SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s The Walking Dead Season 6 finale.

The second half of Season 6 of The Walking Dead has been all about teasing and awaiting the arrival of murderous villain Negan, and in the last minutes of tonight’s finale the Jeffrey Dean Morgan played character and his barbed baseball bat “Lucille” finally took center stage. As TWD star Norman Reedus promised Deadline after the bloody end of last week’s penultimate episode, Sunday’s highly anticipated just over 90-minute “Last Day on Earth” ender was certainly “hardcore,” even if it took a while for the real action to begin.

Long story short – one of the core group of the Survivors on the AMC series gets it by Negan’s hand and bat but we don’t actually know who.

Co-written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple with co-producer Matthew Negrete, the Greg Nicotero directed episode started out with Negan’s Saviors, led by Grand Theft Auto actor Steven Ogg, making a brutal example of a stray, so to speak, as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and other core Survivors left the relative safety of Alexandria in a winnebago with a pregnant and in labor Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to seek care at the Hilltop community.

Needless to say, with Saviors on every route, the Survivors early on encounter a wall of chained walkers and got ambushed by unseen assailants. Eventually, with Maggie’s condition getting more urgent, that whistle is heard (sounds like something from 1979’s The Warriors, doesn’t it?), the Survivors meets up with the Saviors and Ogg’s character, who they think is Negan, its tense and it ain’t pretty. “We’re done talking, time to listen,” Ogg’s Savior tells them. “Let’s get you all on your knees, lot’s to cover.”

walking dead s6 ep 15 2First things first, tonight’s TWD took well over half its running time to reveal that Reedus’ Daryl Dixon did survive the close range gun shot that ended last week’s “East” show. Like the past two season enders of TWD, tonight’s episode didn’t see the death of any of the major characters – yet.

In the Robert Kirkman comics on which the AMC blockbuster is based, Negan kills the Glenn Rhee character and for a while it seems he might on the TV show as wife Maggie is threatened. But Glenn is given a pass, it seems as the producers felt no need to reveal their hand anytime soon.

“I do not appreciate you killing my men,” are some of the first words we hear from Morgan’s Negan to Grimes  “Not cool.” The gang leader announces he wants half of everything the Survivors have as part of his new world order, similar to what he has been taking from the Hilltop. “You didn’t really think you were going to get through this without being punished, did you?” Negan adds, stressing he doesn’t want to kill everyone but someone has to have “the holy Hell beat out” of them.”I got to pick somebody,” he says.

negan walking dead s6 finalePlaying to the strengths of the medium, the end of tonight’s episode left the identity of the fatal victim ambiguous. As in the comic, Morgan’s Negan torments the captured Grimes, Maggie, Glenn, Michonne, Daryl and others as to who will die from a battering from Lucille – the same name blues legend B.B. King gave his guitar, by the way. The finale ender with each of the Survivors getting pointed at and then we see the chosen one see the bat come down on them as blood oozed down the screen and the blows fell repeatedly.

Obviously, death always stalks the land on the zombie apocalypse series but this season, with the multi-episode dead-or-not-dead fate of the Steven Yeun portrayed Glenn, it felt like TWD was aiming to bring the carnage closer to home – because on a show where supposedly anyone could die at any time, a lot of the core characters had escaped the law of averages and their end for a long long time.

Elsewhere on tonight’s finale, Morgan (Lennie James) finds an injured Carol (Melissa McBride) and helps tend to her physical wounds while trying to address some deeper issues they both share. As other character development goes, lovers Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) were talking about the possibility of having a baby of their own as they drove into certain battle with the Saviors. They are among those on their knees in front of Negan later.

Also later Carol took off from Morgan and ran into the remaining Savior of the crew she thought she wiped out last week. As the Savior tortured Carol with successive gunshots and went for the final bullet, Morgan showed up and proved that, despite his assurances repeatedly this season, in fact he would kill for those he loved. “It’s not your time,” Morgan told Carol just before getting some new well-padded visitors who will play a role undoubtedly in Season 7.

walking dead s6 finale 2Even though this season of TWD remains the biggest show on TV among the 18-49 demo, there has been a dip in the ratings from the record-breaking Season 5.

With all the anticipation and hype for this year’s finale, one non-narrative question has to be whether tonight’s episode will achieve or even eclipse the all-time finale high that the Season 5 ender had of 15.8 million total viewers with 10.4 million in the key demo on March 29 last year? Stay tuned – we’ll know those numbers long before we know who died tonight. That answer won’t likely come until the fall, when The Walking Dead returns for Season 7