‘The Walking Dead’ Finale: Of Gimmicks And Cop-Outs [Spoilers]

AMC’s The Walking Dead is in trouble. I’m not talking about the millions of outraged Walking Dead fans threatening to abandon the show over that horrible cliffhanger. I’m not even talking about the decision to demand people watch a 90-minute episode that was about 70 minutes worth of filler and commercials.

I’m talking about the manner in which the series’ writers decided to end Season 6.

As the above meme quips, The Walking Dead ended with Season 7’s villain Negan beating somebody to death with his beloved bat, “Lucille.” We have no idea who the victim is thanks to a first-person perspective that included blood oozing down the screen. Shortly after that, everything went to black, leaving us with the unpleasant sound of Negan’s bat turning some unfortunate soul into mincemeat.

For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth all over the internet, I’ve been rather calm about how Season 6 ended. No outrage or surprise from me. Want to know why?

Well, because this is a thing that happened.

Followed by this.

If you allowed yourself to feel any emotional satisfaction during the events of that second video, you deserve every bit of emotional frustration you are currently feeling. Your angry reaction to last night’s finale following the unapologetic encouragement of that blatant cop-out is pure, unadulterated karma.

That event was also your big clue that the Walking Dead writers simply don’t have it in them to kill when it counts. They’ve also revealed themselves to lack the bravery to kill characters who count. I almost feel like Morgan’s “life is precious, please don’t kill anyone” spiel is a subconscious disclaimer by The Walking Dead to explain the noted lack of follow through when it comes to offing major characters.

That’s an unlucky problem for a series like this to have.

After all, The Walking Dead is a show set in a time and place where death can (and should) happen to anyone at any moment. But when you tease audiences again and again and while repeatedly failing to kill key characters, it becomes a tired trope. That’s why the worst thing The Walking Dead could have done following a failure to kill Glenn Rhee early on in Season 6 was to introduce his comic book death as an utterly ambiguous season-ending cliffhanger.

The Walking Dead writers have jumped the shark with this season. They had two potentially powerful moments that could have been gripping, chilling, outstanding moments in television history. For whatever reason, the show runners opted for gimmicks and cop-outs. They traded gloriously unique storytelling for a poor man’s “Who Shot JR?” in the age of the internet, where nothing remains a secret for very long.

The only reason for this ending as far as I can tell is they’re scared of following the comics and being predictable. If the Walking Dead writers had just gone ahead and killed Glenn when they had the chance, they wouldn’t be having this problem right now. Now they are probably playing their own version of “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” with show characters to figure out who’s safest to kill off without appearing cowardly while also avoiding the loss of a chunk of the show’s fan base.

Unfortunately, there is no winning strategy at this point.

If The Walking Dead decides to follow the comics and Glenn Rhee dies, fans are going to be angry. How dare the Walking Dead premiere with a scene that really should have been the Season 6 finale ending! The impact of Rhee’s demise would be woefully diminished. Call it a consequence of threatening to kill him off a hilariously unbelievable number of times throughout the series. It would certainly be a sloppy start to the Walking Dead‘s seventh season and one that would severely downgrade the quality of the AMC show.

If The Walking Dead instead kills off a different character (there are claims that someone “beloved” does indeed die), then the backlash will be both inevitable and severe. At least with Glenn, however poorly handled, you can’t argue with the source material. In this case, it will just be confirmed that the show’s creative staff is throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks.

We are beyond the point of patience and promises. The Walking Dead is going to have fashion itself into the bastard offspring of Reservoir Dogs and Game of Thrones next season if it wants its credibility back.

[Image via AMC]