Season six of The Walking Dead was an enjoyable affair overall, presenting some interesting storylines and laying the groundwork for an even more thrilling (and depressing) seventh season with the arrival of Negan. However, it also suffered from problems both familiar and new, and while it is leagues better than something like the second season, we’d be reticent to call it the series’ best (that honor still goes to season five). Here are the biggest problems that dragged The Walking Dead’s sixth season down.
10. The Saviors
Even taking into account Negan’s shockingly brutal introduction in the finale, it can’t make up for how hilariously inept his Saviors seemed to be for most of the season. The latter half of season six was weird, to say the least, with Rick and his group systematically murdering every Savior they came across with almost no casualties on their side. We understand that the writers were deliberately creating victories for Rick and his group in order to make Negan’s retribution all the more swift and intense, but the way in which the Saviors crumbled in opposition was almost laughable. Thankfully, the Saviors finally started to prove themselves to be more than cannon fodder towards the end of the season thanks to Dwight and his group, but it doesn’t quite make up for their early blunders.
9. Carl Had Almost Nothing To Do
One of the more pleasant developments over the past few seasons that doesn’t get talked about enough is Carl’s transformation from petulant turd to all around decent human being. Yes, the show seemingly did the impossible by making Carl likable (which probably has a lot to do with Chandler Riggs becoming a better actor as he’s aged), making it all the more disappointing that he was barely utilized this season. While it makes sense that Carl would be left behind in Alexandria most of the time given his young age, he’s also one of the show’s main characters, so it’s disappointing that he wasn’t given much to do other than put up with Enid and her drama (though saying “screw it” and locking her in a closet in the final episode was a rather amusing solution to that problem). With Carl factoring heavily into Negan’s arc in the comics, season seven should give the eldest Grimes child a much more interesting arc than he got this year (at least something more than getting shot in the eye).
8. Morgan’s Characterization
When Morgan showed up again at the end of season five, it felt like cause for celebration, as every episode that has featured the character in the past have been some of the show’s best. Establishing Morgan as a pacifist was an interesting development, but it was taken so far that Morgan ended up looking more like a fool than a man with a well-reasoned worldview. Morgan’s actions continuously put Alexandria in danger and rather than having his mistakes make him question his viewpoint, they somehow reinforced it. Morgan’s speech to Rick about how he “rehabilitated” the Wolf he captured was incredibly frustrating because it ignored what actually took place (the Wolf only “saved” Denise because he needed her medical skills). It’s a shame too because Morgan’s standalone episode earlier in the season was fantastic; it’s just too bad that the same can’t be said for pretty much every other Morgan-related development this season.
7. Too Much Padding
The two halves of season six have accomplished the difficult task of feeling markedly different from one another, but they both suffer from the same issue: long stretches of filler. It sometimes feels like The Walking Dead’s writers just can’t come up with enough story to fill a sixteen episode season and this one in particular may be the worst offender in that regard. The back half has been even worse, deliberately holding Negan at bay for maximum impact when he’s finally revealed. While this tactic cast a shadow of dread over most of the latter half of the season, it also made it abundantly clear that the writers were trying to kill time, as evidenced by the fact that we got an episode largely devoted to Denise’s neediness. Hopefully with the curtain lifted on Negan heading into season seven, The Walking Dead’s pacing can improve and leave behind the multiple padding episodes of this season.
6. The Characters Are Increasingly Unsympathetic
From a logical standpoint, Rick’s tactics for dealing with the Saviors make a lot of sense, as the world he and his extended family live in is extremely brutal and the only way to survive is to match that brutality. Unfortunately, this has led to Rick’s group becoming increasingly unsympathetic as characters and at this point, they probably deserve some of what’s coming to them. Rick, Maggie, Glenn, and the rest are still firmly the protagonists, make no mistake, but they pretty much occupy the same place on the moral spectrum as their enemies now. Admittedly, that is an interesting angle to take, questioning whether or not these characters are even the “good guys” anymore, but it makes them more difficult to root for as a result. Season seven needs to establish more of a divide between Negan and Rick’s groups so that the show doesn’t just devolve into cheering for a slightly less despicable group of characters over another.
5. The Relationships
The Walking Dead’s sixth season could justifiably be called “the relationship season,” as it feels like just about every character was paired off with someone else. While it’s been nice to see the show try and make time for love and romance amid all the usual chaos, the actual execution has left much to be desired. Part of the problem is that many of these relationships seemingly came out of nowhere. Abraham all of a sudden doesn’t want to sleep with Rosita anymore and now has his sights set on Sasha after spending an afternoon with her on a supply run; Carol starts playing house with what’s-his-name from Alexandria (it’s Tobin) and before we’ve even had time to process them as a couple, she dumps him. The only new pairing that’s actually worked is Rick and Michonne’s relationship, which at least feels like it evolved organically out of the characters’ friendship and mutual respect for one another. It was also cool to see the show feature a lesbian couple in the form of Denise and Tara … at least until Denise was killed off unceremoniously. The Walking Dead really doesn’t seem to want its audience to get invested in its relationships, it seems.
4. Confusing Carol
Can anyone explain Carol’s arc this season? For whatever reason, she’s gone from being an outright badass to a pacifist and none of it makes much sense. There’s nothing wrong with trying to do something different with a character — and going from unflinchingly killing multiple people to being horrified at the mere thought of it definitely qualifies as a significant arc — it’s just that none of this character development has felt authentic in any way. Are we really supposed to believe that Maggie’s pregnancy alone would inspire such a change of heart in a character as complex as Carol? It doesn’t help that some of Carol’s more recent scenes have played out almost like slapstick, with her crying about not wanting to kill before proceeding to kill a bunch of people. We still love Carol, but we’re worried about her.
Daryl’s overriding personality trait ever since Beth died midway through season five can best be described as “mopey.” For whatever reason, the show just couldn’t figure out what to do with Daryl this season other than have him make increasingly poor decisions that felt totally out of character. Daryl’s always been a stubborn lonewolf, but we highly doubt he would put all of Alexandria’s citizens at risk just to avenge Denise’s death/get revenge on Dwight for taking his crossbow. Of course, this is still Daryl we’re talking about, so he had his share of cool moments — such as taking a whole group of Negan’s men out with a rocket launcher and his delightful road trip with Rick — but if this turns out to be Daryl’s last season on the show, it hasn’t been a great farewell tour.
2. Mishandling of Glenn’s Fake Death
Viewers were treated to one of the most shocking cliffhangers in The Walking Dead’s history early on in season six after Glenn found himself on the wrong end of a massive herd of walkers. Many assumed that Glenn had indeed been killed off, but others held out hope that he had miraculously survived. This led to the show’s staff going out of their way to make it look like Glenn was dead without actually confirming it, going so far as to remove actor Steven Yeun’s name from the opening credits. Of course, we all breathed a sigh of relief once we learned that Glenn had survived by hiding under a dumpster, but now that we’re months removed from the event, it feels like the writers made the wrong decision in letting Glenn live. We love Glenn and would be sad to see him go, but having him cheat death proved problematic leading up to the finale, as [SPOILER] Glenn is the one who is killed by Negan in the comics. If Glenn had died earlier in the season, it would have made the lead-up to the finale more suspenseful, as Negan’s victim would have been a true mystery with Glenn out of the picture (although thanks to a dumb cliffhanger, the identity of Negan’s victim is still a mystery anyway!).
1. Too Many Expendable Characters
Is anyone else getting a bit tired of this show introducing a bunch of new characters and then proceeding to kill them all off in rapid succession? Season six might as well be known as the “Year of the Walker Fodder” (or it would be, if we hadn’t already declared it the relationship season) with the staggering number of minor characters that were introduced only to die a short while later. The setting of Alexandria has afforded the writers the ability to have a ton of new extra characters, which in turn allowed them to keep the kill count up without having to get rid of major characters. This issue was carried to its ridiculous conclusion in the midseason premiere when the entire Anderson family was killed off in one scene, a development that should have elicited a shocked response, but instead just came off as formulaic. Death is one of The Walking Dead’s major currencies, but it would be nice to see the show tone down the actual number going forward in order to have each one feel more significant.