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The Walking Dead Showrunners Attempt to Justify Last Night’s Episode, Do Not Instill Me With Confidence

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I’ve had a more on-again, off-again relationship with The Walking Dead than possibly any other show. I can’t count the number of times I’ve renounced the seriesbecause of the episode-long stints where nothing significant happens; because I cannot stand Rick and Carl anymore; and because The Walking Dead increasingly shows that it doesn’t know the difference between trolling and storytelling. Spoilers for Season 6 to follow.

This sixth season was no different. After having ‘quit’ for the umpteenth time at the end of Season 4, I picked it up halfway through this season after reading about Richonne. I quickly fell back in love with Daryl and Carol and Maggie and Glen and Michonne, and kept watching despite Denise’s death and that stunt with Daryl in this season’s penultimate episode, “East.” And then there was yesterday’s season finale.

On last night’s episode, after a season devoted in large part to hyping his arrival, we finally meet Negan. And he kills one of Rick’s crewwe experience the death ourselves, from the character’s point of viewbut the show doesn’t reveal who. In a season marked by cheap cliffhangers, this was the cheapest yet

On Talking Dead yesterday following the finale, executive producers Scott M. Gimple and Robert Kirkman explained their reasoning behind the controversial ending. Here are Kirkman’s thoughts (transcription via EW):

First of all, as a fan, I love cliffhangers. I love that tension. I love the anticipation of finding out what it is. If you read the comic book series, I think pretty much every issue ends with a big cliffhanger… And I think that’s a lot of fun. But this story, the cliffhanger isn’t the story. The story of the episode, and Scott and Matt Negrete did such a great job of setting up how confident Rick was going into this. This episode is about the loss of that confidence. It’s about changing that mindset. It’s about tearing Rick Grimes down and that’s the conclusion of this story. So while it does seem like a cliffhanger, that’s the conclusion. And the story of who died, the story of what comes next, of who Negan killed, of what comes after that, that’s really the story of season 7.

Gimple explained,

I would say, when they opened up the hatch [on Lost], we had to wait and see who was in the hatch. I liked thinking about that. I liked talking about it. … We have to do an episode that justifies it to you. We have to do something so great and so intense that you’re like ‘Okay, all right, fair play.’ That’s the challenge we have and we’re going to do it. We’re going to deliver you something fantastic. … We want you to be one of those people in that lineup. We want you to feel that suspense and that terror and that pain, and we’re going to deliver you a story next season that justifies it.

As Collider points out, I’m not sure Lost is the best show to invoke to reassure viewers, since it often failed to justify its cliffhangers in the way Gimple promises to do with The Walking Dead. That being said, it seems from these quotes that at least Gimple and Kirkman have thought about what they’ll need to do in the second season to ‘earn’ the ending of last night’s episode.

The thing is, this is Gimple and Kirkman’s show now, so they can do with it what they want and fans will have to decide from there whether we’re going to break up with The Walking Dead or keep biting. I wish I could say that this was it for me; after all, we’re living in the age of Peak TV, I don’t really need to waste my time with a series if I’m not loving it. But I watched True Blood to completion. I don’t quit. And, as was the case with True Blood as well, I’m still very attached to the characters of The Walking Dead, despite how hard the series itself seems to be trying to exhaust my investment.

I’ll be back for Season 7, albeit begrudgingly. What about you?

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