April 15, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “The Walking Dead”


There are many things that divide Americans these days, but the same thought may have gone through much of the nation’s mind tonight:  Is it truly over?  Can we finally move on from the Negan storyline on The Walking Dead

And the answer is… probably?

After 2 seasons of slow-burning nihilism (more than that, if you count the lead-up to Negan’s appearance that occupied much of Season 6), during which Walking Dead‘s ratings declined to the extent that it’s been recently outrated by Roseanne, the trio of writer/producers behind the Season 8 finale (outgoing showrunner Scott M. Gimple, incoming showrunner Angela Kang, and Co-Executive Producer Matthew Negrete) seemed to close the door on Negan and his murderous Saviors, but kept the door’s key in their collective hands.

Anyone who played “Eugene Is A Triple Agent” in their Walking Dead pool cashed a ticket, as the munitions maker (Josh McDermitt) who had seemed to switch sides from our heroes to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his Saviors turned out to be one step ahead, boobytrapping his much-vaunted bullets so that all the Saviors’ guns blew up in their hands.  That short-circuited Negan’s complex plot to lure Rick (Andrew Lincoln) into a trap by seeming to accidentally reveal another trap, and the Saviors were vanquished without the Alexandrians and their allies firing a single shot.

That was a bit anti-climactic (director Greg Nicotero had little chance to show off), but set things up for the long-awaited final one-on-one battle between Rick and Negan, and after Rick cynically exploited Negan’s affection for Rick’s dead son Carl by distracting him for the seconds Rick needed to slash Negan’s throat with a handy piece of stained glass, Walking Dead seemed to have cast its lot, philosophically speaking, with pure Darwinism.  But no, Rick’s better nature caught up with him, and he ordered Negan’s wounds tended to, preserving the villain alive as an example of the mercy possible in the new world Walking Dead purports to be ready to explore.  Of course, anyone who’s ever seen a serialized story knows that a bad guy who isn’t dead is a bad guy who can escape captivity and seek revenge.  In an even more curious plot move, the closest thing to a season-ending cliffhanger had Maggie (Lauren Cohan) setting herself up as Rick’s future antagonist, furious that he had left her husband’s murderer survive–curious because Cohan has no contract for Season 9 and a hot ABC pilot, so no one knows if she’ll ever be on the series again, let alone in an important role.

The relatively hopeful ending to the season left a viewer less depressed than the past 2 seasons tended to do, but it didn’t solve the show’s shortcomings:  the scattered storytelling, important characters like Darryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carol (Melissa McBride) with almost nothing to do, and labored pace.

The finale does suggest that AMC and the producers are aware that changes are going to be necessary if the show’s decline is to be slowed.  Kang’s arrival seems to presage a Walking Dead more focused on world building than on introducing yet another ruthless Big Bad, and perhaps it will be the change of pace the show needs.  Even with the drastically reduced ratings, the series is one of the biggest hits on TV, so there’s no reason for panic.  Season 9, though, will have to reflect more thought than a Walker can manage.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."