‘The Walking Dead’ Midseason Finale Review: ‘Start To Finish’ Is a Different Kind of Bloodbath
Recap and review of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 8 – Midseason Finale – Start to Finish:
The Walking Dead appeared to spend a lot of time hyping up a bloodbath for its midseason finale. However, “Start to Finish” is a different kind of bloodbath: the literal kind. In lieu of actually seeing ANYBODY die onscreen tonight, we instead get a sequence in which the group drenches themselves in walker guts and blood, and attempt to escape Alexandria altogether. It’s an intense scene that once again illustrates why this is one of TV’s most pulse-pounding, nerve-wracking shows. But the finale leaves us dangling in anxiety, and it’ll be up to the viewer as to whether or not this is a bad thing.
I don’t know that anyone was necessarily expecting a finale that would leave viewers twisting in the wind to such a degree. I know I wasn’t, even while I figured there would be cliffhangers galore. But even with that recognition, the episode’s biggest moments are all left up in the air. For example, early in the episode, we see Maggie (Lauren Cohan) get stranded atop a scaffold by the surrounding walkers. Towards the end, we finally see Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) ascend a tree that will allow them to enter Alexandria. Glenn makes eye contact with Maggie and…well, that’s it. Similarly, the member of the Wolves that Morgan (Lennie James) has trapped is discovered by Carol (Melissa McBride), leading to a standoff in which Morgan is defending the murderer’s life with his own, while Carol nearly guts Morgan with a brass knuckle-mounted knife just to get at the chance to kill the injured Wolf. Eventually, Morgan renders Carol unconscious by slamming her on the ground, and this gives the Wolf the opening to knock out Morgan. The Wolf takes Denise (Merritt Wever) hostage, and Tara (Alanna Masterson), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) can do little else but look on as the town’s only doctor is dragged away, at gunpoint, by a total psychopath. And…once again…that’s it. It actually gets kind of frustrating when virtually every single plot point lingers unresolved. Granted, this isn’t exactly new for The Walking Dead, but this is already a season that’s come under fire for having very little happen, and so it seems like even more of an argument in the favor of detractors. I mean, we didn’t even get Daryl (Norman Reedus) and his group this week (well, outside of the post-credits prologue for the next half of this season). With that said, I still thought the episode managed to pack in some interesting, if incomplete, character moments.
Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Ron (Austin Abrams) have their big blowout, wrestling each other for the gun only to be interrupted by the invading walkers. It’s a conflict that could have given the episode some much needed emotional weight, since Ron feels Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is a murderer for killing his dad, while Carl is quick to remind the kid that not only was his father a murderer too, he was also “an assh*le.” And then…well, that’s mostly it for that story, as Ron is left to stew over how handily he got served by Carl, as the larger threat of the encroaching walkers takes hold. And I get why it had to be that way. But in a finale this overstuffed, you’d think the creative forces behind the scenes would give us at least some semblance of closure on a storyline. Hell, we don’t even really get closure on the arc of Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh), which is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity this week.
In short, Deanna spends the episode slowly dying after falling on a table saw while running from the walkers. In this instance, it was a freak accident that kills her, and not even the broader threat of the walkers, or the transient villainy of other humans. It was a simple mistake. And while I suppose there’s a certain poetry in that tragedy, and while I also appreciate that her imminent death brought Deanna’s relationships with the other survivors into stark relief, her death felt strangely hollow. Feldshuh is an outstanding actor, and she did a terrific job with what she was given, as she served as a motivating influence for Michonne (Danai Gurira) and a conscience for Rick, who is reminded that now the Alexandrians are his people too. But despite having an entire episode to prepare for her departure, it all still feels abrupt, particularly when she opts not to kill herself in the final moments, and instead decides to use her remaining bullets on an advancing horde of walkers. The episode doesn’t pretend there’s any way Deanna was coming out of this alive, which makes me wonder why they felt the need to cut away from her death. Perhaps it was a touch of too much bleakness and horror for a season characterized by death, anguish and uncertainty? I’m not sure. But Deanna’s death felt far less impactful than it should have, and I consider that a shortcoming of the episode.
Of course, there were things I did like about the episode. Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) doing her best to keep Sam (Major Dodson) from falling apart amid the pressure of the zombie invasion felt authentic and true-to-life in ways very few things do on shows like these. Sam is a scared kid, and prone to make mistakes that could potentially get people killed, such as in the cliffhanger when, covered in zombie guts and walking through the horde with the group, he begins calling out for his mother. Louder and louder, Sam calls out for Jessie, and with each shout, the walkers seem to recognize a presence. Everyone in the group (Rick, Michonne, Carl, Judith, Jessie, Ron and Sam) are all linked, hand-in-hand. If one of them goes down to a walker, it’s possible all of them will get caught up in the chaos. And that’s a genuinely anxiety-inducing plot point on which to end the midseason, even though I sincerely doubt we’ll lose anyone in that group right away. I just think it felt like something that would happen in a situation like this. Kids get scared, mistakes happen, and people are put in a position to pay for those mistakes. It’s an element I’ve always appreciated in The Walking Dead‘s storytelling. I’ve also always enjoyed the action, which this episode had in spades. Whether it was Michonne lopping off walker heads left and right, or Morgan and Carol’s epic throwdown, this was an action-packed hour. And what was lacking in plot developments was delivered in frenetic, fast-paced setpieces.
In the pantheon of midseason finales for The Walking Dead, I’d probably rank this somewhere in the middle. “Start to Finish” isn’t great TV, but it isn’t bad either. If you go in with lowered expectations, I imagine this will play far better than if you’re expecting huge deaths and game-changing choices. You could argue Deanna’s death was huge, and that Morgan’s choice to fight Carol in order to stick to his principle that all life is precious is a huge choice. But I doubt we’ll see the fruits of any of these developments until somewhere in the middle of the second half of this season, which returns this February. Until then, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the arrival of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose arrival was setup in the post-credits scene. The Walking Dead appears to be heading in an even darker direction, if that’s even possible. And I can’t wait to see what that kind of grittiness looks like.
But what did you think of The Walking Dead – Season 6 Episode 8 – Midseason Finale – “Start to Finish”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Walking Dead, read our review of the compelling “Heads Up”!