If you're a Walking Dead fan -- and since last week over 12 million people watched the next-to-last episode of this season when it aired, you probably are -- then you knew someone was going to die in the Season 6 finale.
Maybe it would be Glenn, since he gets killed by Negan in the 100th issue of the comic. Maybe it would be Daryl, since Norman Reedus has his own show on AMC. Maybe it would be Eugene, since he finally gained respect from Abraham and got his own "thanks bro" send-off from the group. Maybe it would be Aaron, since he's a little too nice for his own good.
Clearly, it's not Rick or Carl, though, since before he goes all Louisville Slugger, Negan says, "Anybody moves, anybody says anything, cut the boy's other eye out and feed it to his father, and then we'll start."
But what's certain is that hordes of Walking Dead fans are unhappy with how the much-hyped season finale turned out. (A quick stroll down social media lane will give you a sense of just how unhappy some fans are.)
Sure the episode sustained tension, sure the episode created drama, and sure one of the eleven main characters did die... but we'll have to wait until the next season to find out which one.
To justify the decision, on Talking Dead, show runner Scott Gimple said, "The end of the story is what people saw. When we reveal who was on the receiving end there, that's going to be the start of another story. The kickback effects from that -- what it makes everyone into, how they react, how the world changes for everyone -- that's the next part of the story."
Fine -- but the next part of the story could have started after we found out who died. Does waiting really change our the impact of finding out "how the world changes for everyone"? Won't that be "another story"?
Cynics -- me among them -- would say that Gimple chose not to reveal who died to ensure a big audience for next season's first episode. Of course, you can't blame him. He has two primary goals: to tell a good story and attract a large audience. That's the job. A great story without an audience is like a great product no one buys.
Plus, ending on a cliffhanger ensures that Walking Dead fans will spend the summer talking and speculating and hypothesizing and parsing every sighting of every actor (and their changing hairstyles), a la Kit Harington and whether Jon Snow is really dead, in hopes of figuring out who the victim is.
The cliffhanger alone will ensure plenty of media and social attention.
But still. No matter how loyal fans are, that loyalty is never guaranteed. True loyalty is always earned. True loyalty is undying allegiance to a brand or product (or show) based on an incredible level of satisfaction. When you are highly satisfied, when your needs and expectations are met and even exceeded, you simply cannot imagine using another product or service.
And you can't imagine deciding not to watch a certain show -- even if it's a show you used to love.
Glenn's infamous dumpster dive was a little tough for many fans to swallow because it felt more like bait-and-switch hype than genuine storytelling. The final episode's cliffhanger falls into the same category -- to many, the only reason not to reveal who died is to ensure a massive audience for next season's first episode.
While even the actors claim they don't know yet, my guess is Glenn died. Robert Kirkman, the creator of the Walking Dead comic, said on Talking Dead that Negan's victim is "beloved to everyone." Since Glenn didn't kill a human until he killed some of the Saviors, dying at the hands of the Saviors would complete a storytelling arc.
Regardless, plenty of fans will tune in, if only to see who died. But they may then start to tune out -- because customer loyalty is earned one day, one product, one service, or one episode at a time.