This is the season finale of The Walking Dead and yeah. It's fraught. Let's roll
So. A disclaimer first. This was not my favourite episode of The Walking Dead ever. All week and really, all season, they've been teasing the debut of Negan and the death of a cast member and I am just.so.over.it for reasons I'll get into later. This show is well known for it's brutal season finales and this one is no exception. I will say I was having quite a bit of ridiculous anxiety about it; the season 4 ending just about took me out of The Walking Dead game.
At the end of last episode, Daryl had been shot by Dwight (we don't know if fatally) and taken hostage by Negan's gang, along with Michonne, Rosita and Glenn. Maggie collapsed to the ground in severe pain, clutching her belleh. Carol had gone walkabout, and had to kill several men on the road to maintain that luxury of freedom, just like she didn't want to. She's currently being tracked by both Morgan and one of the men left alive on the side of the road, let's see how she and everyone else fares tonight.
We open with Morgan walking through the woods, pausing at a large sign that says "YOU ARE ALIVE'. He sees a horse right nearby, that must have been the horse the man with a spear running away from the farm last episode was looking for. Did that sentence make sense? I'm feeling a little punchy.
Of course Morgan is a horse whisperer, setting right off on that saddled mount. Which is a bit of a boon for the psychotic guy trailing him looking to kill Carol; all those deep hoof prints are much easier to follow! He doesn't look so good, though, he's taken a bullet to upper left shoulder and he's white as a walker.
We cut to a bloody man running through the woods being chased by whistling Saviors. He's never credited, so I can't even give you a name. Let's call him DeadManRunning, or DMR.
Just then, Coral bursts into his home, looking to load up, starting with the Savior gun he "recovered"; they have to take Maggie to get medical attention and the gynecologist at Hilltop is their only hope now that Denise is gone. Enid wants to come with them, she's worried because Glenn hasn't come back yet, but Coral reminds her that they need people guarding Alexandria. He's trying to protect her from the Saviors, as we get spliced shots of DMR being surrounded by armed men.
Rick is loading the RV for the trip to Hilltop, Abraham, Sasha and Eugene walk up, saying they're coming too. Rick is treating this like a milk run, and that extry people will be an inconvenience, not help. He tries to dissuade Eugene, but Eugene isn't having it, "I'll be your anchorman, yes I damn will."
In the woods, DMR is being approached by the leader of this particular branch, who I shall dub Post-Apocalyptic Saviour Monologuer#4, or PASM4, Pa for short. Pa (Steven Ogg) asks "why the face? I hope you're not putting this on us." and etc etc. Let's just say he's angry that disguy and his people didn't just bend over and hand over all their stuff: they wanted to fight! Imagine that! Pa starts punching, and it's the same old story of every schoolyard bully or TV mafia protection since the end of time. Give us your stuff and we'll protect you! From us!
Enid is still arguing with Coral; she's coming and that's it! He's got to go right NOW, so he tells her to get the ammo from the closet. As she bends over, he pushes her in and bars the door with a chair under the knob, meaning not only does he not have that ammo now, HOW IS SHE GONNA HELP PROTECT ALEXANDRIA FROM THE CLOSET YOU JACKHOLE? And how is her starving or dying of thirst a better death than a fighting chance out in the open??? Oh and the icing on the cake, he quotes her back to herself, telling her to Just Survive Somehow. MotherDICK.
In the woods, everyone is getting a kick at DMR's can, I'm sure it's character building for all involved.
Out at the RV, Aaron wants to come too, and Rick says it's not up for discussion. "You're just gonna have to punch me in the face and tie me up again" or else he's coming. Rick seems bemused at all these people wanting to come with him to take Maggie to the doctor, but he allows it.
Gabriel comes over to go over the security plans for Alexandria, his first priority is Judith; is Rick comfortable leaving him in charge of Alexandria's defense? A month ago, Rick and I would have beat each other out trying to shout HAYULL NO first, but the truth is Gabriel has turned a corner and is a valuable member of the team. I grudgingly admit that because now MOST people was regularly (with the exception of Daryl, and probably Rick - sorry) and it's not so jarring seeing Father CleanHands wandering about and it seems he's stopped leaving gates open for walkers.
Spencer is the last to approach Rick, he asks if the Saviors do come up and want to make a deal, should they? Rick says, all bravado and with the confidence borne of a man at the top of his small heap of dirt "tell them to wait for me. I have a deal for them."
With their departure, we now have every single main character out of Alexandria and in play. Let's see what shakes loose on a show known for it's extremely bloody season finales.
Morgan rides along to see Carol hunched in a doorway, just past a gateful of recently dead people. She's covered in blood and filthy, crying and it's not just angst any more; she's been badly wounded. She's FURIOUS that Morgan came after her "I told you not to come"! as he checks her belly.
Pa and henchmen drag DMR running out onto the road; they're gonna make an example out of him. "To who?" he asks, "everyone at The Library is dead" and er-ooh, what's The Library? *Ears perk* They don't answer, just stand there staring down the road grimly.
Aaron stares concernedly at Maggie, who's awake but not faring well. Rick comes out to cheer her up with a speech to drive a dagger directly into the heart of every single Walking Dead fan ever "we got here together and we're still here together...'cause it's always been all of us...'cause as long as it's all of us we can do ANYTHING" because WE know that THEY know Negan always kills someone right away when they meet a bunch of new people. Does Denise count? Do we know that?
This writing is sloppy and enraging in it's emotional manipulation.
It looks like Carol has either had a bullet graze or a knife slash across her belly, but it looks better than it did before. Morgan bandages her up, but she'll need stitches and antibiotics. He wants to take her back to Alexandria at dawn to get her help, but he doesn't get it: she's not going back. At all.
Rick is tending to Maggie while Abraham drives, he utters an oath at seeing the Savior blockade run by Pa and starring DMR flopping around in front of everyone. Abraham asks if they're doing this, meaning running the blockade and thus starts the game of Pacman in an RV, as coined by OneEyeCharlie.
Rick and the gang pile out oft he RV with weapons and hands held high; Pa explains DMR thusly: "he's a someone with a bunch of someones who didn't listen." Rick offers to make a deal, right here, right now and Pa likes that! "Sure! Give us all your stuff! Probably have to kill one of you, but that's just the way it is." That deal does not work for Rick, he was just about to ask for all of their stuff. And he doesn't think he'll have to kill any of them, well, any MORE of them, and Rick, honestly. Spoken like a man used to being the very baddest Pound Puppy. They don't answer immediately, but step forward to spray paint an X across DMR, then tell Rick that there is only their deal, they don't negotiate.
Rick's heard enough, he and his people are leaving. "Okay friend," says Pa, "plenty of ways to get where you are going." Rick responds with "you want to make today your last day on earth?" and RICK. I JUST talked about how the difference between our gang and THEIR gang is that our gang doesn't posture and flex and monologue and ask stupid questions like "you want to make today your last day on earth?"! They assess and eliminate threats, no more, no less and what the Sam Hill is going on? Is Rick REALLY that comfortable being the most dangerous man in Alexandria? I mean. People still get et by walkers in Alexandria!
Pa says "No, but that is a good thing to bring up. What if it's your last day on earth or of someone you love?" and mentions the people in the RV. They don't so much foreshadow on this show as get a flashlight and have puppets and there's squirting ketchup and yeah. Sledgehammer.
Since we have approximately eleventy thousand commercial breaks that you may or may not have to wait through, let's list who IS in the RV: Rick, Coral, Abraham, Sasha, Maggie and Aaron.
The RV is parked while Eugene helps everyone find other ways around the PacMan maze, will I ever be able to see a walker in a field and not think of Dale? HOLY SHITE. I just realised that Dale is Jeffery DeMunn that I see almost every week on Billions playing smarmy Chuck Rhoades Sr. How did I not notice that???? I knew I recogised him, but he's lost a lot of weight, facial hair, and moral underpinnings. I can't believe I didn't realise it was the same guy! ANYWAY
Coral asks Aaron why he didn't stay behind to help protect Alexandria, but he owes Maggie, why did Coral? Because he owes them. (?)
Eugene and Sasha are going over the map; he's found a good path for them to take, good tactical visibility but longer. He uses a bunch of silly almost-words and Sasha asks him if he's being serious. "As coronary thrombosis." They're off.
Morgan is trying to impress upon Carol how many people came looking for her and how many would have, had they known she was gone: Daryl for one, and at his name she looks worries. She's a mom, if you're trying to manipulate her back into the fold, say someone needs her, it works every time.
Carol has NO intention of going back and she can't get it across to Morgan at all; she doesn't want to kill people any more to protect the people she loves. Well, I don't really understand it either, because she's been a killing machine since she left, but really, Morgan should, he's a pacifist. He knows if he leaves her, she'll die out here, so he won't. She pulls a gun on him, but then drops it, begging him "please, just go."
Driving along, Abraham asks Sasha flat out if she wants to have a baby. Whut? She wants to know if HE could, and now he thinks he could, since he has her. And faith. Someone should smile so we will know just how clearly they are now marked for death. Oh thank you for the smirk, Abe!
They stop; there's another barricade, this time with 4 cars and more armed men than the last. Coral wants to get at them right now, but Rick thinks the Saviors have the advantage, given their advance knowledge and extra numbers and all. They back up while bullets ricochet off the RV. That's prong number two that has ended in a dead end, everyone keeping track? Rick says they're gonna play it how they want, have it on their terms and it's almost laughable, but of course it isn't.
Morgan is exploring the camp, hearing walkers gasp from being hanged on high for effect. I wonder if this is The Library DMR referenced? He puts the walker out of his snarling misery and goes back to get Carol, who has slipped the leash AGAIN. Damn that free will!
In the RV, they're starting to realise what they're up against. It's a grim death march to reality in a tastefully appointed recreational vehicle with faux wood paneling. Those men weren't the same ones at the first blockade, which means they have the numbers. And you know how our group is a bit ragtag, men, women, children, apparently Negan's entire gang broke out of prison at the same time after all going to high school together. Seriously, they're all men of a certain age, scary in shape with a great working knowledge of firearms. Like an entire army of Abrahams, really.
Now here's where it gets EXTRY ridiculous. The Saviors have chained a line of walkers together across the road; Rick gets out to clear it, saying they can't risk the RV. I mean. It's a bunch of dead people tied together, how much damage is that going to do to a several thousand pound vehicle??
They had to get out, though, so Rick could see that one of the zombies has some of Michonne's dreadlocks attached to her head, and Daryl's jacket and everyone but Rick suddenly looks very worried. He just looks mad and then gunshots start from the hills. They clear the walker chain gang and drive on through, carefully herded to their final destination.
Rick is starting to lose it, I forgot how he shuts down when a ladyfriend is in danger. They're strategizing, but Maggie's running a fever and there is yet another blockade with even MORE armed men in front of them. Rick says "go back" and Abraham says "where?" because there is nowhere to go.
I will just point out once, gently, that if they had taken out the very first blockade full of many less men, maybe this wouldn't have gotten to this point. I mean, it probably would have, they seem pretty well prepared and undoubtedly had backup plans, but just saying. There were maybe 8 guys then? Carol took out that many herself at a similar roadside stop.
Morgan is looking for Carol but finds the bloody crucifix her stalker was carrying instead. He's concerned. Carol stumbles across a field, head stabbing walkers as she goes, having to actually pull someone's face off, I mean. Just then her stalker from the roadside stop grabs her and gets her gun. He's dying, can feel his probably punctured lung giving out, but he's determined to hurt Carol first. He wants to watch her die, slowly, like his friends did on that road and like he is right now. He shoots her in her upper arm and he must not know bullets draw walkers.
An extremely sweaty Rick is patting an equally soggy Maggie, he's trying to comfort her "this isn't it. This isn't it. There's more" and it's so difficult to see him start to come apart like this.
Carol's laughing, she's gonna die and it's such a relief, she doesn't have to make any more life or death decisions and yay for that! Her mirth pisses off Buddy, who shoots her again in the upper leg and I'm concerned about the femoral artery. She does the Carol version of "that all you got??" and just as he's about to put her out of her misery, up walks Morgan. They have a standoff, but Morgan doesn't mess around; he shoots stalker several times. Carol is not the least bit grateful, let her GO!!
A ginge and friend on horeseback with spears come up and find them just then "what happened here?" Morgan says he found their horse, and his friend too and they need help. Off they go to get her some help. I find myself clinging to the fact that there's ANOTHER group.
Rick and the gang walk up to yet another blockade, this time of logs piled across the road, giving them just that little bit more information about what they're dealing with. Behind them, DMR is dropped off an overpass being hung by chain, they can't save them; they need the bullets so they all watch him die, seriously alarmed now as the logs behind them start to burn. Pa's voice comes to them, they better go get to where they're going, it's getting hot.
They've found another dead end to park in, figure out a play, what have you, but Rick is starting to look a little more wild-eyed by the minute. Maggie is in serious distress. Eugene has an idea though, the Saviors know exactly where they are, but they don't know who's IN the RV. Eugene is gonna run rabbit ahead to draw off Negan's gang while the rest of them make a run through it in the woods.
CARRYING MAGGIE ON A STRETCHER IN THE DARK IN UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY
Eugene hands over his plans for Bullet Building 101 (NOT gazpacho), Rick thanks him for his help and giant brain and then Eugene and Abraham have a beautiful goodbye scene. He calls Eugene a survivor and then they hug and it's so lovely. Maggie thanks him too FROM THE STRETCHER THEY ARE PLANNING TO RUN THROUGH THE WOODS WITH and that's it, Eugene is gone.
Maggie even asks to be able to walk, but Aaron shushes her, saying it will just be a few more miles. Coral is leading a pep talk in how this is so going to work, they got this because they will do anything; they will and the have. He's not gonna let anyone die like Denise again. The whistling starts.
They run, carrying Maggie and terrified and there's a light suddenly. They've been successfully herded into a clearing with what must be a hundred armed men, maybe more. Rick looks terrified and that terrifies ME, I've never seen him look like that before, he's completely lost.
They see Eugene all beat to shit and the RV, they got the rabbit too. Out walks Pa with a "welcome to where they're going." Ours are relieved of their weapons, including Coral and his Savior weapon, which Pa makes a note of. They're forced to kneel and I found this horrible and visceral to watch the first time, but Rick has had to kneel multiple times, including the season 4 finale and the season 5 opener, he just hasn't for quite some time. It doesn't come easy. And nobody kneels until he does, signalling their surrender.
I admit to wishing that Carol was going to save everyone again like at Terminus and her multiple gunshot wounds left me maybe more worried about our gang than her. Sorry
Dwight brings out everyone else, Daryl is alive, thank Jeebus, but gravely injured. Glenn is HORRIFIED to see Maggie there. It's time to meet the man
Out walks Negan, who wants to know if everyone is peeing their pants yet? Pee-pee pants City soon! He asks who the leader is and introduces himself. "Hi, you're Rick, right? I'm Negan. And I do not appreciate you killing my people. Also when I sent my people to kill you for killing my people, you killed MORE of my people. Not cool. Not cool."
Blah blah regret crossing me blah blah New World Order blah: "Give me your shit. Or I will kill you." seems simple. They invested a lot in Career Day to show off what they have and this pill must be swallowed: they work for Negan now.
Blah blah thought you were safe blah blah not safe blah you built something blah half your shit while Rick shakes and I'm seriously worried about him now. I did some preparation for this episode, I tried, anyway, to convince myself that I could handle losing a secondary character, but no, no can do. I had never even entertained the thought that Rick might be at risk, I mean. He's Rick! The baddest badass EVER! He tore out someone's throat with his bare teeth! But numbers, see.
Blah blah punishment blah don't want to kill you and I can't lie, I spent the entire time watching his baseball bat Lucille and it moved once and I accidentally turned the TV off, that's what my nerves were like.
Negan introduces Lucille to everyone; "she.is.awesome." And now one of them will be beaten to death and we don't know who yet. It's Glenn in the comics, but that doesn't mean anything, Daryl wasn't even in the sorry, graphic novels. He sees Negan pointing at Maggie and leaps across to protect her, which Negan excuses as it being an emotional moment, he gets the one pass.
Negan figures out that Coral is Rick's son and "do not a make me kill the little future serial killer" and then MOAR monologueing. I mean. I know everyone is very impressed with Negan and his irreverent humour flowing all over this moment but it's just one giant circle jerk, this season, and I'm ready for the big finish. And sponge bath after.
He does eenie meanie miney mo, and I may have accidentally turned off the TV again when Lucille got jerky, but I got it back on in time to see Negan choose someone. He beats that someone to death, who took it like a champ right until the squelching stopped. My best guess, from an emotional standpoint is Aaron, who hasn't been with them from the beginning and who we really haven't given any screen time to at all.
So. I expected a cliff hanger, I think we all did, but I think we can all agree that this season has been a little light on plot and a little long on cheap plot devices to shock the audience. We all knew this scene with Negan was coming, given social media's wide reach, but the whole Glenn fiasco earlier on left me with no taste for it. Cheap. No character development to speak of for ages, unless you call Carol losing her mind in a confusing way and yeah. Not my favourite episode, not even my favourite season, but it rolls. I will roll with it. And we oot. See you for season 7.
TL;dr: herd, herd, herd, Carol gets shot, meet Negan, someone dies. Fin.