Gutless Ending to 'The Walking Dead' Makes Fans the Victims
Here's how and why 'TWD' took the easy way out, and who Negan really kills.
*The following article contains spoilers for the TV show and comic.
They told us this would happen.
In the thousands of articles written about last night's Walking Dead finale in the past few weeks, a few quotes scream CLIFFHANGER in retrospect:
Creator Robert Kirkman told THR: "It's entirely possible there's going to be a painful summer for Walking Dead fans, but we'll be back in October."
Showrunner Scott Gimple told EW: "...If you have read the comics, there are a lot of moments directly out of the book when it comes to the Saviors. And then some really cool expansions of the comic story. And some hard left turns from the comic story..."
Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd told THR: "It's going to be the longest summer ever. Thank god we've got Fear the Walking Dead. People are going to be shocked and surprised — that's what we do."
The arrival of Negan was sure to bring with it the death of one of The Walking Dead's heroes, and it did. The thing is, we don't know who (for sure) because the producers above decided to fade to black at the end of last night's Season Six finale "The Last Day on Earth" instead of revealing whom Negan kills.
When did The Walking Dead become a daytime soap opera? Are such cheap storytelling techniques somehow seen as smart these days? Are the producers worried the audience (perhaps the most faithful in the land) wouldn't return in six months? Haven't showrunners learned their lessons from annoyingly cliffhanger-happy series like Lost and The Killing? Yeesh, what a joke.
It's a joke because anyone who knows the show and the comic knows Negan killed Glenn last night. Why not just show us?
Instead, the show plays out Negan's sadistic game of "Eeny Meeny" and when he lands on "it" the camera cuts to a first-person point of view (the victim's). Negan raises Lucille over his head and brings it down hard. Blood seeps from the top of the screen and then goes black as the audio fades from screams into nothingness. It's all supposed to be very shocking, and up until that moment, it is. I enjoyed the show's meandering journey to the final scene. It's probably the most suspenseful 90 minutes of television this year. But the "ambiguous" ending is so tired and unnecessary, I found myself seething with anger.
The final shot makes the audience the victim. Negan is bashing us all over our collective head. Nice, right? I'm sure the writers all had a big laugh about that one.
Why am I so sure Glenn was killed? Think about it logically. It explains the decision not to show Negan's victim right away. Anyone who knows the comic expected Glenn to be the one killed since that's how it goes down in the book. To throw fans off the scent, just about everyone involved in the show gave interviews over the last few weeks saying how "shocking" and "unexpected" the finale would be.
The shooting of Daryl (with a similar bloody camera shot) was the culmination of that misdirection. It's a classic red herring. So the cliffhanger ending skirts our expectations. Instead of the story making one of those "hard left turns" and killing someone else (which would be a true surprise), the producers found a different way to "surprise" us — by cutting to commercial like a school bully who just stole our turn on the swing.
Plus there's this: If you watch the final scene of "Last Day on Earth" and pay close attention, you'll notice Negan says a word from the rhyme as the camera shows everyone's face one at a time. Everyone but Glenn. (Yes, Glenn is shown, but not along with Negan's voice.) So at the end, when Negan says "it" and the camera switches to that first-person shot, there's only one person left that "it" could be.
"There's some hints there, I'll say that," Kirkman confirmed to THR.
There sure are. SHOW US. The suction emanating from this episode all season wasn't who Negan would kill. Rather it was how Negan would kill him (or her). How would The Walking Dead translate that gory sequence of panels from the comic (seen below) into a scene suitable for Sunday night cable?
Instead we all have to sit around and wait six months for the inevitable.
Here's how Gimple explained the ending on Talking Dead: "We have to do an episode that justifies it to you... We have to do something so great and so intense that you're like, 'OK, fair play.' That's the challenge we have, and we're going to deliver you something fantastic."
You'd better, because last night's "to be continued..." ending reeks of indecision.
[Editor's note: I attributed the last quote to Robert Kirkman in the original article by mistake. It was Scott Gimple. Fixed.]