(Spoiler alert: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the Season 6 finale of “The Walking Dead”)
Like millions of others, I watched “The Walking Dead” on Sunday with bated breath.
As Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) played “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo” with so many beloved characters on their knees before him, I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest.
But after months of mounting tension, the relief I desperately sought eluded me when the camera switched perspectives so that we did not get to see who Negan’s victim was.
Like many fans, I felt cheated. After nearly six months of buildup, we were left with nothing to do but wait for Season 7 — at least six months from now.
Yet the great irony of all the outrage that has dominated conversation about the show over the past few days is that the people who are the most angry are the ones who will be the first to tune in when Season 7 starts. I know because I am one of those people.
I feel like I’ve gone through the seven stages of grief over the cliffhanger ending, with a special emphasis on anger. But now, cooler heads have prevailed and it’s possible to see why the showrunners did what they did.
“Imagine not knowing about Negan and watching this season,” series star Andrew Lincoln said in an interview with TheWrap. “You would view it in a completely different way than someone who knows about the 100th issue of the comic book. It’s an entirely different viewing experience.”
And the fact of the matter is: He’s right. Like many diehard fans, I got a crash course in all things Negan when Jeffrey Dean Morgan was cast, meaning I knew his comics entrance was capped off by him killing a main character long before the episode aired. But the show has grown to a point where it is not just for fans of the comic anymore.
People like executive producers Scott Gimple and Greg Nicotero have an unenviable task. They have to translate a beloved comic book to television in a way that satisfies comic fans while also appealing to a broader audience. Sometimes, they are going to piss off one group or another, as they proved again on Sunday night.
“When I read the episode, I was so angry and upset, because that’s what Rick is feeling,” Lincoln said. “Everything is being pulled away from him. It’s like having a limb cut away from him.”
“Everyone that believes in him is looking to him and he does nothing,” the actor continued. “And maybe people are feeling that frustration. They want someone to step up and do something, but they can’t.”
And that is the key. As frustrated as I am, there is nothing productive to be done with that feeling now. It’s best to just move on and look forward to the new season.
It takes a lot for a television show to move me to any emotion anymore, so the fact that “The Walking Dead” can still generate such a primal reaction is the very reason I started watching the show. Not every episode can fill us with joy or dread. It has to run the gamut.
And as angry as the ending of the finale has made me, it’s best to refocus that anger on something more egregious, like the fact that no actor from “The Walking Dead” has even been nominated for an Emmy Award. Melissa McBride alone turned in multiple Emmy-worthy episodes this season, not to mention the countless other instances of compelling drama the show has provided over six seasons.
As fans, we have to try to focus on the good and forgive the bad.