7:09pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Sets Stage for Negan in Deadly Midseason Finale
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season six midseason finale, "Start to Finish," of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comic book series it is based on.]
AMC's The Walking Dead closed out 2015 with a jam-packed season six midseason finale Sunday that left nearly everyone in the group in jeopardy and, thanks to a special preview aired during Into the Badlands, set the stage for newly cast villain Negan's arrival.
With the first half of the season exploring the overall theme of transformation, the pressure was on Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) and the rest of the Alexandrians to see if they'd learned enough from Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group to properly defend not only themselves but also their community. With the walkers making their way beyond Alexandria's walls, chaos reigned, and not everyone heeded Rick's warning and Rosita's (Christian Serratos) training to make it out alive.
The episode largely followed the events of the comic and left Deanna — who most recently learned how to kill walkers, drew up plans for Alexandria's future and finally put Rick in charge — for dead after she was bitten during the attack. (Douglas, the leader of Alexandria, dies during this same attack in the comics.) She hands off written messages for her son Spencer (Austin Nichols) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and tells Rick to look out for her son.
Opting to leave Deanna behind, Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and her sons, Ron (Austin Abrams) and Sam (Major Dodson), as well as Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) spread walker guts all over themselves in a bid to flee the attack with baby Judith. However, as in the comic, their plan doesn't go smoothly, as young Sam freaks out and is paralyzed by fear after seeing the undead. (Carl later covers for Ron and takes his gun away following a tense confrontation over Enid.)
Meanwhile, Morgan (Lennie James), Denise (Merritt Wever) and Carol (Melissa McBride) are stuck in the house with the Wolf hostage and battle it out over his fate. When Denise sides with Morgan, the latter knocks dissenting voice Carol out. As Denise tries to treat the Wolf, he frees himself and takes her hostage after Tara (Alanna Masterson), Rosita and the guy who radioed for help, Eugene (Josh McDermitt), are forced to turn over their guns and watch as they leave.
The hour closes with Sam holding up the group amid the sea of walkers, the Wolf taking off through the herd with Denise as Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) are left to watch the attack in their home from a safe distance. The pregnant Maggie (Lauren Cohan), meanwhile, is left in a shaky guard post that's surrounded by walkers.
The bonus scene (watch it, above) from the second half of the season, meanwhile, reveals that Daryl (Norman Reedus), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) have been captured by a biker gang who mutter the words diehard Walking Dead fans have been waiting to hear: Negan. (The major comics character — Rick's main foil — was recently cast with Jeffrey Dean Morgan boarding the zombie drama.)
The episode set the stage for the second half of the season — which returns Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. — when the survivors will have to battle walkers, Wolves and Negan's group. Sources say that Negan will make his debut during the season six finale. The character's arrival ranks as one of, if not the most memorable moment in Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic series. During Negan's first appearance — in the landmark 100th issue — the dastardly villain beats Glenn to death with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire that he calls Lucille. That major milestone was part of the reason diehard fans of the AMC series were so upset about Glenn's uncertain fate on-screen.
The season six midseason finale stopped short of confirming that the guy who stole Daryl's crossbow and motorcycle (played by actor Austin Amelio) is key comics character Dwight. While Amelio's character on the AMC series already knew how to ride a motorcycle, and Negan's group also appeared to be bikers, it's just another clue connecting the two stories.
What did you think of the midseason finale? Sound off in the comments below. Come back to THR's The Live Feed for our interview with showrunner Scott M. Gimple on Monday.