Arguably two of the biggest shows on television at the moment, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones finished their sixth seasons this year. The Walking Dead’s finale met with criticism from fans because of the cliffhanger the show decided to end on. Game of Thrones finale on the other hand hasn’t had any negativity thrown its way from the masses, or none that I have seen. Both shows have a fanatical following, but The Walking Dead has lost some of its luster with the choices they decided to make during its sixth season. Game of Thrones did nothing but continually satisfy by paying off nearly every storyline during its run. Why is this, and should the shows be compared?
I’m one of many who was left extremely disappointed with the cliffhanger The Walking Dead decided to end on. I thought the show should have paid off the climax they had been building too the entire second half of the season. The decision to end on the cliffhanger ruined the second half of the season, at least it did for me. I am now apathetic to who Negan killed. It could be Rick, Daryl, Carl, Maggie, or Glenn. In the moment of watching the show I was riveted and could look past all of the main characters strangely leaving Alexandria together. Instead of a small group taking a fast car to get Maggie to the doctor as fast as possible. All of the little moments in the episode building to one person leaving the show, now have little impact for me. The show will now start fresh instead of ending on a deeply emotional note. Ending on a cliffhanger is not the issue, it’s the fact the show did not pay off a story point they were building too.
I’ve heard the reasons why the show decided to end the way it did, and I don’t agree with any of them. Seeing who Negan killed would not have taken away from his entrance, it would have added to it. People have said the show always ends on cliffhangers. Which I don’t agree with, look at how each season has ended. The first season ended with them leaving Atlanta, not really a cliffhanger. The second with them leaving the farm. The third, the battle with the Governor. The fourth with their arrival at Terminus. This is arguably the closest cliffhanger to end a season besides six, but I would argue the story paid off because they reached their destination. The people at Terminus turned out to be evil, and we didn’t know how the group would escape. If the group would have simply walked into Terminus and nothing shown about the people there then this would be more comparable to season six. Season five ended with the town having Walkers come in and Rick killing the doctor. So out of the six seasons only two have ended on cliffhangers, and only one without paying off a major story point.
My main point is the story they were telling and building too in season six was not finished. The Walking Dead used a gimmick to end their season so people would still talk about it. I think fans would have talked about how the group would try and get revenge for their fallen comrade if they showed who was killed. People would have talked about how life would change for the group being under Negan’s rule, and how they would try and strike back at him. How broken is Rick by leading his group into failure? This is what the story was leading and building too. Rick and his group felt unstoppable, and not paying this deconstruction off with a death was a mistake in storytelling. I haven’t watched anything about The Walking Dead since the finale, and I will continue not too. I’ll watch the premier, but I’m not sure I will continue to watch if they decide to end a season like this again.
Compare this to Game of Thrones and how every single story, minus Arya’s, was paid off in fantastic fashion. Game of thrones took the first five seasons to deconstruct their heroes and put them in their current situations. The show this season either concluded a story, or set characters on new journeys. They allowed each story to develop and show the audience a natural conclusion. They didn’t try to drag out or misdirect the audience. You could make the argument for Jon Snow’s death and resurrection being drawn out, but it was perfectly paced for where his character ended the season. The sixth season started to pay off every major story and lead towards a climatic conclusion for the show overall.
This is one reason why I’m not sure we can really compare the two shows. Game of Thrones has an ending. Each character will have a conclusion to their story, and hopefully be in a satisfactory place when the show ends. On the flip side I can’t help but wonder if the show runners of The Walking Dead would have dragged out killing off Ramsey Bolton. Game of Thrones has a clear plan and a way they will end the show. I’m not sure if The Walking Dead has the same focus or if they even want too. The Walking Dead is about the character’s lives in a post-apocalyptic society, it could potentially go on forever until society is established again.
Should The Walking Dead have an endgame? Every show eventually goes off the air, would it be better for the show to pick a point to conclude? This would focus them on telling the most compelling story with our characters to that point. I think if they had a conclusion in mind for the show they wouldn’t have dragged out who Negan killed, or tried the bait and switch about Glen earlier in the season. I want the show to be great, but at the moment I don’t care about watching or about the story. On the other side I’ve watched the Game of Thrones finale four or five times and will be eagerly awaiting the shows return.
Which is the sad part about The Walking Dead’s conclusion. They tried something and it alienated some of their fan base. Not everyone, some people are okay with the finale and are excited for the return. I hope the story they tell in the seventh season gets me back on board. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to find something else to watch on Sunday nights during the fall.
What do you think? Can we compare the two finales of the shows? Did The Walking Dead leave you wanting more, or did it turn you off to the show? Did Game of Thrones leave you satisfied and wanting the show to start back in a few weeks instead of a year from now? Comment and let me know.