TV Recap: The Walking Dead, ‘Start to Finish’

Walking Dead Season 6 Poster
Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Walking Dead Season 6 Midseason Finale Plot:

Thanks to a destroyed tower, walkers are now within Alexandria. Death is coming for people who are too inexperienced to survive in the wild. Will Alexandria last throughout the onslaught?

This first half of Season 6 has done a lot of things right. For the most part, these past few episodes have fulfilled the promise of it being the most intense season yet. That great walker drive was visually stunning, we might have met Negan’s group (including a comic character who was unrecognizable for now), Glenn (Steven Yeun) survived a near death experience, and we got an excellent Morgan (Lennie James) orgin story. There’s been some justified complaints though, the biggest being how events unfolded (and the handling of Glenn’s survival, but that’s already been discussed ad nauseum). We’ve done a lot of time jumping to cover the many splintered groups and that’s delayed several answers and scenes people really want. A great example is how those walkers splintered off in the premiere and it took seven more episodes for them to finally get in thanks to something that happened at the same time in episode two. With the writers essentially going, “Wait for it…wait for iiiiiiiiiiit,” expectation was high for “Start to Finish” to send us off for the winter with huge bombshell moments. It sure looked that way too after the tower collapsed in “Heads Up.”

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Yet that’s not what happened. Remember when The Governor and Hershel died in a mid-season finale, and some bullshit was pulled to remove Beth in another halfway point? Those were all distinct endpoints to prepare us for the next story. “Start to Finish” is not an end point. Yes, the Alexandria story was never intended to end here, but very little actually had an ending. In fact, the episode slams to black with Sam (Major Dodson) fairly loudly calling for Jessie’s (Alexandra Breckenridge) attention while they’re walking through the herd. That’s going to be a big clusterfuck and would have been the perfect insane moment to close out this half! Instead it’s just another “Wait for iiiiiiiit.” We wait eight episodes for something like this and it just didn’t happen. Same with Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan)! Their much anticipated reunion is being pushed to February. All this stuff should have happened here and it didn’t, which completely and utterly sucks. It’s just more freaking cliffhangers from a show that found success closing chapters at every halfway mark.

With the way this episode was constructed, like that timewaster of Ron (Austin Abrams) trying to kill Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Carol (Melissa McBride) not running downstairs immediately, it needed another 30 minutes. There’s no way the walkers were going away in this finale, but at least we could have seen Sam causing panic and maybe even Maggie and Glenn meeting back up. Really anything to satisfy our need for closure. It’s also bonkers that they couldn’t find anyway to fit Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha into here. Yes, the reveal of Eugene (Josh McDermitt) saying help into the walkie talkie did a great job giving them a time placement, but the bonus scene in the first commercial of Into the Badlands should have gone here too. Was this AMC influencing the episode construction to get people to stick around for the next program? That would suck so bad. The bonus scene was awesome too as it name dropped Negan for the first time. Now this is a great mid-season reveal and it didn’t even happen in the episode. It was a “prologue” for the next season. It’s like when an new album is released but certain stores have “bonus songs.” Just put all the songs into one package for everyone, and put all the scenes that belong into a single episode!

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Carl did give an amazing takedown of Ron, if I’m being honest. “Yeah, my dad killed your dad, but you know what? Your dad was an asshole.” Slick burn! Also, the tiny figures shown in the beginning on Sam’s dresser was a nice little Easter Egg for Robert Kirkman fans out there (they were from Invincible, another excellent comic series he created and maintains.)

“Start to Finish” wasn’t shy in showing how misguided Morgan is as well. His mantra that people should be saved instead of killed isn’t a bad one because there are still good individuals out there. Trust is the only way to rebuild society and with that comes a lot of redemption. Yet some people can’t be redeemed, and all viewers knew that him keeping the Wolf (Benedict Samuel) alive was a fool’s errand. The stand off with Carol was suitably intense and I liked questioning if Morgan would actually bend from his staunch code. Part of me even expected him to die too. I’m sure the code breaking will come in the next half though as everything totally blew up in his face with Denise (Merritt Wever) getting kidnapped by the Wolf. I like you Morgan, I do, but dammit man. That’s next level stupidity.

Tovah Feldshuh though. Talk about going off on the best note possible. After Deanna is injured escaping from the herd, Michonne (Danai Gurira) finds her bit in the abdomen. This basically prompts Deanna to not give a crap about anything and it lets Feldshuh deliver her best work during her tenure. Her character is probably the Alexandrian people cared about the most and this ending suited her perfectly. She was the first to get on board with Rick too so I totally believe her character would literally scream at death in the face (after shooting it a few times of course). Badass to the end. The logic she dropped onto Rick was amazing as well. For all the debate he’s had about accepting the Alexandrians, Rick forgot that Deanna had to accept them first. It’s only through her acceptance Rick was able to find such a peaceful home, and now he sees why everyone should be “his” people. Not just those he came in with. Boy, I will miss Deanna terribly.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

To the episode’s credit, it did start off with the right level of insanity. The tower collapsing is a Defcon 1 level event and the chaos was exactly what you’d expect. You really never knew what was going on. It’s fitting as well that a few characters were left off within the walls. Who else besides Rick’s crew survived? Heath? Aaron? Olivia? I’m fine with not knowing this right now it’s too early to get an accurate measurement of walker destruction. Also, Sam’s growing panic at his safe space being destroyed was appropriately handled as well. It was hammered in pretty intensely that he loves being upstairs because it hasn’t changed. Watching his security completely fall apart was justifiably devastating and it’s powerful at how stubborn he was about keeping his music on. He’ll hold onto that last shred of peace even if it means death will come. It’ll probably come when the show returns in February too.

“Start to Finish” is a very accurate name for this episode. From the beginning of Season 6 to this halfway finale, we’ve had cliffhanger after cliffhanger. This episode is sadly part of that bunch. Payoff was expected for this mid-season as The Walking Dead is usually very adept at this, and yet we didn’t get a lot of that. The walker herd is still a threat, the undead takeover didn’t have a major “oh shit” moment that it really needed, and Glenn is still not with Maggie. Denise is a captive too!  It also needed an extra 30 minutes and the removal of some pointless fluff. Fortunately though, this episode is saved by Tovah Feldshuh sending off Deanna perfectly and effortlessly carrying over the crazy ending from last week’s episode. I’m also including the extra Daryl focused minutes too purely because it acknowledged Negan’s presence. I can’t wait for part two of this finale to finish in February. Hopefully my frustration will subside by then.

Start to Finish Rating: 7/10

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Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.
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