7 reasons why The Walking Dead Season 6 finale was a disappointment – review

MJG All Reviews 4 Comments

I hate to be disappointed by The Walking Dead, especially with a finale, especially with the finale to such a generally awesome season as season 6. I hate to think it failed, it sucked, it just didn’t follow through on the promise of its dramatic situation, but with this finale, that’s a large part of what I’m thinking.

There’s 7 reasons for this failure/disappointment, but they all really boil down to one, which I can express in one word: Negan.

Negan, boss of the Saviors and dark shadow hanging over Rick’s neck, has been hinted at since the end of season 5. We’ve waited ALL SEASON to get a glimpse of this terrifying, John Galt-esque ghost in the machine, who pulls all the strings and leaves carnage in his wake, and then when we finally do…

*damp squib fires*

7 reasons? Hold on to your hat.

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1- Negan looks weak

There’s no plainer way to say it than that. The last time I saw Jeffrey Dean Morgan it was as the Comedian in The Watchmen. He was a huge, powerful bear of a man. He had serious bulk- essential to believing his strength and his threat.

Since those days Dean Morgan has lost 40lbs for a role in Texas Rising.

40lbs!

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Negan is a muscular thug. The Comedian was a thug. He’s not now.

40lbs is a shit-brick-ton of weight for Dean Morgan to lose, and it really shows. The second he walked out of his new RV, I was taken aback by the feeble narrowness of his shoulders. It was visceral. Like, wtf happened? I’m supposed to be scared by this greasy, leering hipster? Where’s the mass? Where’s the terror? He carries that baseball bat like it’s a foppish affectation.

You mean he’s going to actually swing it? It’ll be like a pansy’s breath. No way he can break someone with that lack of muscles. He couldn’t make the bell ring on a strongman’s high striker. He couldn’t lift an Atlas ball. He couldn’t probably even beat Rick Grimes in an arm wrestle.

So I’m supposed to fear this guy? He looks like a punk. I’m supposed to believe that in the aftermath of apocalypse, he managed to rally all these hundred-odd bad-ass men under him, without any need for sheer physical force?

It would be OK if they’d played him different. The Governor wasn’t massive but he was terrifying. But everything about Negan is about sheer force. The guns. The vast numbers of men- more than we’ve ever seen before in The Walking Dead. It’s all building up to this grand reveal.

*pfft*

He couldn’t squat 200lbs. He couldn’t bench 160. He has no legs, no shoulders, no back. He’s a massive anticlimax, which plays a big role in-

 

2- Negan has no charm

Before The Comedian, Dean Morgan played Denny in Grey’s Anatomy (yeah OK I watched a season or two, you got me). Back then he also had that big physicality, but there it was tied to a gentle, oafish kind of charm- laid up in bed with, what was it, brain cancer? Cancer’s crushing for anyone, but to see such a physically powerful figure laid so low, but taking it so well? That made him a really likable character.

Negan needs to be likable. Even as he’s killing, he’s smiling. Like the Comedian. He’s a total dick, but it’s a knowing dickishness. The Comedian could clown around, grin big, fool with us, but because of the mass there’s also fear.

Without the mass, but with the clowning, what have we got?

Lex Luthor- via Jesse Eisenberg.

*shudders*

The mass ties that silly japes attitude down. Grounds it, but Dean Morgan doesn’t have that now. He doesn’t look like a thug who happens to have a brain and a sense of humor, he looks the smug smart-alec trust-fund who was born into privilege.

The thing is- Morgan wouldn’t be the first actor to go from romance star to complex action hero. Our very own Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln, comes out of exactly that background with This Life and Teachers. Tough but weepy guy Matthew Fox on LOST got his break in Party of Five, and let’s not forget the big daddy, Bruce Willis, who segued from Moonlighting to Die Hard.

It can be done. It doesn’t require massive muscles.

But the role of Negan so plainly does. That big grin is fooling nobody, because-

 

3. Negan is mentally weak

Picture this: you’re a tyrant. You rule by force and brutality, like Genghis Khan. When people resist, you make examples- which can mean killing everyone in a town, torturing those who remain, and leaving one person alive to spread your legend.

It’s the way pirates worked. They didn’t want to have to fight for every bounty they stole. They were not only madmen, but also men who wanted money without dying en route. So they carved themselves a legacy, branded it with the Jolly Roger, so that when it unfurled people rolled over and opened the doors without a fight.

Genghis Khan did it. Pirates did it.

Negan does it selectively.

Some guy from the library gets tortured. All his people get killed, and for what? Holding out supplies.

End of story. They were people just like Rick’s people are people. No one is more special than another.

Then here comes Rick. His group kills probably 20-30 of Negan’s men. Twenty to thirty!! What would Genghis Khan do? What would pirates do?

I guarantee they would not do what Negan does. Just think about it for a second. Negan’s standard practise when coming across new folks is to kill one of them as an example. AND THAT IS ALL HE DOES TO RICK’S GROUP! One person will die. ONE! In what world would that be sufficient payback to re-instil fear? In what world would Genghis Khan say, “Don’t crucify them all outside the city gates, just do one. That’ll really give them pause.”

It’s nuts. It’s weak. It’s just plain stupid- because clearly Rick is a killer. The writers have powered him up so high, the only way he can lose but not also get killed is by d-epowering the bad guy. If I was Negan I wouldn’t kill one of them. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO TO EVERYONE, ANYWAY! At a minimum I’d kill 4. At a reasonable level I’d go over to Alexandria and kill them there, in front of the town. I’d stake them up. Maybe I’d kill them all.

Then I’d say open the gates. Open my gates.

For Negan to not do any of this is just a huge failing of his character. Combined with the weak physicality, it makes me think there is no way he could gather and keep that many brutal men under his control. Imagine what those guys are thinking.

“Hurr hurr, oh yeah, ONE of them is really going to get it now! Whoo boy they’re gonna get it. Bam, Lucille, Bam! That’ll leanr em.”

????

Come on. And speaking of Lucille…

 

4. Negan kills mercifully.

They beat the crap out of that library guy for hours, I guess. He looked real bad. Even the one guy did worse to Carol, in terms of torment.

This is supposed to be a big show. This is supposed to fully crush our folks into nothing. I expected a sustained, brutal, bone-breaking battering to take place, with lots of writhing and squirming and our characters watching with the shcok beating into them. If you’re going to go to that place, that’s how you do it.

But no. Whoever the victim was (my money’s on Darryl- largely cos they didn’t show a shot of him hardly at all in the final line-up) got dead or unconscious in two or so blows to the head.

Whaaaat? That is merciful. The barbed wire played no role at all. You’d barely feel the pain- it would be over too fast. As payback for 20-30 dead, it is nothing. It’s feeble.

 

5. Negan kills 1st person style.

Of course this is not Negan’s fault- it’s the way they tried to cliff-hang us until next season. I am not a fan- not so much because it was a cliffhanger as because it robbed us of the true emotional anguish of the death.

From a first person perspective, it is easy. We don’t feel the pain, first of all. We don’t even know who it is, second of all. and third, most important of all, we don’t get to see the anguish in the other peoples’ eyes.

That is the real cost of all this. The wound it inflicts on the others- that they are unable to stop it. We need to see some loved character get mauled, and we need to see that despair in Rick and the others. That would fire us off into season 7 like a jet-pack.

We don’t get it. The tension drops as soon as we go first-person. there’s no pain this way.

A better way?

Cut Negan’s godawful moralizing speech, or intersperse it with a truly brutal beating. Make us all witness it, and make us all feel helpless. Make it last. And then, when the victim finally dies, Negan looks at Rick. “Did I say one?” then big grin, cut away.

You get the same cliffhanger- who else will die? But you get the horror of the first death, fully played out.

They missed a real trick, here.

 

6. Negan is magic.

The shit Negan pulls in this episode, minus ‘find my iphone’ style GPS tagging stuck to each of the main characters, is just magical.

How did he even know they would go to Hilltop that day? How did he have time to get all those huge barricades in place? How did he manage to execute ambushes not only to a squad of people walking through the random dark, but also multiple times throughout the season? How did he pull the RV up just ahead without anyone hearing it? How did he do any of it?

Logistically it’s just a massive undertaking. And for what? Why?

A show of force. But why bother with a show of force so hugely weaker than the show of force your enemy has already shown you? I’ve been over this ground, but it bears repeating. Rick et al killed 20-30 of his men. Negan sets up a lot of pointless blockades that they’ll only have to pull down later, commits numerous men to the campaign, then kills only one person?

It’s just silly. It’s magical and it’s silly. Really, he should kill them all. Less theatrics, more brutality.

 

7. Negan isn’t real.

It’s the combination of all the above points. Negan is not real. I don’t believe he could exist in that form.

It’s a tough one. I’ve absolutely loved the evolution of our characters into the badasses they thought they already were a few seasons back. You know- back when they thought they could handle Terminus from inside a shipping container, but in the end got rescued by Carole, and when they thought it was a good idea to move a mass flock of walkers from a mining pit rather than just kill them.

They finally got badass. Negan is supposed to be badder even than that.

But he’s not. Pfft. He’s a withered two-day-old balloon, with hardly any air left. If he were real, and events got to this stage, the story would basically be over. There is no benefit to keeping Rick alive, or his son, or any of the warriors.

Negan wants slaves/indentured servants. Perhaps he also wants to crush other people’s ego. He should know he can’t do either of those with this group, not without a response altogether more massive. To truly break Rick, if that’s what he wants, he needs to kill Carl. He needs to make Rick choose who dies next. He needs to do a lot of horrible things.

But he can’t, because the show would end, so they powered him down. They gave him magic instead of making him brutal. He’d have been way better off keeping the library people alive and killing all of these, but instead he gives a long speech.

Ah well.

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I will certainly keep watching Walking Dead. They do things I’ve never seen before, in a world I adore, sometimes with such skill it leaves me breathless. Other times they whiff and miss. It’s OK. They’ll hit it again soon, I’m sure. The one thing I can’t really fault in all this is Rick and his group. He did good. Andrew Lincoln almost acted his way out of the shitty situation he was in. They didn’t require powering down at all.

And they shall overcome.

Comments 4

  1. Jason

    The new website design looks good.

    I only started watching The Walking Dead in October of last year (just before season 6 was about to start). For years I had heard of the show of course, but being someone who does not like gore, does not like horror, the idea of watching a show where people get eaten was not even in consideration. Then listening to a podcast review the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, a woman there had the same reservations as me before, but she said she was able to handle it and that the show was worth it (the original that is).

    So I proceeded to spend 5 great weekends being immersed totally in The Walking Dead World. Starting on Saturday afternoon watching 7+ eps, then sometimes needing to finish on Monday night. I think the most was 10 eps in one day to finish out a season on a Sunday! Consuming the show like this was great as there are not big, complex plot lines to keep track of, just characters in constant peril. The first weekend I found the show so ingrained in my subconscious I had intense dreams about the show for several nights in a row. The show was truly about either fight or flight, something I had listened to a psychiatrist talk about in another podcast, and that a lot of stress in the modern world cannot be addressed with either of those base human reactions, hence anxiety often goes unresolved.

    Anyway, I was totally on board with The Walking Dead from the first episode. Watching en masse like that I could really appreciate the amount of character development each major character has.

    I started watching live from about episode 6×04.

    After each episode from that point on I watched my boy Emergency Awesome on YouTube review each ep, and later I started watching Talking Dead too. The former often referenced the comic book series the show is based on, so the upcoming Negan was even more present in my mind than just a viewer of the show. He showed how Negan was drawn in the comic, so I feared the actor they cast might not live up to that look.

    So all that aside, about the season 6 finale specifically . . . my single biggest problem was ending it on a cliffhanger. Even the most spoiler-phobic viewer/fan knew a major character was going to die. The buildup was basically season long to that final scene. The finale, putting aside the major logistics Negan could pull off, I thought was very effective at showing just how much Rick’s group had bitten off more than they could chew. Rick had become supremely confident, and had a right to be. They took down other groups before. They had already at will routed a stronghold of Negan’s with ease. So to see the increasingly larger shows of force at each point in the road, I could feel the dread. Then once you realize they are trapped forward and back, there would be no good outcome this time. I had assumed Negan would show up at the Alexandria gate and be like, I am taking over, which would put him at risk of the rocket launcher Abraham found and Daryl had used twice. Why they did not take that weapon with them in the finale I do not know.

    Back on point, I was seeing the finale really being about Rick losing all his confidence, all the security he thought he had built for his family and his group. Countless times Rick’s leadership has kept the group as safe as could be. He pulled them out of extreme danger often. The expression on his face when finally surrounded by Negan’s people and being put on his knees alongside his son and all the others. His facial expressions really showed he was shattered. He was unable to be defiant like Abraham was. I think because Rick knew he just got his entire group killed.

    So with all that buildup, the viewer needed to see the price to be paid in who Negan kills. The impact of that character dying would resonate in fans’ minds all summer. Now, but pushing it to the premiere in the fall, it will only resonate for one episode at best, before the next danger has to be faced. So the cliffhanger decision has put a major character death from being a summer-long impact, to at most one episode. That is a mistake and unlike any cliffhanger I have ever seen before. You make the cliffhanger will someone die, not, who was it that died.

    To that end, I debated to seek out the comic book to see who it was that was killed so I could have the summer long impact I thought the show should have delivered. In the end, I found out semi by accident from an article on IMDB that did not clarify enough it would be spoiling the episode and that part of the comic book.

    My advice, seek out who was killed in the comic. You will want to. You will want to have the summer to think, that damn S.O.B. Negan killed “……………….”

  2. Post
    Author
    MJG

    Thanks on the site- hadn’t realized how much my old hand-done site was probably throttling my results through Google and others. Was at a 40% speed rating overall, and useless on mobile. Now it’s good for both, though took a chunk of relearning to figure out.

    On the death- seems we totally agree we had to see it happen. We needed it to resonate. Where do you stand on the proportionality of what Negan did? Is killing one person a decent compensation/retribution for all that Rick’s group did? Does it matter?

    Regarding spoilers- I’d spoiled myself well in advance, reading up on who would die based on the comics. From what I’ve read- seems they may or may not be going with that particular victim. I feel they should, or go with someone of similar/equal value, like Darryl- if Negan is to have any real impact on our people and on the story at large. If he just kills, say, Rosita, then Negan is set from the off to have about as much ultimate impact as, say, Ultron. Which is almost none.

  3. Jason

    I just did a big website redesign myself the past 10 days. I really wanted to have the site being able to dynamically display for desktop, phone and tablet plus get rid of the lingering flash slideshows I had that are not good for mobile either.

    I can understand Negan’s motivations and plans for places like Hilltop with keeping basically everyone alive there and only killing one person so send a message. They are totally not a threat, especially if Jesus hid his skills from Negan and made himself out to be just like a hippie or something.

    You compare the massive effort (magic effort even) to just put up road blocks for Rick’s group to intimidate them, that means Negan things they are worth putting this effort into. Maybe he thinks that alone will break their spirits enough so that they never try anymore attacks and just submit to be indentured servants to Negan. Then again, that also makes no sense since Rick’s group is actually really small, and they have no resources at the present moment that would make a dent in Negan’s group’s overall monthly intake. The proportion of damage Rick’s group did to Negan’s to Negan just killing one of Rick’s group is way, way out of proportion. If Negan is who is made out to be, he should not be hesitating to just wipe out everyone in Rick’s group he has on their knees. They are all big time fighters and even if their spirits are initially broken, their rancor will rise again eventually. Therefore, makes absolutely no sense at all to keep them alive, especially not Rick, especially not Daryl.

    I have not read any specific future spoilers, but do know how prolonged Negan is in the comics and now see that the show is going to fundamentally change as it slowly has from just surviving and trying to find a safe place to stay, having that disappear and needing to find another place, to now the Walkers are almost a negligible threat, and humans are the real threat.

    I saw how Negan is drawn in the comics too, and the actor playing him did look a bit thin. I expected the bat to be fatter too, not just a regular little league kid’s bat with barbed wire on it!

    Well, at least Game of Thrones is returning Sunday and promising to be putting out its best season yet.

  4. Post
    Author
    MJG

    “The proportion of damage Rick’s group did to Negan’s to Negan just killing one of Rick’s group is way, way out of proportion.”

    – Yes, this, definitely.

    “If Negan is who is made out to be, he should not be hesitating to just wipe out everyone in Rick’s group he has on their knees.”

    – Yes indeed.

    “They are all big time fighters and even if their spirits are initially broken, their rancor will rise again eventually. Therefore, makes absolutely no sense at all to keep them alive, especially not Rick, especially not Daryl.”

    – I completely agree with this. I think fans of Negan who liked this representation would say that this is his weak point- his desire to ‘break’ other men. He gets off on it, and this is why he doesn’t kill them all outright. I can buy that to some degree- the bigger the threat they are, the more he wants to break them. But even he should know that just killing one person from their crew will not be enough to break them. Considering the success he’s had corralling people so far, and considering they follow a rule of ‘kill someone as soon as they meet them’, he would know that for stone-cold killers who took one of his cells out while they were sleeping, then ANOTHER cell while they are actually tied-up as prisoners, one kill is not enough.

    We agree. There is no excuse.

    Like the site, having it be dynamic seems key for google search ranking these days too. Have you run speed checks? Mine was ranking around 40% prior to this shift. Now in the 90s, big improvement.

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