While the season as a whole was one of the strongest in the entire run, three separate times the writers and producers chose to take a cheap out and tease a major death without actually paying off.
One of these, I could've stood. Two even, I would have understood. But three insults the intelligence and the patience of the audience.
It's not about blood lust. I don't want any of these characters to die. It's about honest storytelling. The Walking Dead has earned its perch atop the pop culture mountain specifically because they've made the crazy hard calls that most television series just won't. The same sorts of shocking moments that made the comic such a hit to begin with.
Think about the characters that we've lost (and the shocking ways we've lost some of them) in the seasons that came before this one. And of course we lost people this season. There were real shocking moments (maybe none so much as Denise's death by arrow) but we also had Glenn "torn apart" under the dumpster only to find a few weeks later that it wasn't him that had lost his guts, but the convenient other body that fell on top of him, nevermind what it looked like.
We also got the cheap blood spatter on the camera last week implying that Darryl was dead at the hands of Dwight. But we all expected that to be a tease for this week, as you couldn't rightly kill the Bowman last week AND have his head on the line under Lucille THIS week. Ugh.
Glenn's dodge I was okay with. Mostly because I really thought it was a faint to make people think he'd be safe from Lucille and then pay off the moment that so disturbingly graced the comics. I was upset about the way they played out the Darryl thing last week, but I could forgive it. This is the big season finale, the reveal of Negan, they wanted all eyes on the this one.
So, going into tonight we were square, the producers and I. I was fully prepared to get all tense and upset, and then to mourn the loss of one of imaginary friends at the hands of Negan and his barbed bat. But then...
We didn't get a corpse. We got a death! But no body, no face, no reactions from the rest of the group. It's not Carl (because Negan threatened the rest that he'd tear out the kid's other eye) or Rick (Negan said they'd feed the eye to him), but other than that, it could be any of the group. In interviews, the cast has made it clear that they don't know who was on the receiving end of that bat. I imagine that the producers don't either. And that's a cop out to me. Yes. Any choice would've angered some fans. But they will eventually have to decide who they've killed. This way, instead of a summer of debate and slowly dying backlash, we'll have a summer of unrest in the fanbase and likely group testing the decision. Ugh.
It's not like I won't be back in the fall to find out who's died, but regardless, I'm angry, and left with a disappointed taste in my mouth.