Who can forget the ending of Jaws? After an hour of off-screen shark attacks our protagonists finally set out to sea to face the titular monster in its own domain and the screen fades to black. Classic. Or the ending of Ridley Scott’s Alien, in which a space ship’s crew member is attacked by a spider-like alien that clings to his face only to curl up and die, leaving us to witness the crew sitting down for a dinner we can’t help but feel uneasy about as the screen fades to black. Harrowing. And I’m sure we all recall the Stephen King miniseries It, in which a little boy’s paper boat goes down into the sewer and then the screen fades to black. Chilling.
“Last Day on Earth,” the finale of a season of The Walking Dead that has already tried viewers’ patience with fake-outs and clumsy cliffhangers, follows in the footsteps of such iconic moments in horror. At least partially.
By the time the last ten minutes of “Last Day on Earth” rolled around I can confidently say I was more invested in The Walking Dead than I have ever been before. The finale slowly, dreadfully worked its way towards what I knew from reading the books was inevitable – the lineup.
Every step along the way ratcheted up the tension exponentially until the Saviors had gone from seeming like a menial nuisance to a malicious force of nature. When the moment finally arrived I was genuinely frightened. I felt a sense of tension, the curation of which was nothing short of masterful. The music, the lighting, the sheer horror on the faces of the actors. The whole scenario was so helpless and gut-wrenching that I wanted to stop watching.
As more a halfhearted viewer than a full-fledged fan I was incredibly taken aback by the stage the show had set: bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, tie game, two strikes, two outs. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to feel the drama of it all.
And then, just like that, the catcher’s mom called him home for dinner and the game just kind of ended.
Sure, sure, they’ll get the teams back together tomorrow and they’ll say “bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, tie game, two strikes, two outs.” But it won’t be the same. The victory won’t be as sweet and the defeat won’t be as bitter.
The Walking Dead had an opportunity to concoct what could very well have been the greatest moment in the series’ run thus far and it squandered it brilliantly. They’ll never get the tension they’d earned with the season six finale back in the season seven premiere this fall. It’s one hell of a wasted opportunity.
I’m not even angry. I’m disappointed. Disappointed on the show’s behalf for vibrantly ruining its own hard work. I feel like I watched a neighborhood boy to whom I am ambivalent at best run a lemonade stand all summer, squeezing the lemonade by hand, telling his friends he couldn’t play with them, sitting in the hot sun bright and early to catch the morning commuters, only to discover in August that he spent all of his earnings on grocery store lemonade. Like a dummy. Like a real dummy.