At last, Negan is here. And, as he puts it, it’s pants-pissing time. After a wild goose chase to get a severely ill Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to the doctor at Hilltop, every major player of Alexandria from Rick (Andrew Lincoln) to Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) finally encountered the ultimate villain of zombie apocalypse Georgia. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, far less charming than when he was Denny in Grey’s Anatomy debuted in the The Walking Dead Season 6 finale, “Last Day on Earth” as Negan, wielding his signature baseball bat Lucille. And as predicted, he took down somebody as his first victim.
But we don’t know who.
Season 6 ended with a heart-pounding thump, a climactic and terrifying scene with a sharp Morgan absolutely crushing his turn as Negan. It was a bold punctuation to a year of more highs than lows, even with Glenn’s (Steven Yuen) bait-and-switch demise to Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) cliffhanger ending last week in “East” (BTW, he’s fine). Season 6 is indisputably The Walking Dead at its sharpest, regardless of its elongated pacing, shameless teasing, and generally infuriating lack of answers.
Despite bets taken over who would get a head full from Negan, The Walking Dead refused to let us TV viewers witness the brutality objectively. Instead, we’re horrified by a first-person POV, as the frame drips with crimson at first swing, our view further obscured with each bash. We hear screaming. We hear references to Carl and Rick, so we can rule them out. But anyone else is fair game.
And the show knows you know about Glenn. Presumed dead last fall, “Last Day on Earth” successfully used a spoiler to threaten the fate of one Glenn Rhee, who died in The Walking Dead comic and has been the most likely candidate to die by Negan in the series. For my money — now, after the episode — I think it’s him; I heard Maggie cry upon Negan’s beatings, but she just as well could be screaming for anyone given the situation.
Is this is the only card The Walking Dead can play? Obscuring answers to devastating questions? Probably, but the show does it better than any other across TV. The world’s favorite zombie series knows precisely what gets fans agitated, or agitated enough to mouth off on Twitter and Facebook, and uses that compel us into tuning next week. Or, next fall in this case, allowing summer barbecue debates to fuel interest until September or October. This is Walking Dead’s infuriating M.O. (once again, the Glenn fiasco), and while Season 6 was by and large excellent, I can’t imagine it working in Season 7.
But until then, we know one thing for sure: That The Walking Dead swung for the fences.