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‘The Walking Dead’ Season 3, Episode 16: “Wrath”

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for this episode and previous episodes of The Walking Dead.

If there is one thing The Walking Dead handles especially  well, it is finales. “Wrath” marks the end of the all-out war arc and  opens countless possibilities for the series as it moves forward. When  the episode ended, I felt a sense of relief. This episode has marked a  new direction for the show, and a much brighter one at that. Despite  several unnatural and sudden changes in character, “Wrath” serves as a  great way to finish the season.

Image from AMC

When the episode begins, a pre-outbreak Rick is walking with Carl in a  flashback. This helps set the much lighter and gleeful tone the episode  ultimately takes by the end. This lighter approach continues with Rick  asking Siddiq how Carl really died and taking heed to his word. As  Rick’s army preps for their battle the sun shines, a joyful piano plays  and moods are high. This is in stark contrast to the much darker tone  the series has adopted since around the sixth season, and it works well  to go against expectations. Of course, when it comes down to it, there  is little tact to be found. Garbage characters remain garbage as Jerry’s  banter with Ezekiel feels about as natural as an industrial washing  machine talking to a chair. The ham-fisted nature of the series is  unfortunately too deeply ingrained for anything to really feel like it  matters.

Speaking of ham-fisted, the whole ending of the episode,  unfortunately, was foreshadowed to death. All that really remained was  to see how the gang would get to a position where Rick spares Negan.  With Carl’s dying letters, dream sequences, and flash-forwards of Rick  speaking about his mercy, there was far too much foretold in previous  episodes for any real surprise. Luckily, this was all fun and  surprisingly tense. Watching Rick’s group fall right into Negan’s trap  was delightfully painful to watch and had me rooting for Rick once  again. The moment Negan started up on the speakers calling out Rick  while preparing to fire was one of the tensest scenes in a long time (if  only for the implication that something HAD to happen for the finale).

Image from AMC

Despite the foreshadowed ending, the choice to keep Negan alive was a  surprising step considering the direction of the past few seasons and  it really helped provide a sense of relief. Having good guy Rick back  feels like saying hello to an old friend and being able to keep Negan as  a character feels rewarding. Negan has proven to be one of the few  three-dimensional characters on the show and to see him gone would have  been a waste of a great character (plus Lucille was only really ever  used twice so far which is unacceptable).

The climax took up a majority of the episode as Rick is surrounded  trying to find a way out of his situation. This whole portion of the  episode worked fantastically. Unfortunately, the Deus ex machina this  time around came in an unfair form. Eugene had apparently been on the  side of good for some time, which doesn’t explain plenty of his actions  and his sudden courage and acting skills. If Eugene had been the only  character to completely change in the span of an episode it would be  much more acceptable, but unfortunately this just isn’t the case. Rick,  Daryl, Maggie, Morgan, and Jesus have all done a 180 and become someone  different, and it feels off.

Image from AMC

Only from the beginning of this episode has Rick ever seemed like he  could even consider peace as an option. Morgan, after a single  conversation with Jesus, reconsiders his killing ways. And of course,  the dream team of Daryl, Maggie, and Jesus who brood like supervillains  while planning a way to rebel against Rick’s wishes. When it comes down  to it, changing six separate characters character in a single episode is  a lazy way to progress the plot. These characters should have been  naturally changing throughout the season, but instead they either found a  heart or become evil and it just feels wrong.

When it comes down to it, “Wrath” was great finale to a below average  season. Many paths were opened and plenty of loose ends were tied. If  it weren’t for the flip-flopping of so many characters and the Deus ex  machina, this episode would stand much higher but, as it is, it was a  greatly satisfying end to the all-out-war arc.

Featured image from AMC

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