So I’ve just come away from watching the long-awaited Walking Dead finale. After being delayed for half of 2020, it was nice to see the old gang back together. We haven’t seen any Walking Dead prime action since April 5, and let me tell you… not much has changed. When the episode begins, the crew is still holed up in that abandoned building, and we’re given a montage that reintroduces us to Vergil, Maggie, and some dual-wielding hatchet assassin. I say “reintroduces” because if you’ll recall, we’ve seen this clip before. Way back when we were just learning how to deal with this messed up year, AMC released the first few minutes of the finale to hype us up. I felt that hype back then, but seeing it tonight, well, it felt a bit lackluster.
Lackluster was the umbrella term for this whole finale, to be honest. As most Walking Dead storytelling goes these days, it was full of a lot of mumbling about dreams, followed by the most minimal action possible. For the first quarter of the episode, I was unsure of exactly what the group was setting out to do. Were they attempting to go out and kill Beta and all the walkers, or just get all bloodied up and make it through the horde? Hell, the climactic final scene with Carol’s near-suicide felt completely out of the blue. I won’t even mention that whole “Burning Down the House” nonsense. Yeah, in terms of storytelling, this episode went down the crapper almost instantly.
Thankfully, those mumbling story moments were peppered with quite a few bloody interludes. One of the most welcoming aspects of this finale was its refreshingly nonchalant take on gratuitous violence. Always priding itself on the drama rather than the horror, The Walking Dead sneakily showed off their Emmy-winning makeup effects tonight amidst an otherwise bland backdrop of grays and blacks. Blood poured profusely as quite a few characters met their untimely demise to the titular cannibals. Organs were removed, ribs were broken, and limbs were torn off with the living barely batting an eye at such destruction. In terms of violence, these moments sure felt like the dragons finally arriving on Game of Thrones; the experience certainly felt enriched.
It’s just a shame the episode in its entirety couldn’t be as gripping as its final moments. After finally killing Beta – a la a takedown straight out of Assassin’s Creed – and sending the walker horde careening over a cliffside, the gang regroups to meet up with Maggie and her unnamed hatchet-wielding companion. As they hug and smile and subtly hint at the Daryl/Carol spin-off on the horizon (how about New Mexico?), the scene shifts to one straight out of the books: Team Eugene discovers The Commonwealth. Or rather, The Commonwealth discovers them, considering the season ends with our protagonists held up by some shady looking stormtroopers at gunpoint. It’s a moment ripped right from the pages of the Walking Dead comic, and I must say, I was beaming the whole time. But it sure does make me hesitant of the future at stake.
As we know, The Walking Dead is about to undergo a tremendous overhaul. World Beyond premiered tonight as well, focusing on previously unknown aspects of the lore. Fear the Walking Dead is set to return soon, and two other shows are in the works alongside at least one Rick Grimes film. But in the world of The Walking Dead prime… this next season will be its last. Looking at the comics, that lines up pretty well! Once this new group – The Commonwealth – comes into play, things start to wind down in terms of the overall narrative. Not spoiling the ending, I’ll just say there’s a pretty definitive ending. There are quite a few climactic moments concerning… people who no longer exist on the television show. So, from a comic fan standpoint, I’m interested in seeing how things play out in this final season.
The Walking Dead has taken liberties when it comes to the on-screen portrayal of comic moments for quite some time now. So much so, that I don’t expect them to ever follow the books anymore. This leaves me pleasantly surprised, however, when things do harken back to the book. Tonight’s zombie lemmings scene, for example, was inspired by one of the largest scale scenes of the Whisperer War arc. Albeit with other characters, higher stakes, and different results (was Lydia bitten?), this scene still accurately portrayed one of the most iconic Walking Dead moments beautifully. It also justified the finale’s delay, as I’m sure a lot of post-production was necessary for something that massive.
So overall, was I disappointed by this carrot-on-a-stick finale? Looking at the big picture, no. Not only did it give me something to look forward to for the majority of 2020, but it also set up what could be the greatest season of The Walking Dead’s 10-year-and-counting run. I’ll be very sad to see this show go, as it’s been with me since before high school. This show and its source material were with me through a lot of hard, life-defining moments. I’ve been inspired by the work of Robert Kirkman and the characters these actors and actresses have brought to life. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this fandom, despite the problems I’ve had with the show’s narrative decisions at times. From books and television to video games and real-life conventions, The Walking Dead has built me for half my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
So with that being said, even if this finale wasn’t the most grandiose, action-packed spectacle I’ve ever seen – nor was it the best Walking Dead finale thus far – it still got me hyped for what’s sure to be the most bittersweet sendoff of my life. I just have to wait two more years to get to that endgame, but hey, it’s the end of the world. I got nothin’ but time.