Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Walking Dead S6x16 Last Day On Earth

Before we dive into the massive season finale, I just wanted to take a personal moment to thank everyone who reads these recaps. We survived season six! You survived my recaps! I survived writing these every week. This is my first time completing a full season of recaps. Congratulations all around! There's no going back now. In the same way that Oprah loves bread. NEGAN. IS. HERE.

Below includes spoilers of the series so far. You've been warned but hope you enjoy!

Even as four Alexandrians go missing, Rick and his crew are bounding outside the gates. Maggie needs desperate medical attention. The community rises to the occasion to get her help. The episode divides its attention between Morgan trying to find Carol, and essentially this impromptu rescue mission.

As Eugene, Abraham, Sasha, and Aaron elect themselves to assist Rick with Maggie, Carl loses major cool points. It's been a few weeks since the little sheriff has been active in the storyline. Here, in his brief return, he's so not chill with Enid.

What is it with this show imprisoning women? Poor, Enid.  Way back in Heads Up she wanted to stay away from Alexandria. Glenn finds her and insists she comes back, even though she doesn’t want to.

Now, in Last Day on Earth, Enid wants to go with Maggie to the Hilltop Colony, someone who is a surrogate sister/mother, and Carl stops her. He locks her in a closet. So we won't explore how his injury affects him, but he'll hold someone hostage because he just doesn't want to see her get hurt. A choice that is hers to make. We thought Ron was an issue, and then Carl pulls this stunt. (First red mark against the writers for this episode, to be honest.)

However, if Enid doesn't know how shoot the door knob off, because she was in the armory's closet, I won't say she deserves getting locked up but she's close.

No other time is spent in Alexandria, as Gabriel takes the reigns as leader. Bravo to him who makes Judith his number one priority, has watchtower shifts and evacuations in place. At least someone isn't gambling with everyone's lives.

While Rick and co. try to get Maggie the help she needs, Morgan is out “saving” Carol. He catches up with her. She begs him to leave her alone. He won’t. Even if it's ridiculous demands scrapped from the abyss of the comic book, again men prioritize their morality over what a woman clearly expresses.

But Morgan's relentless stalking does have another authorial contrivance point.

After he tends to some of her wounds in an abandoned library, she takes off. The Savior Straggler she left to die catches up and shoots her multiple times. Because if there is any way to completely dismantle an abuse survivor who build up the strength to survive and keep others alive, it's to beat the living crap out of her - physically, emotionally, and mentally. On top of which, she acts grateful to being brutalized and begs for him to kill her.

BUT WAIT. In comes Morgan on his LITERAL HIGH HORSE to save her and the day. YEAH. I'm so happy he gave up his All Life is Precious mentality, said no one ever. Just in time again, random anonymous men (we're supposed to be intrigued by next season) show up and offer their assistance to them. As if Morgan did everything just right, and Carol is in the wrong.

This storyline is devised into ridiculous obnoxiousness, if I rolled my eyes they'd be permanently stuck in the back of my brain. To take a page from Forrest Gump, that's all that needs to be said about that.

Honestly, Rick and Maggie were the episode's best moments. It was beautiful how much Rick tried to comfort her. With how the show was going, I didn't even know if Gimple would write Rick as even knowing who the heck she was, let alone care about her and talk to her. But, thankfully, he and everyone else would not give up on her.

The group tried to keep everything low-key so she wouldn't worry.  He didn't get into one of his usual panic modes, the ones where on the surface he's pretty cool but slowly chips away and he freaks everyone the heck out. Even with his re-established cockiness, he never burdened her even though she and Glenn's doubts from Knots Untie rang true: someone was going to pay for their deal with Gregory. He sure as hell didn’t want it to be Maggie.

There was also tall parallels to Rick and Lori too - how many months were they on the road while she was pregnant and the group was trying to keep her well-nourished and stress free? how much did Rick want to make the prison a home and try to shut off the sirens drawing walkers, even if he was a jerk to her? Oh, Lorrick, I love you so much.

I loved who accompanied Rick in getting Maggie to the Hilltop. Aaron, who she had confided in first that she was pregnant. He wasn't going to let Rick leave him behind in Alexandria. (Poor Eric.) Eugene and Abraham who were with Glenn when he was searching for her. Sasha who was with Maggie when she was searching for Glenn. Carl and Rick, obviously. It couldn't have gotten anymore perfect. And, the fact that Sasha, Aaron, Abraham, and Rick were specifically the ones carrying her to safety. UGH.

They just bonded together like glue for the matriarch of the community. Nothing else really mattered.

Every time the RV rolled down another road, part of the group was blocked by more and more Saviors. Each obstacle escalates Rick’s inability to listen. It’s one of his central flaws that persists. Whether in a Rickocracy or Ricktatorship, he just always barely manages to listen. Though in the past it’s always been about thinking he knows the best answers versus his family, he is just can’t face the music here - the literal whistles of consequences from No Way Out and Not Tomorrow Yet.

The first hour goes by like a dragged out traffic report. Until the decks are so stacked against Rick and co., that Eugene elects himself to lead the RV around and distract the Saviors. The group - Carl, Sasha, Abraham, Rick, and Aaron - carry Maggie by gurney through miles of forest hoping to get her to the Hilltop Colony.

Rick's invincible confidence is slowly shattered with every dead-end. Their literal forks in the road escalate to Saviors and Negan surrounding them with no escape.

How fitting and brutal it was that Dale's RV is used against them and Negan hides inside. The most beautiful job was the ensemble, especially Andrew Lincoln. We've never see Rick as scared as he was when the Saviors forced them to kneel. That moment of submission was insane. (Once again great acting by Andrew who will never get recognized because of shit writing).

If this was a way to make an entrance, it’s hard to define if it was style over substance.

Last Day on Earth wonderfully shone a spotlight on who might die. The lead-up probably established this better than the entire season: Eugene giving Rick the instructions on how to make bullets. Abraham and just the subtle ways he was driving the car. Rick witnessing his world crumble around him. Even that ass-hat Carl starting to convince himself that he wants to take out all the Saviors too. Plus, all the previous moments between Glenn and Maggie adding up to them facing each other against Negan. Each character was given just enough weight to think that they might get whacked.

And talk about knocking it out of the park, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. His untrustworthy charisma is on-point. You want to hate him but he’s smooth as hell in convincing you every idea he has is best for you. Kinda like the best and smoothest car salesman, only here in the post-apocalypse, he’s selling recruitment and torment. Even if you don't want to watch the gruesome final seconds, his monologue is worth a re-watch.

But then the weak style comes into play. Each character’s face is highlighted as Negan taunts them with his choice. The cast does a marvelous job reacting to his words...until the camera acts as a person once his decision is made. He bashes in the camera. Blood trickles down. Fade to black. Unrecognizable screams break out. It’s impossible to know who gets killed off. End of the season.
The cliffhanger doesn't bother me as much as the fact of how the cliffhanger is so weak and so is the surrounding story. How fans' disgruntled reactions were received and treated by the higher-ups irritated me too.

Talking Dead was honestly three guys (Gimple, Kirkman, and Hardwick) trying to keep the pitchforks at bay 'cause the audience wasn't having it. It was probably the most awkward post-show. No jokes made about Eugene biting Dwight's junk or making fun of characters having sex. And, nobody could ask who gets killed because that can't be revealed. Duh. They were essentially shrugging off questions and Hardwick didn't ask ask any substantial questions.

It was hardly a cause for celebration or catharsis fans deserved. We're always being told it's the apocalypse and people are going to die. So that's what we come to expect. And, then after a whole season of red herrings and foreshadowings, Negan's iconic moment and the epic death was sawed in half. Fans are just supposed to accept and think this was a brilliant move? as if we can see season seven in full force?

How can such a huge expectation like Negan be fulfilled when we never even returned to some of the most basic storylines? To name a few: Glenn shouldering his first human kills. Carl's trauma with his injury. Rick and Morgan's difference of opinions didn't lead to any climatic disagreement. Wedges are driven episode after episode, and then the gaps rarely close. I didn't know I was watching a show where I had to fill in all the blanks.

A fan video of Negan actually killing Glenn popped up on YouTube. (Thank you Christine for the link!). For me, it's excruciatingly brutal. I actually muted it and the scene made me sick to my stomach. To the show's credit, if Gimple didn't want us to end on this note, it's understandable. It's a pretty hefty way to end the season. But something is better than nothing. Dragging out the pain, moreso than the suspense, just antagonizes us more. As much as fans want to see this scene played out, is out of pure joy to see something so brutal? I don't think so. Maybe some just wanted to see the iconic moment in full, and over with, so we can accept that one of our favorites is going to die.

To Gimple's credit, I don't think he tries to intentionally mess anything up. None of them intentionally try to. But the lack of execution with conflicts and characters has happened before. Season six is not a one time deal, Mr. Gimple, Kirkman, and Nicotero. You can have an idea and know what to do with it in advance. That's great. But if you can't do it week to week, the whole thing falls apart.

Some fans liked the ending. Good for them. But if fans are crying foul, they certainly have legitimate reasons to. The ending wasn't the only thing that was upsetting. The surrounding story didn't execute Negan's supposed terror correctly.

Don't get me wrong: Jeffrey Dean Morgan was amazing. Fan's reactions won't take away from how much more we want to see from him. His speech had us glued to our tv sets or devices.

But I will say: I didn't feel particularly convinced to join his group or understand the power of his persuasion as much as we could have.

Not only was Negan's entrance stripped of lingering terror, the last innings were supposed to force us to think that our protagonists are the bad guys. Rick believing they could have it all and that they could just execute their enemies to secure supplies from the Hilltop was very one-sided. If that psychology was really delved into by the time Negan arrived we’d almost be convinced to join his side. Negan's entrance was worth it because of all the actors, but not the set-up.

A television show shouldn't be renown for fans wanting to bail every other episode, or feeling forced to stick around, but that reputation is inevitably growing. The higher-ups want people to talk about their choices and trust the story...but they are failing to see how their choices are slowing sucking the life out of a lot of hardcore fans to keep watching. Many of which swearing off watching the premiere to send a message to AMC that these tricks won't stand. I'm not one of them, but ratings will prove who sticks to their guns or falls to the expected season seven hype.

When inevitably someone will leak the victim's identity this summer, the bait is gonna lose its hook if it hasn't already. Somehow the producers managed to forget that we live in the age of the internet. It's going to happen. And when it does, that'll be the deciding factor on more fans not watching in October. The suspense is officially beaten to death.

Supposedly, season seven is supposed to start where we left off. But haven't we heard this before? If they were already working on season seven while half-assing season six, hopefully they actually have it covered.

I'll be sticking around. I got to. I want to. I'll just spend my summer praying season seven resets the course we're taking. Bite, chew, swallow repeat.

Totally unrelated gif. I just love that face. SHUT UP MORGAN.

Additional Thoughts:
+ Lucille Thoughts
  • First and most, I'd like it not to be Glenn. And, then Sasha, Aaron, and Rosita. 
  • Carl would fit the profile if they didn't follow the comic books.
  • I'd be okay with Eugene, Abraham or Daryl.
  • It's not going to be Rick, Carl, Michonne, or Maggie.
+ What do you think Negan did before the apocalypse? I see him as USPS postal carrier forced to deal with territorial dogs and being nice to people complaining about not getting their mail.

+ Why didn't they pack the rocket launcher since Rick already encountered the Saviors trapping Carol the day before?

+ Why didn't they back up and run over the smaller Savior Groups down with the RV? I don't think the van would've ended up in that bad of shape.

+ Season 7 mistakes that could damper the show even more for me:
  • any time jump after Lucille.
  • Everyone is magically living at the Hilltop Colony like nothing happened; Maggie and Glenn have a six month old, Michonne is seven months pregnant, Carl has regrown an eye...whatever you please.
  • No reveal of the Lucille victim except that one cast member is just not around anymore
+ Stay tuned for more TWD related posts this summer: Best of Glenn, a reconsideration of season six (a secondary review), post about the female characters, and we'll see what else I can come up with....

+ Thank you to everyone who has been reading! Please give my survey a looksie. Your answers are anonymous and I'm taking your feedback to heart. Let's share in a fandom hug. We survived somehow!

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