the walking dead negan rick season 6 finale

The Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead will undoubtedly go down as one of the most infamous episodes of the series thanks to the crazy cliffhanger. Fans have been alternately raging and speculating ever since the finale aired back in April about just who got the face full of Negan's baseball bat in the final moments. According to executive producer Greg Nicotero, however, the episode was about something bigger than the big death cliffhanger. Nicotero had this to say about the purpose of the Walking Dead Season 6 finale:

[Rick] went from the beginning of that episode being in his mind 100 percent in control to having every single ounce of extra delay. So the point of the episode wasn't about seeing who Negan kills, the point of the episode was seeing everything stripped away from Rick from moment to moment to moment to set up season 7, which is about the fact that Rick really had no concept of what the world outside his sphere was like...It was about showing Rick as completely devoid of any power or control, and he's forced to do it in front of all of his people.

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The Season 6 finale was a supersized episode that ran for twenty minutes longer than the average Walking Dead installment, and some of the action seemed to drag to fill the minutes until the big, bloody confrontation that plenty of us were expecting. The big connective thread that kept the plot moving was how Rick was slowly losing his handle on the situation as he was outmaneuvered at every turn by Negan and the Saviors.

Andrew Lincoln was phenomenal in showing Rick's growing desperation, and Rick's total shuddering breakdown when Negan started speechifying was one of the highlights of the hour. Rick will reportedly be thoroughly broken in Season 7; the break very clearly began in the Season 6 finale. He went from being positive that he and his crew could get the possibly-miscarrying Maggie to Hilltop to kneeling in a clearing while most of his favorite people faced possible execution. Even if Rick doesn't lose his son or his lady love or his brother-in-arms, he's lost face in front of all of them. It'll come as no surprise if the survivors see Rick's failures as a pretty good reason to start living by Negan's rules.

Personally, I'm on the record as not loving that Season 6 ended on a cliffhanger after all the other Season 6 cliffhangers, so it's nice to know that Greg Nicotero and Co. had a broader framework to the episode than just killing time until Negan got around to swinging his bat. Nicotero's reveal to EW about what the finale meant for Rick's character moving forward is definitely reason to look forward to what's coming next.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday, October 23 at 9 p.m. ET. Check out our breakdown of what we know so far about The Walking Dead for a peek ahead, and don't forget to take a look at our fall TV premiere schedule.

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