Monday, April 4, 2016

The Walking Dead, Season Six, Episode Sixteen: Last Day on Earth

Spoilers Ahead

The entire season has been building to the moment when Rick's group finale meets Negan.  At this point, all I can say is fuck you Matt Negrete and Scott Gimple.  Yes, these two assholes wrote this episode and I am mad as hell.  Call me unprofessional but I just don't give a hot damn.

In the penultimate episode, Glenn, Michonne and Darryl had been captured by Negan's men.  Carol had left Alexandra, having decided that she couldn't kill anymore and Morgan was hot on her trail. Finally, after having her hair cut by Enid, Maggie doubles over in pain and it looks very much like she is having a miscarriage.

This episode is split between Carol and Morgan and Rick, Sasha, Abraham, Aaron, Eugene, Maggie, Carl, being treated like a mouse in a maze.  Let's begin with Carol and Morgan.  Morgan finally finds Carol and she is injured and needs medical attention.  Morgan is determined to keep them safe and then get them back to Alexandria, where she can receive the medical treatment she so desperately needs. Carol however very much feels that she cannot return because in doing so, she would put her people at risk. Carol begs Morgan several times to just leave her and even pulls a gun on Morgan; however, Morgan remains steadfast about that he is not leaving.

When Morgan leaves to ensure the area is walker free for them to survive the night, Carol takes off yet again, I gotta say, if I were Morgan, I would have said fuck it and let her die.  An injured Carol is then cornered by Roman, who wants vengeance for the friends that Carol killed and the fact that he isn't far from death himself. Roman is adamant that Carol is going to die a slow and painful death. Roman shoots Carol in the arm and instead of freaking out or begging, Carol actually smiles which infuriates Roman even more.  It seems that while Carol may not want to die, she is ready. Death will mean an end to pain and the struggle to survive.  Roman then shoots Carol again in response but get no reaction from her.  Roman asks Carol if she has suffered enough and Carol responds, "probably not." It's clear that Carol feels guilt for her actions.

When we think about it, Carol has directly been responsible for the death of a child (yes, look at the flowers), as well as killing Karen and David, the people at Terminus, and probably nameless, people along the way.  Carol, much like Rick, has been focused on doing whatever is necessary to survive no matter how terrible.  Carol is suffering from PTSD and at this point she feels as though there is no end in sight.  Roman backs away and it's clear that he realises that by killing Carol he will be giving her just what she wants and not the punishment he intends her death to be.  Carol then goads Roman, saying that she is just going to continue to keep breathing and that he is the one who should decide whether or not she lives or dies. Roman takes the bait and moves towards Carol with gun in hand but Morgan arrives and asks him to put down his gun.  All of Carol's actions lead to Morgan killing Roman, thus breaking his vow not to kill anymore.   It's telling, given that Carol's main concern is having to kill that she causes someone else to break their vow about killing.

The people from the Kingdom ( a group which we will probably learn more about next season) arrive and Morgan asks for help for Carol.

For much of this episode, Abraham is behind the wheel of the camper as the group struggles to get Maggie to the Hilltop.  They first run into a barrier by the Saviours and are told to hand over half of their stuff.  Rick however knows that time is short and so doesn't engage but simply gets back into the camper and directs Abraham to take another road to the Hilltop.  The group run into Saviour roadblocks three more times and each time they choose to retreat rather than engage.  It quickly becomes clear that they are being herded exactly to where the Saviours want them to be. Eugene comes up with the plan.  Eugene thinks that the Saviours are just looking for the camper and have no idea how many people are actually in the camper.  The group all exits and leaves Eugene to drive the camper as a distraction, while they walk through the woods to get to The Hilltop.  This is a big moment for Eugene; he's so far removed from the arrogant coward we first met.  Abraham and Eugene even share a moment, and Abraham acknowledges that he never used to let Eugene drive the tuck because he didn't think that Eugene could do it.

The group heads through the woods carrying Maggie and suddenly they hear the sound of haunting whistles.  They start to run as best as they can but end up right where Negan wants them to be, surrounded by the Saviours.  Eugene is already on his knees in the open and Michonne, Glenn and Darryl are brought out to join the others.  The entire group is ordered onto their knees for the arrival of Negan.

I have to get mad props for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the actor who played Negan.  I hated Negan in the comics but seeing him come to life, I hate the character even more.  Negan swaggers about saying that from now on, Rick's people will give him half and that he is in control of things.  At this point, it's clear that Negan's group clearly has the numbers and they run like a well oiled machine. Rick who normally projects confidence, as well as arrogance is reduced to a shivering afraid little man in the wake of what he is confronting.  After laying out the rules, Negan declares that someone is going to have to pay a price for all of his people who were killed. When he moves towards Maggie, noting how ill she looks, Glenn leaps up trying to come to her defense but is pulled back.  Negan makes it clear to his captives that no one else is to move.  He starts using Lucille (his bat) to play a deadly game of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe and when he finally stops, the screen goes blank.  We hear a huge thud and blood appears on the screen.  Negan is beating someone to death but we have no idea as to who. Before striking, Negan ordered Rick's group not to scream and so from the lack of reaction, it's impossible to tell who is dead.

I'm just going to say it, this cliffhanger sucks.  Look, people were going to tune into The Walking Dead in October no matter what.  The show has a huge following and so there's no excuse for this.  I could understand on a show that is suffering in the ratings pulling cliffhanger nonsense to try and drum up some excitement but that's certainly not necessary for The Walking Dead.  Cliffhangers are a cheap hook and despite Negrete and Gimple promising that it would all be worth it in opening of season seven, I really don't think that's the case.  They've already had the internet buzzing about who was going to die for weeks, and therefore this ending to me just screams disrespect. I don't want promises to find out later, I want to know who died damn it.  Did they learn anything from the Sophia and the barn incident about dragging out the story?

Is it me, or has Carl ever been more annoying?  First, he locks Enid up in a closet because he decides that it's too dangerous to go.  Then he starts attempting to give his father tactical advice. It made me want to scream, "shut up Carl."  Look, I know that Carl has been through a lot but why did Rick even humor him at this point and lay out his plan of non engagement? I get that Carl's a junior douche in training but please for the love of heaven, stop trying to remind us that Carl is important. We already know that he's Rick's son and therefore has plot immunity.

I have to bring up Father Gabriel Stokes for a moment. He's  become very competent in recent episodes.  I didn't really think that he would be at risk given that deaths of big characters are usually wants happens in season finale (except this one cause reasons). At any rate, given that Stokes is Black, I must honestly say that I am surprised to find him not only still alive but Rick being comfortable leaving the care of Alexandria and Judith under his leadership.  It speaks to how much his character has grown.

I'm really not pleased with the season finale one iota.  It felt like a 90 minute massage with no happy ending. Everything that happened with Morgan and Carol felt like a distraction instead of setting the stage for what would happen in season seven.  It's been clear for awhile now that Carol is ready to give up and is having a breakdown, so I don't see what this accomplished.  This really could have waited for season seven.

The constant roadblocks were to build up suspense for the big showdown and while I did feel the tension that I was meant to feel, I still couldn't help but wonder when the Saviours became so bright? Let's be honest, the Saviours to date have been nothing but a blunt incompetent instrument.  Until this moment, each time a member of Alexandria came up against the Saviours, Negan's people were easy to defeat and outsmart and yet now they are carefully planning a trap and herding Rick's group to exactly where they want them to be? Think of the timing and the careful planning that would have gone into this.  How would they even know to place roadblocks on the road to The Hilltop, considering that the natural assumption would be that the Alexandrians would be attacking their compound if they realised that their people had been taken? None of it really makes any sense.

More than anything, I think that the script and the editing really let this episode down.  I also cannot help but wonder who thought that calling it Last Day on Earth made sense?  Yes, Rick has just met his next nemesis but we all know that while there is a cost which is going to be paid, Rick's group will not only survive but win out.  Episode sixteen, isn't the last day of anything.  Yes, I know that the title refers to the fact that someone in the campier dies but given that who died isn't even revealed, I feel as though the title is just another set up for how disappointing this episode ultimately is.