Bat man be­gins

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Viewscreen -

UK Broad­cast Fox, fin­ished US Broad­cast AMC, fin­ished Episodes Re­viewed 6.09- 6.16

One name has dom­i­nated the sec­ond half of The Walk­ing Dead’s sixth sea­son: Ne­gan. The leader of the self- styled “Sav­iors” doesn’t ap­pear un­til the last 11 min­utes of the fi­nale, yet his rep­u­ta­tion en­sures his in­flu­ence per­me­ates all eight episodes.

Comic fans have long known that Ne­gan is bad news – and that, chances are, a ma­jor char­ac­ter was go­ing to meet an un­pleas­ant demise at the end of his barbed­wire- cov­ered base­ball bat, Lu­cille.

The show’s writ­ers use that shared knowl­edge to play with view­ers from the start. From an early road­side skir­mish with Ne­gan stooge Bud, through deal­ings with the Hill­top and sub­se­quent as­sault on a Savior com­pound, every­thing is steered in one di­rec­tion – get­ting most ma­jor char­ac­ters lined up, on their knees, wait­ing to find out who will have a close en­counter with Lu­cille. It’s con­trived to the point of ridicu­lous­ness, yet un­de­ni­ably com­pelling – watch­ing Ne­gan’s net close around Rick and co in the fi­nale is al­most un­bear­ably tense.

Not quite as tense, of course, as Ne­gan cru­elly eeny-meeny- miny­moe­ing his way through the group, de­cid­ing who to ex­e­cute. In just a few min­utes on screen, Jef­frey Dean Mor­gan makes Ne­gan one of the most mem­o­rable char­ac­ters in the show’s his­tory, his chill­ing mix of sadism and charisma mak­ing the Gov­er­nor look like a pussy­cat. But per­haps the most scary thing about the scene is that he’s not that much fur­ther over the edge than Rick, the guy the show re­peat­edly asks us to root for. Rick’s hubris is ac­tu­ally the main rea­son the group are in this mess – let’s not for­get that he’s the in­sti­ga­tor of a raid that in­volved stab­bing sleep­ing Sav­iors in the head. He’s hardly a vic­tim here.

We’ll have to wait six long months to find out who Ne­gan’s killed, a stunt that feels more a rat­ings- grab­bing cliffhanger than the right sto­ry­telling choice. By sav­ing the big re­veal un­til the sea­son seven premiere, the shock value that made Jessie’s death so ef­fec­tive ear­lier in the sea­son has been com­pletely blunted. Bet­ter to mourn a much- loved char­ac­ter now than spend half a year in limbo... Richard Ed­wards

Ladies and gen­tle­men, place your bets…

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