For months, the name "Negan" has been a dreadful whisper in the ears of The Walking Dead fans, as we all waited for this season's major villain (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to make his debut.
But now, the wait is over — and replaced by another longer, infinitely more agonizing period of anticipation, as the finale on Sunday, April 3, ended with one of the worst cliffhangers in the history of zombie dramas. Here's where we left our survivors as the curtain came down on season 6.
The Horsemen of the Zombie Apocalypse
Last episode found Carol (Melissa McBride) still on the road and on the run, with two men on her tail. The bad news: The sole survivor of Carol's confrontation with the Saviors finally caught up to her and shot her in the arm and leg, with the goal of giving her a slow, torturous death.
The good news: Morgan (Lennie James) caught up to them just in time to a) save Carol's life, and b) kill her assailant in the bargain, which means that maybe he'll give that "All life is precious" refrain a rest come next season. But the best news of all? Morgan and Carol made two new friends: a pair of well-armored and non-villainous-seeming strangers on horseback. And that's going to be helpful, because …
The Saviors Aren't Letting This Go
It's never good news when The Walking Dead contrives to send a half dozen cast members on an RV road trip, and this episode was no different. With Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in increasing distress, a critical mass of Alexandrites, including Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs), piled into their Winnebago to bring her to the Hilltop OBGYN. But before long, they found the road blocked by a huge number of Saviors, not just once but at every turn.
By the time our heroes realized that they were being strategically herded to a mega confrontation — and found evidence left behind that the Saviors had taken Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) prisoner — it was too late. The group disembarked, hoping to get Maggie to safety through the woods on foot, and instead ended up pursued by a pack of whistling predators who forced them into a clearing. And in that clearing?
It was a ballsy move to withhold the onscreen debut of the season 6 Big Bad until the last 10 minutes of the finale, but when Negan strolled out with his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat a-swingin', it all made sense.
With every major character disarmed, on their knees, and outnumbered five to one, it was clear that this wouldn't end well for our heroes — a gut-punching truth that could be seen dawning on Rick's face with every passing second. And in a show-stopper of a monologue, the swaggering villain explained exactly how things work 'round this part of Zombie America:
"Give me your s–t, or I will kill you."
Only as Negan's speech went on, he also explained that in this case, it wasn't actually an "or" proposition; someone in Rick's party was going to get acquainted with the business end of that spiked bat. And after a seriously sinister game of eeny meeny miney mo, Negan chose his victim, and took a swing.
And another. And another.
There's just one problem: Thanks to a nifty bit of first-person cinematographic perspective, there's no telling who that victim was. It could have been anyone's skull making splatty, pulpy sounds as blood covered the camera and then cut to black. But gird your loins, fans: Whoever was on the receiving end of Negan's turn at-bat, they're not going to be with us when The Walking Dead returns for its next season.
Tell Us: What did you think of Negan's big entrance?
The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
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