Titled, "Last Day on Earth," the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead was great all around. The suspense held till the very end. Even causing fans around the world doing dead pool-like guesses on who died.
Directed by Greg Nicotero, who has directed both the season premieres and season finales of The Walking Dead since season 5, and written by Scott M. Gimple showrunner and Matthew Negrete, the 90 minute season 6 finale definitely made an impression. True, we don't know who died. Which made the finale all the more memorable.
Some fans may disagree on how it was all handled. Leaving the identity of who died at the hand of Negan a mystery. On the follow up AMC show Talking Dead hosted by Chris Hardwick, Scott M. Gimple, who appeared as a guest, explains, "The story for who died is really the next story for season 7. We had to do an episode that justifies it with you, and it's going to be great." He then explains further, as the basics, saying, "We wanted you (the viewer) to be among the people (among Rick's group) in that line-up. We wanted you to feel what they feel."
Scott M. Gimple gave a remarkably similar explanation last year, when he and actor Steven Yeun appeared by live feed from Atlanta on the November 22, 2015 telecast on Talking Dead, with studio guest's actor Ken Jeong, and Gale Anne Hurd exec. Producer of The Walking Dead. On that night, season 6's episode 7 titled, "Heads Up," had been telecast, revealing Glenn to be alive. Whereas near end of previous episode 3, it was probable that he died. Explaining to host Chris Hardwick and the studio audience, Gimple says, "I thought it was important to do a story based on uncertainty. When you live in a zombie apocalypse within the walls of Alexandria, and you leave beyond those walls, the people within don't know when or if you're ever coming back." He explains further that keep in mind there are no cell-phones. People also aren't going to be constantly texting asking about your whereabouts, before he basically concludes, "The story enhances the ever-present atmosphere that these people live under constant uncertainty, and we wanted the audience to share that with Maggie." Simply put, he wants to involve the audience.
Which is how Scott M. Gimple, showrunner of the most watched cable show in television history, thinks. It's how he rolls. Which so far has continued to intrigue fans. Many who are not nearly attracted to the horror, but more so to character development and story no matter the pace.
Any AMC cable show is just typically going to be different from any popular network show, notably also in the pace of the story. NCIS on CBS continues to be a very popular network show. For example in the pilot episode of NCIS, titled, "Yankee White," it was confirmed after Air Force One landed that someone was trying to assassinate the president. Imagine if NCIS aired on AMC, it would have taken three episodes at the very least if not half the season before the hit man would be caught.
In a superb September 22, 2013 Esquire online article, titled, "Breaking Bad: How Vince Gilligan Created TV's Greatest Anti-Hero," by Sanjiv Bhattacharya, it touches upon when Vince Gilligan first approached network TV executives. Within the article, Mr. Bhattacharya writes, "...TV executives like characters who stay the same," followed by Gilligan saying about Walter White, "Turn Mr. Chips into Scarface." Mr. Bhattacharya later adds, "TV executives also prefer self-contained episodes, because they're easier to sell in syndication." Both of which explains why Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and even Mad Men were all taken on by AMC.
It's the 8 th episode of season 6, the midseason finale of The Walking Dead, when the name Negan is first mentioned. The last scene, when Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha are all riding in a fuel truck towards Alexandria, only later finding the road blocked by about eight bikers all armed with weapons, the Saviors. One of whom steps forward, and says, "Your property now belongs to Negan." Though beginning of the midseason 6 premiere, Daryl kills them all with an RPG. Even so, it took eight episodes from when Negan's name was first mentioned to when Negan actually appears. The story pacing and the suspense build up was all warranted, and had paid off.
The first scene of the season 6 finale immediately has the viewer guessing just what in the world is going on. The imagery is mostly black, with speckles of colored light seeping through holes piercing the darkness, as soft voices are heard from beyond. Then daylight scenes follow as two men are trying to find Carol (Melissa McBride), each with a different motive. The wounded Savior whom Carol had shot, while she also managed to have killed a truck load of his fellow Saviors. And Morgan (Lennie James), who previously had joined with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) as both left Alexandria to bring Carol back. All happening in the previous episode.
The suspense actually begins when Rick and his group all get in a RV and haul ass towards Hilltop for Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who suddenly became ill at the end of the previous episode. Enid (Katelyn Nacon) had pleaded with Carl (Chandler Riggs) to join, yet he managed to slyly lock her into the armory. And after watching the end of the episode, that was a good thing.
While also, a man is running through the woods pursued by the Saviors. How do we know? Because of their damn signature whistles they tend to do individually or as a pack. The man is caught, and a Savior steps forward, saying, "Why the face, I hope you're not putting this on us? I mean, we showed your people the way forward. We gave you rules, you broke the rules."
Eventually Morgan finds the wounded Carol, and saves her from the injured Savior who had shot Carol in the arm and in the leg to see her die slow. Morgan then kills the Savior with the gun Rick had given him before the Savior gave the kill-shot. A noteworthy scene as Morgan broke his sacred belief, followed by two armored men arriving on horseback and giving them help.
Meanwhile, Rick and his group in the RV had been thwarted at road blocks by the group of Saviors who earlier captured the fleeing man, and whose body was seen at another road block. Now nightfall, Eugene then tells Rick about his plan for Rick and the others to take Maggie to Hilltop on foot, while he drives the RV. That so the Saviors would still think they're in the RV.
With Maggie now being carried on a stretcher, Rick, Abraham, Carl, Sasha and Aaron all journey out into the woods. Then suddenly whistling is heard. Apprehension is in the air, as all are herded out into the open, surrounded by a larger group of Saviors. They see the RV, with Eugene (Josh McDermitt) also captured. After giving up their weapons, they're told to kneel.
The dark scene that opened the episode was actually inside a van, from which the wounded Daryl (Norman Reedus), shot by Dwight, Glenn, Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Rosita emerge. All four are startled to see Rick and the rest of their group. Next, the Savior who led a group at the road blocks, says, "All right! We got a full boat. Let's meet the man."
Next, a tall man, six-two, clad in a black leather jacket and red scarf, steps out of the captured RV, saying softly, "Pissing in our pants yet? Boy do I have a feeling we're getting close." Later, he walks to Rick. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) then says, "You're Rick, right? I'm Negan," and tells Rick the new rules and that one of his people will die, as payback, from Lucille, Negan's dreaded baseball bat laced with barbed wire. And someone does die. A very powerful episode!
On a side note, both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan both happen to be in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, briefly appearing as Bruce Wayne's parents Thomas and Martha Wayne. A film maligned by most critics, yet so far has earned $720, 829, 382 worldwide.