There are spoilers for both this episode and the comic book series of The Walking Dead throughout this review.
A Quick Foreword
I have a lot to say about this episode, and I feel as if the structure I usually use for reviews is a bit too restrictive in this circumstance. I'm just gonna write and see where it takes me. Regardless...
"Hi. I'm Negan"The finale of what has been the greatest season of The Walking Dead to date sent a lot of viewers home disappointed. With Negan's arrival being overshadowed by the question on everyone's lips, "but who died?", rage and frustration over an ultimately anticlimactic final episode became the prominent feelings among fans.
Tension was the main factor in this episode, and it was executed perfectly. Playing up the numbers advantage the Saviours had over Rick's crew, the episode did a great job of making Rick feel outnumbered. As the gang discovered every road to the Hilltop blocked in a number of elaborate ways, the fear within Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was noticeable.
With that said, however, the episode itself was slow in pace. 90 minutes is a lot of time to work with, and it felt as if the show runners didn't work out how to fill all of it. There were a handful of scenes throughout the episode that felt pointless, thrown in so that the show could fill all of it's allocated time slot. Scenes were spent building up the characters sat inside the RV, a sign to fans that one of them was going to meet a gruesome end by the time the night was done.
But they didn't. Because Walking Dead is a show that loves to string fans along. The episode felt like a slap in the face; we've spent near on six months waiting to see a brutal finale, one that's been played up by the cast and crew for the longest time. And we didn't get it. It's hard to feel satisfied after waiting 90 minutes to see someone get beaten to death by a barbed wire coated baseball bat, only to see a POV shot from the victim and some lame blood effects. Honestly... I can't quite believe that the show runners thought that was an OK thing to do.
For those of you who can't fully understand why a lot of people are so angry, it's because we care about how the main antagonist of The Walking Dead is presented. This was Negan's debut episode, and taking away the shock value of seeing him bash a fan-favourite's head in upon his arrival lessens some of his impact. Now that's not to say that Jeffrey Dean Morgan wasn't tremendous in the role, because he was. There's a calm to his madness, a calculating, threatening air that circles the character as he struts his stuff, swinging his bat around as if to show off the power he has. That said, everyone acted their socks off in this episode. Andrew Lincoln gave the best performance I've ever seen from him, and that's saying something. The sheer terror that was written on his face throughout Negan's monologue was perfect and added a lot to the moment. But that doesn't change the fact that Negan's arrival in the comics and his status as leading antagonist is fully cemented when he bashes Glenn's head in with Lucille.
Negan's arrival in the comics lasts a few pages. He monologues, says he doesn't want to kill anyone, and then kills Glenn. And Glenn's been with the group since forever. In the blink of an eye, Negan offs one of the key members of the group and the shock is felt by both the reader and Rick's crew. But in the show, Negan hit SOMEONE and it's gonna take till October before we find out who it is. What's terrifying is that opening a season with the death of a lead character is rarely done - the chances of the bat victim being a backgrounder (notice how Aaron was given a lot of screen-time this episode) skyrocketed when AMC decided to make this episode a cliffhanger. I'm praying to every higher power there is that they don't go that route because the amount that would suck is unreal.
With all that said, however, Last Day On Earth was not all bad. Comic fans will see that the Kingdom have now appeared on this show (those armour clad guys who turn up to help Carol and Morgan, remember?) It'll be interesting to see what direction the show goes with Ezekiel and his group, but here's hoping two things happen. One, Dave Fennoy is cast as Ezekiel; two, AMC empty out their entire CGI budget on a bloody great looking tiger.
Morgan had some great development, finally breaking out of his "we can't kill anyone" trance as he guns down Carol's attacker. Lennie James (Morgan) really is an amazing talent, and Melissa McBride (Carol) is no slouch. Those two have great chemistry and their scenes together were lovely to watch. Credit to Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene) too. The heart-warming scene in which Abraham sees Eugene off complete with a goodbye hug genuinely made me well up a little bit. It's great to see how far those characters have come.
Another shout-out goes to Steven Ogg, who did a masterful job with his role as an unnamed Saviour. He presented a genuine threat to the group, sinister and malicious but still calm and collected. That guy is a great actor. And while I'm at it, I haven't bigged up Jeffrey Dean Morgan enough yet. God that guy is a good actor. Why he was given a one-word role in Batman vs. Superman baffles me, he deserved so much more than that. I can't wait to see more of Negan; I can see him becoming a character viewers love to hate (or just flat-out hate) very quickly.
So, to recap, Last Day On Earth was NOT bad. It was a really great episode. Everyone performed excellently, the tension cold have been cut with a knife. Everything was going great... and the ending happened. It was disappointing to see my favourite show go out on such a low in what has been its best season yet. Hopefully, AMC go the right direction with the bat victim in season 7 (and by right direction I mean a character we all care about - I'm looking at you Daryl and Glenn) and keeps on pumping out great episodes.
The ending was a swing and a miss, but the rest of the episode was a home-run for sure.
Jacob is a long-time Walking Dead enthusiast with a bizarre idea of what constitutes a 'good character'. He tends to spend most of his time crying into his pillow over Beth Greene's death that happened two years ago.