The Walking Dead Cliffhanger

“The Walking Dead” Concludes with Cliffhanger

Producer Denise Huth was asked to describe the season finale of The Walking Dead in one word. She replied, “Negan.” Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, bears the nauseating name, which has evoked excitement from various viewers and complete despair from others. The episode delivered on Huth’s promise. Season 6, episode 16 was as tense as it was unsatisfying.

Approaching this season finale, the characters show complete disregard to the protection of the safe-zone community Alexandria. From Carol’s (Melissa McBride) annoying hide and seek attempt, to Darryl’s (Norman Reedus) quest for revenge, Alexandria is more dead than the walkers gnawing on its walls. Tell Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) to say a prayer and hang a vacancy sign on the front gate.

In the episode, director Greg Nicotero shows multiple vantage points. The viewer follows Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) crew as well as Carol and Morgan (Lennie James) through their individual travels. Unbeknownst to Rick and the rest of the group, the previous episode revealed that key players in the “Team Alexandria” fighting force were taken by a group of people called “The Saviors.” So, with half the group gone or taken captive and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) having painful pregnancy issues, Rick makes the call to leave in search of a doctor.

The idea of laying low is completely thrown out of the RV’s rear window as the gang piles in. While Rick’s unit heads to their allies in the Hilltop, Morgan searches for and finds Carol. Carol will not comply with Morgan’s pleas for her to return to Alexandria, insisting that Morgan leave immediately. The writer, Robert Kirkman, does a great job pairing this character combination and highlighting the fact that their beliefs differ on so many levels.

Trouble ensues and Carol comes face-to-face with the sole survivor from last episode’s roadside shootout. In a final scene with Morgan, Carol, and a wounded Savior, one character’s belief system is proved obsolete and alternative action is required.

While Carol and Morgan’s fate is still unknown, the other half of the episode leaves only more questions for Rick’s crew. The destination they seek is the Hilltop community. There is a doctor there and Maggie is in desperate need. In the early hours of their voyage, Rick promises Maggie that, “We can do anything.” Almost immediately after this statement, it becomes obvious that Rick is very wrong.

The group’s path is obstructed in multiple ways by large groups of Saviors and in one instance a roadblock of walkers tied together. Jamie Kelman (makeup director) and the rest of the team produce a gruesome string of walkers, sinisterly bound by a metal chain. What’s more, director Robert Kirkman and the costume department place articles of clothing from captured Alexandrians along with a lock of Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) hair on the “chain-gang” walkers. Zombie make-up and dress is a huge aspect of The Walking Dead, and it was taken to another level in this episode. It is apparent that the Alexandrians are targets of a Savior plan as Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) plainly states, “We are neck deep in sh-t’s creek with our mouths wide open.”

In one last desperate attempt, the group flees on foot to the Hilltop community as night falls. Luck has not been on the Alexandrians’ side, and it does not change here. The deafening whistle of the Saviors is heard loud and clear—the group has walked in to Negan’s trap.

Leather jacket-clad, sporting Lucille, his baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire—Negan is badass. In his first appearance on The Walking Dead, Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivers a speech that leaves Rick and global viewers quivering. The scene is performed perfectly as hundreds of Saviors surround the crew of kneeling Alexandrians. Hatred and fear emanate from the Alexandrians, while a look of disgust fills each Savior’s face. From the fat, bearded Savior staring from the back row to Rick himself, each cast member is fully tuned in to Negan’s bone-chilling speech. The viewer has never seen the group in more of a helpless position and Nicotero as well as the entire cast does a fantastic job in illustrating this fact.

The finale gives no hints to when or if the group will return. Someone has been beaten by Lucille and now lays dead, though we do not know who. Father Gabriel will stand guard wondering why his home is empty with good reason. Rick truly believed that their group could handle whatever was thrown at them. However, Rick’s ignorance sealed the group’s fate. More questions are asked than answered in this season finale, leaving Season 7 of The Walking Dead in the hands of a new villain. Rick is forced to reconsider all that he thought was true as Negan says, “Sucks don’t it, the moment you realize you don’t know sh-t…”