Can the last scene of an episode ruin an entire season?
That might be just a bit of hyperbole, but it is how I feel after the show took so much time building to one event and then not paying off. Let’s circle back around to the ending of the episode, and discuss what was done well in the finale.
The entire episode was excellent, except for the last minute. It started out with Rick thinking the group is still in control of their situation. They have survived everything the world has thrown at them. The finale did a fantastic job of slowly deconstructing the idea that they knew what was going to happen. The group poked a sleeping bear, and it finally woke up and attacked tonight. Each time the group was stopped in the RV, by The Saviors, a hole was punched in the idea that they could make it to Hilltop. The Saviors had a perfectly laid out plan to drive our group right where they wanted them to go.
The Saviors knew the group would eventually go back to The Hilltop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the leader of Hilltop sold Alexandria out to The Saviors. I guess that could be a major plot point for next season. Each stop and situation was more unnerving than the last, with the final chain gang of Walkers letting the group know The Saviors had some of their own. Every time they thought they had them beat they would still be standing in their way. The group have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Negan’s men and what they can do. They wanted to herd them and then shatter their world. They probably were following them from the time they left Alexandria. The question will be if they had another group waiting to attack Alexandria and how the city held together if they did.
To break up the story of Rick and the group we got the side story of Morgan and Carol. This was another entertaining portion of the episode. Carol doesn’t want to kill, but she knows she must to protect the people she cares about. She thinks Morgan should understand this more than anyone else in the group. Her words proved prophetic (go figure) and Morgan ended up killing to save her life. It was foreshadowed heavily, but at least they ended with a satisfying payoff with that storyline. We actually got to see Morgan kill the guy who was torturing Carol. They aren’t going to make us wait six months to find out if Morgan killed the guy and saved Carol, unlike the very end of the episode.
Jeffery Dean Morgan is perfect casting and his introduction was perfect. The tension and buildup of the scene was perfect. My stomach was in knots watching the scene. I almost didn’t want to watch. What would have happened if I would have decided to turn the channel and not watch? I wouldn’t have missed anything, because the showrunners of The Walking Dead decided to build an entire episode, almost an entire second half of a season, to a cliffhanger.
It’s lazy storytelling, and maybe we are starting to see some strains on material after the show has been on for six years. I wouldn’t think so since there is a plethora of material to mine from the comics. Cliffhangers can be used to help drive ratings, but how high do they need ratings to be? The show is one of the most highly rated on television today, they don’t need to drum up ratings. Maybe it’s money related. Maybe they are going to negotiate actor’s contracts after this season is up and they want some leverage over people who could prove troubling. I’m struggling to come up with a reason, because it makes no logical sense to build to one singulair point for almost an entire half of a season, and for it to end on a cliffhanger.
The entire episode was a buildup for one character to die. They gave hints or misdirects the entire ninety minutes about who was going to perish at the end of the night. Abraham talking about starting a life with Sasha. Eugene stepping up and driving off. Carl making the trip with the group. Maggie being sick with the baby. They had already setup Daryl being hurt, and Glen could die because he dies in the comics. A major cast member is leaving the show, but for some reason they couldn’t end the season on the death.
I loved Negan’s monologue. Jeffery Dean Morgan is equal parts charming and terrifying. That is hard to pull off, but he does it effortlessly. I am still excited to see what he does with the role next season, which makes the ending even more infuriating. I’m invested in the characters, and the story being told. They don’t need to end finales like this to keep me watching next season, or to keep me talking about the show during the break. People are going to be talking about the ending, but not for good reasons. Everyone was already trying to figure out who was going to die in the episode. Not delivering in the finale is a cop out. The exact same way it was a cop out to have Glen survive his experience earlier in the season.
Overall the season was still good, probably one of the best. It’s not the best though, because of the way they ended it. Season three is still the high mark for the show, at least for me. Are you with me in being upset that the show ending on a cliffhanger? Did it ruin the season, or just the finale? Maybe you are okay with the cliffhanger and the way it ended. Comment and let me know.