The joys of TV fandom: One minute you’re jumping for joy, reveling in your favorite character’s evasion of imminent death. Next thing you know, you’re clutching your stomach after suffering a gut-punch, and crying, “Who died?!”
Without a doubt, the executive producers of “The Walking Dead” know how to sucker-punch viewers. It’s swift. It’s hard. And it inflicts unsuspecting victims with paralyzing fear and anxiety, whether they’re zombie fighters or a crossbow king like Daryl Dixon.
In the Season 6 finale — appropriately titled “Last Day on Earth” — someone got beaten (we assume to death) with “Lucille,” a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. But who was the victim?
“The episode’s final moments switched to the perspective of his victim, showing Negan bringing down Lucille on someone’s head,” Variety reported. “As the casualty’s vision blurred and ears began to ring, blood dripped down the camera before the screen cut to black, even as the audio kept playing the sounds of impact and the rest of the survivors’ screams.”
We know Daryl suffered a gunshot wound, and someone stole his crossbow (more on that later). But 10 other survivors accompanied him, so just about anyone could be behind that camera lens.
Before you form a conspiracy theory about who lived and who died, here’s what you must know.
Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice …
This isn’t the first time “Walking Dead” producers pulled this “who died” trickery. In October, fans saw Glenn tumble off a garbage dumpster, straight into a pile of clawing, flesh-hungry zombies. Fans waited with bated breath for nearly a month. Fans thought, “Surely they wouldn’t kill off a fan-favorite?
Conspiracy theories swirled, fueling hope that Glenn had found shelter beneath the dumpster. Nearly one month later our wishes came true. Glenn escaped, living to see another 13 episodes. You win, AMC! But you won’t fool us again.
Here’s our theory: The Season 6 finale aired April 3, just after April Fools’ Day. So maybe it’s all an elaborate, belated joke. Maybe no one died. Blood, suffering, injury? We can handle that. We’re used to blood and guts. But killing off our favorite character? Not so much. Fingers crossed it’s not Daryl!
Daryl, get your crossbow!
Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, told Variety in November that the second half of Season 6 was the best eight the cast had done. “If you pulled back an arrow and let it go at the end of the first episode, that arrow’s just gaining momentum. It’s very intense,” Reedus told Variety.
Yeah, OK. Whatever. Very funny, Reedus. At this point, Daryl doesn’t even have an arrow to launch! Allow me to explain …
Season 6 takes Daryl and the crew to Alexandria while en route to find a zombie-virus cure in Washington, D.C. They don’t find a cure, but they do find shelter in a fortified subdivision complete with its own solar grid, cisterns and eco-based sewage filtration. Daryl and company hunt, grow crops and store other survival resources within the wall’s protection. But the wall only does so much to keep out opponents.
“The Saviors,” a group led by a power-hungry ruler named Negan (more on him later), pose a threat to the Alexandrians. “They outnumber and outgun the people in Alexandria, and they could easily take the fortified city,” BGR reporter Chris Smith explained. “It’s just that Negan has put in motion a complex trap to make sure the Alexandria crew will work for him, and give him a 50 percent discount off everything they make.”
Isn’t that nice? He wants to share. Ha! What a joke. Sharing is caring, but it doesn’t make good television, does it?
As if battling zombies wasn’t challenging enough, Daryl and company are locked in a turf battle with the Saviors. Seeing Daryl as a threat — he is, indeed, the crossbow king — the Saviors steal his crossbow, leaving him weaponless.
This isn’t the first time someone stole Daryl’s crossbow. It might not be pretty, but somehow Daryl will get it back. He’s Daryl. He’s the crossbow king!
Beware the mousetrap.
Daryl, Glenn, Michonne and Rosita are captured by the Saviors and holed-up in a dark room. Meanwhile, Rick, Carl, Aaron, Eugene, Abraham and Sasha are en route to Hilltop (where there’s a doctor) with Maggie, who’s experiencing pregnancy complications.
Fast-forward through an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse, where Rick and his crew drive around in an RV, bouncing between Savior-placed roadblocks and outrunning walkers. Rick, the group’s leader, decides to abandon the RV and use it as a decoy to lure the Saviors away, giving the group the chance to escape on foot. In theory, it’s a great idea. But, again, it’s not great TV. The Saviors find Rick and company, take their weapons, and force them to their knees.
There’s safety in numbers. Or nah?
We mentioned earlier that Daryl, Glenn, Michonne and Rosita got separated from Rick and his group. After five seasons, they’ve learned that although there’s strength in numbers, it’s hard to keep everyone alive when they’re all together. Think of it like bees to honey. It’s easier to kill them when they’re swarming together, as opposed to chasing them down individually. Again, splitting up was a good idea in theory. But that would be too easy.
The dark room where Daryl is being kept? It’s actually a van set up outside Negan’s lineup. One of the Saviors forces Daryl, Glenn, Michonne and Rosita out of the van and onto their knees to join Rick and the rest of the Alexandria crew.
Enter: Jeffery Dean Morgan as Negan.
Patience is a virtue.
At the end of the Season 6 finale, fans finally got what they had been seeking since November: a glimpse at power-hungry Negan. But now that they’ve met him, they might wish they hadn’t.
At the end of the episode, Negan steps out of a nearby RV and approaches his 11 victims. “You work for me now,” Negan taunts, while wielding his bat wrapped in barbed wire. “You have s***. You give it to me,” he ordered, referring to their supplies.
But before they begin bartering for supplies, they must settle a score. One of Daryl’s crewmembers killed one of the Saviors, and Negan is out for blood. “He explains that he’s letting them live so they can work for him, but warns that he has to ‘beat the holy h***’ out of one of them as punishment for killing his men,” AMC reported.
Negan taunts Daryl and his crew with “Lucille,” his barbed-wire bat.
“Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,” he begins, pointing Lucille down the line of survivors. “And you… are … it,” he finishes.
WHO?! Who’s “it”?!
Living on a prayer.
As we speculated earlier, maybe this is an elaborate April Fools’ joke. Or maybe the Savior who stole Daryl’s crossbow will see the light and use the crossbow to take out Negan, although that’s doubtful.
Meanwhile, Steven Yeun, who plays Glenn, is set to appear in the Netflix movie “Ojka.” BGR reporter Chris Smith speculates this might point to Glenn’s demise.
Others say Rick is safe because he’s the main leader. And surely they wouldn’t kill Daryl. He’s revered for his crossbow skills, and absolutely essential in issuing the brain-busting shots required to kill the zombies. They need him. Surely he’s safe. Also, besides his gunshot wound, and what we’ve seen of Negan so far, he’d probably rather see Daryl in pain than end his misery with a blow from Lucille.
Although we don’t know who endures Lucille’s wrath, we know it’ll be hard to bear come October’s Season 7 premiere.
“I know what happens and it’s gut-wrenching to be there,” Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) told “The Today Show.” “All of us had reactions to it…We had crew members crying while we were filming. It’s heavy.”
Heavier than a bat wrapped in barbed wire, apparently.
Batten down the hatches, survivors. We’re in for a wild ride.
Season 7 of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” premieres in October 2016. Catch up on the previous seasons on Netflix and AMC.