The Walking Dead was hugely successful in heightening our expectations and creating anticipation in the first four episodes of season six. Unfortunately, in the last four episodes, all it’s done is delay our gratification. Last night’s midseason finale, “Start to Finish,” would’ve been a great episode if it had actually finished. There are a lot of pieces that have been set in motion, and we were so close to witnessing something huge happening, but the episode ended before quenching our bloodlust.
The series has a strong history when it comes to midseason finales, but this episode — written and directed, respectively, by The Walking Dead regulars, Matthew Negrete and Michael E. Satrazemis — ended with a thud. It’s as though The Walking Dead spent the first four episodes sprinting toward the finish line, and the last four episodes tiptoeing the last few feet. In the midseason finale, the show stood in front of the Finish Line Ribbon and twiddled its thumbs until the end credits rolled. To add insult to injury, TWD pushed the post-credits sequence into the first commercial break of the next show, which may be a smart promotional move for Into the Badlands, but it was a lousy way to treat viewers of The Walking Dead.
Many of the questions we have after the midseason finale can also double as concerns for the series going forward, because the last four episodes have felt like a step back for the series. When The Walking Dead kept the Governor alive in an obvious kill scenario and circled back around to spend another eight episodes finishing him off, it seemed the series had learned its lesson about trying our patience. Apparently not.
Here are our most pressing questions after last night’s frustrating midseason finale.
1. What was the deal with that cold open?
It wasn’t clear to everyone that it was a cookie on the plate (and not meat) that the ants were devouring as they crawled into a window. It was a not-so-subtle metaphor for what the zombie horde was doing to Alexandria, but it was also a callback to Carol’s “you’ll get lots of cookies” conversation with Sam after he caught her pilfering guns from the armory. In fact, Sam’s drawing was also a callback to that conversation.
It’s no wonder Sam is a disaster of a child. Carol traumatized the kid.
2. What the hell is wrong with Sam, anyway?
Sam is the perfect illustration of the difference between the people in Rick’s group and those in Alexandria, who have been sheltered from the outside. The kid is a whiny, cowardly mess who can’t even properly pretend to be brave. It says something that Judith — who is a baby — was being quieter stuck under Carl’s zombie-gut drenched poncho than Sam as they were walking out into the zombie herd. Shut up, kid. How can you go this long in a zombie apocalypse knowing so little about “the monsters?”
Also, Sam: How many times do you have to be told to turn off the damn music?
My favorite scene in the episode, in fact, was when Jessie — who was busy making zombie-gut shirts — turned around and seemed to suddenly realize, “Oh sh*t. I’ve got another kid, don’t I?” Sam was a few minutes away from playing the lead in the apocalyptic version of Home Alone.
3. Is Sam going to get everyone killed?
He’s going to get himself killed. Zombies are dumb, but they’re not dumb enough to mistake a boy crying for his Mommy for another zombie. It’s a shame the episode had to end where it did, because we were about 30 seconds away from seeing Sam devoured, and that — all by itself — would have atoned for an otherwise disappointing midseason finale. In the very slim chance that Sam escapes the zombie horde, the look on his mother’s face suggests that he’s going to be so grounded if he does make it out alive.
4. Is Ron even worse than Sam?
The entire Anderson family, save for Jessie, is terrible, and there’s no doubt that Ron is his father’s son, and by that, I mean he’s also an “asshole.” What is this whole stupid fight with Carl about, anyway? He wants to kill Carl over Enid? Ron is going to get his entire family killed over a girl? Is that the hill you want to plant your flag on, Ron? Also, maybe when there are zombies circling the house, don’t go making a racket by smashing a window with a shovel.
Too bad Carl didn’t get a chance to talk to Glenn before all of this went down, because Glenn — after his experience with Nicholas — might have told Carl that giving other people second chances is way overrated.
I did love Carl’s quick thinking, though. Zombies breaking in through a window? This shelf with baskets ought to slow them down!
5. Where is Heath? Where is Aaron? Where is Scott?
Remember Heath? Because apparently, The Walking Dead doesn’t. We haven’t seen him since he returned to Alexandria with Michonne and Scott, who apparently has been left in a hospital bed to be devoured by zombies (either that, or he’ll wake up from a coma in six weeks and wonder where everyone went). Aaron hasn’t been seen since he saved Maggie from sewer zombies. Even less has been seen of his boyfriend, Eric. This is a problem when there’s too many cast members: They can’t all be featured in every episode, so when something huge happens — like a zombie horde devouring an entire community — they’re sometimes MIA. We’ll have to wait until the Anderson family is killed to give screen time to these characters.
6. Will Maggie survive? Will Glenn save her?
After obsessing over Glenn for most of the season, I can’t believe that Glenn and Maggie were given so little to do in the midseason finale. Maggie gets stuck above a crowd of zombies, and Glenn is left to give a pep talk to Enid about not running away. That’s it? That was their entire contribution to the episode? It was a disappointing shrug. At the rate things are going this season, an entire episode may be devoted only to Glenn saving Maggie, although Enid may end up a casualty in the process, if only because The Walking Dead desperately needs to shed some extraneous characters.
7. Has Eugene learned nothing?!
Even after Rosita’s big speech to Eugene last week about surviving, and even after teaching him how to use his machete, Eugene was still completely useless in a zombie fight. We did learn it was his voice on the walkie talkie, which, again, was a disappointing reveal. If the writers are going to emphasize a voice on the walkie talkie by devoting the last seconds of an episode to it, there should be a bigger payoff to it than Eugene meep-meeping out a “Help” while trying to retract into his shell.
At least he learned how to pick a lock, so he’s not completely worthless.
8. When will Carol and Morgan just get a room, already?
The Morgan/Carol subplot, which started out with so much potential, has been reduced to the worst romantic-comedy ever. She has trust issues! He believes that life is precious! She can make cookies! He can probably make goat cheese! These two are perfect for each other, if only that murderin’ Wolf weren’t keeping them apart.
Look: I’m Team Carol all the way (and the Wolf’s actions in this episode demonstrate exactly why), but I sure appreciate Morgan’s talents with that stick. If these two can just get over their differences, they’d make for a powerful pairing.
9. Was the Wolf the most interesting character in the episode?
Say what you want about the tenets of the Wolf, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. I mean, it was absolutely ridiculous that Denise and the Wolf were having a heart-to-heart while zombies were circling the place, and even more ludicrous that Carol and Morgan were fighting over the life of the Wolf when all of their lives were in immediate danger, but the Wolf at least offered an interesting philosophical viewpoint. Morgan thinks life is precious, while the Wolf thinks that killing people means liberating them. Given the misery that surrounds them at all times, the Wolf may be on to something. I’m sure he’ll be dead by the end of the next episode, but hopefully he can take out Sam or Ron on his way out the door.
10. Is Deanna still alive?
Oh God no. She’s chewed-up flesh at the bottom of a zombie pile, but at least she went out in a blaze of glory. I assume her son Spencer was hidden away in the food pantry with Heath, Aaron, and the rest of the Alexandrian redshirts, but at least she got to relinquish leadership to Alexandria before she passed. Her speech to Michonne also sounded good, but it basically amounted to:
Deanna: “You have to go out and get what you want! What do you want?!”
Deanna: Good talk. I think I’m going to go ahead and die now.
For a season that started out so promisingly, with so much intensity, and with so many interesting and conflicting viewpoints, The Walking Dead limped into the midseason finale. The best we can say for it is that at least it’s set itself up for a powerful midseason return.