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.
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).
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.
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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