If you read my analysis of last week’s episode, then you’ll understand that I’m dreading this episode. In order to deal with that dread, I’m going to go into watching this with as much gallows humor as I possibly can. It’s my way of dealing with my denial about how the episode is going to end.

Saying that, here are my initial observations and recap, written down while I watched the episode. Following that is an analysis of the character of Negan. Finally, I explore the controversial cliffhanger ending, including quotations about it from creator Robert Kirkman and show runner Scott M. Gimple from an interview that aired immediately after the show.

  • Immediately more horse imagery - symbolism.
  • Morgan says “you are alive” after walking by a sign saying the same.
  • Morgan find a saddled horse. It has to be the same horse that the dude in the last episode was missing.
  • Dwight’s creepy whistling as a bleeding sweaty guy runs through the forest is ominous and disturbing.
  • Bloody, sweaty guy is now surrounded by the Saviors.
  • Carl’s trying to be a man. He’s emulating his father.

Oh, sweaty guy is maybe the dude from the Hilltop - and now the Saviors are spouting their ideology of violence from up high as means of control and survival.


Oh wait, the Saviors say something about the sweaty, bloody guy being from “the library.” Even on this show, this seems like an extreme overreaction to get charged for an overdue book, no matter how many years it’s been, but... this is a new and bloodier world, so I shouldn’t be surprised that returning books late results in getting your ass kicked.

Rick and the RV gang run into multiple roadblocks. At the last one, Rick’s eyes change. He seems to understand now that he and his group are surrounded on all sides, trapped. This mirrors how Rick and the gang had the Saviors trapped, surrounded in the bunker when they massacred them. Now Rick and gang are the ones trapped and surrounded. Good mirroring and symmetry here.


And now we’re back to Morgan on his high horse. (Man, horses are super symbolic on this show.) He finds Carol’s rosary not just in blood, but in the blood of a walker, so... hm... what’s that called? Undead blood? Rot blood? I guess I like rot blood the best.

Man, Carol is suicidal. We’ve known this for a while. She was depressed, and she started smoking. I noted way back that the smoking was symbolic of her being suicidal because smoking is just an extremely slow way of committing suicide. Now she purposely goes out into the world in order to get herself killed because she can’t do it by her own hand. And her suicide method of choice? Egging on a Savior who wants to kill her with sadistic glee. He describes how each breath for him is getting harder due to Carol having shot him through his chest (during last episode), so he wants each breath, more painful and shallower than the last count.

For him, making those breaths count is by watching Carol die slowly in front of him. before he dies. Because he’s evil. He shoots Carol through the arm. After a bit of this, he shoots Carol through the leg. Carol all but calls him a coward for not just ending her. Her super-suicidal bravery even freaks this sadistic bastard out! Damn, Carol. PTSD and being suicidal are very different in this post-apocalyptic world. After egging the Savior on, Carol final pushes the right button, and he turns back for the kill shot.


In rides Morgan on his high horse. Morgan tells him it doesn’t have to be this way, he can survive this, blah blah Morgan peace-ese lingo. But the Savior lifts his gun arm to shoot and BLAM. Morgan shoots him. And then again and again and again until he drops.

Enter: two men in post-apocalyptic armor. I’m assuming they’re from the Hilltop, but they could be from another place, like the {REDACTED}. I hope they’re from another place because that would be adding a great piece into the larger world that the show writers have slowly been building, episode by episode throughout the season.

The armor looks like cos-play, and in a good way,, a very good way. This just goes to prove, kids, that all that time dedicated to creating elaborate cosplay was not just fun and made going to cons awesome. It was really just to prep for the end of the world. YOU guys are the real preppers. Those people with the bunkers and the freeze-dried scrambled eggs? They got nothing on you.


Of the two armored chaps, one of them is the guy who was missing the horse from the last episode. Morgan tells them that Carol needs help. After a brief hesitation, the horseless man shakes Morgan’s hand. This looks like the beginning of a very beautiful friendship.

WTG Morgan! Your outreach method is working. You will in the future turn around the lives of these misguided kids. All they needed was someone like you in their lives to keep them off the streets from murdering people and murdering other people and growing weed and murdering people.

The RV group hits a massive roadblock made of lumber. What does it mean?

Abrahamism time: “It means we are up shit creek with our mouths wide open.”

Eugene points out that not only do the Saviors have big numbers, but they also have construction equipment (or big “toys” according to Eugene).


The running, sweaty bloody man from earlier is thrown off an overpass with a noose made out of chain. Library overdue policy is a super serious issue in the apocalypse. Beaten and then hung by chain to die? Reading is just not a good idea in this world. Who knew?

Ah... so that’s what they were spray-painting on the hung man: a big red X. This is the best in-show ad campaign I have ever seen. I don’t know what “X” is, but I’m going online and ordering several of them as soon as the show is over.

The group knows that they are surrounded in all directions. Eugene proves his worth again by coming up with the plan of action that will probably in the process sacrifice his life. Oh shit, and yeah, he drew plans for Rick on how to manufacture bullets ahead of time. Eugene knows he’s going to to die.


Time for some great lines:

Rick: “Thank you for this. For all of it. We’re lucky you’re here.”

Eugene: “I won’t argue with that.”

Abraham and Eugene have a touching moment, and Abraham is about to make me cry. Abe puts out his hand for a farewell shake. Eugene hugs him, hard. Bear McCreary’s string filled score is so beautiful and sad at this moment. I’ma go cry now. Be back.


ACK! A commercial for Norman Reedus’s own motorcycle show on AMC! Ack! This does not bode well for Darryl!

Carl spouts out pretty much verbatim Rick’s totally incorrect words about how they can do anything together, survive, if they stay together. The fools, the hubristic fools...


Oh crap. The whistling again. It’s like a cross between the whispers on LOST, an evil version of Peter Pan, and the creepy group whistling from the show “Under the Dome,” a show that I stopped watching (but apparently not soon enough) and that I thought I had completely scrubbed from my brain.

And.... the group is surrounded by what looks like the most evil, disturbing recreation of the woods party scene in Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused.”

11 kneeling, 1 will die.

Okay, so this is the part that I mentioned in last week’s analysis that I have been dreading. And it’s why I’ve tried to be light-hearted about it. I need a five minute break.


Negan (and Lucille) make quite the entrance, stepping down out of our group’s RV, lending him an almost “Hollywood star” sort of air and fame.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan gives basically the same speech from the comics, but less laden with swear words. Andrew Lincoln does some amazing acting with just his eyes here. He listens to Negan and it is clear in Rick’s eyes, not just in this final scene but as they hit roadblock after roadblock, that Rick knows he was wrong and that all of this was his fault. He knows he screwed it all up and that his leadership is causing this death by Lucille. In fact, everyone else in the cast are excellent in their silent acting as well, but that this all falls on Rick shows the most heavily.


So we don’t know who’s dead. I’m extremely happy that this scene was shot from the about-to-be dead person’s POV. I was very scared that we would get a “Game of Thrones” style on-camera head crushing. That GoT scene was so disgusting and visceral. This person’s head crushing is just as powerful, if not more, by leaving it up to the imagination of the viewer by fading in and out to black, with an increasing ringing sound, before going to silence and final blackness.


Right away, you can tell that Negan is not The Governor. (This was a common complaint all season, even though many of the complainers hadn’t read the comic version of Negan, and even though no one had scene the screen version yet.) Negan is a very different character than The Governor.

Negan is an intelligent, fascist leader with a comprehensive plan on how to both rule and run society on a very large scale, larger than anything we the viewers have seen. The Governor was not terribly smart, and he was a political creature as a leader who ruled haphazardly without much capability in organization and leading his people in a constructive manner for his society. The Gov mismanaged everything, constantly causing casualties and often for stupid reasons. He was his own downfall.

Negan on the other hand appears quite the opposite from what we have seen all season: he’s a fascist who has built a massive group that successfully rules over other groups in a very big area, creating a large social structure that has been in place for a while and is working well for him.


Negan is a psychopath; The Governor was mentally ill. Negan is charismatic in a very disturbing way. The Governor was incredibly creepy, but he thought he was charismatic.

The Governor was irrational and lashed out emotionally in terms of violence, leading to big strategic downfalls and ultimately both his society’s and his own demise. Negan appears to be a strategic mastermind, and he uses violence to maintain and grow his society. It was clear from his speech that he was only using violence to keep society together in, as he says, “the new world order.” Violence is a cold and calculated move for him. As he appears to be quite the psychopath what with all of his smiling, laughing, and ability to kill with ease and no hesitation. But he makes it clear that he only does it because it’s the only way for him to keep the new world order in working order.

My hope is that people appreciate the difference in these two very different characters and stop saying: “But Negan is just The Governor all over again. The’ve run out of material and are just recycling old material.” It’s just not true. Next season we’ll get the chance to see more of Negan and how he rules over so many people and so many groups.


He will provide a great challenge for Rick and the group, for Alexandria. Rick and company have never come across anyone like this in all of their journeys. This is a complex, intelligent, psychopathic villain with an unknown but very large organized group of killers that easily outmaneuvered Rick and the Alexandrians.


So who did Negan kill? A number of viewers are upset that the finale ended with a cliffhanger that leaves us wondering who died.

On The Talking Dead, Chris Hardwick addressed this:

People are upset that they don’t know who it was, and they feel like it’s a stunt... To me I sort of read it like as like: well it’s a not a series finale. It’s a season finale. There are usually cliffhangers on shows going into next season you have a reason to tune in. But I think it’s because people are so emotionally wrapped up, and they just want the tension to be released, so can you please comment on that for them to try to allay some rage or something?


Robert Kirkman, writer of the comics and a producer of the show responded:

As a fan, I love cliffhangers. I love that tension. I love that anticipation of finding out what it is. If you read the comic book series, pretty much every issue ends with a cliffhanger... I think that’s a lot of fun... The cliffhanger isn’t the story. The story of this episode is... how confident Rick was going into this.

This episode is about the loss of that confidence. It’s about changing that mindset. It’s about tearing Rick Grimes down, and that’s the conclusion of this story. So while it does seem like a cliffhanger, that’s the conclusion.

The story of who died, the story of what comes next, of who Negan killed, of what comes after that, that’s really the story for season seven.


Show runner Gimple immediately concurred:

It is. I would say, when they opened up the hatch and we had to wait to see who was in the hatch (“Oh on LOST,” inserted Hardwick.) I liked thinking about it. I liked talking about it. When Commander Riker told Worf to fire at the Borg ship while Locutus is in there, I liked thinking about that.

If people are jammed up about that cliffhanger, we have to do an episode that justifies it to you. We have to do something so great and so intense that you’re like, OK, all right, fair play, and that’s the challenge that we have. We’re going to do it. We’re going to deliver you something fantastic.

We want you to feel that suspense, that terror, and that pain, and we’re going to deliver you a story next season that justifies it.


Chris Hardwick responded:

And knowing that you actually give a crap about the show and care about the fans, this is something that you felt was important to do this way. So I hope that helped somewhat to assuage some of it.


Personally, I’m fine with the cliffhanger ending. The running theme this season is Rick’s hubris. His hubris is so infectious that everyone caught the bug, and everyone got sloppy as hell by the last two episodes. That group-wide hubris ends up with those eleven captured and held at the mercy of Negan and his Saviors.

The crushing blow is the look in Rick’s eyes, the look in everyone’s eyes and on their faces, as they kneel on the ground, obeying Negan’s order that they “can blink,” they “can cry,” but they can’t “scream.” The theme of the season is the crashing, inevitable downfall that hubris brings to Rick and his people. The finale is really that at the bottom of that crash, at the lowest moment caused by their mistake, they have absolutely no choice but to submit to whatever horror awaits them at the hands of Negan and the Saviors.


In this day and age, are season cliffhangers irrelevant? Should they not be used anymore on television shows? I don’t know. I’m not a television show historian. The method has been used for great effect for many decades now. Did it work here? I don’t know.

What are your thoughts?