Spoilers for The Walking Dead are below.
In a few weeks, The Walking Dead will deliver a comic book-to-TV moment that rivals anything happening on The Flash or Supergirl, as the still-unseen antagonist Negan will arrive, barb wire-covered bat in tow, and he will almost definitely bash someone’s head in. It will presumably be one of the show’s most powerful scenes, and it’ll usher in a new era of problems for Rick and the rest of his squad. But there’s one big way the show could fuck it up for everyone: ending the episode without showing us who Negan killed. Just writing that set my blood pressure on a slow rise.
To briefly offer up some widely known background facts: when Negan was introduced in The Walking Dead comic books in issue #100, it was during a scene in which several from Rick’s group were being held captive. To get vengeance for his Saviors that were killed, Negan randomly chose Glenn and smashed his brains in with Lucille. No mystery. No stretched-out drama. Just unflinching horror, mixed with a game of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo."
Now, I’m no stranger to living through TV offseasons with cliffhangers to mull over, as they're as much a part of modern television as opening credits without theme songs. The Walking Dead has also used them several times in the past, for better or worse, so it's not out of the question. But this show has also already spent the first half of Season 6 on such a non-reveal when Glenn’s fate was kept from viewers for several weeks following that particularly brutal scene when Nicholas committed suicide.
Few TV moments have ever incited such rabid internet chatter, and the arguably deceitful maneuver caused many fans to double down on their doubt that Glenn would indeed be the one to die by Negan’s hand in the TV show. (Some were already assuming that showrunner Scott Gimple and creator Robert Kirkman would change up some details in order to keep audiences guessing.) So while it might not have been the best treatment of a character within the narrative, it definitely made speculation about the finale, particularly who the big victim will be, that much more stimulating. Still, though, it doesn't matter if it is or isn't Glenn's head with Lucille sticking out of it, so long as Negan's initial onscreen mayhem stays as far away from Glenn's "did he?/didn't he?" shenanigans as possible.
Of course, had all that not happened this season - and that’s including Glenn’s other near-death experiences – then I could maybe understand the show’s creative team wanting to tease out Negan’s big moment as a way to keep people talking from April until October, since that’s a pretty huge gap. But if the live-action scene is truly as invigorating and mindblowing as it was in the source material, then people are still going to be talking about it anyway, regardless of if Negan’s victim is Glenn or another one of the core survivors. Okay, so maybe Tobin's death wouldn't keep a six-month conversation going, unless he and Carol heat things up exponentially in the next two weeks.
In any case, people would keep talking about The Walking Dead if Morgan was revealed to be an alien and Carl started growing eyes on the back of his head, but weirdo gimmicks like that aren’t needed, and neither is a last-second cutaway from a scene that could live in TV infamy. Let's let all the quirky format changes like that rest in the front half of Season 6, shall we?
I’ve absolutely loved the way the show has handled Negan so far, using him as the big boogeyman that you can’t distinguish from the shadows. Obviously, the physical performance is more important, and a lot is riding on actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan to make this sadistic heathen as memorable on TV as he is on the page. That said, he could very well deliver the most outrageous and spot-on portrayal of Negan possible, but all it would take to sour his introduction is the show choosing to prize a cliffhanger ending over situational closure for the conclusion to the madcap Season 6. Please do the right thing, Gimple and Kirkman. Show the people the face on that ghastly, split-open skull. Let us mourn the character naturally in the moment, rather than in frustration half-a-year later.
Or just avoid the whole thing altogether. I can't say that would make fans any happier, though.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC.
Would You Be Okay With A Cliffhanger Ending?