In its last episode, “Rest In Peace,” The Walking Dead‘s long-running narrative aimed to conclude in a meaningful way how it had been reshaping its universe. No, I am not speaking about the evolution of the walkers themselves. Instead, it was about how the show attempted to generate some form of narrative resolution and more profound thematic significance, which had been mostly absent in recent episodes.
When founded more than a decade ago, it aimed to investigate what is lost when the world as we know it falls. The tragedy was the loss of many lives and the descent into the depravity of those who survived. Even though it has become a joke to remark, “the walking dead” in the title refers to both humans and zombies.
Notably, how we initially saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) grow shattered and cruel was grimly cynical but frequently captivating. Repeatedly, he would succumb to his worst impulses despite his efforts to make the world a place where people would look out for one another and find community. It was a pretty bleak depiction of what could happen to desperate individuals. The show has recently attempted to complicate this final season by presenting a peek at a more optimistic future.
To analyze how everything comes together in this last chapter, it is necessary to consider the plot and how the underlying concepts are expressed. What did this series finale ultimately want to accomplish beyond the reappearance of a few known faces and the deaths of several characters? This analysis will contain spoilers, so if you have yet to see the conclusion but still wish to, please save this page and return later.
How Did ‘The Walking Dead’ Come to an End?
In a literal sense, the climactic fight was between all the characters we had grown to know and the Commonwealth’s dictator, Pamela (Laila Robins), who ruled with an iron fist. However, how this plays out in terms of the story’s plot is less intriguing than what it signifies for the world. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) plot to shoot Pamela from a distance was something The Walking Dead would have done instinctively in previous seasons. Instead, Daryl (Norman Reedus) pierces through the commotion with a somewhat hurried but informative speech. He tells Pamela directly, “You constructed this place to be like the old world, and that was the problem,” before unlocking the gates for the still-trapped individuals.
Pamela is apprehended despite her attempts to be taken by the walkers. Everyone is saved. Maggie shoots a walker to protect her rather than kill her. The remainder of the squad successfully detonates the remaining walkers to keep the community.
Young Judith survived the gunshot wound she sustained in the previous episode, but a walker bit Rosita during a struggle. She locates her daughter and has a “perfect” meal with friends before passing away. Rick and Michonne appear near the conclusion of the episode. Each of them is alone, yearning for their absent families and penning letters out of longing. This felt more like a setup for their spinoff show than a conclusion to The Walking Dead’s storyline.
The Companions We Acquired Along the Way
A year later, even though they have suffered significant setbacks, the general outlook is optimistic. Ezekiel (Khary Payton) now leads the Commonwealth, and Hilltop is thriving. Even Daryl (Andrew Lincoln) observes to Carol (Melissa McBride) that the outside world is considerably quieter and the zombies pose less of a threat.
The subsequent three spinoffs will certainly alter this. Still, at least for the time being, it appears the characters have achieved permanent peace. Almost as if, after so much conflict and murder that eventually became unsustainable, the group discovered an alternative way of life. The show had been flirting with the concept of its characters attempting to cope with the violence that had dominated their lives, and its conclusion was an attempt to drive that point home.
Ezekiel even delivers a brief but direct address in which he promises the future will be better under his guidance. Even the colors are more vivid and fairytale-like than ever on the program, with lush green landscapes bursting onto the screen. It is all part of how the novel emphasizes emotion above suffering, right down to when Judith tells Daryl that he deserves a happy ending before he goes off into the unknown on his bicycle. A few zombies are still around when he leaves the old world behind, but he ignores them and continues on his journey.
After descending deeper and deeper into darkness throughout eleven seasons, this conclusion was part of The Walking Dead’s attempt to conclude with its best foot forward, albeit incredibly clumsy. Oddly, the series that kept resonating in my mind could not have been more dissimilar in the genre, yet had a comparable, ultimately stronger, redemption storyline on the same network. In its final season, Better Call Saul built to a more honest reckoning with its legacy, which was filled with promise but tinged with melancholy. It is a more subtle character analysis, whereas this is far more focused on the show.
Nonetheless, each of their latter seasons strove to remake themselves with more incredible audacity as they reached their conclusion. One was more solid and rich in its execution. Still, the other eventually rang hollow, especially considering that its future spinoffs are expected to undo much of what it concluded. In principle, The Walking Dead’s attempted conclusion wasn’t wrong, and it very well could have succeeded if the show had concentrated on it longer. Consequently, credit cannot be ascribed solely to the effort. In this aspect, any explanation concludes that it was far too late to affect the plot significantly.