Negan finally appears on “The Walking Dead”


SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the Season 6 finale of “The Walking Dead,” you may want to stop here!

If you’re not a fan of cliffhangers, you’re likely very irritated by the Season Six finale of “The Walking Dead.”

For the most part, I stay away from discussions of “The Walking Dead” that focus on the original graphic novel and reveal potential plot developments. I prefer to just watch the shows and enjoy the developments as they unfold.

That said, it was pretty difficult this year for fans of the show to avoid discussions about the upcoming appearance of Negan. There were plenty of news stories about Jeffrey Dean Morgan being cast in the role. And if you heard about Negan, you heard about his weapon of choice, a baseball bat covered in barbed wire that he calls “Lucille.”

There were plenty of rumors online about Negan unleashing Lucille to kill off one of the main characters in brutal fashion, and the finale didn’t disappoint on that front. The chilling ending was brilliant in many ways, as the smirking and obnoxious Negan relished the opportunity to subjugate Rick and his group. With Rick and his closest friends lined up on their knees, Negan toyed with them as he explained how they would need to obey his “new world order,” while one of them would have to die as punishment for their actions. We saw the stunning killing from the point of view of the victim as Lucille came crashing down on the victim’s head. In a show that consistently delivers graphic killing scenes, this ranks as one of the most horrifying and memorable.

But any reaction to the brilliance of the scene was quickly replaced by frustration as it became clear that the identity of the victim wouldn’t be revealed until next season. I can see both sides of this, though I’m disappointed the writers decided to take the easy route and turn this into a season-ending cliffhanger. But like the annoying episode that falsely implied Glenn’s death when he fell off the dumpster, I’m willing to live with these quibbles in the context of a compelling storyline.

Still, I did have another problem with Season Six worth noting. Carol’s transformation was very difficult to believe and came across as an unnecessary distraction. It will probably end up being important to the larger storyline, but after years of methodically turning Carol into the ultimate bad-ass who understood the tough choices that needed to be made, her sudden 180-degree turn seemed forced. In one sense, it was interesting to see her philosophical conflict with Morgan get turned on its head as she became the one who suddenly had a problem killing when necessary, and this will probably be important to Morgan’s development as a character as well. But why mess with one of the best characters on the show in Carol?

Even with these problems, I enjoyed how Season Six moved from the internal issues facing the group in Alexandria to the confrontation with Negan and the Saviors. After his initial frustrations with the sheltered and naïve residents of Alexandria, Rick had grown increasingly confident in his group’s abilities to take on others after the residents began to buy into the concept of being aggressive with walkers and hostile groups of survivors. But this confidence began to turn into arrogance, as Rick seemed to believe they could take on anybody. That arrogance led to the preemptive strike on the Saviors, which led to the tragic confrontation with Negan.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes; Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

“The Walking Dead” has been the top-ranked show on our annual TV Power Rankings for the past two years, and overall Season Six has kept the quality of the show at a level where it will be considered for the top spot again in 2016. With or without the cliffhanger, I’m looking forward to Season Seven to see how the conflict with Negan plays out.

Photo Credits: Gene Page/AMC