Tuesday , 23 May 2017

Negan comes out swinging on Walking Dead – review

“I’m Negan, and I do not appreciate you killing my men.”

WD - JDM as Negan

In film, television  and literature, the hero can only rise to epic heights when he is able to overcome an insurmountable obstacle, often in the form of a worthy adversary. From Darth Vader to the Joker, from a killer shark to a shape-shifting alien, these enemies come in many forms. The Walking Dead has risen to its meteoric level of popularity not just for the flesh-eating zombies that pose a constant threat, but for its notorious villains. We’ve had The Governor, then, Gareth from Terminus, and now perhaps the baddest of them all, Negan, along with his trusted sidekick, Lucille.  (**** What follows are spoilers from the season 6 finale, Last Day on Earth.****)

Fans of The Walking Dead comics have been anticipating the arrival of Negan for some time, especially since it was announced awhile back that actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be playing him. Morgan is best known for his roles on Grey’s Anatomy and, most recently, The Good Wife. Genre fans know him as the Winchester boys’ father on Supernatural and as the Comedian in the big screen graphic novel come to life, Watchmen. He generally plays a good guy, but his role as the Comedian gives hints of what he’s capable of at the other end of the spectrum. To really get a sense of Morgan’s darker side, check out the 2014 western, The Salvation, where he plays a ruthless gang leader opposite Mads Mikkelson (NBC’s Hannibal Lecter).

“Also, when I sent my people to kill your people for killing my people, you killed more of my people. Not cool.”

WD - Negan lineup

As the above line uttered early on by Negan shows, unlike the Governor, who was all business, Negan at least possesses a sense of humor, even if it is twisted, which should make him a more compelling character to watch. And as opposed to the Governor, who was psychotic and unnecessarily cruel, there is a method to Negan’s madness. From what we’ve seen so far of his character, he even seems somewhat reasonable. Rather than killing Rick and the entire group they’ve captured, it makes more sense to put them to work for him, providing food and supplies, something he’s above doing himself. But not before he sends a message by taking out one of Rick’s group in retaliation for all those Rick and company killed of his. And that leaves us with a classic television cliffhanger, ala ‘Who Shot J.R.’, though instead of a ‘whodunit,’ it’s a ‘whowasitdunto’.

“You are so gonna regret crossing me in a few minutes.”

WD - Lucille

It was inevitable that someone from Rick’s group would die at the hands of Negan in this episode. The title alone, Last Day on Earth,’ let us know what was coming. And while the blood-spattered screen and horrific sounds of Negan’s barbed-wired bat, Lucille, pummeling someone’s head spelled certain doom for one of our beloved characters, we’re left to ponder who the recipient of that vicious assault was until The Walking Dead returns in October. While some people will naturally be dissatisfied with such an open-ended ending, it was a brilliant move by the producers to keep us guessing, wondering and arguing who is no longer with us.

Negan stated that he wanted to keep Rick’s group alive to work for him. Now, he doesn’t necessarily need physically powerful people to provide food and supplies. All of Rick’s immediate group have shown varying degrees of strength just to survive this long. Now it seems unlikely that Negan would kill a woman in this instance, especially take such relish in it. After that first whack, it appears the victim withstands it, and sits back up straight as Negan exuberantly exclaims, “taking it like a champ!” The only member of Rick’s group who seems capable of enduring that initial smackdown would be Abraham, the physically strongest one. Also, while everyone, including Rick, seems completely frightened out of their minds, Abraham is the only showing any defiance. While an astute Negan realizes Carl is Rick’s son, killing him would destroy Rick, while killing big, burly Abraham sends a message that this war is over, Rick’s lost. The whole episode, where every exit route was cut off with increasingly threatening obstacles, and Rick’s group was essentially herded by the Saviors into this trap, was a series of mind games meant to beat Rick and everyone down. Killing someone weak or injured says nothing, but striking down someone who seems indestructible says everything, and is why our money is on the creatively foul-mouthed Abraham.

WD - Negan (comics)

One other point to make, and it’s probably just a coincidence, but a fun one nevertheless, is that this episode, which featured a lethal baseball bat, fell on the first day of the major league baseball season. Seeing Rick and the others lined up in a row at the mercy of Negan was like a baseball lineup, but one where you don’t want it to be your turn at bat. Again, the timing of this episode with the start of baseball couldn’t have been planned, but it serves as a curious and amusing coincidence. Unfortunately, it was strike three for someone.

Of course, while the inescapable clash with Negan formed the crux of the episode, there are plenty of other loose ends, from Maggie and her baby, to Carol and Morgan’s inner demons, to Father Gabriel manning the fort at Alexandria, to Tara and Heath out on a supply run, with all the goings-on apparently unbeknownst to them, to Jesus and the Hilltop denizens, to a new group of seemingly friendly horse-riding warriors. We’ll leave all that discussion for another day. In the meantime, who do you think saw their Last Day on Earth? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

— written by Brian de Castro

8 comments

  1. 'Walking' Ed Turner

    What an indescribably tense season-ender!!! I was almost nauseous with tension and suspense!
    I have to agree – it’s Abraham that got whacked, in my opinion, also. After all, he’s been the one in the last few episodes that’s been coming around and coming to terms with the idea of settling down and starting a family in this world. That tells me that he’s come to terms with a new life, which, in the world of The Walking Dead, usually means your ticket is going to be punched. Also, as you’ve said, he was the only steely-eyed defiant one of the group. So, I agree with your logical conclusion. Of course, we could be wrong, because, as we know, The Walking Dead can always throw us for a loop and shock us. But right now, my money, also, is on poor Abraham. I really don’t believe it’s Glenn, as was depicted in the comics. It would be a big mistake to take such a fan-favorite as he out of the picture. The show has changed things around before. They can do it again.

    I have to say that I’ve never been affected by a TV show, as I have with this one. It’s never ceasing to shock, amaze, intrigue, stun, traumatize, make me want to shout and make me want to cry. It makes me look inward and question my own ethics and how I view people and situations more than any other show I can think of. In that respect, it’s more than just a “show” – it’s a reflection of ourselves and the world. Not bad, for a zombie TV series! Who woulda thunk it? Even the man who started it all, the Grand Poobah, the Godfather himself, George Romero, had only scratched the surface with his Living Dead films. It’s amazing how a comic book, turned TV show has made such an impact and created such a phenomena. Long live the Dead!

    • Brian de Castro

      There really is no other show on television that creates suspense and worry over characters’ fates as The Walking Dead. In recent years, maybe The Sopranos or Breaking Bad. They also kill off main characters on Game of Thrones, but it usually comes suddenly, and without the build up of Dead. The last 15 minutes or so of this episode were excruciating, for us, the audience, almost putting us in the shoes of our beloved characters. And it wasn’t just a few, there were ELEVEN main characters all lined up, ready to bite the dust. It was probably the most intense scene since the slaughter trough at Terminus that opened the fifth season. And I think it was not only brilliant for the producers to leave us with that cliffhanger, it also gave us, in a way, a sense of relief in not having to know yet who died, though we have our suspicions.

      And you are right about how amazing it is for a ‘zombie series’ to become such a phenomenon. Certainly, no one could have predicted the rise of the dead’s popularity during the ago of Romero’s zombies. It’s to Kirkman’s credit in wanting to create an ongoing post-apocalyptic saga with compelling characters and stories against a backdrop of the living dead. Long love the Dead indeed!

  2. I think it was Eugene that got whacked by Lucille he was at that end of the line up. And lets be honest he was finally stepping up at the end but not anyone’s fan favorite. That’s my vote although I was not a huge fan of this season finale it was very drawn out…compared to other seasons. But honestly I have not loved this show as much as I did the first 2 seasons. Always watch and wouldnt miss it…but I feel they could have done things differently with the story line more often than not. AND BRING BACK MY KICK ASS CAROL…ABSOLUTELY HATE THAT DIRECTION THEY WENT WITH HER. UGH waiting until October

    • Brian de Castro

      I don’t think you can go by who was where in the lineup, what with camera angles, editing, etc. Eugene definitely stepped up to the plate (no pun intended), and looked ready to sacrifice himself for the others, so an astute Negan would recognize that, and instead, take down someone stronger to let the others know who’s boss. That’s why we’re going with Abraham. And totally agree on Carol – we like (and the group needs) the Carol who’s willing to burn, shoot and blow up whatever and whoever is needed to protect her ‘family’. Hopefully, she’ll return to form once she gets over this crisis of conscience – if she even does.

  3. So I just watched The Walking Dead. .. Why did Jesus have Rick kill those people in the compound? Especially since they have 100s more out in the woods well armed & Ready to kill!

    • Excellent point. Was wondering, after the compound, how many Saviors there actually were. Because it seemed like, between Daryl with the RPG on the road, and Rick and the gang at the compound, plus a few other deadly encounters, a lot of Negan’s people were getting killed. Now we know he has a hell of a lot of Saviors. (And who are they supposed to be saving, anyway?) As for Jesus, who is apparently back at the Hilltop, either he had no idea Negan had so many followers, or maybe he has some other agenda. He seems legitimate, but who knows?

  4. Dave Mele (a.k.a. Dave the Rave)

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That trenchant refrain is depicted in gruesome detail in the Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead. When Rick decided to go on the offensive earlier in Season 6, he set his “family” on a collision course with the worst elements of humanity. Content to have been the benevolent defender since the show’s inception, Rick always assumed the high-ground in his altercations with various enemies and interlopers. Moving from a negotiating stance to one of pre-emptive aggression, Rick now finds himself in the big leagues (the baseball metaphor is apt considering Lucille’s organic nature) and quite incapable of competing in that milieu. He has met a nemesis in Negan whose brutality and cruelty vastly exceeds anything Rick is capable of. Rick really can’t be faulted for changing his methodology, though — even the most mentally and morally stable soldiers develop itchy trigger fingers when perpetually surrounded by mortal threats. Unfortunately, Negan is far more than a darker mirror image of Rick — Negan’s a moral black hole whose emptiness is only enhanced by his flair for the theatrical. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, Rick will be forever changed by Negan, and although he may physically survive, the Rick Grimes we’ve all come to know and respect is truly the walking dead — humbled to nothing, not by hordes of zombies, but by wicked savagery.

  5. Brian reading what you had to say about Negan and last episode brought me right back to that sick feeling I had as the camera panned the cast of incredible characters who we’ve come to know and love on their knees scared to death.

    Yuk as Negan stopped at every character.
    I had the sickest feeling when he stopped at Carl.
    Being a mother of 3 I feel Lucille meeting Carl would have to be the worst thing that Rick could endure at this time which would make Negan delight in his, as Dave the Rave put it, wicked savagery .

    Which might give Negan great satisfaction breaking Rick down to a pulp.

    It’s cruel for the network to make us wait until October

    I don’t want to see the result, but at the same time can’t wait.

    It killed me to see what I thought was Glenn’s death. I was yelling and cussing at the TV. I loved the resurrection.
    Maybe there’s hope Lucille didn’t meet one of our guys.
    Wishful thinking.

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