Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “The Walking Dead” Season 6 finale, titled “Last Day on Earth.”
If you sensed some animosity toward “The Walking Dead” on Twitter on Sunday night, you weren’t imagining it.
Social-media analytics company Canvs found that the final scene of the show’s season 6 finale drew overwhelmingly negative reactions from viewers on Twitter. According to the company, which analyzes the emotional content of social-media messages, more than 70% of all reactions on Twitter during the closing moments of the episode expressed feelings such as “crazy,” “dislike,” “hate” and “upset.” “Love” accounted for only 15.2% of all reactions, “good” for only 6.4%.
Fans of the zombie-apocalypse drama had been bracing for a principal character to die with the introduction in the finale of Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a major villain from the comic book on which the AMC series is based. But when said death arrived, it was unclear which character was on the receiving end of a fatal beating from Negan’s barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat. The scene was shot from the character’s POV, leaving his or her identity a mystery.
Fans were less than thrilled. In contrast, a majority of responses to the previous season finale’s last moments included emotions such as “love,” “excited,” “good” and “happy,” with “hate” accounting for only 10.4% of reactions.
Speaking to reporters Monday morning, executive producer and showrunner Scott M. Gimple addressed fan backlash to the finale.
“I ask people to give us the benefit of the doubt that it’s all part of a plan, all part of a story,” he said. “I truly hope that people see [the season 7 premiere] and they feel it justifies the way we’ve decided to tell the story. That is the way it is in our minds. I know what [the season 7 premiere] is and I feel that it delivers on what [the season 6 finale] sets up.”
The finale came months after the show appeared to kill the character of Glenn, played by Steven Yeun, then revealed him weeks later to be alive — a move that angered many fans.
Prior to the closing moments of Sunday night’s episode, reactions to the episode on Twitter had skewed positive. For the entire 90-minute finale, the most common emotion expressed on Twitter was “love” at 18.2%, followed by “crazy” (17.7%), “excited” (9.0%), and “afraid” (8.3%). Those emotions were also the most dominant that Canvs measured over the course of season 6.