This article contains spoilers. Please avoid if you are yet to watch season six of The Walking Dead in its entirety.
The season six finale of The Walking Dead made one thing abundantly clear – the show’s creative force have lost all respect for their viewers.
Much has already been written about that last drawn out scene that introduced Negan after weeks of teasing, and in so doing you got exactly what you wanted. With each new article, tweet or water cooler conversation the buzz only increases, and the more people talking about the show, the more chance you have of setting new records when season seven finally arrives.
But television should be about more than just numbers – certainly in the case of The Walking Dead, where viewers will return regardless – it should be about great storytelling; about suspense, of course, but also about resolution.
Too often this season you have relied on cheap tricks – the apparent death of Glenn, the ‘shooting’ of Daryl and now the biggest misstep in the show’s history.
The best cliff-hangers leave the audience waiting to see what happens next not wanting to know what has already happened. But time and again you have shown a seemingly defining moment from an angle designed to draw out suspense where none exists.
Glenn’s non-death was a case in point, as was the final shot of season six’s penultimate episode. However the finale offered the chance for you to end what has no doubt been a good season overall with an unforgettable image, a moment that would live long in our memories for all the right reasons.
Instead, you dropped the ball and damaged the show’s reputation in the process.
As if that was not enough, you then attempt to justify the shift in perspective as Negan finally makes his move, suggesting that was the end of the story and who actually died is the start of a new chapter in the show.
Do not take us for fools, be honest or say nothing at all, because the reason you did not show the kill is that in so doing you know the ratings for the next episode will be through the roof, you know people like me will be talking about this for months, you know AMC are rubbing their hands at the prospect of the most watched episode in the show’s history.
In truth you gave us an extended episode that had less worthwhile content than any other hour this season; you gave us scene after scene of the characters driving into increasingly unbelievable road blocks before the moment of redemption finally arrived only to be ignored in favour of yet another case of wait-and-see.
Literally it was all fill and no kill!
When the show’s stars reveal that they do not even know who died fans are right to be worried, because you had the chance to end with a bang and instead you ended with questions we fear you do not yet know the answers to.
Whoever dies at the start of season seven – and let’s hope you do not draw that out any more than you have to – the impact will be lessened, meaning season six will be remembered for a series of great episodes (and a few missteps) that ultimately went nowhere, much like the group’s RV in the disappointing climax.
It will be remembered for countless reflective conversations seemingly sign-posting one character or another’s imminent demise.
And it will be remembered for Rick’s downright baffling failure to take that rocket launcher with him after Daryl had already proved it was perfect against the Saviours’ unique brand of intimidation.
But worst of all, it will be remembered as the season when we realised with absolute certainty that you care more about viewing figures and cheap tricks than you do about the audience that has turned the show into a juggernaut.