Hang with me. I promise I’m about to make an observation no one else has, yet. The Sopranos (do I have say spoiler alert years later? I’m not clear on the etiquette…) ended the entire series with a blackout. It was so effective and unexpected that people (including me) checked to see if their TV/cable had fritzed out.
More importantly, in the penultimate episode Tony’s psychiatrist had a short but important dinner party with her professional psychiatrist and others. The doc made a throw away comment about a study on talk therapy actually helping sociopaths sharpen their manipulation skills. I believe that comment was meant to complete the uncertainty of the audience’s perspective on Tony Soprano. The blackout ending (I promise I’m going somewhere with this) was meant continue the unpredictability we should have felt throughout a show about a protagonist potential psychopath/sociopath. There can be a point to not providing closure in story.
The closing scene of the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead did not make that point, at all. (Spoilers!!!) It actually took all the air out of the tension effectively filled up into the episode. It was a gimmick, the third gimmick of a season for a show that doesn’t need gimmicks! If you can film an entire episode focused on the moral debate of killing a kid (and then kill the kid) that works, you don’t need to beat a camera to death! Bad showrunners, bad!
That is the quandary of The Walking Dead this season. So many stories to keep you around and then so many decisions that let you down. The writers built up an effective feeling of loss and hopelessness throughout the episode for Rick and the RV crew counterweighted by the journey towards hope for Carol and Morgan.
Honestly, though, how has the post-apocalyptic world not simply become the United States of Carol by this point? I’m a fan of Carol and scared to death of her, because apparently, she’s immortal without the flesh eating down side.
Layered into the middle of the two quests of the episode is a masterful resolution of the question explored by Rick and Morgan in “East”. Can our survivors build “The New World” with the moral and legal constraints of the old one, yet? Both Rick and Morgan discover the answer at the opposite of their starting thesis. Rick makes a tactical mistake that dooms the RV; trying to avoid bloodshed with the Saviors. Morgan saves Carol’s life and discovers (possible) new allies by taking a Savior’s life.
Andrew Lincoln, again, does a masterful job of acting out confidence dissolved into utter defeat. Cocky enough to brag about how many Saviors our gang has dispatched at the beginning, he’s left speechless by the overwhelming psychological beating dished out by the Saviors by the end. The visuals used in the episode for the Saviors: a 10 foot tall fiery log barrier, a platoon of them blocking the road, figures in the night corralling our survivors into their final destination; it all clearly conveys to the audience that our heroes have lost, badly.
Then the ending simply lets us down. Even with the knowledge that a key character will die in the final episode, the episode still has great tension. We see loss, we’re expecting loss, and instead of experiencing the shock of loss, we get a cheap cliffhanger of the same publicity already used to promote this episode. There’s even a gimmick inside the gimmick. Daryl’s alive, but maybe not anymore! Really?
We meet Negan because the Saviors have thwarted and then outsmarted our gang’s attempt to get Maggie to the hilltop. It’s the outsmarted part that makes Negan’s introduction so menacing. You understand, like the survivors, that this man has total control of his people and now ours. His dialogue establishes and grounds his menace with purpose. His depravity would have stayed with us all through the summer, except instead of a beloved head meeting Lucile, a cold camera did.
The showrunners decided the message Negan’s execution sent should be “Tune in next time!” instead of “This is the consequence of Rick showing restraint.” It simply didn’t blend in with the rest of the story. Further, it was unnecessary. We were still going to watch the season 7 premiere in embarrassingly lemming like numbers.
The cliffhanger was having most of our characters on their knees lorded over by Negan and surrounded by Saviors. The more entertaining debate over the summer would have been “What happens next?” rather than “Who died?”
This finale could have worked really well. It did work, except for the end, the uncertainty of which, unlike the The Sopranos, left ends open that should have been closed.
As for the store, the headline says it. The Daryl Dixon 10 inch Survivor Edition figure is back in stock with Free Shipping!