realize that there is no win. There is no out. Rick is finally going to pay for his hubris, and he’s going to pay in blood. Negan comes out, waving his barbed-wire-wrapped bat Lucille, stalking up and down the line of our survivors who’ve been forced to their knees. Negan lays out the new world order - they all work for him now. Period, the end. They thought they had power, but they were wrong. Deal with it. Oh, and to make sure he’s fully understood, he’s going to beat one of them to death with Lucille. Just business, you understand. A quick round of eenie-meenie-miney-moe and Negan swings… fade to blood-stained black. Wait… what? WHAT?
The entire episode was perfectly tuned to make that showdown as awful as it could’ve been, as it should’ve been, to make us really feel the weight of every single decision that Rick has made and that we, as the audience, supported him on. Every time that RV was blocked, the tension became just a bit more unbearable and the fear more tangible. When that last bit of hope was snuffed out by those whistles in the dark, the despair of the inevitable was a weight that could be borne no longer. Just get it over. Just let it be done.
Nope! Sorry! Gotta wait until next season, lawl!
If you go by the comics, then Glenn’s for the chop (or the smoosh, as the case may be), but the show has played fast and loose with the comics before, so there’s no reason to assume he’s the victim here. But I’m not sure I even care. It was a crappy maneuver that does nothing but give the show runners time to avoid making a decision they can’t take back. Making the audience angry with an unpopular choice is one thing, but doing it with a shrug is even worse. So, yeah, fuck you, Walking Dead. You blew it.
|Writers||Scott M. Gimple and Matthew Negrete|