The much-anticipated arrival of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), leader of the barbaric band of predators called the Saviors, results in the demise of a series regular on the Season 6 finale (“Last Day on Earth”) of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
But which character is gruesomely bludgeoned to death when Negan swings “Lucille,” his bloody baseball bat wrapped with barbwire? That cliffhanger won’t be resolved until next season.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and other Alexandria Safe Zone residents endeavored to wipe out the Saviors four episodes ago as part of a “kill for food” pact. By acting as mercenaries, the Alexandrians receive half the provisions from the thriving but poorly armed Hilltop Colony.
At first it appeared the Saviors were kaput when they were knifed and shot inside their compound during a predawn raid. But as the Alexandrians discovered to their dismay, most of the Saviors were stationed elsewhere.
And now they’re itching for payback.
The Alexandrians would be much safer staying inside their walled enclave and preparing for a counterattack. When pregnant Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) collapses on the floor in agony, however, she must be driven to Hilltop, where obstetrician Dr. Harlan Carson (R. Keith Harris) awaits.
Escorting Maggie on this long journey in a beat-up recreational vehicle are Rick, his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Sasha Williams (Sonequa Martin-Green), Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) and Aaron (Ross Marquand).
What these travelers don't know is that four of their comrades were subdued by the Saviors and locked in a van.
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) was wounded in the struggle. The other captives -- Maggie’s husband Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) -- are unharmed but fearing for their lives.
Rick and company’s trip to Hilltop is halted several times when the Saviors set up a series of obstacles, including a macabre “daisy chain” of zombies stretched across the road.
Give us half of everything you own, one of the Saviors calls out to Rick. And then let us murder one of your people.
“That deal’s not gonna work for us,” Rick insists before making a threat of his own.
“You wanna make today your last day on Earth?” he asks.
Realizing it’s impossible to reach Hilltop by driving, Eugene volunteers to pilot the RV by himself as a distraction while Rick and the others carry Maggie on a stretcher through the woods.
This plan fails spectacularly, however, when Eugene is caught and beaten by the Saviors. Then the other Alexandrians are surrounded, disarmed and forced to kneel as Negan makes his terrifying entrance.
“You are so gonna regret crossing me,” Negan warns, adding that “you don’t mess with the new world order.”
By that, Negan claims that everyone works for him now and that resistance is futile.
When it’s time to punish the Alexandrians for their attacks on the Saviors, Negan says he “simply can’t decide” who should die. So he sadistically counts “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” in choosing his victim.
Then he savagely swings that horrible bat.
The other major plot development involves pacifist Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), who sneaked away from Alexandria and those she loves because she couldn’t bring herself to protect them with lethal force.
Unfortunately for Carol, she’s shot in a skirmish with the Saviors. And she’s about to be shot again.
Riding to the rescue on a horse is Alexandria’s other pacifist, Morgan Jones (Lennie James). He reluctantly guns down Carol’s assailant.
“Please just let me go,” Carol moans as Morgan tries to help her.
“Not your time,” he replies.
This means Carol, for one, should be alive when Season 7 debuts this fall.