‘Walking Dead’ Finale Review: A Big Namedrop, But is Season 6 Ruined From ‘Start to Finish’?
Okay, so a bit of house-cleaning before we delve into the events of tonight’s Walking Dead finale “Start to Finish.” We’re not going to bother discussing the “prologue” aired during the first commercial break of Into the Badlands, despite the major character namedropped within, or the only opportunity to check in with Daryl, Sasha and Abraham until February. You can read all about the character here, but at least in the context of TV viewership, it’s just a name, and didn’t technically belong to the episode.
All that said, I had some concerns last week that all the time spent undoing Season 6’s bone-headed Glenn debacle would likely shortchange the midseason finale, given the sheer multitude of storylines already hanging, many of which would be lost to the chaos of Alexandria’s current predicament anyway. Unfortunately, that was exactly what “Start to Finish” suffered from, and you could tell throughout the runtime that certain storylines and characters would likely end up pushed to February. I have to wonder why Season 6 thought we needed 90 minutes of Morgan’s already-outlined backstory, but didn’t want to fork over any extra time here.
The shortchanging stung the most by tonight’s ending, as Rick, Michone, Carl, Jessie, Gabriel, Ron and Sam shambled through the crowd in their zombie ponchos, Sam’s nervous “Mom” sure to start attracting attention any second. Beware of potential comic spoilers, but readers well know how much further the ending could have taken that scene, and how much more effective it might have been as a result. Even from a TV perspective, that’s a fart noise of an ending to wait until February.
Likely the best material of the hour owed to Tovah Feldshuh, as Deanna wryly acknowledged a bite wound, and slowly deteriorated throughout the hour towards an imminent end. Even amid her declining health, Deanna never lost her spark or charisma, and her respective goodbyes with Rick and Michonne mined the most depth of emotional material. We didn’t see her immediate end, beyond a final shootout with the walkers, and a memorably defiant scream, but considering how messily staged* the sequence felt anyway, the takeaway left off a bit lacking.
*Now, more than ever after Glenn, The Walking Dead needs to refine its sense of practicality. All zombie fiction cheats when it comes to the dead shambling up a flight of stairs, but was the group’s safety in the house really that threatened? Why not block up the stairwell, and pick them all off one-by-one with Michonne’s sword?
One could argue that Rick needed to reach the armory anyway, but bringing a potentially crying baby along seemed especially ill-thought out. Not to mention, Deanna unloading her gun at the walkers apparently drew little concern from those moving stealthily below.
The same hollow takeaway could be said of the Morgan-Carol pairing, as it was inevitable the two would reach a boiling point over their philosophies on killing, and the final confrontation proved admittedly tense, but ended with a weak resolution. The still-unnamed Wolf somehow miraculously recovered enough to get the better of them and take Denise hostage (was he really only bound by his hands?!), escaping with a hostage into a walker siege, yet another burden the February premiere will have to address.
About the only conflict “Start to Finish” did seem to resolve came between Ron and Carl, another reasonably tense standoff that had the potential to end in tragedy, though Carl seemingly talked at least some sense into the boy regarding his “asshole” father. It’s difficult to imagine Ron would somehow get a gun and restart the conflict anew, at least in his current position, but hey, some closure is better than none.
Honestly, this whole hour felt like a mess, moreso beyond the season’s clumsy return of Glenn and Enid, who themselves manage to do … absolutely nothing within the confines of the finale. Glenn gives Enid another pep talk, and they climb a tree in search of a way in. That’s a huge problem structurally, in that the time spent on their return served no purpose for an already-stuffed cliffhanger, time that might better have been spent on characters we didn’t see*, like Spencer, or the other surviving Alexandrians. After all, considering Deanna’s final wisdom to Rick that the Alexandrians were his people now, it’s especially odd that we didn’t see any of them in the conflict, alive or dead.
*About the only reason we spent time with Tara, Eugene and Rosita was to establish that Eugene was the “help” on the other end of Daryl’s radio, but in the moment, I didn’t even put that together. Odder still, was that the prologue with Daryl, Sasha and Abraham didn’t bring it up, or convey even the slightest urgency before those men blocked the road.
Overall, there was a lot going on tonight, and plenty to pick back up with in February, but all at the cost of a terribly unsatisfying hour. “Start to Finish” should have been a chance for redemption and stake after the season’s terrible misstep with Glenn, and perhaps no one knew how much damage “Heads Up” might cause at the time, but either way, what really happened tonight, to digest as a midpoint? Deanna got bit, because of course she did. The Wolf got out, because of course he did. It looked like bad things were going to happen! Not yet, though. See you in February!
AND ANOTHER THING …
- If The Walking Dead can’t follow through on killing Glenn, they should know better than to waste runtime with (pregnant) Maggie in danger of walker bites. We’re not idiots.
- Sam’s record player and panicked slo-mo perspective added some interesting atmosphere to a few scenes, but again, lacked any payoff, considering where the hour ended.
- Faking a concussion to get the drop on Morgan. That’s our Carol!
- Seriously, why would you risk putting Judith under the poncho?! Stash her somewhere in the house walkers couldn’t reach, and fight your way back later! Or leave her with Gabriel! Why would he need to come anyway?
- Strangely meta that Tara refused to believe Abraham’s death, because she didn’t see it. We know the feeling …
The Walking Dead will return in February on AMC with its mid-season premiere.
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