Friends, zombies, countrymen, lend me your ears! I have come to bury The Walking Dead, not to praise it. I haven’t come to trash-talk it either, actually. But it feels important to note that the zombified version of TWD that has been shambling around our TV screens for years has had its skull crushed and its brains pulverised. You know, metaphorically speaking.
I have frighteningly little to say about “Rest in Peace,” given that it was a super-sized episode meant to close an 11-season run of what used to be the most popular show on TV. Everything the season has been supposedly leading up to, i.e., the war with the Commonwealth, is so perfunctorily done away with; it’s like the show was embarrassed with the storyline. Although shot, Judith is fine. Mercer was arrested but he’s immediately rescued and is fine. Although everyone was trapped in the middle of a Commonwealth street with a horde of zombies, they’re fine. Rosita finds her kid, who is fine, but Rosita gets bitten on the way and then refuses to let anyone know to minimise the drama.
Overthrowing Governor Pam Milton is an even easier affair. She’s holed up in her gated community with her semi-loyal faction of soldiers, all of them staring at the giant gate where her lower-income constituents are begging to be let in lest they be eaten by the zombies that have flowed into the town. There’s plenty of space inside and plenty of time to let everyone in safely, but Pam has become so one-dimensionally evil she just stares at them instead. That is, until all of the protagonists arrive, Daryl gives an emotionally stirring speech (“They deserve better than this. We ain’t the walking dead.”) that turns out to be exactly what the Commontroopers needed to hear to disobey Pam and not watch dozens upon dozens of their friends and neighbours needlessly eaten alive. The people are let in, Pam is arrested, and Pam thinks real hard about letting herself be eaten by Hornsby’s zombie, who pops by, but Maggie saves her so she can rot in prison.
So in the end, all that the Commonwealth needed was for a mean old lady to get arrested, and she did. As for as action-packed series finales go, that ain’t much, so The Walking Dead gussies up a very silly sequence where they draw all the zombies into the gated community, fill it with gas tanks, and arrange a Wile E. Coyote-esque record player to ignite the place when it finishes playing Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality.” The resulting explosion looks like a cutscene from a PlayStation 2 game.
If I was at all invested in The Walking Dead, I imagine would have been disappointed with how the Commonwealth storyline ended up, especially since the only main character who bought it was Rosita (no, Luke doesn’t count, and shame on TWD for pretending he does). The finale felt bloodless, which is a weird thing to say about a show that used to delight in the miseries it could heap upon its characters. Maybe it’s meaningful for the show to end with Our Heroes defeating a villain in a way other than using incredible violence, but it doesn’t feel meaningful — it just felt too easy.
The second half of “Rest in Peace” is a lengthy epilogue which I can best sum up as “The Walking Dead were the friends we made along the way.” It works much better, mainly because we have spent more than a decade watching these characters. When The Walking Dead began, what set it apart from other zombie-tainment is that its story kept going when a zombie movie would have ended. Getting to see these characters finally reach that ending — or see them survive to the ending — is meaningful unto itself, even if the endings are a little dippy. But how good was it to hear Negan tell Maggie he truly knows what he took from her, and gives her an actual apology? Or for Carol and Daryl to platonically tell each other they love each other? Or to check in on Rick and Michonne one last time, because that’s all that anyone still watching the show wanted to see, anyway?
Yes, Rick and Michonne made it back to The Walking Dead for a post-credits scene so large it had to be stuck before the credits. They appear separately and Rick deposits the journal, boots, and iPhone Michonne later finds in “What We Become,” while Michonne is shown reading it in the present/future/some point later. Rick is inexplicably barefoot, wearing a CRM jacket (they’re bad guys from The World Beyond spin-off, apparently), and wielding a very strange zombie-trepanning trident. He was apparently on the run, as a helicopter tracks him down, someone in it yelling “you’ve been located and are instructed to surrender. Remain in place with your hands up.”
Although I’ve spent enough of my life watching The Walking Dead that I will need to watch the Rick and Michonne miniseries to feel at peace, I weirdly have no questions about or interest in speculating what the hell is going on with Rick. I am, however, intensely interested in learning where Michonne got some sort of samurai armour for both her and a horse, and why she decided it was a good idea to gallop into a horde of thousands of zombies with her sword drawn. It’s pure Walking Dead nonsense, in its way, and I appreciated the hell out of it — but it also made me sad to realise the best, most entertaining moment in the entire finale was basically a trailer for a different show.
And that’s that, I guess. I’ll have some more thoughts later about spending a full decade of my life recapping The Walking Dead for Gizmodo, but in terms of the series finale — the last episode of a show that ran for 11 seasons, 177 episodes, 12 years, and was at one point the most popular TV series on the air — I don’t have any more musings, assorted or otherwise.
The Walking Dead is dead. Somehow, that feels like all that needs to be said.