TV Review: AMC’s The Walking Dead 6×16, “Last Day On Earth”

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I was afraid this would happen. The optimist in me thought The Walking Dead could conclude its season with a reveal of Negan that would have justified the buildup and set up a credible threat we would be continuing to contend with next season. Sadly, not only did this show lose some of the goodwill it managed to maintain up to this reveal, it took a really long time getting there, complete with an extraneous subplot to further emphasize some poor character arc choices.

Much like the handling of this season, the Negan stuff will have to wait, because we need to talk about Carol. Either it was decided early on that Carol and Morgan would not be killed or the writers really were invested in the whole Carol v Morgan: Dawn of Morality plot, which convinced them to continually pit these characters against each other. Whatever the case may be, it did not amount to a whole lot. I was honestly intrigued by the two of these characters when they actually had differences, but the more it played out, the more it seemed the writers just really didn’t know what to do with Carol.

I was happy to praise Melissa McBride weeks ago, but she’s been losing me in these last few weeks. McBride puts her all into the character, but Carol’s change has meant very little. The evolution of this character just does not seem interesting with the show’s attempts to revert her away from the person she has become. Not helping is the show trying to have me believe any of this will have a lasting impact in the future that I really care about. Sure, it’s great that Morgan is working out some issues as well (sorta), but it’s a little hard to believe the show could make its best characters so dull.

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B-plot aside, let’s get back to Rick and the gang. For a 90-minute episode (which would have been the regular length if you got rid of the Carol/Morgan stuff), there’s not a lot of story to tell. Maggie needs medical help and the group cannot get to the Hilltop because the Saviors are blocking all the paths. It all culminates in the group getting captured and our first meeting with Negan and Lucille.

This episode’s concept could have been effective. With better pacing and a better handling on the script, I could have responded more favorably to the constant pushing of Rick’s desperation to get past all these Saviors, despite an inevitable capture. Things also could have worked out better if we didn’t go from Saviors who could be easily killed to a group of stealth ninjas that could get the drop on Rick and the gang in an RV at every turn. That’s the problem with having to pad out a season with buildup, it strains credibility.

With better focus or a better job at setting up a threat, we could have known to really fear the Saviors, rather than see them as a low-level threat with the assumed knowledge that the big-bad would be coming eventually. Instead, we finally got to see the other shoe drop, with the episode hitting us over the head with its title’s meaning. Yes, things got bad for Rick and it was in fact the last day on earth for one of his crew and the basic freedom that Alexandria seemed to have.

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So, after all that driving around, shots from inside some kind of container, and tactical advice from everyone including Carl, we get to Negan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan arrives on the scene and he’s…not bad. Step one was getting the look right, which is already a step up from the Governor. Step two was building a character we are supposed to fear, but look forward to seeing more of*. Morgan certainly did his job, though I wonder how many unfamiliar with the character really felt the threat of this man.

If you were won over by Negan’s first lines, which involved people peeing their pants, than you were probably hooked for the next ten minutes of talking that took place. I did like the build up to this moment, which featured a Rick who was out of options, surrounded by a cacophony of sounds to build a very creepy atmosphere, but the Negan stuff basically served a purpose that hopefully does not annoy viewers by the time it has finished.

Yes, after all the talking and threats, we get to the final moments where Negan swings Lucille (his baseball bat wrapped with razor wire) at a person we see from their point of view. We then cut to black and hear the sounds of Negan beating someone to death. Every Walking Dead fan knew someone would be dying this episode, but they have to wait until October to find out whom. It was at this point that I found myself laughing hysterically. Any chance for “Last Day on Earth” to nail down some emotional resonance was lost.

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It is almost impressive to see this show go the cliffhanger route, following the nonsense that was Glenn’s dumpster dive in the first half of this season, but now the show is doubling down on it. The sad thing is, there is no great payoff to come. All we will eventually see is how a character we probably like will be dead and a new season can start. It won’t be Rick or Carl (obviously), but whoever it is, they will be missed and audiences won’t even have a summer to get over it.

The Walking Dead surprised me by going for this goofy cliffhanger, but it also disappointed me by not making more out of its extended season finale. Rather than make better use of the time, we watched a story get stretched way too far and throwing good characters into a dull side-plot to make sure we could have our attention spans and emotions played with. Given how many loose threads we are left with, nothing was all that satisfying and all we can really grasp is that some jerk named Negan will be here when we get back.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: Sasha managed to pull off a triple kill head shot this week, which easily takes the cake.
  • *From a comic reader’s perspective, I have very little care for Negan. I understand he has his share of fans, but his demeanor, attitude and general presence has always bothered me. The dialogue he is given and the justification he has for his methods has been somewhat entertaining and interesting at times, but I have never really warmed to his presence as far as great villains that serve as a counter to our heroes go. I look forward to what Morgan will bring to the role on television, but I’m already feeling the same irritation I got from the comics.
  • The lead subordinate savior was played by Steven Ogg, better known as Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V.
  • Rick went from uber confidence to a shambling mess in this episode.
  • If Daryl hadn’t wasted the second RPG on setting a lake on fire…
  • Oh, Morgan met a guy in hockey pads.
  • Negan issues aside, I do like him explaining how “not cool” it was for Rick to do the things he did.
  • It’s been a pleasure covering this series once again. I’ll likely be back next season (taking a break from writing when it comes to Fear The Walking Dead) and look forward to discussing the reveal of who shot Mr. Burns Negan actually killed.
  • Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what myself and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.

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Aaron is a movie fanatic. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. There are too many films, TV shows, books, etc. for him to list as favorites, but he can assure that the amount of film knowledge within his noggin is ridiculous, though he is always open to learning more. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else he is up to at, and check out his podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.
  • Tiffany

    I definitely had the same “If Daryl hadn’t wasted the second RPG on setting a lake on fire…” three time over during the Savior encounters.

    Additionally, for everything the group has encountered how did they not see the walker gate in this sunken road as a trap? That being the third savior encounter REALLY took me out of it for a bit.

    • Chris Nystrom

      Agreed. Dumb.

  • Jeff Scott

    OK, I had some huge problems with the finale, but I had no problem with the way the Saviors operated. Rick’s attack was a surprise attack. Many Saviors were killed, but what we discovered here is that they are a WAY bigger group with WAY more/better resources. The car Carol lit up was probably one of many convoys preparing the blockades. It was all about Negan intimidating Rick’s group, they had an intricate and comprehensive plan that they may have been working on for days. Why go to the trouble? Because Rick’s group obviously has outstanding survival skills and could bring in an unusually large bounty and quality of resources. The Saviors scouted and prepared and got their man. I have some hard feelings about the titty twister of a finale, but to me, seeing the Saviors operate was actually a high point.

  • Mike Wort

    The plot lines and Rick’s group are being dumbed down. Or just a reflection of lazy writers now ? Carol’s Rambo-style rescue at Terminus and now she’s a suicidal basket case ? c’mon! Rick’s countless encounters with bad guys and then he makes the snap decision to go after Negan’s group without proper planning ? He could’ve consulted with Hilltop or scouted out the group better to ascertain their strength. Kinda warfare 101, get to know thy enemy. The governor was a known quantity, but after previous encounters with psychopaths, we’re led to believe Rick’s become mushy over one pregnant lady and risking the whole group ? Driving around in a camper that their enemy could blow with 1 RPG ? C’mon!!

    Some viewers are not on drugs while watching TWD. Have some respect for the thinking alert audience.