Friday, April 29, 2016

TV Review - The Walking Dead Season 6 Episodes 15 and 16


  My favorite television show, AMC’s The Walking Dead wrapped up season 6 two weeks ago by portraying the events leading up to the comic book’s iconic 100th issue that introduced mega bad guy Negan by having him beat one of the original group of zombie apocalypse survivors to death with his barbed-wire covered bat (named Lucille) in full view of the rest of our intrepid band of survivors. I don’t read the comic but since I keep up on TWD press I knew where the story line was heading. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the Comedian from the epic movie ‘Watchmen’) had been signed up to play Negan and the second half of the current season revolved around our band of survivors having run-ins with Negan’s crew (called the ‘Saviors’), even going as far as entering into an arrangement with the nearby Hilltop community to kill Negan and his crew in return for half their food.

  With the exception of losing Denise the town doctor in an ambush during an ill-advised supply run in episode 14 everything seemed to be going according to plan for Rick and his group of survivors in the Alexandria walled community. There were a few close calls but our intrepid band of survivors had managed to kill dozens of Negan’s crew and even thought they had killed Negan himself in a raid on his compound in episode 10. In the beginning of episode 15 Rick Grimes (the leader of our band of zombie apocalypse survivors) tells his current love interest (the katana wielding Michonne) that this new world is theirs for the taking. And then everything starts going wrong. Darryl (the crossbow wielding motorcycle riding bad actor of the crew) headed out to avenge Denise’s murder and was followed by core group members Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita. All four were inexplicably taken by surprise and captured by Negan’s savior crew. The reason I say it is inexplicable is that all four have such survival skills that they should only rarely be taken by surprise and certainly not in two separate ambushes.

Carol (aka Nancy from Montclair) has turned into a reluctant killing machine...

  Then Carol left a note saying she was leaving the community and for no one to follow her. Naturally Rick and Morgan leave Alexandria to follow her. Carol has had the weirdest season 6 of all our survivors. She saved the town from the attack by the Wolves in the beginning of the season, killed the last surviving member of the Wolves in episode 9, and followed that up by killing a bunch of Negan’s followers after being kidnapped by them in episode 13. With each kill Carol has come to realize that to stay in Alexandria she will always have to kill to protect her friends so she leaves. But when confronted by a group of Saviors with only herself to defend she kills almost the entire group with an assault rifle she had sewn into the arm of her coat.

  While Rick returned to Alexandria (leaving Morgan to follow Carol), the final crisis of episode 15 erupts when pregnant Maggie starts having severe abdominal pains which lead Rick and company to gather their best fighters for a road trip to the nearest doctor at the Hilltop Colony. This set the stage for the 90 minute season finale which I found to be a gripping tale of suspense. Our survivors slowly discover that each route to the Hilltop is heavily guarded by the Saviors and slowly realize they are surrounded. I would have expected Rick to try to fight his way through but with a sick pregnant woman and plot device demands to take care of he continually backs away to try different roads but every one is barricaded. The sense of desperation is palpable until a desperate is made to reach the Hilltop doctor on foot using the RV as a distraction. The last ditch plan doesn’t work and Rick and company are surrounded by the Saviors, reunited with the captured survivors from the previous episode, and all are forced to their knees as we finally meet Negan and his barbed wire baseball bat that he calls Lucille.

  This is one of the signature moments of the comics. In issue #100 we meet Negan and Lucille for the first time. Negan gives a profanity-laced speech and tells Rick that his group now works for him and will give him half of everything they have and get from now on. To prove he means business and as a ‘punishment’ for the Saviors that were murdered by Rick’s group Negan plays a game of ‘eenie-meenie-minie-moe’ and one unfortunate survivor gets his head brutally bashed apart by Lucille. Just 2 and half hours after proclaiming the world was theirs, Rick and company are on their knees before Negan who could kill all of them if he chose and there is nothing any of them can do about it. This moment from the comics has been anticipated for years by television viewers and it finally took place in season 6. Morgan plays Negan as a man that rules the world through his brutality and enjoys it. He makes his speech, plays ‘eenie-meenie-minie-moe’ with the survivors, raises his bat and…

  And then we switch to the point of the view of the victim as they are bashed in the head with Lucille. We see Negan mockingly say ‘You’re taking it like a champ!’ through a blood covered camera lens, and fade to black. The season is over and we never find out who died.

  The Internet is up in arms over the cliffhanger. Bloggers and critics alike thought the season should have ended with us knowing who has been murdered so we could worry about how the group would move forward. I completely disagree and think this was a masterstroke by the showrunners. I have seen hundreds of videos and discussion board posts outlining various theories of who was killed. The ratings for ‘The Walking Dead’ were down this season but I would bet that the season 7 premiere will break all Walking Dead records. Who was killed is what everyone is discussing and it will be a hot topic until the season begins in October.

And in the end we are left waiting to see who got the bat...

  Who do I think was killed? The television show does not follow the comic exactly so it’s not a sure thing that Glenn will be the recipient of Lucille’s attention like he was in the comics. I’m not a big fan of trying to figure out who got Lucille by discerning the background of the victim’s point of view or the camera angles on Negan as he parades around. I believe multiple scenarios were filmed and that the showrunners are still deciding who the victim will be and it will depend on a lot of factors besides storytelling. Which actors are under contract? Are some characters so beloved that viewers tune in to watch them and may not keep watching if their favorite character is terminated? The Walking Dead has not been shy about killing major characters in the past so no one can be said to be really safe. Somehow I feel this scenario will be different. I feel the core characters are so popular that Aaron or Rosita will be up close and personal with Lucille because they are the most minor of all the characters. In any event I am happy that all the Walking Dead characters will be around in my mind until at least October.

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