The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”
Grade: B+

Of all the episodes of The Walking Dead, I haven’t seen the reaction this divided among fans. And for the most part, it’s tipping toward the negative way more than the positive. I for one, enjoyed the season six finale, “Last Day on Earth.” Yes, it didn’t need to be that long. Yes, it built up to a cliffhanger that left the audience to wonder all summer about who was killed until the premiere next fall. Some say “nothing happened” the entire episode. I get all these points, and I’ll get into them later in the review, but for me, the finale was great. I enjoyed it. Even the cliffhanger. And I can’t wait for the next season.

At the start of the episode, Rick and a whole lot of people who probably should have stayed behind to help defend Alexandria, left Gabriel in charge as they left for Hilltop to bring Maggie to the doctor there. With Abraham, Sasha, Eugene, Carl, Aaron, and Rick all leaving, there isn’t many people left to defend the town—though, for now this season, that doesn’t matter. Because on every route to Hilltop, a group of the Saviors waits for them, growing in size. Eventually they decide to travel on foot in the dark, carrying Maggie to Hilltop and leaving Eugene in the RV to make it appear as though they’re still driving along. But in a terrifying scene, the gang hears the whistles of the Saviors as they fall into their trap, surrounded by Negan’s men, and a beaten Eugene, already captured.

Meanwhile, Morgan finds a horse and rides it to find Carol, seeing her curled up and wounded at the doorstep of a library. He helps her bandage the wound, but while he goes out to kill a Walker, she takes off again. The Savior from the previous episode catches up to her, shooting her in the arm and the leg to make her suffer like he and his men had by her. She begs him to finish the job, to make her suffer worse—as she believes she deserves it for all the killing she’s done—and before he can kill her, Morgan shows up. He shoots the man dead, showing that he is willing to kill if it’s for someone he cares about. Two men from another group off their help, agreeing to bring Carol and Morgan their camp.

Back with the Saviors, Rick and our crew is lined up on their knees, the captured Michonne, Glenn, Rosita, and Daryl—who’s alive, but looks as if he’s dying—joining them. Negan arrives—played brilliantly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan—and tells them that because of all the men they’ve killed of his, he’s going to kill one of them. Only one, since he wants more people to join the Saviors and work for him. He takes his barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat named Lucille and selects one of the main characters, “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” style, beating them with it. We’re left to guess who it was until the premiere next fall.

A lot of people online have stated that they were disappointed in the episode. Some say that it’s a cop out—the writers then don’t have to choose who was killed. Which would make sense if this was the last ever episode of the show, but it isn’t, and they do have to choose. And I guarantee whichever character it was, I’m sure the writers knew while writing the cliffhanger. There’s no way they’re going to decide after the reaction by fans because that’s ridiculous. As an audience having watched the show for so long, having become attached to these characters so much, it’s easy to get angry and upset by the decision of the cliffhanger. For me, I love a cliffhanger. I love having to spend the time off from the show mulling it over, coming up with theories, thinking about it and talking about it—I love it just as much as I hate it. Because I don’t want to wait either, of course! I want to know who it was, too. Several people said that it was a ratings ploy—which makes zero sense, as The Walking Dead is the most viewed show in cable television history, so they don’t need to do something like this. I’ve heard people say that it felt unfinished, like we only got half a scene—which, sure that’s fair. However, isn’t that what a cliffhanger is?

Why else would they do it? It’s how they want to tell the story. That’s it. Knowing what happens in the comics (though I’m not as far reading them as where we are in the show yet), I know what they’re planning. As creators said later on Talking Dead, the story is split here at this point, and they wanted to use this moment to continue the rest of the story, the aftermath from that moment and who is killed. I see it as a midpoint to the story and I get it. And because I love cliffhangers, I enjoyed the end. I’m going crazy trying to figure out who was killed (my bet is either Abraham or Glenn, as Abraham was meant to die where Denise had and Glenn dies here in the comic—but who knows, they could go a completely other route and kill off Carl or Aaron or Michonne or any of them).

My only criticism of the finale is it’s length and repetitive scenes, the RV pulling up to the Saviors blocking their way and then turning around, trying again. The episode didn’t need to be 90 minutes—with a ton of commercials—but I thoroughly enjoyed the final nail-biting scene with Negan, even if it did end on that cliffhanger. I understand the complaints that “nothing happened” in the episode, which is true. Not much actually happened. I get that. I felt similarly to season four’s finale, the group being captured by the cannibals at Terminus and…nothing. They’re captured, tune in next time. Not much happened there. But in this episode, we know something happened. Someone died. We just don’t know who yet. I do think that this episode could have used another death earlier in the episode. As much as I love Carol, that felt like a great moment for a different character’s death—maybe not her, but someone (maybe even having Eugene killed by the Saviors, instead of beaten, could have worked). It would have made the impact of the cliffhanger, another character dying at the end, a lot more heartbreaking. I think the end would’ve angered fans a lot less, and just intrigued for next season.

I’ve always felt like the main arcs of the seasons start at the mid-season premiere on one season and end at the mid-season finale in the next season. The mid-season finale of season six felt like the end of an arc, while the mid-season premiere of episode nine felt like the start of a new arc, introducing Negan’s men. I think if this had been only a mid-season finale, there might not have been as big of an uproar. For me, it doesn’t matter that they left it on a cliffhanger—as I’ve said, I love them—it matters how they land the rest of the story in the October premiere of season seven, especially the moment immediately following that scene.


HIGHLIGHTS

Negan and the cliffhanger,
is yes, a highlight. I know, I know. Jeffrey Dean Morgan did an incredible job and his introduction—and that long, tension-filled scene leading up to the end—was shot incredibly and acted extraordinarily by the whole cast. That was rock bottom for Rick, everyone was terrified. Because I loved cliffhangers, I loved the end. I can’t wait for the new season. I already know that all summer, while reading the comics and watching Fear the Walking Dead, I’ll be thinking about it, wondering who was killed. I love those kinds of summers. I think everyone needs to take a breath and remember that it’s a TV show. I don’t think there’s any cynical intention of what they did. They’re just telling the story how they want to tell it.

LOWLIGHTS

The length
of the episode was far, far, far to long. A normal episode length is all that was needed. Especially because Morgan and Carol’s arc didn’t really go anywhere and could’ve been shortened by several scenes. The long end scene with Negan was it’s strongest, I felt. But there could’ve been some serious changes to the rest of the episode to make the length feel less drawn-out, alleviating some of that “build up for nothing” as some didn’t care for.

Repetitive scenes
showing the group driving up to the Saviors blocking their way, then reversing to find another route over and over made the already long episode feel longer. Eliminating one of those scenes could’ve made the episode a lot better than it was.

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