Here we go into the Walking Dead’s Sixth season but if you want to check out the reviews of previous seasons just follow the links below.
I’ve held off doing this for a while now and really thought about just doing two reviews. Most seasons of the Walking Dead are really two. There’s the first half with a midseason finale and there’s the actual season finale. It makes sense in a way but I’d honestly be just as happy if they simply said they were separate seasons.
I think it goes without saying but just in case . . . SPOILERS BELOW!
I hope it also goes without saying that there are a MILLION things I could write about here and for all the amazing plot points and details I talked about here there are tons more I wanted to talk about. Everything from Jesus, to the Hilltop, to the hint of the Kingdom, it’s just impossible to put it all here.
“Warriors! Come out and plaaaayeyay!”
There’s no getting around the amazing nod to the Warriors we get in the person of the Saviors. And if you need that explained to you because you haven’t seen the Warriors, stop reading and go watch it.
This was one of my favorite seasons. I was constantly on edge and unsure about what was going on. No matter what I may say about all the cliffhangers and writing or timing, I still absolutely loved this season. So the one thing that jumps out at me that I loved right from the get go is that …
…we felt it.
Every season people complain about the show while simultaneously wetting their pants waiting for each episode to come out. This season one complaint I ran into a lot, (besides the lack of action and the finale, I’ll get to to those,) was that the show had basically descended into misery porn.
To some degree I feel the same.
It’s a tough show to love. The characters are great and many of the stories resonate with audiences but how do you recommend it to people? I always find myself saying something like;
“Oh, it’s a great show. Except that you die a little more every time you watch it and it leaves you feeling depressed. But yeah! You should totally check it out.”
Essentially, this show does one thing for me that most shows don’t, it makes me feel something.
I’ve seen so much television and so many of the same stories and episodes over and over again that the TWD feels best when I’m feeling my worst. Kudos to the high production value and incredible acting for still pulling my jaded self out and running it through the muck.
It’s time to nut up or shut up.
Time and again this season we saw characters face the choice to fight or not. Eugene maybe exemplifies this the best having been the most passive character for the longest period of time and eventually stepping up to the plate when the going got tough.
The season opens with a plan shot to shit and the sudden choice to fight. For the longterm survivors the choice was clear but for the people of Alexandria this was a major choice and not an easy one to make. We finish the first half of the season with Alexandria under siege and its people first stepping up to do something in a loose reactive way followed by the second half of the season which leads off with Alexandria under attack by a massive swarm of walkers roaming through the town. The Alexandrians take to the streets following Rick to take it back.
It’s the stand-up-and-be-counted moment that finally unites the groups for a single cause and convinces Rick of the future. He finally sees a future where working together means a successful life for everyone and where people can learn to work together. It’s a hint of a much larger world.
Too many cliffhangers
This season has been compared in a lot of ways to season two where not a lot of action took place. I’ll just be blunt and say that criticism is misplaced and silly. The whole point of The Walking Dead is to see these characters develop over time and not to rush the story. Sure fans want to see Negan show up and all these crazy events happen but just because a baby wants a lolly doesn’t mean you give it to them.
No, the real “bad” of this season came in two very specific story points that fell flat due to timing and perhaps in a reaction to the fans? The first was the midseason finale and the second was the season finale.
The Midseason Finale
To summarise, the season finale was shoehorned into a cliffhanger and lost a chance to focus on a huge moment in the story that deserved the focus and pause the midseason break would allow.
So the end of the mid-season sees Rick, Carl and a few others covered in Walker guts walking into a crowd of the undead. They are wading into uncertainty; Walkers have swarmed Alexandria, there’s no way to fight them all off and their only hope seems to be to sneak right through the heart of darkness with a cowardly boy in tow who endangers the whole group just by his presence.
It’s a tense moment to end on and not badly put together.
And the midseason reopens with this moment, this gut-wrenching moment of Carl, his head half gone, weakly calling for his dad . . . it just kills me every time. It’s hard for me to even look at. When I read the comics it was one of two walk-away moments where I just couldn’t take any more misery and had to put it down.
This is the moment of silence, the second before the fall, that chilling instance. It’s the perfect place to leave your season off, the shit just starting to hit the fan and uncertainty everywhere with this dead moment in the middle of it all.
And why? Because when the season comes back and Carl is shot in one episode and up running around adventuring the very next episode the time scale feels skewed. It seems like the miraculous TV healing we’d expect on LOST not the Walking Dead.
Take the same moment in time and place it before the midseason break and from the audience’s point of view it feels like a longer time ago than it actually is in the story. In the end what we got was Carl up and about like normal not long after having his head nearly taken off. Remember what a big deal it was in the comic? It’s just a costume change on the show.
The Season Finale
I wouldn’t think the midseason finale was so bad on its own if not for the season finale. This really cemented the feeling for me as a viewer that the writers were playing with the audience in an unsatisfying way.
In the season finale the show ended on what was clearly one of THE defining moments in the comics and had been leading up to that moment for a hell of a long time. So the faithful drawing on the comics material and it’s high-point endings seemed a little inconsistent in these two cases.
To be fair, I actually enjoyed the season finale and was genuinely scared the whole time. Again, having read the comics, and knowing how the show has teased the possibility of Glenn getting killed I was tense as hell trying to watch it. (Even though I had predicted it would be Maggie as far back as season four.)
Most people agreed though that the finale left us all unsatisfied. The camera suddenly changes to a first-person point of view and shows someone getting their head beat in by the villain we’d all been hearing about, Negan. Of course we won’t know for sure who that is until the start of season seven.
Though it didn’t come at the end, the Glenn cliffhanger was perhaps the worst received of them all. At one point this season Glenn falls off a dumpster into a crowd of walkers when Nicholas, the idiot he’s with, blows his own head off. The way the music swells and the shots are set up we are sure that Glenn’s been eaten.
Or are we?
Right away people were coming up with explanations for why Glenn wasn’t really dead and how he could have escaped. Of course he survived and all the teasing and hints at his demise were just that. This one fake out, more than anything else, seemed to set off more negative reviews and bad press regarding how the writers basically trolled the audience.
Articles popped up in Forbes, Vanity Fair, and all over the place. Very few of them good. It was an instance of the writers trolling the audience perhaps with the best intentions but it backfiring on them.
In the past I’ve compared TWD to LOST. It struck me this season that the pregnancy and sudden availability of a sonogram machine in an otherwise primitive environment seems extremely similar. I know it’s probably not that big a deal but there are enough little similarities that I hope one day someone out there puts together a comparison video of the similar scenes on the show.
All life is precious
Rick, Morgan, Carl, Carol, Daryl, and Glenn all struggle with holding back from killing people who tried to kill them. It’s a recurring theme throughout the season that sometimes seems baffling. As audience members we can see where a lot of the plot is going and think to ourselves “Come on! Just shoot that guy already.”
There is a struggle going on in each of our characters over when it’s right to kill and who. The levels of sustained violence, gore and horror they are exposed to is enough to destroy most people. So even being able to wrestle with those ideas is a sign of their humanity and that’s one of the deeper themes running throughout the show.
We can argue it’s a sign of weakness that the survivors don’t just blaze away and kill everyone they meet. But we can do that because it’s a TV show. Despite how bad the bad TWD can make you feel it’s NOTHING compared to real suffering in your life. Ultimately this show is a reminder that we are all still alive. Maybe on a TV show it sounds trite that people say all life is precious.
But it is.
Think about it. What if it’s the last day on Earth for you? For someone you love? What if that’s true? Maybe you should be extra nice to those people, ’cause you never know… just like that. [snap] Be kind to each other. Like it was your last day on Earth.
Back in the real world
Shortly after this season aired a rash of shootings started breaking out across the U.S. There were mass shootings of civilians, police shootings where innocent people were killed or injured, shootings against police officers. It goes on and on.
In most of these cases the difficulty of holding back and not just shooting first or shooting when you feel threatened is a key issue. This isn’t the best forum to state my opinions on any of those events. They deserve better than to be bundled into this review. I mention them now as an example of just how hard it is to know what’s right in the heat of the moment and the struggle we go through in trying to be more than just walking dead.
“Forgiveness takes more strength than anger.” – Maggie