Martin W. Bender
This will of course have spoilers.
In the Season Six Finale of The Walking Dead the mysterious Negan finally made his way into the lives of the group from Alexandria. This isn’t a spoiler. If anything, Negan is a long awaited member of the cast as the show has lacked a significant antagonist since the Governor’s psychotic episode in season three. Seasons four, five, and most of six placed the group in a variety of challenging situations, but the show does best when those challenges are personified. Enter Negan.
The ninety-minute episode followed the cast driving a Winnebago to another settlement. As they went their path was blocked and they were corralled to an inevitable meeting with John Winchester Negan. It’s the same plot as RV only you hope the people in the camper survive. When they get to where they’re going the inevitable happens: an unnecessary, drawn out monologue.
Dialogue fleshes out characters, but in the zombie apocalypse why is it so many people drone on endlessly? With the constant threat of death, who has the time to establish such forceful speeches when a simple “You work for me” and a swing of the bat will do? Where are the strong, silent characters who survive simply because they keep their mouths shut? Maybe it’s just me, but the show could certainly use a character like Clint Eastwood from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Don’t think the finale isn’t great. It is. The tension continually rises as the group meets road block after road block. The only reprieve is Morgan’s search for Carol. It reminds the viewer of Rick’s first season search for his family. This subplot in many ways outshines the obvious outcome of the main group’s journey. Carol comes to terms with the inevitability of death, Morgan is forced into a change of heart regarding pacifism, another group with similar values is discovered. Their journey maintains the hopefulness Rick loses as he comes head to head with a more determined version of himself.
The loss of hope seems to be the theme of the entire season. Daryl regrets not killing Dwight. Carol tries to leave. Glenn kills people for the first time. Many of the more hopeful characters are killed, go off to gather supplies, or find themselves facing Lucille’s fury. The final holdout for hope is Morgan who will undoubtedly regret violating his mantra “all life is precious”.
As a Christian fan of the show and comic there is a temptation to find elements of the Gospel underlying the story. While there are times when one character will die for another this is certainly not the case in Last Day on Earth. In fact, the characters who are most clearly identified with Christian morality are typically killed off, shown to be failures, or renounce their faith. There are some episodes in which Christian overtones are prevalent, but these are few and far between. The overall tone of the show indicates any spirituality as a crutch with which one makes sense of the world rather than a tangible reality. Maybe this is realistic given the lifestyle of crisis in which these characters live.
More and more western society seems to view the world in this way. Hyper materialism pervades our thinking as a culture and we routinely deny the reality of the spiritual. Like Rick has said, “we are the walking dead”. Meaning there is nothing more to this life than what is tangible from a material perspective. As a Christian, such an idea seems ridiculous, but practically that is how many of us live our lives. Certainly what we do in our flesh matters, but it is not the only thing that matters. We have been created both material and spiritual beings and as such must recognize and embrace both elements of our nature. We are more than just matter randomly walking around. Act like it.