In the final moments of The Walking Dead's sixth season, fans across the globe were awaiting Negan's strike with an incomprehensible nervousness. As the villain played a dastardly game of Eenie-Meenie, every distraught face inched closer to their glowing TV screen, and hoped that their favorite character would live to see another day.
Just as the moment came, and Negan took his swing, audiences were infuriated. The credits rolled, and the waiting continued. No one knew who Negan had killed, and so began the process of dissecting video clips and listening for the angles of distant screaming.
"Why would they do this?"
"Why would The Walking Dead upset a fan base that has been so loyal for so long?"
"What kind of monsters would make us wait to see a character we love get beaten with a basebal bat?!"
The frustration is understandable, there is nothing more difficult for an audience to accept than a deadly cliffhanger. Instead of getting mad, though, why not praise the producers for the brilliant move this truly was?
No, you didn't read that wrong. It said brilliant.
Utilizing the cliffhanger was one of the smartest moves in history of The Walking Dead, even though it upset the majority of the fan base.
First of all, The Walking Dead recieved so much press and attention for its choice to hide the victim's identity.
Over the last few months, no TV series has gotten more coverage, or had more websites requesting access to their set, than The Walking Dead. By leaving the entire world in suspense, this series drastically increased its summer attention.
Without paying a cent, The Walking Dead got a better marketing package than most shows would pay millions for.
No fan wants to hear that their favorite show used their torment for profit, but it's part of the game. A chance to make money is never going to be turned down. The great thing is though, The Walking Dead didn't do it for the money. The marketing scheme was just an added bonus.
Leaving fans to wonder who Negan killed was an enormous homage to the comics and their readers.
"Wait, didn't issue #100 show who Negan killed?"
Yes, but there was still one thing readers had to do in order to find out - they had to flip the page.
The simple exercise of turning from one page to the next may seem like an inconsequential detail, but it's a huge psychological milestone for a reader.
Think about it: when you're reading a book, something in your brain has to command your hand to turn a page. It may seem subconscious, but the signal still actively sent. If there is something you're not sure you want to read, no matter how exciting the book is, you will be slightly hesitant to flip the page.
Whether you realize it or not, your brain is taking time to process what could possibly happen next. It might just take milliseconds, but you are given time to formulate your own thoughts on the matter.
When you're watching a television show, you aren't afforded that opportunity.
With moving pictures, multiple sounds, bright colors, and differing camera angles, your mind is at a thousand places at once. You aren't given the chance to ponder what you think will happen, or how you will react if it does. You just have to go along with the motions, and exist in the same way as every other soul watching the show.
By leaving the moment on a cliffhanger, The Walking Dead made its fans into independant thinkers.
The beauty of written mediums, whether comics or novels, is the ability for one to utilize their imaginations. By making us wait for season seven to figure out who was on the other end of that bat, our imaginations were able to run wild.
People used geometry to match the angles of the kneeling survivors. Some folks used the trajectory of light to match shadows with characters. Others meticulously thought through each character's storyline, and determined whose time it was to go.
We all went about our theories differently, and we connected with the show on a deeper level because of it. This cliffhanger made The Walking Dead so much more than a television show.
This made it OUR show.
So, as we get closer to the season seven premiere, think twice before you criticize the show-runners for the cliffhanger. It may have stung this summer, but it had made you a much bigger fan in the long run, even if you don't yet realize it.