Spoiler Warning for the Season Finale of “The Walking Dead”

Negan lines up Rick's group. (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)
Negan lines up Rick’s group. (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The episode of “The Walking Dead” that fans have feared for years has finally arrived, but with a lackluster and lazy ending, fans had nothing to actually fear. This 90-minute episode has several highlights, but overall serves as a commercial for the next season. With the frightening threat of the Saviors lurking around every corner, the line between life and death becomes blurred.

Following the shocking ending to last week’s episode, the season finale picks up in Alexandria as Rick prepares a team to take Maggie to the Hilltop’s doctor. In the infirmary, Carl tells Enid that he will not allow her to go along on the trip. Enid argues, claiming that she refuses to leave Maggie’s side. Carl locks Enid in a closet and joins Rick and the others as they prepare to leave; before he leaves, he tells Enid to “just survive somehow.” Carl’s role in this entire episode felt odd and unnecessary and made me question why Rick would allow him to join the journey. Gabriel meets with Rick to go over Alexandria’s defense plans. This scene demonstrates Gabriel’s growth as a character. When he was first introduced, his cowardly and selfish ways threatened the safety of the group. Now, Rick has enough trust in Gabriel to appoint him leader of Alexandria and guardian of Judith while he is away. The problem that I have with this scene is the fact that Rick allows so many of Alexandria’s strongest survivors to leave and venture out into enemy territory. A simple drive to take Maggie to the Hilltop in the RV features Rick, Carl, Abraham, Eugene, Sasha and Aaron. Meanwhile, Morgan, Carol, Rosita, Daryl, Glenn and Michonne are all still missing. This makes Alexandria completely vulnerable for an attack.

This episode also follows Morgan as he tracks Carol and tries to convince her to return to Alexandria. While searching, Morgan finds a horse; this horse is later revealed to belong to the man that Rick and Morgan encountered last episode. Morgan finds Carol injured and weak after being stabbed by a Savior in last week’s episode. He treats her wound as she begs him to leave her alone. Carol explains that she has gotten to a point where she can no longer kill in order to protect the people she loves. Morgan leaves to investigate a walker that is making noise outside, but when he returns, Carol is nowhere to be found. The injured Savior that escaped Carol’s shootout in “East” catches up to Carol and attacks her; he steals her gun and shoots her in the arm and leg. The man wants Carol to die a slow death, but Morgan arrives and kills the Savior after giving him a few warnings. This moment represents a massive shift in Morgan’s character as he ignored his “all life is precious” philosophy to save the life of someone he cares about. Was this just a one-time thing or has Morgan finally learned that killing is necessary at times to protect the people you care about? Two strangers wearing armor arrive (one is the man Rick and Morgan met) and offer to provide medical assistance to Carol. Who are these men, where do they come from and can they be trusted? Readers of the comic-series may know the answers to these questions.

On the road, Rick comforts a bedridden Maggie and shares his belief that both she and the baby will be okay. This moment is incredibly touching and demonstrates the unbreakable bond between Rick and his people. Abraham stops the RV after noticing a group of Saviors blocking the road ahead. The group’s leader (Steven Ogg) commands that Rick’s group turn over all of their belongings, but Rick immediately refuses. Rick and the group turn around and begin searching for a new route to the Hilltop. The new route proves to be impassible as yet another gang of Saviors block the road. Rick begins to realize that he severely underestimated the size and capabilities of the Saviors. The RV comes across a roadblock of walkers chained together, clearly set up by the Saviors. Rick and the others get out to investigate and discover Michonne’s dreadlocks on one walker and Daryl’s crossbow arrows stuck through the body of another. Saviors begin shooting at the group’s feet as they rush into the RV and continue down the road. Much of the episode is an intense game of cat-and-mouse between Rick’s group and the Saviors. These scenes showcase the size and organization of the Saviors and also serve to parallel the techniques used by the residents of Terminus to trap our group back in Season 4. These scenes also highlight Rick’s drive to protect his people; he is willing to drive around with enemies everywhere just to save Maggie.

Morgan and a kind stranger. (Photo courtesy of Gene Page/AMC.)
Morgan and a kind stranger. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC.)

As the RV’s fuel begins to dwindle, Eugene proposes a plan to trick the Saviors. He volunteers to drive the RV around while Rick and the others carry Maggie on foot to the Hilltop. Night falls and Eugene hands Rick instructions for manufacturing bullets (this was first explained by Eugene in “Twice as Far“) in the event that he is killed. Abraham and Eugene share one of my favorite moments from the episode as they tell each other goodbye. Abraham tells Eugene “you’re a survivor” and they hug; this scene marks a shift in Abraham and Eugene’s relationship and further develops both characters. The group carries Maggie through the eerie forest on a makeshift stretcher. Suddenly, the sound of whistling can be heard as Rick’s group realizes they are surrounded by dozens of Saviors. A bloodied Eugene is also among the daunting band of enemies; his courageous plan was presumably figured out immediately. Rick and the group are disarmed and forced on their knees as Glenn, Daryl, Rosita and Michonne are dragged out of a nearby van by Dwight. Seeing our group of heroes being forced to their knees is simply gut-wrentching and unsettling; this is truly a sign of defeat. The entire sequence of events is absolutely terrifying to watch, but the terror is only escalated moments later when the new big-bad villain is finally introduced.

A man with slick black hair, wearing a leather jacket and clutching a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire steps out of the RV and introduces himself as Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). He maniacally tells Rick “you work for me now” and explains the various rules that he has. Negan shares that he will not allow the actions of Rick’s group to go unpunished. He holds up his baseball bat, named Lucille, and declares that he will use it to beat someone to death. Negan then begins pointing Lucille at each of the survivors as he sadistically sings “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.” The face of each character displays pure fear as Negan continues. He finally settles on one of the characters as the camera switches to a point-of-view shot. Negan warns the group against trying anything to stop him before slamming the bat down. Blood trickles down the screen and the screen cuts to black as Negan repeatedly swings his bat down on an unknown target; the other characters scream and cry out in sheer horror. After months of endless hype and buildup, the season ends with a cheap cliffhanger that kills the momentum. Negan’s victim remains a mystery that will haunt fans for the entire seven month hiatus.

The introduction of Negan, as well as the entire final sequence (minus the final few seconds) was handled expertly. The cliffhanger poses a major problem that this series has in regards to storytelling. A season finale is meant to wrap up storylines while teasing events from the next season. By splitting this moment up, the intensity level drops severely. This cliffhanger is a clear marketing ploy to draw in viewers for the next season premiere. After the entire Glenn debacle earlier this season, it’s clear that the writers are struggling to commit to killing off a major character. Regardless, Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivered a chilling and epic performance in his first appearance as Negan, the deranged leader of the Saviors. Negan’s iconic comic-book counterpart comes to life on screen with lines of dialogue such as “are we pissing our pants yet?” and “I do not appreciate you killing my men.”

Aside from the problematic ending and the odd inconsistencies with certain characters, this episode is rich with character development, specifically for Morgan, Eugene and Rick. The acting talents of the entire cast are also a redeeming factor for this episode, especially in the final moments. Overall, this season has been phenomenal with the high point being “No Way Out.” Hopefully, the Season 7 premiere episode is able to reignite the fear and intensity felt this episode. “The Walking Dead” will return this October, but until then, “Fear the Walking Dead” will hold fans over beginning with its second season premiere next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Jeffrey Kopp is the Community Editor of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead."


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