THE WALKING DEAD
Bat man begins
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
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