Warning: Contains spoilers for both The Walking Dead TV series and comic.
Season six of The Walking Dead concluded this week with an incredibly painful and dissatisfying cliff-hanger ending. Anyone who has invested time in a serialised program is well aware of this common TV trope, which is used to force the viewers back for the next season, and to keep them speculating until then. In the case of The Walking Dead, this ending was completely unnecessary and robbed the viewers of any satisfaction to be gained from the much anticipated introduction of Negan.
Negan’s reveal had been teased through whispers and threats since the mid-season break. Played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Negan is the leader of The Saviors, the enormous group of hostiles who our heroes had been battling all season. The introduction of Negan promised a change to the status quo. It signified that Rick and the gang were no longer the strongest and meanest band of survivors, and was also the first time that they had lost a battle. This great loss was supposed to be signified by a major character’s death, which would leave the heroes broken. Unfortunately all of the impact was lost by having this murder occur off-screen and by not revealing which character died.
I’ll admit that my bias is showing. I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead comic, which is the source material for the TV series. The comic is always of the highest quality and full of jaw-dropping moments. For me, no moment was more memorable than Negan’s introduction, where he played a deadly game of eeny meeny miny moe and smashed Glenn’s skull into a pulp with his barb-wired baseball bat, ‘Lucille’. I had been waiting impatiently for months to see this moment on TV. I was well aware that the series subverts the comics, and it may not have been Glenn who copped the bat, but not seeing this moment at all was a serious let down.
This was not the first time that the TV series had left me feeling disappointed. Think back to when our heroes were occupying the prison, battling the threat of The Governor and his gang. In the comic, there is a scene where The Governor demands that Rick tell him the location of their camp. When Rick refuses, The Governor responds by cutting off Rick’s right arm with a machete. This was a huge moment that was left out of the TV series. I felt it was important, as it humanised Rick, instead or leaving him an invincible zombie killing machine. Series creator Robert Kirkman insisted that it would have been too difficult to film Rick with only one arm, and greatly raised the budget through the continual use of CGI. I believe it would have been worth it.
The other great disappointment was the survival of baby Judith. In the comic, Judith dies during the escape from the prison. This scene was teased in the TV series, but ultimately Judith survived. Now the group of survivors are left to awkwardly deal with a baby, who conveniently disappears from time to time. If they’re not going to make use of the baby, why have her there at all?
I’m not a sadist. I just want the TV series to stick to the source material. There’s the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Game of Thrones sticks closely to its source material, and I believe that is one of the reasons why that TV series is so compelling. I’m unsure why the team behind The Walking Dead ended season six the way that they did. The internet has already erupted in a fury of complaints over this ending. This anger had to have been expected. My guess is that they are yet to decide which character will be killed off. I feel that for a series about survival and death, which features extravagant amounts of gore, The Walking Dead sure knows how to play it safe.
Let’s jump back to the finale. I loved Negan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan nailed his performance. In ten minutes of screen time he has already proved to be the most interesting character on the series. I hope that his character develops into his brutal and foul mouthed comic counterpart, although I have my doubts.
What do you think of the The Walking Dead season six finale and who do you think will get up close and personal with Lucille? Sound off in the comments below.
Michael Vane is a freelance writer whose favourite zombie story is the novel World War Z, written by Max Brooks. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @DrVane