The sixth season finale of The Walking Dead did a decent job of building the suspense over the first 80 minutes of “The Last Day on Earth,” save for the momentum-killing commercial interruptions every five minutes. In the last 10 minutes, Scott Gimple, working from his own script with Matthew Negrete, finally gave us what we all tuned in to see: The introduction of Negan.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan was perfect, and if Gimple and director Greg Nicotero had delivered fully on the iconic comic’s scene, the season finale would’ve gone down as one of the most remembered episodes of television for the right reasons. Instead, one of the most memorable moments in Robert Kirkman’s source material is likely to be best remembered as one of the most infuriating moments of the television series. The series, unfortunately, did a real disservice to the comics and to Morgan/Negan, who is always going to be associated with a sadistic cliffhanger.
Here are all of the questions we have after this week’s sixth season finale.
1. Who was that random guy?
With all the familiar Alexandrians and Hilltop citizens available, why did the Saviors choose basically a random guy we’d never seen to torture and use as some sort of bait for Rick and his crew, before throwing the random guy off a bridge with a noose around his neck? Wouldn’t that have been more impactful if it was, say, Rosita? Or pantry lady? Or that guy from Hilltop who directed Rick to the Savior compound? Why use a nobody in that situation when a familiar redshirt might have created more tension in Rick’s decision to turn the RV around or not to shoot the chain to rescue him?
Speaking of that random guy, what did that Savior spray on him, anyway?
Oh, never mind. They just spray-painted an X on him.
2. Where the hell was Jesus?
Just to get one of the most perplexing absences out of the way: Where was the most popular new character of the season? After entering the series in such a huge way, Jesus has basically disappeared from The Walking Dead. I’m glad he’s not among those eligible to die by Negan’s bat, but it’s odd to put him on the bench during the biggest episode of the series. Having him among Rick, Glenn, Michonne and company might have been a good bonding experience, bringing Jesus even closer into the fold. He’s going to be needed next season after _______ is killed off.
Also, poor Tara and Heath. They left on a supply run two weeks ago and missed everything.
3. Why leave Father Gabriel in charge?
That’s not to say that Father Gabriel didn’t deserve to be left in charge, although if he’s the best weapon left behind in Alexandria, it doesn’t speak well of its defenses. But if Rick is going to hand off leadership to Gabriel, one would think that would come back into play later in the episode. It did not. The episode never returned to Alexandria, and presumably Father Gabriel is still standing on that platform, chest puffed, looking out into the distance.
4. Is Enid still in the damn closet?
Poor Enid. Not only do we have to wait six months to find out who Negan killed, now we have to wait six months to find out if Enid ever gets out of that closet! It was sweet of Carl to try and protect his girlfriend. On the other hand, come on, Carl! It’s the 21st century. She didn’t ask to be protected. She can take care of herself.
5. Have Carol and Morgan finally snapped out of their no-killing funks now?
The Carol/Morgan storyline felt like a way to fill in gaps during the episode and drag it out for 90 minutes. I would imagine that, after nearly being killed by a Savior only to be saved by Morgan — who broke his vow not to kill people — that Carol will return to normal. However, if she does, that entire subplot feels like a waste, a pointless character assassination.
Moreover, now that Morgan has killed someone — and sees the value in resorting to it, when necessary — is Morgan going to give up his belief system, too? Or are we going to have to endure another season of Morgan kvetching, “All life is precious?”
On that note, we will also have to wait another six months to find out how Morgan is going to use that jail cell he built. Hopefully he’ll use it on showrunner Scott Gimple, to punish him for tonight’s unnecessary cliffhanger.
6. Who were those guys in the armor?
They were members of the Kingdom. We met one last week after Morgan stopped Rick from killing him while the Kingdom guard was looking for his horse. The Kingdom is another colony, like Hilltop, that will come into play next season. They have a badass leader named Ezekiel, who has a pet tiger. It’s possible, in fact, that Carol and Morgan move to The Kingdom, which would allow the series to expand beyond Alexandria and allow Carol to hang on to her pride and not return to Alexandria while still existing in the series.
7. Did Daryl die?
Obviously not, but the fact that they didn’t reveal Daryl’s fate until the last ten minutes of the episode and then unceremoniously threw him into the mix of potential victims cheapened last week’s ending even more. The biggest question coming out of last week’s episode becomes a complete afterthought in this one. The pointless cliffhangers have got to stop next season.
8. How amazing is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan?
Really amazing. Even if you were disappointed by the cliffhanger finale, the arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan at least offsets the disappointment. Yes, we have to wait six months to find out who Negan killed, but on the other hand, Negan is going to be a series regular now. That is worth tuning in for.
9. Who did Negan kill?
Some people have already analyzed the sound after the screen went black, and some have already concluded that it was Glenn who was killed by Negan based on Maggie’s screams. Maybe it was Glenn. Maybe that makes the most sense. Maybe that is the best way to set up next season. It leaves Maggie alone and forced to rebuild her life, with or without Glenn’s child growing inside of her. She can rebuild with Enid as her surrogate daughter. Glenn dies this way in the comics, after all, so Kirkman and co. have a template for that storyline.
Or it could have been Maggie or Daryl, who both looked like they were close to death anyway. If it was Rosita or Eugene, however, the audience is going to riot. We want nothing less than the blood of The Walking Dead royalty.
10. Ultimately, does it really matter who Negan killed?
Robert Kirkman argued on The Talking Dead that it’s not important to this season who Negan killed, because the death of whichever character was not what this season was about. The death is setting up the storyline for next season, and finding out who died will be the start of the next story. This season, on the other hand, was about Rick’s “loss of confidence.” It was about “changing their mindset,” and “tearing Rick Grimes down.”
That sounds like a lame justification for a stunt, especially because “this season” didn’t really start to feel like it was about the loss of Rick’s confidence until about three episodes ago, when Rick started getting uncharacteristically cocky. Showrunner Scott Gimple at least offered this note of encouragement on The Talking Dead: “We have to do an episode that justifies the cliffhanger.”
If tonight’s episode was any indication, next season will begin with a side story about Father Gabriel before casually mentioning who Negan killed two-thirds of the way through the episode.
In either respect, writing an episode to make up for tonight’s disappointment is going to be a tall order, especially knowing that — in the internet age — we’re probably all going to know who died before we ever see it air on television. The most iconic scene in the comics will ultimately become an anticlimactic afterthought.