A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 6 Finale: “Last Day on Earth”

So the sixth season of The Walking Dead comes to a conclusion as Rick and company head to the Hilltop to get help for Maggie, but also contend with the Saviors.  However, while they’ve never had a confrontation, Negan’s official introduction puts a halt to their plans.  It also puts a major halt on any momentum you might have had as the season finale builds to a high point before ending on a disappointing conclusion.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan finds a horse

The episode begins with Morgan traversing the woods in his search for Carol.  He finds a sign that reads ‘You Are Alive’ and, near that sign, a horse that’s practically waiting for him.  Morgan tells the horse that it’s alive.  At the same time, we spot the Savior from last time, still walking with Carol’s rosary.  He continues following footprints that lead into the grassy fields.

Last Day on Earth- Carl and Enid talk

Meanwhile, Carl loads up, telling Enid to stay back and protect the Safe Zone.  Enid wants to go to the Hilltop, but Carl tells her that the Saviors are dangerous, based on what they’ve done to the others.  He won’t let that happen to Enid.  She asks if Carl wants to run into the Saviors.  Carl eventually tells Enid to grab some pistols from the closet.  And that’s when he locks her in the closet.

Enid asks Carl what happens if he doesn’t come back.  Carl tells her to just survive somehow.

Last Day on Earth- Rick and gang about to leave Alexandria

Rick, Abraham, Sasha, and Eugene load up the RV to head out and take on the Saviors.  Rick tries to talk Eugene out of it, but he’s not staying.  Rick doesn’t want Aaron to join, but Aaron is adamant.  He’s even willing to take multiple punches in the face.  Gabriel informs Rick that there are 24 hour watches to protect the Safe Zone while others are away.  If there’s an emergency, Gabriel’s first priority will be Judith.

Then Gabriel asks if Rick is comfortable leaving him in charge.  To that, Rick answers yes.  Spencer tells Rick that if the Saviors show up, if it’s not too late, try and make a deal.  Rick tells them to wait because he may have a deal of his own.

Last Day on Earth- Steven Ogg and a group of Saviors find a survivor

Back in the woods, a group of Saviors catch up to the running man. They explain that they made an example of the man’s friends and it could have stopped there, but the people didn’t stop.  They wanted to fight, so this is how it has to be.  The men beat the hell out of the downed man.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan finds Carol

Morgan and his new travel companion stop at a building, where they find Carol resting.  She didn’t want him to come, but since this is Morgan, he was never going to listen.  He inspects her wound- she’s bleeding badly.

Last Day on Earth- Steven Ogg and Saviors wait on the road

The Saviors, meanwhile, drag the runaway man to the road.  The presumed leader of the group, played by Steven Ogg, is ready to make an example of this man.

Last Day on Earth- Rick speaks to Maggie while on the RV

Elsewhere on the road, Rick and company travel in the RV.  Rick checks on Maggie and tells her that they’ll get to the Hilltop to make things better for her.  Maggie asks how he knows, but Rick tells her that everything they’ve done was by acting as a group.  They’re still here.  Things have happened because it’s worked out when it’s all of them.  When they work together, they can do anything.  Oh Rick, you have no idea.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan patches up Carol

Morgan patches up Carol, but she still needs stitches and antibiotics to make sure she doesn’t get an infection.  It will get dark in a few hours, so Morgan plans to survey the land and make sure it’s safe.  At dawn, they’ll head out to get help.

Last Day on Earth- RV group runs into a small pack of Saviors

The RV then stops when it runs into the blockade of Saviors on the road.  They walk out as Rick explains that the groups can make a deal.  Steven Ogg agrees, in exchange for everything, but one of the survivors has to die.  Rick tells them that the deal won’t work.  In fact, he was going to ask for their stuff, but he won’t have to kill any more Saviors.

One of the Saviors walks forward and sprays the downed man.  The Saviors reiterate that they don’t negotiate.  Rick and his folks fall back, but he asks the Saviors if they want to make today their last day on earth.  That’s a good thing to bring up.  Think about it: what if it’s the last day on Earth for Rick or someone he loves?  Rick should be nice to his people because anything could happen.  Be kind to each other.

Rick advises the Saviors to do the same.  The RV backs up for the moment.

Last Day on Earth- Eugene comes up with an alternate route

After a brief glimpse at obscure light, we return to the RV group.  Carl watches a walker approaching in the distance and asks Aaron why he didn’t stay in Alexandria.  Aaron owes Maggie.  Carl says that he’s out here because he owes them.  Eugene goes over the map for a visible route.  Shelton would work, even though it’s a longer trip.

Last Day on Earth- Carol wants Morgan to leave her

Morgan tells Carol that Rick also came looking for her- damn near everyone did.  He assures her that they’ll be back by the time they are.  Carol doesn’t see herself returning just like that.  She knows people care about her, and she cares, but that’s why she can’t be there.  Morgan counters that she has to, but Carol says that, after everything that’s happened, there are people that she’ll kill for.

But if you can’t or won’t kill, then you have to get away from them.  You can’t have both, and Morgan of all people should know that.  Morgan still believes that everything in life is worth a damn and won’t just let Carol die, but she tells him that it’s not his decision.  She then points a gun and pleads for him to leave.  If he cares about anyone, there is a price to pay.  Carol can’t do that anymore.

Last Day on Earth- RV group runs into another group of Saviors

Back on the road, Abraham asks Sasha if they can do something as big as what Glenn and Maggie did, because to him, that’s living.  Abraham believes that now he can.  Just so Sasha knows.  With a call of bitch-nuts, the RV runs into yet another group of Saviors.  Carl wants to end this right now, but Rick disagrees.  He can tell that the Saviors have been waiting.  The Saviors fire into the air as the RV heads in the opposite direction.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan cuts down a hanged walker

So Morgan heads out and finds a walker strung up in a nearby tower.  Though the walker is of no immediate threat, Morgan climbs the tower, stabs the walker, and then cuts it down.  He then enters another building and calls out for Carol, but gets no response.  He saddles up and rides off in pursuit.

Last Day on Earth- RV group finds chained walkers blocking their path

The RV team is down to half a tank of gas.  Sasha notes that the Saviors they just saw weren’t the same, but still Saviors.  Rick is still confident that they’ll get Maggie to the Hilltop, but the RV comes to a stop when they come upon chained walkers blocking their path.  The chains even go through their bodies.  Now that takes work.  They find that various walkers are wearing clothes belonging to Michonne and Daryl.

Last Day on Earth- RV finds an even larger group of Saviors

Bullets rain from all directions, but the group clears the walker blockade and continues their journey.  As Rick inspects the hair from one of the walkers, he tells the others that the Saviors want them in this direction.  Eugene is certain they can get back on track, but Aaron informs Rick that Maggie’s temperature is rising.  If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s an even larger group of Saviors blocking the road.  Rick advises Abraham to back up.

Morgan continues searching for Carol when he stops to inspect a walker.  Next to it, he finds the rosary.

Last Day on Earth- Savior finds Carol

Carol, meanwhile, is surprised by a walker, but she ends up pulling off its skin long enough to stab it in the head.  But then the Savior from the road surprises her from behind.  Rather than kill her, because that would make sense, he tells her that she’s going to lay there and he’s going to watch her die, just like his friends on the road.  He then shoots Carol in her shoulder for a good start.

Last Day on Earth- Rick checks on Maggie

Rick checks on Maggie, promising that they’ll arrive at the Hilltop safely.  More than that, she and her baby will be just fine.  Maggie believes in Rick.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan finds the Savior about to kill Carol

Back to the Savior and Carol, who smiles and is ready to die.  There’s nothing wrong with her anymore.  Why the Saviors hasn’t just shot Carol in the head is still beyond me, but he settles for shooting her in the leg.  He tells her that she hasn’t suffered, and Carol agrees.  With that, the Savior walks away while Carol rants that people decide when to die.  You don’t get to walk away.

Then Morgan arrives and orders the Savior to lower his gun.  He tells the Savior that he can survive this.  Before the Savior can fire, Morgan unloads on the man, killing him.  Carol still pleads for Morgan to leave her, but Morgan insists that she’ll come back from this.  Then two men in armor, one on a horse, approach.  Morgan reports that he found their horse.  Time to get some help.

Last Day on Earth- Rick and gang find another barricade

The RV group, now on foot, finds a barricade, indicating, as Abraham puts it, that they’re in shit creek with their mouths wide open.  Then the injured man from before is tossed over the overpass while hanging from a chain.  Rick advises Aaron not to fire since they’ll need the bullets for later.  So they leave the man to struggle and die.

Fire breaks out on the barricade.  Steven Ogg’s voice rings out, telling the group to leave because it’s going to get hot soon.  The team retreats to the RV and once again falls back.  With Maggie still in need of a doctor, there are two more potential routes.  Eugene doesn’t think the Saviors are waiting on them, but the RV itself.

Last Day on Earth- Eugene gives Rick the how to on making bullets

As night falls, Rick instructs Eugene to take the now gassed-up RV.  In return, Eugene gives Rick a recipe for How to Build Bullets 101.  Fair exchange.  Rick tells Eugene that they’re glad to have him here.  Eugene then asks Abraham why he never let him drive the truck.  Abraham never thought he could do it, but he was wrong.  Eugene is and always was a survivor, but no one knew it.

Last Day on Earth- Group goes on foot while carrying Maggie

So Rick, Carl, Sasha, Abraham, and Aaron, with Maggie resting in a cot, head on foot while Eugene fires up the RV and goes in another direction.  Maggie pleads for Aaron to let her walk, but he won’t.  Carl agrees with what Rick said before- they can do anything, just as they have before, and they will again.  What happened to Denise, Carl won’t let that happen again.

Last Day on Earth- Saviors surround the survivors

But then they hear a familiar whistle.  With no way to tell where it’s coming from, the group starts running through the woods at full speed until lights hit them dead on.  They end up in an open area, surrounded by Saviors all around them.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the Saviors managed to capture Eugene and the RV as well.

Steven Ogg is glad the survivors made it to where they’re going.  He demands they group hand over their weapons.  He then orders Maggie be lowered and everyone get on their knees.  It takes a moment, but Rick and the others soon drop to the ground.  Rick looks absolutely petrified.

Dwight enters the scene and opens a van, where we see Daryl, Michonne, Rosita, and Glenn, who are also placed on their knees.  With an audience ready, Steven Ogg then knocks on the RV so we can meet the head honcho of the Saviors.

Last Day on Earth- Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, makes his first appearance

Out steps Negan, played by The Comedian himself, Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  He asks if anyone is pissing their pants yet, because they’re getting close.  Gonna be pee-pee pants city real soon.  He introduces himself to Rick, and doesn’t find it cool that Rick killed so many of his men.

Rick has no idea how not cool that shit is, but Negan brings him up to speed while also swearing that Rick will regret crossing him in a few minutes.  Whatever Rick does, you don’t mess with the new world order.  Even if Rick is stupid, he can understand that you hand over your shit or Negan will kill him.

Today was career day.  A lot was invested so the survivors would know Negan.  Rick has shit and he’ll give it to Negan.  That’s his job.  That’s a nasty pill to swallow, but swallow it he will.  Negan notes that Rick built something.  He thought he was safe, but word is out that he is, in fact, not safe.  In fact, Rick is pegged if he doesn’t do what Negan does.  If half of his stuff is too much, he can steal until it evens out.

This is the new way of life.  The more Rick fights back, the harder it will be.  So when the Saviors knocks on your door, they will walk right in because they own the place.  He asks Rick if he understands, but gets no response.  This wasn’t all going to happen without a punishment.  Negan doesn’t want to kill anyone.  In fact, he wants people to work for him, but that can’t happen if they’re dead.

However, a lot of Saviors died, and for that, someone has to pay.  How?  Negan will beat the holy hell out of them with his awesome, barbed-wire wrapped bat: Lucille.  But now to find out who gets the honor.

Last Day on Earth- Negan speaks to Carl

Negan walks down the line, but stops at Carl, recognizing that he has a lot of their guns.  He offers to put a disheveled Maggie out of her misery.  Glenn tries to intervene, but Dwight stops him.  Negan doesn’t want that kind of outburst again.  Negan sees that Rick doesn’t know what’s going to happen, which could explain his fear.  He also sees that Carl is Rick’s son.  When Rick lashes out, Negan threatens to kill the future serial killer.

Last Day on Earth- Negan picks his victim, the cameraman

But Negan simply cannot decide, so he’s got an idea.  Eenie-meenie-minie-mo.  He goes down the line and finally lands on a victim.  We don’t see who it is, but Negan lines up Lucille and bashes the victim over and over again as the sixth season of The Walking Dead comes to a close.

Well, that was most definitely an ending.

Last Day on Earth- Abraham and Rick spot a large group of Saviors

Okay, I could rant about my issues with this finale, but I’ll start with the positive aspects.  First off, I think the tension and atmosphere with the RV group was well done and kept building as the episode progressed.  Yes, it was repetitive to see the RV back up over and over again, but heading into a scenario where the survivors were bound to be captured, it was interesting to see them in a situation where they couldn’t predict the outcome.

Last Day on Earth- Rick has words with the Saviors

Much of this circles back to the group’s overconfidence, and it’s easy to see why.  Rick and company have come up against and kept the Saviors at bay in every single encounter.  Denise was an unfortunate casualty, but otherwise, they’ve wiped out the opposition with no problem.  As Rick said to Jesus, the group has never had a problem with confrontation.

So to them, this would be like the Governor or Terminus: a challenging obstacle, but nothing they couldn’t overcome.  It helped that the world has trained them for this and the Saviors, up until now, have been disorganized and incompetent, so it’s easy to see why, for once, Rick’s group wanted to take the safe option of avoiding confrontation.

Last Day on Earth- Maggie rests

And it was nice to see Rick make Maggie the priority.  He could have put his group in multiple firefights that they might have won, but that would just prolong Maggie’s suffering and drag out an already long episode.

Last Day on Earth- Morgan receives help

On that note, to go slightly off-topic, this episode did not need to be 90 minutes.  Carol and Morgan’s subplot, which felt drawn out to ridiculous lengths, felt like filler until the very end because Carol was resolute in her decision to leave.  Morgan had a bit of development with his decision to kill a human, but he was forced to do so if he was going to protect Carol.

Last Day on Earth- Carol shot in the shoulder

But even that felt drawn out because the Savior didn’t just do the practical thing and shoot Carol in the head.  No, he has to draw out her suffering by shooting her in the arm and leg.  But why do this?  Carol killed a handful of Saviors, so this guy watching her suffer doesn’t do anything for him except give him enough time to gloat so Morgan can find him.

Last Day on Earth- Savior won't kill Carol for some reason

That’s one of those bad tropes where the villain has the protagonist cornered and could kill them at any second, but instead, they have a conversation.  Am I suddenly watching a James Bond film or The Walking Dead?  And now both Carol and Morgan are in the company of newcomers from the Kingdom.

Last Day on Earth- Planning an alternate route

You could have condensed this subplot to a few scenes to devote more time to the group on the road.  More conversations with Rick and Maggie, more about Carl and Aaron talking about why they came on the journey, more of Eugene frantically trying to come up with a new plan each time the Saviors blocked the path.  Make this feel like a do or die scenario.

Because until the end, what we got was the RV team making detour after detour and being antagonized by the Saviors.  They were frustrated, but kept finding alternate solutions.  When they were forced to split into two groups and head on foot with Maggie still weak, the group had reached a point of desperation.  Not enough to break them because, like past situations, they were confident that nothing could stop them.

Last Day on Earth- On your knees

But then they ran right into a trap.  I’ll say this about the final few moments of this episode: while I have my reservations about the finale, I think the tension when the group wound up caught was perfect.  I was as tense as they were the entire time and, for once, we saw fear on all of their faces.

Last Day on Earth- Ready to meet Negan

The fear that they couldn’t talk or shoot their way out of this situation.  The fear that Maggie wouldn’t get the help she needed in time.  The fear that maybe, for all the Saviors’ threats and demands, this time someone would pay for the amount of people Rick and his group have killed.  And the fear that Rick, for all his thinking, underestimated this boogeyman named Negan.

Last Day on Earth- Rick filled with fear

While the acting on The Walking Dead is normally very strong, Andrew Lincoln in particular sold his performance as Rick not by what he says, but his facial expressions.  Aside from Carl getting shot in “No Way Out,” I can’t remember a time recently where Rick looked so helpless.  He was confident that he could handle the Saviors, but now he’s on his knees, unarmed, and without a prayer.  I saw not a confident leader, but a man trembling in fear.

Last Day on Earth- Negan can't decide who to kill

But then Negan shows up with something to…prove.  Not to fear since we don’t see the result, more on that later, but to prove that he and his Saviors will make due on their promises.  First off, credit where it’s due: Jeffrey Dean Morgan is great in his introduction as Negan.  He’s smug, carries a huge presence, and is both humorous, yet threatening at the same time.

Last Day on Earth- Negan demands to know who is the group leader

When Negan finally appears, Jeffrey Dean Morgan commands the scene.  It left me on the edge of my seat how the show would handle adapting this character to the screen and, for the most part, the show succeeded.  Negan’s dialogue is, at times, point for point, ripped out of issue #100 as he makes both threats and jokes.  Up until now, Negan has existed as a ghost, but I was just tense at the thought of how he would retaliate.

Last Day on Earth- Negan has no answer for Rick

Rick sees Negan as an obstacle, but Negan views Rick as a business partner.  You don’t just up and kill your partners.  You barter, you negotiate, and you establish the new world order in society.  Negan doesn’t want to kill anyone because, in his mind, they work for him.  And judging from him sizing up Rick, Negan takes pleasure in people resisting his reign.  All the more satisfying to pummel them into compliance.

Last Day on Earth- Rick meets Lucille

So going into this moment where one of the characters will be beaten to death is a big deal.  Not only are these most of our main survivors, these are a lot of our power players and heavy hitters.  Well, less so with Aaron, but he did get the survivors to Alexandria, so there’s that.  For Negan to pick one of them at random and kill them in front of the others should hold a lot of weight and be a moment that leaves us as shellshocked as Rick.

Last Day on Earth- Negan thinks that Maggie looks shitty

Should.  Heavy emphasis on that because, at the end of the day, we’re left with a massive tease that left me more disappointed than anything else.  I’m not angry or confused because it’s not the first time that The Walking Dead has baited viewers.  Manufactured is the word.  Coupled with the many commercial breaks, the finale led us along to this confrontation with Negan, but then we’re left dangling as Negan beat the cameraman to death.

But why take such a copout?  There’s no need to build such suspense for Negan’s first appearance, put the survivors in actual peril, draw things out in a 90 minute finale, give us Maggie’s weakening state, and then not show Negan’s victim.  That brings the episode’s drive to a screeching halt and it dilutes the finale of its tension.

Last Day on Earth- Negan smiles

For a character like Negan and for a comic moment as iconic as this, and for all the talk the cast and people involved with this show talked about the emotional turmoil of this episode, to end like this isn’t suspenseful.

Last Day on Earth- Glenn and Lucille

It’s taking the easy way out instead of leaving audiences as distressed as the characters would be.  Let us live out this horror with them by showing us who Negan dies.  Don’t do it from a first person perspective and try to justify this as setting up the next season.  It knocks the wind out of you and ruins an otherwise well-directed and tense final moment.

Last Day on Earth- Negan has to pick someone

The unfortunate thing is that this is going to be what people talk about between now and Season 7.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance as Negan was great, though I’m surprised we still didn’t get as much as a single F-bomb, especially after The People vs. OJ Simpson has used it, at the time of writing this, four times on FX.  No.  For better or worse, people are going to remember the cliffhanger ending.

Because it’s the last moment of the season and just ends without a clear resolution, that’s what viewers, writers, and everyone that watches the show will remember.  Me personally, I do not like having a cliffhanger end the season on this note, but my opinion amounts to nothing.  For such a strong season and buildup to Negan’s first appearance, this left a bad taste in my mouth by the time the credits rolled.

Last Day on Earth- Negan meets Rick's group

Would I have liked the season to end with us seeing Negan’s victim and watching the group crumble at one of their lowest moments?  Absolutely, as morbid as that sounds.  I think it would have worked for both comic fans and solidified to TV only viewers that Negan is a real threat, proving that by having one of the main characters killed.  Plus, we’d know the group’s incentive to launch a counterattack after losing one of their own.

I’m not going to spend time speculating on who it might have been, who to rule out, and what impact this could have on Season 7 because I’m still going to tune in, but the final moment of this finale has left me hollow.  Not knowing the identity of the person picked is a cheap way to string viewers along, never mind the backlash I’m sure this move will generate.  But as of now, this finale dropped the ball.

Is “Last Day on Earth” a bad episode?  Of course not.  The tension was high, Jeffrey Dean Morgan made a good first impression as Negan, and we saw Rick Grimes at a low moment in his task of eliminating the Saviors.  I’d argue that the last 15 or so minutes were some of the tensest moments on the show thus far as it fills you with dread about the survivors’ fates.  And despite my irritation, I plan to be around for Season 7.

However, the unnecessary 90 minute runtime, some slow moments, and the cliffhanger diluted what could have been a strong outing for Season 6.  In a season of high points, fake-out deaths, and surprise moments, this was a letdown.  Instead of getting Something to Fear, we got Something to Frustrate.  It’s a weak ending to an otherwise good season.

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