I know some people are going to hate this, but it needs to be said.
Saying that the fan reaction to The Walking Dead Season Finale is mixed is generous. Some fans (like me) loved the tension of not knowing who Negan’s victim was. Others were so viscerally angry about it. The not knowing pissed them off to no end. There are threats not to watch the show. Online complaints and virtual temper tantrums. This shows me that many TV viewers have no tolerance for cliffhangers. Some members of the audience remind me of Verruca in Willy Wonka, demanding to be entertained on his/her terms and on his/her timeline.
That big backlash reaction is a bit puzzling to me. Maybe I’ve been around the block enough times to know that cliffhangers are a common practice on television, especially on season finales. News flash, but this is how it rolls. People seem to forget this because we live in an on-demand culture. We want it now. Instant gratification!
I’ve been binge watching The X-Files with my Mom who hadn’t watch the series before. On a few cliffhanger seasons finales, I said something like, “back in the day, I had to wait all summer to see what happens.” And at that moment, we just had to wait for the 30-seconds for Netflix to load the next episode. Has this binging culture has made people have less patience for cliffhangers?
I also understand that this moment on The Walking Dead was hyped up for awhile. For weeks, we knew that the season would lead up to this moment and I went in fully prepared to not find out who got his/her head smashed in. If you recall, we had to wait for weeks and weeks to know if Glenn had died or escaped under that dumpster. Or not knowing how the group was going to get Terminus box car all summer long? Why is not knowing who died here surprising to anyone who has watched multiple seasons of The Walking Dead or any sort of television? This ending shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention.
If you don’t like the way this was handled, this may not be the show for you. Maybe you’re the type of person that should just stick to watching old TV shows. Or find entertainment that is less raw. Your behavior makes you seem like a big baby, Judith is way much more badass than you are.
From a narrative perspective, it wasn’t stupid or gimmicky to leave it open ended. What would knowing who died really prove? How would seeing someone’s bashed and bloody head bring you a sense of real closure? How would’ve made it better? What could we do with that information until next season? Would this give anyone time to be properly mourned or be fully eulogized? What comes next for our surviving characters is what season 7 will be about.
In this era of instant gratification, a big damn cliffhanger (for some) is maddening. People want easy answers and they want them now. There is something oddly brilliant of making people wait for answers and speculate.
Temper tantrums be damned.