It’s hard to talk about The Walking Dead without talking about death. It built its reputation as a show where anyone could be killed, and in fact it turned around a third of its cast each season in its early years. (Let’s not forget, the series finale surrenders its final moments to a montage of those we’ve lost over the years.)
It’s been a long time since death really pushed the story forward. With several spin-offs on the horizon, the show struggled throughout its final season to keep up the excitement of the show’s salad days, when seemingly anyone could die at any time. When Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) are all set to star in new shows, every time their lives are said to be in danger, the dramatic tension of whether they’ll make it or not came alive cut off at the knees.
But even with the show’s three most notable characters off the table, a cast of literally dozens survived the last two seasons relatively unscathed. The show remained as violent as ever, but without the actual sacrifice and pathos that violence would naturally evoke. During the final season of The Walking Dead, new characters were introduced and developed, just enough to serve as sacrificial lambs with a frequency reminiscent of old jokes about red-shirted ensigns in Star Trek, but the series left theirs Audiences don’t have time to ponder the mortality of these characters. They died in the service of furthering the conspiracy, nothing more.
It was inevitable that the series finale would require one final, epic battle against the titular zombie hordes. After all, The Walking Dead was always at its best when leaning into its comic book roots, and to its credit the sequel delivers plenty of lively, comic book-worthy action, including several huge explosions and enough gunfire to splatter tearing flesh and blood to make us all vegetarian for the time being.
However, for all the destruction, there were very few actual consequences. Rather than offering anything resembling true devastation, the finale gave us exactly one major character death. They also made it available through the tried and true Walking Dead. Trope of a character seemingly escaping danger – only to dramatically lift his shirt to reveal a stray zombie bite to the audience, and then simulate for another half hour. While it’s natural to give Rosita (Christian Serratos) a final farewell worthy of her long tenure on the show, she honestly deserves a more spectacular exit. Her final moments were bittersweet, but not nearly as gut-wrenching as they would have been had she died in the heat of battle, as she did for much of the series.
It’s true, of course, that the storyline wasn’t driven solely by deaths, and to its credit, the finale did a little more justice to the surviving leads. In fact, several individual character moments dug deep into the show’s lore and rhymed beautifully with scenes from previous seasons. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) began his career on the show as a cowardly priest who expelled his congregation from his church at the start of the zombie apocalypse; It comes full circle when he risks his life to open gates and offer sanctuary to Commonwealthians fleeing the hordes. Similarly, Negan has progressed from the show’s most bloodthirsty villain to a man finally able to show true remorse for his actions, and Maggie’s heartfelt response to his apology felt true to both characters’ journeys. It’s almost enough to think that they would be ready to embark on more adventures together. (And of course they are scheduled for next year.)
The resolution is followed by a 10-minute coda that fast-forwards a year and recalls the epilogue to Kevin Costner’s 1998 vehicle, The Postman,” of all things, in which the new head of the community consecrates a memorial to the fallen and heralds a new era of peace. (This can’t be accidental – one character is even shown posting.) Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has started a family; Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Mercer (Michael James Shaw) and Carol (Melissa McBride) have taken on leadership roles; Daryl roams the frontier in search of adventure. If it’s not the most original place to leave the story, at least it’s a happy one and a deserved one.
But we’re not done yet. A second coda then tries to give fans what they really wanted – the return of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). Unfortunately, what should be a moment of pure excitement is undermined by the fact that it is almost entirely unrelated to the events of the previous hour.
There’s an awkward attempt to tie her back to her children and her community via a monologue that dubs the aforementioned final montage. But most of Rick and Michonne’s return is dedicated to what can only be described as a trailer for their own upcoming spin-off, as Rick surrenders to an unseen entity on a beach and Michonne saddles a horse to give chase. It’s hard to gauge just how much appetite remains for answering the questions this raises, but leaving things here is just a reminder that while The Walking Dead itself may be over, the franchise lives on. Whether it thrives or just saunters along as the shell of its former self remains to be seen.
https://variety.com/2022/tv/reviews/the-walking-dead-series-finale-review-closure-anticlimactic-1235438189/ The Walking Dead Series Finale Review: Concluding, but disappointing