In The Walking Dead series finale “Rest in Peace,” one door closes and another opens. After 11 seasons/12 years of the zombie apocalypse that featured many characters that we came to know and love, it is the end but not really. Is it the perfect series finale? Far from it, but it seems much more grounded and acceptable than the series finale of Game of Thrones. While I watched every episode of both series over the years, I felt this finish was more satisfying overall.
Of course, in these days after the series finale broadcast, spoilers are all over the place. It is kind of hard to get around spoilers. So let’s get them out of the way first. If you are wondering if Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) do show up, the answer is yes. We get a brief glimpse of them both in different places facing rather difficult situations. Rick’s slight grin when staring down his opponents kind of reminded me of when the gang was stuck in the rail car in Terminus and Rick said they didn’t know who they were dealing with. Got to love Rick’s determination even when the chips are down.
Over the years the reality is that you don’t move through a zombie apocalypse without losing people. Remember Teddy Bear Girl, played by Addy Miller? Rick sadly has to kill her once he sees that she is a zombie. One of the hardest ones was Carol’s (Melissa McBride) daughter Sophia (Madison Lintz), and I still find seeing her as a zombie very disturbing. I knew then that TWD would go there. Not even kids are safe. When Carl (Chandler Riggs) died they did it again, and that was a gut punch for sure. You have to give credit to the show that absolutely no one was safe.
In the finale we lose Luke (Dan Fogler) in one of the most heartbreaking deaths of all as he has been torn apart, and bleeds out as his friends comfort him in a futile effort to keep him alive. We also get another gut punch when Rosita (Christian Serratos) dies peacefully with Eugene (Josh McDermitt) at her side. We can only imagine that Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) is waiting for her on the other side.
The conflict basically turned around at the end of the previous episode. Tyrannical and corrupt Governor Milton (Laila Robins) shot Rick’s daughter Judith (a terrific Cailey Fleming), in yet another case of a child endangered. This enabled everyone to see just how evil Milton was, giving her general Mercer (Michael James Shaw) the opening to get the troops to see the reality they needed to see.
With a horde of walkers heading toward the Commonwealth, Milton ordered the civilian population to be expelled from the city. Putting them in between the walkers and locked gates. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) opens the gates to let the civilians back into the city despite the threat of being shot by the Commonwealth troopers. Milton orders the troops to shoot innocent people. When the troops actually realize what is happening, they are convinced finally by Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) moving speech, and they stand down.
Maggie and Negan
While all this is going on, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) finally have that conversation. It seems a little awkward and Negan makes every effort to be totally honest about how he brutally killed Maggie’s husband Glenn (Steven Yeun), and how sorry he is about what he did. It doesn’t completely feel acceptable to us because the weight of that scene never goes away. For those who don’t know what happened, Negan bashed Glenn’s head in with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. You can’t help but understand why Maggie (who witnessed Glenn’s death) can’t completely get over what happened. She can’t forgive Negan for what he did, but she realizes she has to stop hating him or they won’t survive.
Truthfully, I thought we were going to lose more people than we did. Judith survives her gunshot wound, and various stories get tied up, perhaps a little too neatly. One of the survivors I am happiest about is fan favorite Jerry (Cooper Andrews) who I always felt had been put in danger too many times. Even Eugene and Max (Margot Bingham) got their happy ending including a little baby. Eugene’s arc went from sniveling coward to brave freedom fighter.
Daryl and Carol happily survive. Their goodbye scene is the best moment of the finale. It’s honest, quiet, and true. There have been so many Carol and Daryl moments during this series, but this one marked the strongest one because they both admit their love for one another, but that love isn’t keeping them together.
Carol has finally found her place. Instead of baking cookies as a smokescreen of domesticity to hide her warrior dark side, now Carol is all in on making a community work. She finds her bliss and that is the best way we can leave the character.
Daryl is a rebel with a definite cause. After all, he’s not just riding off into the sunset but has a spin-off waiting for him. Still, as Daryl gets on the motorcycle with the road stretching off behind him, I got serious Witness vibes. In that film Harrison Ford’s Detective John Book stands in an Amish doorway to not just say goodbye to the woman he loves but a culture he cannot stay in. The road stretches out behind him, the path back to civilization. In many ways Daryl has similar objectives.
The End of The Walking Dead?
Daryl’s road leads to possible answers as to why the zombie apocalypse happened and if something can be done to stop it. As the screen fades to black it feels over, and then we get the scenes with Rick and Michonne. TWD is done, but the stories are still there and will go on. One door closes, and another one opens.
There is nothing to say that any of the survivors won’t pop into the Rick and Michonne spin-off or the Maggie and Negan spin-off. Let’s not forget Fear the Walking Dead where the amazing Lennie James (Morgan) leads another group of survivors who have a connection with TWD. The possibilities are endless for crossovers of characters in those pending series and even other spin-offs. Anyone game for a Father Gabriel and Aaron (Ross Marquand) spin-off? I know I am.
The series finale could have been much worse than it was. I think some loose ends were tied up. There were a few people lost, Milton gets justice, and there are a number of happy endings, but Carol and Daryl didn’t walk off into the sunset together. I wasn’t expecting that because that would have been too perfect, giving many fans what they always wanted.
It feels right having Daryl going off on his own, leaving Carol to find her peace. It feels more like real life. We don’t always get what we want and, as Mick Jagger famously sang, “We get what we need.” Sometimes that is all we can hope for.
I’m going to miss this show and its many characters that I’ve been following longer than I’d like to admit. Saying farewell wasn’t so difficult here with those spin-offs coming, but it is certain that it will never be the same.
TWD was a cultural juggernaut, made many actors famous, and gave us a story about what humans do when faced with the most dire circumstances. While it showed the worst of human nature like Milton, who proved the living were far more dangerous than the dead, it also showed how humanity can shine and care for one another. In the end, the resounding message TWD leaves us with is that humanity’s intrinsic nature is good, giving hope to us all.