Well The Walking Dead has come and gone for this year, and it the word for it is loss. The group has lost much for gains so little and ephemeral. It’s demoralizing, it’s sad, and it’s real, which I both like it and dislike it at the same time. Carl gained some experience but lost and eye. Denise gained a lover and confidence then lost her life. Carol took on the responsibility of defending a pregnant Maggie, then lost her will and her mind after having to kill so many so brutally to do it. Daryl gained some compassion by letting Dwight live, but lost faith in that when his mercy came back to doom Denise. Glenn gained a new child but had to kill for the first time. Maggie gained a child but now stands to lose it. Abraham gained one love and lost another. The group, led by Rick and Michonne, gained Alexandria, built it up, defended it against both zombie and human assault, and now they have seemingly lost their sovereignty to the only real awesome gain this season: the devilish villain Neegan (shown in the season finale and played by Jeffery Dean Morgan, leaned out in a hauntingly similar performance to the psychotic Comedian in the Watchmen film, complete with his barb-wire baseball bat Lucille in an panel-for-panel line up with the comic introduction).
Many of the others have followed a similar patterns of small gains and major losses against the major backdrop of how much killing is worth the price of survival. Is killing or being killed the only truth of survival in this, or is the guilt and consequences of those actions the true price (almost perfectly summarized in the phrase “You keep what you kill” from the film The Chronicles of Riddick”. The season masterfully explored this theme for each of the characters in one way or another, and for the group as a whole, ultimately leading them to finally pay a simple price at the hands of Neegan in the final scene of the season finale. He, in a creepy, almost playful way, simplifies it all down to the fact that each group killed a lot of the other group’s people, and Rick’s killed more, so he will exact a penance in the form of taking the life of one the main Walking Dead crew that he has captured (everyone except Carol and Morgan, who played cat and mouse with each other after Carol ran away and have now bumped into yet another survival group, and the Priest who is holding down Alexandria) then turn Alexandria into an extension of his empire, with the whole town servicing his material and personnel needs. We then cut to him choosing who to execute by playing “eeny meeny minee moe” and in, interesting camera work, we take the first person view of the one he chooses to beat to death with Lucille as blood drips over the camera and we hear the incoherent screams of the others.
Who he kills here is as yet unknown, but my money is on either Glenn or Daryl. Glenn is the one who dies here in the comics, so it would line up nicely with that, plus we already were teased with his death in the mid-season finale. Also rumor has it that Steven Yuen’s contract was only renewed for this year, so the actor’s tenure as this character might be over. My other guess is Daryl because he severely pissed of Dwight and probably by extension Neegan, plus Norman Reedus has got another show on AMC on deck for the summer called Ride, so maybe he will end his tenure here and continue on with that show.
But whoever Neegan kills, and whatever the consequences may be, in true Walking Dead fashion, there will be no happy endings, and the exploration of human suffering, guilt, hope and redemption, will continue on into the seventh season. Neegan should prove to be a charismatic and entertaining villain, more so that the Governor was, as Jeffrey Dean Morgan is an excellent actor who does crazy very well.
I do hope that next season deals with the zombie threat a bit more. Humans were most of the threat this season and though that is the main focus thematically, I kind of miss the hunt for a solution to the zombie problem, and deaths of the crew being by zombie bite and watching them turn, rather than humans murdering each other. This is a zombie show after all. This was quite a violent season too, but the pacing seemed uneven. There were long stretches of slow, but beautiful, cinematography, followed by brief, but intense fighting scenes. I think more even pacing would be a boon to the next season. I also hope they don’t start pairing off everybody into romantic couples, as that almost always leads to stagnation. The Michonne/Rick pairing I found uninteresting, and perhaps unnecessary, and I hope they don’t start pairing up other characters, even though I know they need to rebuild the population. A few couples is enough, but everyone coupled is boring.
All in all a strong and effective season with one of the best season finales of the show (one that mirrored and improved the almost impossible-to-escape situation of the Terminus slaughterhouse finale in season 4/5) , setting up even greater tension and stakes for next season!