WARNING: Spoiler alert
After six seasons, you’d think “The Walking Dead” would become predictable — but Sunday night’s season finale likely left even the most hardened longtime fans confused, angry and sick to their stomachs.
In one of the most heavily anticipated (and stress inducing) episodes of the AMC series yet, the fate of every character receiving main billing on the show remains unclear — and at least one is dead.
The episode picks up with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and her unborn child in serious need of medical assistance. As Alexandria no longer has a doctor (RIP Denise), Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) all pile into the RV to make the trip to Hilltop. With Daryl (Norman Reedus), Glenn (Steven Yeun), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) already on the outside of the city walls, this leaves Alexandria nearly defenseless.
That is, unless you count Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), who is apparently the town’s first line of defense against a possible Savior attack. Who thought leaving him in charge was a good idea?
It isn’t long before Rick & Co. encounter a group of Saviors on the road.
They invite Rick to negotiate, but only if the group surrenders their weapons and any other belongings. With no plans to do so, Rick and the others reboard the RV and back away — but as most things in “The Walking Dead” universe, it’s not that easy.
The group continues to encounter bigger and badder-looking groups on the road, as well as obstacles such as trees and a Red Rover of walkers chained together. But these just aren’t any walkers — one has Michonne’s dreadlock attached to its face, while another is pierced with arrows from Daryl’s crossbow, cluing the group in to the fact that at least those two have been taken hostage (if not already killed).
Eugene eventually deduces that they’re waiting for the RV to arrive — but won’t necessarily know how many people are inside of it. He sacrifices himself to continue driving the RV to the next likely roadblock, while the rest of the group attempts to reach Hilltop through the woods on foot, with Maggie being carried on a stretcher.
It’s only a few minutes until it’s game over.
The group is completely surrounded by dozens of Saviors, who strip them of their weapons and force them to their knees. Glenn, Michonne, Rosita and Daryl — who many feared dead after last week’s fake-out — are released from a small cell and join the others.
Then, the moment we’ve been waiting for all season: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) makes his debut.
Honestly, it’s hard to hate him. He has undeniable swagger and, if anything, he seems to respect Rick. His deal is this: the people of Alexandria get to live, but Negan gets half of all of their belongings (the same deal as Hilltop). But he has to kill at least one member of the group to set an example.
It’s actually pretty fair, if you think about it. He has Rick and the rest of his group on their knees at his mercy; he could murder them all right now if he really wanted to.
But he just wants one. And decides his victim by the most twisted game of eenie-meenie-miney-mo that the world has ever witnessed.
Except that the murder is shown from the victim’s POV, and we won’t find out who met a grisly demise at the hand of Negan and his baseball bat Lucillle until Season 7.
Meanwhile, Morgan finds a horse as well as Carol, who had been injured in the previous episode.
“If you care about people, there are people to protect, there are people that you will kill for,” Carol explains to Morgan as she refuses to return to Alexandria for medical care. “If you don’t want to kill, or if you can’t, then you have to get away from them. You don’t get both.”
Carol sneaks away from Morgan and is again on her own when the sole survivor of her attack in last week’s episode catches up with her and shoots her twice, before Morgan kills him and saves her. But the gunshots drew others — two unidentified men in what looks like hockey pads — who offer to help Carol and Morgan.
The fates of Gabriel, Spencer (Austin Nichols), baby Judith and the rest of Alexandria remain unclear, though it appears the Saviors were too busy harassing Rick & Co. to bother ambushing headquarters. Also MIA are Tara (Alanna Masterson) and a few other Alexandria residents who went on a supply run over two weeks ago and have yet to return.
But what does all this mean? Will Rick and the rest of Alexandria really be left in peace, as long as they fork over half of their stuff? Assuming Maggie wasn’t the one who got beaten to death with a bat, is her baby going to survive? Who is going to plot the rebellion against Negan, and who will eventually lead it?
And who are the men who rescued Carol and Morgan? Are they part of Negan’s group, or some other survivor faction that we haven’t yet been introduced to? How the heck is Carol going to survive being shot in the arm and the upper leg? Are they part of a larger group who will help Alexandria take out Negan? And is Tara’s scavenging group still just out on an extended run, or did they have an encounter with the Saviors as well?
And, most importantly, who did Negan actually kill? (If you follow the comics, you know that Glenn is the one who dies at the hands of Negan and his bat, Lucille; another popular fan theory believes that it could be Daryl who gets whacked.)
There are dozens of questions the “Walking Dead” left viewers with, but one thing is for sure: the Season 7 premiere is going to be one hell of an episode.