I have now had two whole weeks to digest the finale of The Walking Dead.

12 years of the most contentious emotional rollercoaster have led to a conclusion that simultaneously satisfied and let me down. After reading a lot of Twitter discourse, I have welcomed multiple opinions into my heart. I have heard the arguments about how there were, in fact, quite a few storylines that met fulfilling endings. I have seen how the show touched everyone through the years, and I include myself in that camp, as well. Unfortunately, all art is up for personal interpretation, and… I have thoughts. So let’s break down this finale! Spoilers ahead!

Credit: AMC

We begin with a small recap of the season, and may I just say, the penultimate episode of this final series actually made me feel something for the first time in a long time. It feels like we barely get a good guy death anymore, or even a good guy injury. For a few seasons now it’s just been the bad guys coming and going, and the good guys get to walk away. And yes, I know you can always say “Who are the ‘good guys?’” but in this sense, I’m talking about the show’s main protagonists.

Anyway, there’s just no suspense anymore! But that last episode? The Lydia thing? That was wild! I never even liked her character, but to have the walker bite her and not her less important boyfriend? That was actually a risk! That was a creative leap! And I thoroughly enjoyed it! It truly made me feel something, and as I screamed at the tv I was brought back to the good old days once more. I’m thankful she got out of there, and as I’ll mention later, this scene actually brought a li’l tear to my eye.

Credit: Newsweek

So, the final episode, “Rest in Peace,” begins where we left off, with Judith Grimes being carried to a hospital by Mr. Daryl Dixon. In a matter of minutes, Judith is wide awake and fending off a zombie horde while Daryl passes out for some reason. I understand the artistic choice of showing her bravery in the face of death, but much like how having spin-offs in place makes fates like Daryl’s look untouchable, I never expected Judith to die. They were too scared to do it at the prison, and they were too scared here. Besides, she’s not done whining about how “the world is not what she wants” yet!

Before I get further into this, I have to mention that yes, I am very cynical when it comes to The Walking Dead. I’ve been falling out of love with the show for a few seasons now. I feel like it never takes risks, I feel like it frequently spits in the face of the books I love so dearly, and I can barely comprehend most of the decisions they do with the characters, these days. I don’t know if the showrunner change was to blame, or just the syndrome of too many season renewals, but something killed TWD a long time ago, and what we were left with is, itself, undead.

So after Judith squeaks back to life and subsequently passes out once more, we are taken back to the rest of the group, about to be Red Wedding’d by a whole town of walkers. Oh, wait, that cool scenario only happened in my dreams. What we got here was the death of one character we barely developed, and the impending doom of a single fan-favorite we brought back just to kill off. What was the thought here? I had been waiting for more Luke for so long and then they just brought him back to say bye again? Why did you not take this opportunity to have some big names die left and right, really driving home the unpredictability of a world they thought was safe? I was just blown away by the group’s miraculous escape, especially as they all marched through narrow halls flooded with walkers, avoiding a single scratch.

This brings us to Luke, whose aforementioned doom was just around the corner. I love Luke and always have, and to see him go out in this manner was absolutely tragic… but I loved every second of it. Remember when C-3PO almost died in The Rise of Skywalker, surrounded by a bunch of people who barely knew him? Well, what if that scene was done well? Surprisingly, The Walking Dead got this so right by having all of Luke’s original crew flock to his side as he passed on, sobbing and assuring him “We keep the music alive, always.” God, I’m going to cry right now! That line genuinely made me shed a tear and coupled with the previous episode’s line, “You are so loved, Lydia,” as they chopped her arm off… this season’s writing is, dare I say, kind of good?

Credit: Undead Walking

But I digress, I digress! Going forward, a lot of little things happen that I suppose I have no problem with. We get some more Mercer/Princess love, which I, too, love. Judith wakes up and has a whiny little moment about her mom and dad and- I’m sorry, I have to butt in here. Remember when Judith was a badass? Remember when Michonne taught her to be awesome and fend for herself and she was really filling in the role of Carl well? Pepperidge Farm remembers that Judith, not this new whiny one who only thinks about how her family is going to get back together because they said they would and “golly gee, why can’t we all just get along?” Sure feels like the show wants us to really keep Rick and Michonne in our minds. Almost like they’re hoping the two will get back together and try to find a better life for their family, or something.

Moving on from my Judith troubles, I now shine the spotlight on a new subject: Rosita. Rosita was another badass when she first hit the scene. Thankfully, I have enjoyed watching her grow through the years, going from nothing but ass-kicking eye candy to a truly dynamic character with feelings and passions. I’ve especially enjoyed seeing her friendship with Eugene sustain all hardship, allowing these actors to really strut their stuff, emotionally speaking. What I haven’t loved lately is the Coco storyline, in which motherhood has forced Rosita into a backseat role while the strong men in her life play the hero. Father Gabriel never should’ve lasted this long. There, I said it. Yet he lives – because he’s the new dad – and I just roll my eyes.

In probably the worst scene of this whole finale, Eugene, Gabriel, and Rosita are jumping across cars to navigate around a walker horde. The group has no choice but to climb a rickety pipe to a window above, and while the boys make it no problem, Rosita – with Coco strapped to her chest, mind you – falls into the massive horde on her back. In any other zombie situation throughout all media, this baby would be torn to shreds in an instant. But alas, Rey – I’m sorry – I mean, Rosita busts out of the crowd with a swing of her Hylian Master Sword and gets her child to safety! Now, I am all for shameless displays of girl power, but this was far-fetched as hell. I was left mouth agape, with no words. I threw my hands up and nearly walked out of the room.

The Walking Dead, everyone!

Credit: Nerdcore Movement

Fast forwarding for time: Rosita is bitten, some Maggie and Negan stuff goes down that I will certainly address soon, and the climax comes in the form of a walker horde descending upon the rich section of The Commonwealth. Governor Milton has holed herself up inside, keeping the poor citizens out, and lucky us, every single one of our protagonists has arrived to talk some sense into her! Before I tear this scene apart, I just want to say I am intrigued with these new zombies who climb and brandish weaponry. It’s a cool concept, I’m just sad it’s also been used to foreshadow the spin-offs. Only like three TWD Prime characters notice it and it’s never addressed to the masses. But moving on!

My biggest qualm with this whole scene at The Commonwealth is the missed opportunity for a beloved event from the books. Spoilers for the comics, but remember when Carol sacrificed herself to a walker early on in a display of gore and uncomfortableness, while the show kept her character alive for far too long? Well, for fans who would’ve loved to see a similar scene, the moment when Milton looks to the walkers only to lay eyes on the zombified corpse of her right-hand man, and gets a little too close for comfort as she realizes her faults… yeah, you get the point. Missed opportunity.

Instead, we were given a super irritating moment where Judith snaps the governor back to her senses by telling her “it’s never too late!” You know, I hate when people liken things to “being made for children,” but the choices made here are so childish I cannot say otherwise. Even if Judith’s words are meant to show how she “forgives the governor for shooting her” or whatever, it’s the fact that they went so close with that undead Hornsby moment only to take it from us.

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. This is the show that made us watch a beloved character get his eyeball bashed out of his skull. Hell, this is the show that made us all care about a rather unimportant side character as walkers slammed his face against a revolving door and made us watch them tear his face to shreds before our very eyes! It’s about takings risks! It’s about doing the unexpected and blowing us away! It’s not about playing it safe for the sake of camaraderie because “we need to make the world a better place!” You live amongst zombies! Things aren’t just going to slow down and get easier because you know your surroundings a bit better now! Expect the unexpected!

“We ain’t the walking dead.” GET OUT OF HERE!

Credit: WinterIsComing.net

Now.

As my final bow of vitriol, I must address the elephant in the room: Maggie Fucking Greene. Little miss why-did-you-ever-come-back. Whiskey Cavalier? More like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot did they do to you?

Watching Maggie since she returned to The Walking Dead is the best representation of character assassination I have ever laid eyes on. Way to take one of the strongest characters, in both the show and the book, and turn her into the most irritating, brooding piece of garbage to ever grace a television screen. Listen, Maggie, I get it. You lost the love of your life, and you’ve been forced to work beside his killer for a while now. But that’s the thing when you work with someone for a time, you get to know them quite well. I don’t even work with the guy, and I can tell Negan not only regrets his crimes but has repented for them. He has been punished time and again since that action – which, I must say, was not unjust to him at the time, as everything Negan does has a purpose – and he has been nothing but kind to you ever since y’all started your business partnership!

Hell, by the end of The Walking Dead, Negan is an exceedingly better person than Maggie ever was. Being one of the only characters to truly have a fulfilling arc, I must say I loved Negan from start to finish! The only thing that dragged his performance down was Maggie! I’ve even come to appreciate his love for another woman after Lucille, and I bet he’d be a great father! Maggie, on the other hand, has become such a vacuous hole; an energy vampire to all around her. She doesn’t even try to work with the group, she just does her own thing. She kind of cares about her son, but even that is hard to believe when you see how she treats everyone else. Her mind is clouded by this thirst for vengeance and it makes a redemption arc near impossible by how unlikeable she’s become.

Poor Hershel. Poor Glenn. Poor Lauren Cohan.
What was she thinking when she sat there during that beautiful Ezekiel/Negan conversation on the train, and then had to go and still give Negan shit for everything like he didn’t just lay his whole heart out there, genuinely stating that he knows she’s “better than him.” What a joke. What a comedy this plot line has become. What a depressing end to her story.

Credit: Undead Walking

It’s hard to believe, but… it wasn’t all bad, and if you got to this part of my article, I hope to reward you now with a smile. I started watching The Walking Dead when I was 13 years old. I can remember saying it was my favorite show in school that year, and for many years on, it stayed that way. Top of the totem pole! As the years progressed, I read every comic! I bought a poster and hung it on my bedroom wall: the walker in the grass from the pilot episode, with the giant logo underneath. It used to scare me… and then I started going to conventions and filling it with signatures.

I met so many actors from the show, each with a story to tell and a smile when they saw my poster. I heard things like, “Wow, this is from the very beginning!” and “There’s a lot of conventions on this, huh?” and most recently, last month, “Aw, I’m going to sign right next to Scott,” as Margot Bingham – who plays Eugene’s girlfriend, Max – noticed the name of the late Scott Wilson: Hershel Greene, himself. I’ve seen how a poster can make the actors light up, as we share our memories together of a show that’s touched our lives.

Credit: Syfy

The Walking Dead will always be a part of me, whether it’s in regularly collecting The Walking Dead Deluxe issues or visiting more conventions, or… telling myself I won’t watch the spin-offs and ultimately caving. For me, it’s my guilty pleasure franchise, at this point. I love it too much. I love what the mind of Robert Kirkman has done for comics and video games and television. So while I may have hated a lot of this season’s ridiculously safe choices, I can’t lie and say I didn’t love the respect they gave to Rosita’s passing (especially the way they ended her arc with Eugene). Or the way Carol finally gave in and called Daryl her best friend (another tearjerker moment). Or the chills I got when I saw Rick Grimes again. Even Judith and Negan got a nice little moment akin to Carl and Negan in the final comic issue.

That’s the thing, though. There’s still a little spark in The Walking Dead. There’s still a little charm. Every now and then, I dare say, there’s a little creativity. There’s a little risk. But I do hope for the best, and I do hope things get better in terms of writing and decision-making. Hell, House of the Dragon took the steaming pile of excrement left by Game of Thrones and made it into a beautiful villa! Sometimes it just takes the right person with the right spark to keep a fire going.

In the cutthroat world of ever-expanding franchises,
The Walking Dead is one who lives.
And yet, I smile.

*Editor’s Note: Hey gang, Al here to say that Graydon Webb’s views expressed in this article are solely his and do not reflect the views of the other VGU Staff

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