I know that this may seem a bit late to the party, but I wanted to let heads cool on the situation before commenting. After the final seconds of Season 6 of The Walking Dead (for my money, the best season of the series so far), the fan outrage was at DEFCON 1-level insane. Watching the debuting big bad Negan pick one of Rick’s group at random to kill, only to have it turn to a first person view of the victim as he’s about to deal out the bludgeoning sent fans into a fury. How dare they not show us who died! How dare they leave us hanging!
But was it really that bad or even the wrong decision? I personally don’t think it was. Now before you start losing your collective sh*t all over again, hear me out. Do I wish that we knew who got acquainted with Lucille? Absolutely I do. But I also understand that the producers of The Walking Dead aren’t being paid to offer us instant gratification. Their job is to build a product that people want to consume (zombie pun intended) and come back to watch next time. And that’s what they’ve given us for the last 6 years. Have there been hiccups along the way? Sure. Large chunks of the first half of Season 2 and the back half of Season 3 are testaments to that. But overall they have delivered us what I still consider the best show on television. I fully believe that what they gave us in the Season 6 finale is in-line with that.
The build-up to Negan’s appearance was incredibly well done. The tension of Rick’s group being outwitted turn after turn was something we’ve never seen on TWD. Our merry band of survivors have been shown to work like a well-oiled machine and are great strategists. But not this time. With every blocked route, you could feel the noose getting tighter around their necks. And just when they thought that they had their spot to slip out, the rug gets pulled out from under them and it is revealed that all they’ve done is play right into the Saviors’ hands. The demoralizing of Rick was apparent.
And that, to me, is why this scene worked so well. Negan self-aggrandizing and threatening was truly something magical to behold. Jeffrey Dean Morgan played his part to perfection. I felt like I was seeing the Negan of the comics come to life. His performance alone would have made this episode special, but it wasn’t just about him. Nor was this episode about who Negan killed. It was about the fact that he was going to kill someone, and there was nothing Rick could do about it. It was about seeing Rick break. His kingdom crumbling before his very eyes at the hands of someone more cunning, more powerful, and certainly more dangerous. It was brilliant television. Let that be the lasting memory of that episode instead of the lack of confirmation on who’s head was bashed in by Negan.
Now again, I totally wish we had seen who it was. And I have a pretty strong belief that I know who it is…but that is a topic for another day. But the makers of the show didn’t give us that. They wanted us to think about it for the next six months. They wanted us to talk about it for the next six months. They wanted us to debate it for the next six months. And you know what? They got exactly what they wanted. We were Rick to their Negan. We were their puppets and they were pulling our strings. But I for one am not upset by that at all.