The sixth season finale of “The Walking Dead” aired last Sunday with one of the cruelest cliffhangers in the show’s history.
The episode began with Rick Grimes and a few of the residents of Alexandria piling up in their RV to rush a suddenly ill Maggie to the Hilltop where she could receive proper medical attention. On the way, the group reached a road block composed of a small group of Negan’s infamous “Saviors.” After a short conversation between Rick and the group’s leader, Rick told his group to drive away in order to avoid a potentially deadly encounter, with the hope of finding an alternate route to the Hilltop. The Saviors suspiciously refrained from pursuing Rick’s group.
Our beloved Alexandrians continued driving through Washington, D.C. towards the Hilltop, but were met with another Savior road block of an even larger group. Rick’s group then turned around to once again attempt an alternate route towards the Hilltop, but they continued to encounter more road blocks with increasing numbers of Saviors as nightfall began to set in. The terrifying realization that Rick’s group had become surrounded by a veritable Savior army came too late, and our heroes inevitably found themselves trapped by upwards of fifty armed Saviors who had cornered the group in a dark forest.
One by one, Rick and his people were disarmed and brought to their knees, leaving them submissive and vulnerable as the leader of the Saviors, Negan, introduced himself and his favorite barbed-wire-covered baseball bat (intimately named Lucille).
After lengthy minutes of psychologically tormenting the group by deciding who he was going to kill to punish Rick for killing some of his Saviors, Negan began chanting “eeny meeny miny moe” as he slowly walked up to each member of the group pointing his bat at them.
Suddenly, the audience’s view switched to a first-person perspective of an unknown member of the group that Negan gestures his bat to, finally saying: “…and you are it.” Negan then proceeded to smash this character’s skull in as his/her vision blurred and hearing obscured more and more with each vicious hit.
The episode ended with the death of this mystery character, and silent credits rolled.
Fans of the show (myself included) are disappointed (and expressed it through various social media outlets like Reddit and Twitter) by the show writers’ choice to leave the identity of the murdered main character unknown.
In issue 100 of the ongoing comic book that “The Walking Dead” is based off of, Negan’s introduction was exactly the same, except the reader knew who Negan killed. The comic book’s writer Robert Kirkman didn’t shy away from such a pivotal moment in the story by playing it safe.
Audience members were at the edge of their seats as Negan teased, tormented and eventually killed a member of the group, but the show watchers won’t find out exactly who that person was until the seventh season premieres. This has left fans feeling manipulated by such an unnecessary cliffhanger that emphasizes a lack of integrity by the showrunners.
An opportunity for “The Walking Dead” to become the kind of show people want to watch but haven’t seen in a while was unfortunately abandoned.