The sixth and final season opens with quite a few changes to the status quo. I assume that there was some sort of time skip as not only is Sarah well into her pregnancy, but Bruce has shaved his head and JJ is played by a different actor, resulting in him having a different hair color entirely.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as the events of this episode do quite a lot to rock the foundations of the show.
The episode did a good job of balancing a self contained story with the ongoing story arc. While the “Johnny has to prevent someone’s death” plot could have felt formulaic, I think it worked well here. Even the fact that Johnny’s changes don’t seem to have any lasting impact is something that’s been done before, but it still managed to build up tension effectively.
Of course, where Johnny usually succeeds, his endeavor doesn’t quite go so well and Walt ends up dead, as does Janus. I don’t think that the episode is quite the tearjerker that it wants to be, but it is still fairly poignant. Nicole DeBoer turns in a pretty strong performance and manages to sell her grief rather well.
David Ogden Stiers has always been a strong performer, but even he steps it up as he attempts to put himself back on the right path. He was still a supporting character, but he still managed to have one of the stronger story arcs as he not only contends with moral qualms, but also a good deal of guilt in regards to the aforementioned death.
As if one major character leaving wasn’t shake up enough, Bruce gets put on a bus as he takes a job offer in another location. It was brought up early in the episode, but brushed aside as Bruce didn’t want to leave John alone to deal with the impending apocalypse.
Speaking of, that arc comes to an anti-climactic end. Yeah, Janus was more “dedicated to the cause” or whatever, but I have a feeling that it would take more than just his death to put a stop to what Stillson’s presidency would do. Surely, that clandestine organization was more than just one person. That would just be depressing and sad.
I get that they needed a reason to write Bruce off and, I guess that they figured that this was the only way they could justify it. I don’t know, maybe John could tell him something to the effect of, “this is my fight, my burden to bear”?
On the other hand, it could make for some development for Stillson beyond this. Much like Purdy, perhaps he could put himself on a path to redemption or something to that effect. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.
It looks like the “arc” for this season is going to be whatever dealings Walt was involved in. It could pan out OK, but it would have been nice to have the “end of the world” arc get a better resolution. It was still a pretty solid episode all things considered. As I said, it does shake up the status quo and the strong performances helped elevate it beyond just a run of the mill episode.