Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Walking Dead 'Last Day on Earth' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

'Last Day on Earth' is the culmination of the second half of the season that's been building to the introduction of one of the most hotly anticipated comic book characters, Negan.  The readers of the book know Negan is bad news before he was even mentioned on screen, and thanks to the escalation we've had week after week and the war that's been going on between the residents of Alexandria and the Saviours even those unfamiliar with the source material knew that something bad was coming.  Unfortunately we were all right, but in more than one way.

Over the course of the episode we see Rick and a number of his people racing to get Maggie to Hilltop and their doctor, but coming face to face with Saviour's on every route to the settlement.  The Saviours don't attack our group, but force them to take the route they want them to take.

Much like the second half of the season these developments are tense, taking it's time in prolonging the agony of watching Rick and the group struggle to try and save someone that they care about.  We know that things are going to end badly, and as the episode progresses you can see that the characters are slowly coming to the same realisation.

Trying to sneak through the woods carrying Maggie on a litter the group runs straight into a gang of Saviours, and when I say gang there must have been close to fifty of them there.  With nowhere left to run and no possible way of fighting their way out of the situation they're taken prisoner, and joined with the others who were captured in last week's episode.

Rick, Carl, Daryl, Michonne, Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Maggie, Glenn, Aaron and Sasha are all assembled on their knees in front of their campervan, from which Negan emerges.

Now, the reveal of Negan and the speech he gives are amazing.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan oozes menace and charm in equal measures that not many actors would be able to achieve.  This isn't like the Governor who acts nice but has a evil agenda, this man is open and honest about being bad.  He tells the group that he wants half of everything Alexandria has, and he tells them he's going to murder one of them as punishment for everything they've done.

Negan is so enthralling in this scene that it's impossible not to enjoy watching what he does, not from the point of view of liking his actions but just being captivated by his presence and the effect he has.  Every single one of our heroes is shit scared in this scene, even Abraham who's trying to act stoic will be afraid.  To see our heroes reduced to terror makes it one of the most tense scenes in the shows history.

The tension is ramped even higher as Negan begins to play 'eeny, meeny, miny, moe' with the group to decide which of them he's going to kill.  Somehow this is even more sadistic than simply choosing one of them, even if he chose one at random it would be over quick, but the perverse pleasure taken at stretching things out and tormenting each and every one of them twists the nerves.

Unfortunately the scene does not end well, for one of the cast or the audience.  Taking a POV shot Negan chooses his victim and begins to smash their skull to pieces with Lucille, his barbed wire bat.  The episode ends as the victim dies and the screen goes black.

As to be expected this decision to not show the person being killed has angered a lot of Walking Dead fans, as we now have to wait months to find out exactly which member of the cast has been killed off.  A number of people online have been trying to make educated guesses as to who might have died, but other than a line of dialogue from Negan that tells us Rick and Carl were not the ones chosen it could still be anyone else.   

The show runners have said that the next season will open with the same scene, that we will see who dies in all their bloody glory, but I can't help but feel that this stylistic choice is a misstep.  After building up all this tension over the last half season (and the last 15 minutes of the finale) to have audiences waiting months to see who died destroys all of that tension.  The impact of seeing that death will be so diminished that people will have a completely different view of it when they eventually find out.  It won't be 'Oh no [insert name] is dead!' it'll be 'Okay, so it was [insert name]'.

That's not to even bring up those fans who feel that this is one cliffhanger wait too far and are saying they'll be quitting the show.  After the whole Glenn rolling under the dumpster thing and the wait to see if he was alive I can't really blame them for being pissed, I am a little if I'm being honest.

'Last Day on Earth' also continued the Morgan/Carol story left over from last week's episode, with Morgan continuing the search for the runaway member of the group.  

Morgan finds Carol, but she's reluctant to return to Alexandria, insisting that it's better for her and everyone else that she leaves.  When the last remaining Saviour from the ambush in the last episode finds Carol he attacks her and shoots her in the arm and leg, torturing her.  Morgan breaks his rule about letting people live and kills the Saviour to save Carol before the two of them are found by men in body armour.

The journey Carol is going on has shifted course this week slightly as she's gone from cold blooded killer, to not wanting to kill, to now being okay with being killed.  The scene where the Saviour is going to kill her and she's kind of okay with it felt a little strange, but then if Carol is really feeling that conflicted and hurt by everything she's been through perhaps she has reached the point where she doesn't want to fight for her own life anymore.

The fact that Morgan kills the Saviour to protect Carol is a massive moment, as it not only has Morgan breaking the philosophy he's been speaking all season, but proves Carols point that people have to do terrible things to protect people that they care about.  Whether Morgan will continue to preach peace and letting people live going forward or if his outlook will change is anyone's guess, but perhaps Carol now has someone who understands her own problem much more and will help her work through everything she's going through now.

The two men who find them certainly look like season seven will be introducing The Kingdom, their armour is pretty much straight out of the comic book, and if so then I'm certainly looking forward to it, and hoping that they won't be cutting out a certain striped character from the story.

'Last Day on Earth' is a good episode, with some amazing scenes, but I feel that the final moments and the decision to not show who dies is a major mark against it.  If we'd have seen the killing then this would have gone on to be remembered as one of the most tense and best episodes of the show, instead it's going to be the one that has annoyed fans the most.  Roll on season seven and some answers to the question every Walking Dead fan is asking.


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