Enter Negan: Thoughts on “The Walking Dead” Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”

In my review of last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” I predicted, based upon all the media hype, that the 16th installment of season 6 of “The Walking Dead” (“Last Day on Earth”), “will be one for the history books.” I was wrong, but it was still enjoyable television.

The Saviors’ Organization Makes them Especially Scary

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The first sound we hear when the installment begins is the whistle of the Saviors. It was eerie when we first heard it earlier in the season. Each time the sound met our ears during the season finale it was even more so. One of the two functions the whistle serves is communication. We first became aware of the advanced level of communication used by the Saviors when we heard their radio traffic in the thirteenth episode of this season, “The Same Boat.” As “The Last Day on Earth” moved toward its culmination we learn, in stages, that the Saviors level of communication is very advanced. It reflects a sophisticated organized crime outfit run with military precision. Could Negan be ex-military? It would not surprise me if we learn this next season because, as I have mentioned in comments on a different episode this season, Leftists like those who populate the television industry typically hate the military and hold a negative opinion of all those connected with it.

Morgan’s Horse

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Watching someone ride a horse in a zombie apocalypse made for some very interesting visuals. Lennie James’ acting alongside the horse was so natural that I suspect that he became a horseman before becoming an actor.

Hanging Walker

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The walker making a racket at the library brought to mind one of the more interesting philosophical aspects of a zombie apocalypse. The man obviously hung himself because he did not want to live in his new circumstance. Suicide as escape from the awful existence of a zombie infested world is a topic that has been rarely touched upon in “The Walking Dead” and other zombie television shows and movies. However, in a world where all civilization has fallen apart, one imagines that some would struggle just to find a reason to want to live. With not many exceptions, the goals and dreams the characters on “The Walking Dead” set for themselves ceased to be obtainable after zombies turned the world upside down. Working toward our goals and dreams is what we live for. Many of the characters on the series would likely need more reason to live than simply not wanting to die. I would love to see more of how the show’s main characters work through this internal dynamic. Hopefully the procreation theme we have seen this last season is just the beginning of a depiction of how the characters craft a life worth living.

The Knights of the Zombie Apocalypse

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About two thirds of the way through the episode we discover that the equine Morgan has been riding belongs to one of two men who appear on the scene after Morgan saves Carol Peletier, portrayed by Melissa McBride, from being murdered. Because one of them is mounted and carrying a pike, a similar weapon to a lance or spear, and both are wearing athletic pads which looked like armor, the men reminded me of medieval historical reenactors.

I have often thought that a group of military reenactors would make interesting characters in a zombie apocalypse television show or movie. They would be trained in tactics and the use of weapons, own firearms, be able to fight as a unit and have a higher chance of survival than the average person. Are these two mysterious men part of a group that has adopted the code of chivalry and fight like the knights of old?

No Need for a Ninety Minute Installment

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The Morgan and Carol  plot and the travels of the core group of survivors in the SUV were too drawn out. Both should have been cut down. I can think of no reason for “The Last Day on Earth” to have been ninety minutes other than that it allowed the show to squeeze in more commercials than would  have been possible in a usual sixty minute episode.

Whistling Through the Graveyard

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Twice in the first hour of “Last Day on Earth” Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest drive, or walk, into what appeared to be obvious ambushes though neither one was any such thing. As the installment winds down our heroes literally walk right into a trap. That seasoned survivors would conduct themselves in such a way defied belief. Why were not small, nimble scout vehicles traveling at a good distance in front and in the rear of the SUV? When the bunch set out of foot how come a point man was not sent out ahead, a person was left to trail behind and flankers sent out to either side? Such an arrangement would have prevented their easy capture by the Saviors.

Walker of the Week

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Most every installment this season featured what I call the “Walker of the Week.” This week’s particularly wonderful walker was the zombie strolling along with a large tree branch stuck clear through him.

Enter Negan

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It was only in the last twenty-three minutes of the episode, when Rick and his group get taken prisoner and Negan thereafter makes his grand entrance, that “Last Day on Earth” got really good. Prior to that time not all that much happen of interest.

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It came as no surprise that a white man was cast as Negan. As I mentioned in comments on an earlier installment this season, 100% of the top tier villains on the show have been white and only two have been women. People in television believe in diversity when it comes to casting minorities as admirable persons. No reasonable person should have a problem with this. However, diversity goes out the window when villainous characters are cast.

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This being said, I must say that tapping Jeffrey Dean Morgan to play Negan was brilliant casting. Morgan is one of the finest actors working today. He was terrific in the movie “The Watchmen,” the television drama” Magic City” and the miniseries “Texas Rising.” If he can be judged by his debut last night, he should prove to be the most popular bad guy in the history of “The Walking Dead.”

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The lines written for Negan were chilling. His look was that of a rock star and he possesses charisma to a degree that one could understand how he could gather such a large following of underlings. Negan’s barbed wire wrapped bat “Lucille” was a most frightening weapon for a most frightening man.

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With Negan it is “just business” and “not personal.” That he comes across as calm, cool and collected makes him more scary. If he were completely out of his mind he would seem like a less formidable villain because he could be counted on the make some sort of crazy mistake that would be his undoing.

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On “The Walking Dead” it has always been true that the living are more dangerous than the dead. This season things have been taken to a new level. Six years after the zombie apocalypse the weak are all dead. The only ones left are those who have the strongest survival skills and will to live. For such people zombies have become little more than a minor nuisance. Negan’s coming means zombies are now almost an afterthought. In a sense it was the last day on earth for all of the core group of characters because the earth as they knew it before Negan  is no more.

A Cheap Ending

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When writing on this season, I have mentioned some cheap gimmicks the show has employed. Leaving us unsure as to which major character is killed by Negan at the very end of the episode was another one. It bears repeating that one of the most successful series in cable history does not have to stoop so low. Doing so was a slap in the face of the legion of loyal viewers who have made “The Walking Dead” a cash cow for many of those associated with it.

Fortunately, the last portion of the show was so good that it evened the episode out and made for what was an enjoyable season finale overall. Next season the show will have to take a new direction. The possibilities seem endless. Are you just as excited as I am for season seven?

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Additional Images from the Episode

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3 thoughts on “Enter Negan: Thoughts on “The Walking Dead” Season 6, Episode 16: “Last Day on Earth”

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