To look back on The Walking Dead, I could think of the gaffes–there were plenty after all. I could think more fondly of the incredible visual effects and the showcase zombie kills that seemed to be a mandate for each episode no matter what else was going on. I could think of the action set pieces that, at different times, were riveting or drawn out too long, or the alternatingly poignant or awkward story decisions. The Walking Dead has been an imperfect, sometimes frustrating series with incredible highs and lousy lows for the last 12 years of my life, but in the end, I’ll think back on the characters more than anything. Its long-awaited series finale manages to give the ensemble cast, some of whom have been in the story since the pilot episode, heartfelt character closure across the board, retroactively making the good times shine brighter and covering up some of the show’s blemishes.
This review contains spoilers, including details on character deaths.
The super-sized 70-minute episode is, like a lot of series heading off into the sunset; it’s a tale of two halves. The first half is one of chaotic action, a marathon of zombie kills and a few character deaths that struck me harder than I’d have expected before I saw them myself. As the Commonwealth falls to a horde that Pamela Milton’s goon squad attracted in order for her to signal for martial law and cling to her vanishing power, the show finally found its courage to kill off some recognizable faces, something it really hasn’t done since Jesus was killed by the Whisperers years ago.
Jumping between several setpieces from last week’s cliffhanger, the writing definitely takes a few shortcuts in the spirit of the Rule of Cool. Judith was thought to be bleeding out and dying after a gunshot wound last week–an obviously bogus drama to begin with, since there’s no way she would die before Rick and Michonne find her in the forthcoming spin-off, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Instead of being on death’s door, Judith manages to get on her feet and create a desperate blockade just seconds before a horde could storm through a glass-paneled building in which she and Daryl, knocked out by Commonwealth guards, were left stranded. She then quickly faints by his side, which is a nice surrogate daddy and daughter moment, but it’s not as riveting as intended given the plot armor surrounding both characters.