The Walking Dead S06E16 “The Last Day On Earth” REVIEW

The Walking Dead S06E16 “The Last Day On Earth” REVIEW

Glenn 3

stars 3.5

Airing in the UK on FOX, Mondays, 9pm
Writers: Scott Gimple, Matt Negrete
Director: Greg Nicotero

 

Essential Plot Points:

  • We cut between a terrified man running through the woods and Maggie being loaded onto the RV to be taken to Hilltop for medical attention.

• Carl and Enid

  • Enid tries to persuade Carl to stay and, rightly, points out he’s looking for a fight. He tricks her, locks her in a closet and leaves along with his dad, Abe, Sasha, Eugene and Spencer. Alexandria is left under the command of Gabriel who is now frighteningly good at this.

• Saviours

  • The man running through the woods is brought down and dragged into the road.
  • Elsewhere, Morgan finds a horse. It is lovely and will be heretofore referred to as Morgan’s Lovely Horse. Not long after, he finds a badly injured Carol and takes her to shelter.

• Roadblock 1

  • The RV runs into a barricade. Rick has a very tense conversation with one of the Saviours manning it which, it being Rick, he gets needlessly macho about. The Saviours ask for half their stuff, Rick turns them down and asks if they want this to be their last day on Earth. The Saviour leader replies that it may be for Rick or one of his people and he should be extra nice to them.

• Carol holds Morgan at gunpoint

  • Back at Morgan and Carol, he treats her wounds and tells her that he’s come to take her back. She refuses, pulls a gun on him and finally begs him to leave her. Morgan simply refuses to leave.

• Carol holds Morgan at gunpoint

  • In the RV, Abe and Sasha are talking about whether they want kids. Abe is all in favour of it, as is Sasha. This totally isn’t foreshadowing or a really bad thing to talk about unless there’s a second roadblock or the Saviours are herding them.

• Roadblock 2

  • There’s a second roadblock.
  • The Saviours are herding them.

• Hanging Zombie

  • Back at Morgan and Carol, Morgan kills a Walker hanging from a noose and returns to find Carol gone. He grabs Morgan’s Lovely Horse and sets off tracking her.

• Roadblock 3

  • The RV reaches a third barricade but this one is different. It’s a group of Walkers, chained across the road. They move forward to clear them and realise the Walkers are oddly familiar… One is peppered with crossbow bolts, another is wearing Daryl’s jacket.
  • Another has a pair of Michonne’s dreadlocks stapled to it.

• Dreadlocks

  • As they realise this, the Saviours open up. The Alexandrians return fire and Rick opens the blockade before running back to the RV. They escape but realise that all they’ve done is go exactly where they were told.
  • The Saviours were firing at their feet. They want them to keep going. Almost immediately the RV encounters another heavily armed roadblock and they realise they’re being herded.

• Roadblock 5

  • Morgan and Morgan’s Lovely Horse find Carol’s dropped rosary. Nearby Carol is jumped first by a Walker she barely kills and secondly by the Saviour she didn’t kill last week. He knows he’s dying but he plans on torturing her until she dies first. Carol laughs at him, finally at peace because her life is about to end. He shoots her in the arm and leg. She goads him into finishing her and just as he’s about to…

• Morgan with gun

  • Morgan appears. With a gun. He begs the Saviour to let her live and when he tries to kill Carol anyway, Morgan empties the clip into him.

• The Kingdom

  • As he tends to Carol two other men appear. One is the previous owner of Morgan’s Lovely Horse. The other is a fellow Lovely Horse enthusiast. After a mildly tense stand off, they agree to help and take Morgan and Carol off to season seven.

• Roadblock 4

  • Back at the RV, Maggie is getting much, much worse. Worse still there’s another barricade, this time made of wood. It’s huge, well built and not the only obstacle. As they approach, the survivor the Saviours captured earlier is hung from a nearby bridge. Aaron tries to save him but Rick tells him not to as the barricade is set on fire and they retreat once again. As they go, the Saviour leader reminds Rick about it being one of his people’s last day on Earth.

• Bullet Recipe2

 

  • The Alexandrians regroup. Eugene points out the Saviours are looking for the RV and have no idea of how many people are actually inside it… He volunteers to drive the RV away as a distraction while Rick and the others load Maggie on a stretcher and make a run for Hilltop. Before they separate he gives Rick the breakdowns on how to make bullets and reconciles with Abe. This feels very like goodbye for at least one of them.

• Eugene and Abe2

  • They run through the woods and hear the same whistling they’ve heard every time the Saviours have been nearby. Picking up the pace they sprint out into clearing to find…
  • The Saviours.
  • The RV.
  • A badly beaten Eugene.
  • The Saviour leader tells them all to get on their knees and, reluctantly, Rick does. Daryl, Michonne, Rosita and Glenn are unloaded from a nearby van and join them.
  • Then, stepping out of their own RV, Negan makes his appearance.

• Negan

  • Speaking with a combination of good humour and rage, Negan tells them they work for him now and he doesn’t want to kill them. But, they killed a lot of his guys and that can’t stand. So, he’s going to beat one of them to death with his baseball bat, Lucille, and then let the others go.

• Glenn 2

  • Glenn panics, breaks ranks and tries to save Maggie but is brought down.
  • Negan walks up and down the line, toying with them all until finally he resorts to a game of Eenie Meenie. The camera shifts to the point of view of his victim as Negan raises Lucille and murders them as the others scream. Then, the camera fades to black…

• It

 

Review:

“As long as it’s all of us, we can do anything.”

There’s an old stand-up comedy routine about how money only works because we all decide it does. Society, especially the post-apocalyptic society of The Walking Dead, is the same. When every life is sacred and every life is constantly in danger you have two choices, both of which the show has explored.

The first is to retreat in on yourself, just like Morgan did. The second is to align yourself with people who make you more than you are. That’s what all the characters have done and that dedication, and price paid for it, is what drives this season finale. It’s why Rick doesn’t have to ask for volunteers to go with Maggie to Hilltop. It’s why Carl locks Enid in the closet. These people are strong because they’re together. And that’s where Negan hits them.

“This isn’t it. This isn’t it. There’s gonna be more.”

Compare this to Rick’s speech to Carl after he was shot. There he was fervently certain that his son would live to see the new world. Here he’s begging Maggie to keep it together because if she does, he can and they can both believe that their lives will be more than being hunted to death by a group of psychopaths. You build your world one step at a time in The Walking Dead. You choose what to believe and who to believe in and you put your faith in them, hoping they’ll put their faith in you.

“We need the bullet.”

• Broken Rick

This is the moment Rick breaks. It’s visible in the final scene but this is the moment where it starts. The brutalist pragmatism of the prison years bubbles back to the surface as he realises they’re outnumbered, outgunned and outwitted. It’s not even that he’s done anything wrong. He did the only thing he could, investing the blood of the Saviours and the innocence of his people in the future of Alexandria.

And it’s failed. And now someone’s going to die. Which means they’re going to need every bullet they have.

So much of this episode’s double running time is a slowly closing vice. The repeated roadblocks, the moments of desparate hope as the Alexandrians relax a little only to have it snatched away. They’ve made the only choice they could and picked a fight with a vastly superior force who have them surrounded. The roadblocks are about them realising that. This moment is about them accepting it.

“I told you not to come.”
“And I’m gonna start listening to you real soon.”

That’s why the Morgan/Carol stuff has to be in this episode, much as we’ve seen people complain about it killing the pace. Their discovery of The Kingdom, Morgan’s willingness to sacrifice his ideals for Carol’s life and the complex ethical knot they’re tied in has to be there as a counterpart to the RV ride to Hell. Rick’s right: there is going to be more. But accepting that means he has to accept that what’s next is just as likely to be forged by other people as it is by him. There is hope, but there’s none for him. At least not this time.

“…Sucks don’t it? The moment you realise you don’t know SHIT”

Because this is Negan’s world and Alexandria is sitting in the middle of it. Negan’s presence has been trailed for the entire season and when he does arrive, all eyes are drawn to him. That’s partially because he’s played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan who doesn’t know how to turn in bad work.

But it’s also because he’s in control. He’s got there by being what Rick tries to be; ruthless, brutal when needed and absolutely dedicated to his survival. The difference between them is Negan has crossed lines Rick won’t. Or didn’t until he made the deal with Hilltop.

That’s the cruellest thing in an episode full of cruelty. There was no other choice. This was always where they were going. That’s what brings Rick to his knees, that’s why Negan is so at peace and that’s why this season is both the most hopeful, and bleakest, the show has turned in to date.

Because the New World is here and in order to save it, Rick and his people will have to sacrifice their ability to live inside it. At least, those who survive will.

This is a measured, calm, bleak conclusion to a remarkable season of TV. It makes a couple of serious missteps as we’ll see below, but the show’s transition into a much larger scale, higher stakes story is all but complete. It’s rarely been better than this and has never been more interesting. Bring on season seven.

 

The Good:

  • Morgan’s smile when Carol complains about him saving her life is positively beatific.
  • “Enemy close.” Abe defaulting to military terminology under stress is a really subtle, clever bit of characterisation.
  • “You think you’ve suffered enough now?”
    “No… probably not.” One of those perfect lines this show is so good at.
  • “She needs help.”
    “Then let’s get you some help.” This too. It’s a tiny line but it says so much about The Kingdom in one sentence. They’re not Hilltop. They’re not Alexandria. They’re here to help.
  • “We’re lucky you’re here.”
    “I won’t argue with that.” Never change, Eugene.
  • Eugene’s hero moment as he drives off is lovely, especially as it’s cut so short. That half smile, half terror reminds me of the last time we see Eli in Stargate: Universe and that’s high praise.

• Peeling Zombie

• Branch Zombie

  • Some wonderful Walkers this week. The peeling one that almost kills Carol is fun but the impaled one that threatens Carl just takes it for horrific ambulatory corpse of the week.
  • The whistle that permeates the episode is one of the smartest directorial touches we’ve seen the show do. Not only does it suggest Negan’s presence everywhere but the final scene with the Saviours all whistling provides an answer to the, “We are ALL Negan” moment from a few episodes ago. The Saviours are all singing from his hymn sheet, or in this case whistling and in doing so sacrificing their identity for the protection of a large group.
  • Negan making his grand entrance from the RV that’s been on the show longer than a lot of the principle characters is a beautiful touch.
  • “Give me your shit, or I will kill you.” Negan’s charming, chatty and completely focused. This brutal philosophy is the only mission statement and justification he needs.
  • “I’m not growin’ a garden.” And that’s why he’s the bad guy. This entire season has been about trying to get Alexandria self-sufficient. Negan just takes other people’s stuff.
  • “Do NOT make me kill the little future serial killer. Don’t make it easy on me.” He’s also, although he wouldn’t admit it, having some fun.
  • Negan – Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s relaxed, charming take on the biggest monster in the comics is exactly how great we hoped he would be and then, somehow, better. The show finally has not just a genuinely threatening villain again but one with more presence than any of its leads.
  • The complete lack of fuss over the war party going out with Maggie. This is what the show excels at; people who stand by one another through love and necessity, getting on with the business of survival.
  • Eugene and Abraham hugging. Oh, you guys.
  • The gradually ratcheting sense of doom. This was a slow burn episode and that’s turned a lot of people off. We liked the dawning realisation the characters had of just how much trouble they were in.
  • The Walkers chained across the road, and the gradual realisation they were wearing items of the missing characters’ clothing. Chilling.
  • Rick. Andrew Lincoln does some brilliant, functionally invisible acting this episode. Compare Rick’s, “I’ve got a plan” bravado at the start to how he is at the end; pale, sweaty, terrified, powerless. This is Rick’s darkest hour and Lincoln makes us see that. The phrase “nothing will ever be the same” gets bandied around a lot but for Rick, now, that’s never been true.

 

The Bad:

  • The ending – because there isn’t one. Josh Friedman, one of the best showrunners and screenwriters in the business summed up the problem with it perfectly overnight, with mild profanity censorship on our part: “I get that TWD has earned the right to do whatever the f**k they want, I just wish they wouldn’t.” His Twitter stream is essential if you’re a writer and can be found here. He also has a point. This is cheap. This is a carnival barker routine on the same level as “Mr Worf… FIRE.” And we can only hope the payoff is so much better than that one turned out to be.
  • It’s also, and this is the worrying thing, a short-term solution and one the show has now done twice in one season. We know someone’s dead. We won’t know who for months and that’s being used as a hook to drag people back and get them talking until the show starts again.
  • Which we are.
  • But the thing about this kind of spectacle is that it can only be done three or four times. The Glenn bait and switch earlier this season worked really well, but was already showing the strain when it was resolved. This works, just, because of the sheer magnetism of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the way the scene is shot.
  • But what happens next time?
  • And the time after that?
  • How do you row back from this? CAN you?
  • The Carol and Morgan plot is less a plot and more a trailer for season seven. It’s not a bad thing, and we love that the pair of them are clearly going to be working together a lot next year. We even love the way this plays out. It’s not that it’s bad, but it is a little clunky.
  • Whereas the Abe and Sasha conversation about having kids is very, very clunky indeed. Again the emotional progression is spot on but it puts a big old target on Abe’s forehead. We bet he’s worked out a cure for the virus, how to solve the Greenhouse Effect and who shot Kennedy too. And he’ll tell us all right after they’ve got Maggie to the Doctor…
  • No Jesus! AGAIN! WHAT THE HELL?!

 

The Random:

  • The Kingdom, where the hockey armour-wearing horsemen hail from, is the third corner of the Alexandria and Hilltop triangle. They’re a major force and a clear sign the show is following the comic into some brilliant stories about reconstructing the world instead of simply surviving it.
  • Yes, GTA V fans that is Steven Ogg, aka Trevor as the Saviour Rick verbally spars with.
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who makes such a splash here as Negan, is the character actor’s character actor. He was fantastic as the deeply flawed John Winchester on Supernatural and has had memorable turns on Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife and Extant. He can be seen in cinemas right now as Thomas Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Intriguingly, Martha Wayne is played by Lauren Cohan, Maggie on The Walking Dead

• Shot of the week

  • Shot of the week is that long pull back from the group making a run for it, directly into the middle of the Saviours.

 

The Dead Pool – The “Who’s Carked It?” Odds:

  • Rick: A MASSIVE, series changing curveball but, amazingly, there’s circumstantial evidence that it could be him. Andrew Lincoln’s talked about how traumatic the finale was film, to the extent it kept him up the night before. Plus Rick is BROKEN in that final scene. He’s shutting down, unable to understand just how badly this has gone. He looks like a victim. And Negan loves victims. So, not likely at all but holy WOW if they went for this; it would get the show a ton of attention heading into year seven. Which, interestingly, is normally when contracts are up for renewal…
  • Carl: Almost as massive a curveball. A season ago we’d have said this was unlikely. After Sam being murdered on screen this pretty definitively is not off the table. It’s just not that on the table either. Especially as Chandler Riggs is one of two castmembers to publicly say he has no idea who died.
  • Daryl: If Daryl dies we riot. And we might need to break out the pitchforks and flaming torches. We don’t THINK he’s the victim. We also REALLY HOPE he isn’t the victim. But, Norman Reedus is booking more and more off-season projects. That being said, Daryl is both injured now and exactly the sort of person Negan likes having on team later. So we think he’s okay. Please be okay, Daryl.
  • Michonne: One of the very few characters on this list who is all but bullet (or bat) proof. If Daryl is the most iconic character of the TV show, Michonne is the most iconic character of the comics. She’s got a huge amount of story still to tell too and the fact she’s the star of a new Walking Dead computer game suggests she’s going to be okay. Please be okay, Michonne.
  • Rosita: Rosita dying would neatly detonate a drama bomb under Sasha and Abe’s relationship. Unfortunately that would be about it. She’s been horribly underused this season and that invisibility may well keep her safe. And hopefully lead to more work next year.
  • Abraham: The MCM Buzz office favourite. Abe’s story is largely done. In fact, we’ve already kind of seen his death scene. When Doc is murdered with the crossbow bolt? That’s how Abe originally checks out. There are a couple of other compelling reasons for it to be Abe too. The conversation about kids he has with Sasha is sweet but triggers a big red warning light on the IMMINENT HORRIBLE DEATH Warning system. Likewise the moment he reconciles with Eugene which could be read as a goodbye scene for either man. Plus he stands up to Negan, which makes him more noticeable and a more “fun” prospect to beat down. Also Michael Cudlitz Tweeted, then deleted, the phrase “I had a blast working with you” at Josh McDermitt who plays Eugene.
    Throw in the angst his death would cause for both Rosita and Sasha and we think the big guy’s toast. If so, happy trails sir.
  • Glenn: The other odds-on favourite because this is the exact way Glenn checks out in the comics. There’s a ton of circumstantial evidence too including reports Stephen Yuen’s contract runs out this year and some fan analysis of that closing set of screams. Some people are saying they can hear Maggie screaming Glenn’s name. Others have apparently picked out Glenn gurgling, “Maggie?”, his last word in the comics. But then again… His apparent death earlier in the season is a knot the show really needs to untie and there’s no good way to do it. If Glenn is dead here then that will feel like a cop out. If he lives, it’ll feel like even more of a copout. There’s no win here and that’s why Abe JUST edges Glenn on the pool, it makes more sense for it to be someone else. This time.
  • Maggie: The shock value of beating a pregnant woman to death is the exact sort of thing the show would run headlong at. However, we’re pretty sure Maggie’s okay. She has a huge amount of plot spinning out of this scene and that, coupled with how sickly she is, we think puts her over the top. Remember, Negan isn’t looking for easy meat, he’s looking for a victim who matters. Someone with status and authority. The fact they’re both hurt seems to the one thing that will save Daryl and Maggie. Please be okay, Daryl and Maggie.
  • Sasha: Much like Rosita, there’s an interesting, small amount of drama to be mined from Sasha’s death. Like Rosita, we don’t think that’s enough for her to be the victim.
  • Eugene: The case for him being the victim is surprisingly strong. There’s that Tweet from Cudlitz, the fact that Eugene hands Rick the bullet recipe and even more compelling, that he and Abe make their peace. Eugene’s a survivor, he’s made it to level two and being cut down here is exactly the sort of cruelty the show loves. But.
    Eugene is also an easy choice, not to mention one that closes off a lot of future plot. We don’t think he’s fully safe, but we do think we’ll be seeing him next season.
  • Aaron: Like Sasha and Rosita there’s not been enough done with him this year for it be him. Plus there’s a ton of really fun stuff still to mine for Aaron in the plots the show is now barrelling towards. And, let’s not forget, Ross Marquand is a vocal chameleon who’s going to close this review out with some desperately needed light relief.

 

Coming Next Week…

  • So, that was season six of The Archers In Hell. Thanks for sticking with us. We’ll be back shortly with the first episode of season two of Fear The Walking Dead. Cliff Curtis! Colman Domingo! Kim Dickens! Hopefully a massively decreased amount of black characters dying! See you then!

Review by Alasdair Stuart


 

Read more reviews of The Walking Dead season six

 

 

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