It would probably be fair to say that the cliffhanger ending to the sixth season of The Walking Dead did not go down well. The show's producers may have been angling for a bit of tension and frustration to carry momentum over to season seven - but they wouldn't have anticipated exactly how disappointed many fans would be and have since acknowledged how polarizing the decision was.
For those in need of a reminder, season six ended with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his hardened group of zombie apocalypse survivors suddenly realizing they might have bitten off more than they can chew with new big-bad Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). They are forced to their knees as the leather-clad villain decides which of our heroes will get up close and personal with his razor-wired baseball bat Lucille. As Negan finishes playing the most sinister game of 'eeny-meeny-miny-moe' in history, a blood stained point-of-view shot is all viewers get, giving no hint as to who was actually murdered.
The show's star, Andrew Lincoln, has now spoken out to give his take on the negative reaction the scene attracted and it seems the British actor is taking the whole thing in his stride. As he told EW:
"I love the fact that everybody is so engaged with it and so opinionated about it. I think it’s a great energy that we feed off. I mean, obviously we don’t want a divided reaction every time we do something as a season finale because then we’d start to be concerned but we value and respect everybody’s opinion because without it we wouldn’t be here. I sort of keep out of the online stuff. I don’t do any social media. I don’t read reviews, because you can’t just take the good stuff. You have to take the bad stuff as well, and I don’t want to engage in that."
Lincoln clearly prefers to maintain a respectful distance from the backlash, despite the amount of fans who confront him about the cliffhanger in person. As he put it:
"Every time I leave my house...everybody’s going, “Please tell me. Just tell me. Just whisper, who is it? Is it you? Why are you in England at the moment? What are you doing here? Why are you not working or filming?”... It’s hilarious. Absolutely insane. So, part of me just goes, well, it’s people talking for a considerable amount of time. Whether you love it or hate it, it has kept people talking."
Of course readers of The Walking Dead comic books will already know who meets their demise in the printed world but Lincoln warns that the AMC adaptation may do things differently:
"I know that there is a very vocal, a very opinionated, fervent fanbase that know the comics and can’t wait to get to certain characters and places. But we’re doing a different thing. Of course it is the same world and we want to honor it, but at the same time I would urge people not to open the presents on Christmas Eve because they’re going to have such a better day amongst all the other peoples and their faces opening it together."
Whilst we're not sure about comparing someone's head being turned into jello to opening Christmas presents, it's clear Andrew will not be drawn into giving away any hint as to which character bites the dust. The Walking Dead's producers have now confirmed that the show will be cleared up in the season seven premiere episode.
The cliffhanger ending probably didn't quite deserve the level of vitriolic anger it got, but it certainly added an anti-climactic note to the end of an otherwise great season. And after fans had been forced to wait until the final scene for the reveal of the long-awaited Negan, it was perhaps a case of too much build-up with not enough pay-off. With not long to wait now, only one question matters however: who did Negan kill that night in the woods?
The Walking Dead season 7 premieres October 23rd on AMC.