Is there something in Alexandria’s water? Not only are main characters losing their marbles—Maggie, Carol—but there’s another rash of B characters doing half thought out things and ending up taking tea with Death. Once again, we’re stuck waiting for the main plot to reach something resembling a conclusion while stalled with side stories writing off characters who make the show messy. Why else would they put an arrow through Denise’s eye? She’s the other half of the show’s only currently visible homosexual couple. Yes, we have Aaron and his husband, but their shock value wore off, so they introduced the lesbians. It’s like that thing they keep doing where there’s only Michonne, Glenn, and one other person of color in the main crew. Never mind them stumbling across minorities known to live in the areas they’ve visited and lived. Having visible LGBT couples is morally compromising. Bringing in Negan, Captain Inappropriate from everything we’ve been promised, means pushing boundaries which are already pretty stretched by their half-handed attempt to embrace diversity. This is where the show loses this game of chicken with the fans. They push, push, push, and when fans don’t flinch or react the way they want, they change course and drop the idea in a convenient way. Commit to something other than fanservice. We want a coherent story, not to catch them sweeping things under the rug to make room for something I’m starting to lose faith in.
We start with another poorly handled time jump, this interval expressed as a few Groundhog Day like montages featuring the town guards changing shifts, Gabriel on patrol in the fence, and Carol smoking while obsessing over the crucifix from the last episode. Morgan finishes the jail cell, telling Rick it’ll give them more options next time. He’s not wrong. This is the only time we see Rick, by the way.
After the opening credits, it’s pretty much just characters which haven’t had much screen time or character growth. Which makes one wonder why anyone would put the penultimate episode for the season in the hands of characters no one cares about anymore. “But, Daryl!” He hasn’t had a meaningful part in the plot other than playing Terminator since the season began. His part in this episode is basically to escort Denise to her poor life choices. Rosita is in the same boat, her story only complicated by falling in bed with Spencer and planning dinner with him. Denise leads Daryl and Rosita to a fully-stocked apothecary. They score the loot, but Denise plays snoop, scaring herself after finding a walker and what may have been a drowned child. No one is hurt. All they have to do is walk back to the truck and drive home. Then Denise continues to self-sabotage in the guise of self-help, breaking into a walker-protected car to raid an ice chest for soda. Daryl is pissed. Rosita is dumbstruck. Denise suddenly starts yelling a bunch of stuff which really doesn’t make sense, but the gist is she doesn’t feel brave and stupidly almost getting eaten to steal soda means she’s brave enough to openly love Tara. She only took Daryl and Rosita to encourage them and feel safe.
Safe until Dwight—the guy Daryl failed to kill when he stole his motorcycle—shoots her in the eye.
While the trio were shopping, Abraham took Eugene to a warehouse where the Brainiac wants to produce ammunition. It’s a great plan. Then Eugene gets a bug up his backside about his bravery as well, calling dibs on a walker he so cannot kill. He and Abraham fight after the big man steps in to help. It ends with Abraham just leaves his buddy after Eugene fires him from protection duty. This is all so Eugene can get captured by Dwight and his many companions and used as leverage against Daryl and Rosita. Abraham hangs around, somehow accidentally finds them, and helps send the bad guys back wherever they came from. In the process, Eugene is shot. They carry him back home to patch the wound—just a graze.
After Daryl and Carol bury Denise, Carol leaves a note for Tobin stating she should’ve never come back and she’s leaving again. For good. Don’t try to find her. Because, when they can’t figure out how to salvage a character, it’s easier to have them just walk off into the sunset. I honestly don’t think she’s gone. Carol will either end up dead at Negan’s feet in the finale, or forced to kill and save them all. They can’t spend the entire season messing with her only to have her leave a Dear John letter like a coward. Then again, character integrity seems to be the hardest continuity issue for this show to maintain.
This episode is not for the weak-hearted. Matter of fact, I highly regretted filling my coffee mug just one more time before settling in to watch. Twenty minutes into the episode, I paused and took a five-minute break to watch puppy videos. Otherwise my heart would’ve exploded.
Warning! Walking Dead Spoilers ahead, as well as graphic descriptions of violence.
Now, I’m not doing a complete 180* flip on my stance on the show using easy outs. There were simply too many deaths in this episode which in the end tied up a loose thread in the plot. Sure, they were somewhat spectacular deaths, but that then comes down to a simple A-B reasoning for offing the character. A, the character over complicates the plot—yet Father Gabriel, who has done nothing but get people killed, remains safe; heck, he’s mentally recovering from his sins far better than anyone left alive on the show. The B reason for these producer-targeted deaths then shifts to making them so astounding visually, fans will confuse a visceral reaction to the death with a genuine connection to the woefully two-dimensional character.
There’s no ride with these people. No thrills, lulls, love, empathy to make them matter. They’re cannon fodder tossed on the field to make the generals look like they have the numbers to win the battle. Sad thing is, they’re right. The producers gave us cannon fodder and we, the coveted item in the television ratings war, bought into their bluff. “We can change,” they promise. “It’ll be just like the comic books.”
Apparently that translates to adult language, mass slaughter of plot-hampering B-list characters, and the icky kind of tension. The tension a woman gets walking in the dark by herself and heavy boot steps follow half a breath behind her. It’s the wrong tone for where I think they want to take the show heading into the season finale. You can’t run head-first into the terror about to come. This was their toe-dip to warn us. Hopefully this unwanted tension tone shifts. I mean, the primary perpetrator was blown to about six-billion pieces. By Daryl, no less. With an assist from the time-wasting and convenient rocket launcher.
The walker footage for this episode is beautiful. If there’s one thing Nicotero does well in his episodes, you see the FX love up front and center. Good thing, too. Most of the Rick-centric scenes happened mid-herd. The few times there aren’t walkers in-frame, we’re lead to believe they somehow found a corner within the tiny community to hide where one of five thousand walkers couldn’t find them. These moments are when Rick passes Judith, his last tie to his deceased wife aside from his son, to Gabriel. The Father will shelter her in the church until Rick and the others draw the walkers away with the cars they left at the quarry. Jessie tells Sam to go with them. He refuses, stating he can make it.
You know where this is going, right? They’ve intentionally mishandled Sam’s PTSD, hauling us by the nose to the moment when his mental disorder takes the forefront, driving back rational thought and costing the boy his life. Jessie, frozen by grief, is swarmed and eaten, as well. Sorry, Rick. But, wait, why aren’t you moving, Rick? He hesitates just long enough for the walkers to almost get Carl, who can’t move because Jessie has him gripped tight in her death throes. There’s a weird fascination with cutting off hands in genre pieces. Jessie loses hers to save Carl. Father and son recover just in time for Ron to be a moron. Grief-numbed Ron rightly blames Rick for his family’s death. In the following struggle, Michonne impales Ron and Ron accidentally shoots Carl in the eye.
Well, heck. By this point we’ll assume literally everyone is on the chopping block this season. Which is exactly how we’re supposed to feel. They want us so concerned for everyone, it means they don’t have to rely on character growth to keep us on their emotional journey. The only two who knocked it out of the park growth wise this episode are Denise—kidnapped by the lone Wolf until he saves her as they attempt to escape Alexandria, taking a bite in the process—and Eugene, who finally joins the fight without reservations. Characters like Aaron and Heath are only on screen as proof of life and extra bodies in the epic fight montage at the episode’s climax
After Carl is shot, things move quickly. Denise jumps to action, having slipped the Wolf when Carol killed him, but not before Denise had promised to save his life. Michonne helps Denis stabilize Carl. Rick, without saying a word to anyone, grabs a machete and heads outside to, well, collect some heads. He becomes a zombie mowing machine. After some debate, others join him, even Michonne after ensuring Denise had things in hand.
While they fight, Glenn and Enid hatch a plan to save Maggie from the rickety guard platform. The plan is beyond dumb. Glenn will stand at ground level and shoot walkers. Enid climbs the platform. Maggie freaks out, refuses to climb down the wall with the improvised rope, and uses her last bullet. Right at the last second, Abraham and Sasha magically mount the wall and mow down the walkers, all without injuring Glenn. Daryl waits in the truck and Glenn joins him. What will they do? Daryl has a plan. This may be a first, to be honest.
Flaming zombie pond! That’s Daryl’s big plan. Honestly, it’s effective. The nearby walkers shamble into the flaming pond without reservation. When the herd shifts direction, Rick and company mow them down. Though I don’t one-hundred percent believe all the walkers would simply ignore yelling, grunting, sweating live bodies in favor of one big fireball. They win the battle, though. There’s no more casualties. Even Father Gabriel got in on the action before it ended. Okay, so three characters had some emotional growth.
The episode ends with what’s supposed to be a touching monologue with Rick at Carl’s bedside. The kid is alive, but unconscious and honestly doesn’t look too good with a third of his face bandaged. Where this scene went wrong is language choice. Rick doesn’t go into his feelings for his possibly dying son, oh no. Instead he crows over being able to unite the townsfolk for this oh-so important cause. He then goes on to talk about making the town bigger, badder. There’s the hint of emotion, but Rick never gives it a proper label, just that he hasn’t felt it since before he awoke from the coma. The scene has no punch until Rick begs Carl to let him show him the new world. Our hope for Carl is in a single moment, his fingers closing around Rick’s hand.
Obviously, we’re not done with Negan despite blowing up a chuck of his goon squad. How soon he’ll arrive at the gate is a variable no one in Alexandria can account for with any surety. They’re knocking on war’s door while licking their wounds again. Will this too-similar setup have similar endings to Woodbury and the prison? *shakes Magic 8 Ball* Most likely
Glenn lives! No, I couldn’t wait to say it. Plus, it’s how the episode opens. Yet again, we backtrack in time to follow what happens after Nicholas’ body dragged Glenn off the dumpster. As I thought, the walkers tear into the warm corpse, leaving Glenn untouched, but traumatized. While they’re distracted, he shimmies under the dumpster. Several walkers give chase. This feels a lot like Glenn’s introduction on the show. You know, when he saved Rick — a mistake, if you ask me — after the former sheriff’s deputy crawled under a tank. Only there’s no one to bail Glenn out of this situation. He’s on his lonesome. Killing the walkers posing the most threat creates a rather effective barrier to seal off his cubbyhole. Now all he has to do is wait for the walkers to lose interest . . . before his water supply runs out. The coast clears after what probably feels like an eternity when crammed under a reeking dumpster. Glenn slithers through the dead walkers. His first concern—water. Nicholas had a bottle on him, but it’s empty.
That’s okay, Enid just happens to be in a nearby building. Her first attempt to give him water results in a puddle. Glenn breaks into the antique store, following his only hope to find water in a timely manner. Desperate for news about Maggie and Alexandria, he attempts a civil conversation. Enid, written to be one of the most incoherent characters to date, bolts for no reason. There’s a lot of back and forth. At one point Glenn nearly leaves the girl, but Maggie wouldn’t like it so he goes back to drag the girl to Alexandria. Along the way, they grab some balloons—possibly useful against walkers, mostly to fill a plot hole explaining how Glenn will signal the crew at the episode’s end. This would be far more entertaining if Enid weren’t Carl with breasts. She has no personality beyond sullen teenager who’d seen too much. Which is literally everyone on this show, no matter their actual age.
Back in Alexandria, it’s more of the same ol’ same ol’. Maggie is ever-vigilant for Glenn’s signal. Rick, insensitive to the core, dismisses concern for her husband and redirects the conversation to how to move retrieve the cars from the quarry and move the walkers. Father Gabriel sets up a prayer circle, like that’s going to make a difference when the morale inside the walls is already shot to crap. Speaking of shooting, there’s more sullen teen angst action between Carl and Ron when Rick takes Ron out for his first official gun lesson. Like a d-bag, Carl interjects some smart comment every time Rick shuts his mouth. Even I want Ron to at least wing him with a shot by the time the real feces hits the fan later on.
Can Morgan live with Rick if he won’t kill? It’s not even a matter of staying in Alexandria at this point. Deanna would have no problem keeping the pacifist around. Morgan pulls his weight and has deep insight to what would motivate future human attackers. He’s an asset. Rick sees only a threat looking at the man who is the only reason he even made it to Atlanta for Glenn to save, thus introducing him to the people forming his little kingdom—and by some ridiculous default Carol is in agreement, simply to keep her relevant in the episode. There’s no logical reason for Carol to be this distrusting. She’s written so oddly this season. The writers backtracked hardcore on where her trajectory lead—sociopath land. Sociopaths don’t care what happens in a society, even one this small, unless it impacts the way they live. Morgan isn’t a threat to Carol; she shouldn’t be so invested in undermining his position in their community. This whole witch-hunt is added to drum tension in an otherwise lackluster episode. The only important bits happen in the first and final two minutes. I just saved you forty minutes of your life. Use it wisely.
Carol winds up stalking Morgan. Because, how else will they make something epically stupid happen with the prisoner no one else knows about unless poorly-written and paranoid Carol acts as catalyst? First, she has to ditch Judith. Here comes Jessie, a walking womb they dump the kids on without much concern for her as a person. While Carol waits for Jessie to put something away; which takes five minutes too long just so the following conversation can happen between Sam—still upstairs—and Carol.
Sam, “If you kill people, do you turn into one of the monsters?” Carol doesn’t even think about her response. “The only thing that prevents you from becoming a monster is killing.”
Spencer may be the densest character on television. He is nearly eaten playing Batman by crawling across a rope tethered between the wall and the slowly-crumbling church. The grappling hook fails, dumping Spencer amongst the walkers. Rick and others haul him up. Tara risks her life to provide cover fire. In a stunningly stupid move, Rick yells, “Tara! You almost died once for these people. What the hell are you doing?” Facepalm. Headdesk. They can hear you, Rick. Tara’s eloquent response speaks for all.
But why would Spencer play piñata in the first place? To go get a car, of course. The same plan Rick hatched, more or less, only executed with the grace of a newborn foal. And why didn’t Spencer tell Rick his plan? Rick listens to himself, no one else. Which is why Rick is literally the last person I would want leading my survival group. His selfishness knows no bounds. Deanna isn’t ignorant to this problem. When she comes to thank Rick and his people for saving her son, she asks Rick why he saved Spencer. “…he’s your son,” Rick responds automatically, then waits for a Scooby Snack. “Wrong answer.” Deanna isn’t impressed. She expected Rick to finally grow to see her people as his after passing the torch.
There’s no time to fix Spencer’s boneheaded mistake. Shortly after Glenn’s balloon signal is spotted, the church belfry topples. The wall is breached. The midseason finale will be a mad dash to either outrun the walkers or stand their ground against, oh, at least five-hundred sets of snapping jaws.
Yup. You guessed it; this review contains show spoilers.
Nearly every death in this episode is simply to whittle down the Alexandria citizens openly opposing Rick, just like Carter. It doesn’t make for compelling television when viewers know Joe Blow #5 will bite the big one after he mouths off against the Ricktatorship. Don’t believe me? The only person in this episode who openly questions Rick and survives is Heath. Will every Rick-centric episode become an execution to secure his place in the town? Sure, he’s not pulling the trigger himself, but why should he have to raise a finger when the writers are making the deaths so convenient?
Nearly every death in the episode was ridiculous and the result of writers confusing frightened characters with lazy writing. I imagine the writer’s room sounded like this the afternoon they read through this scene:
“We have this dude in Rick’s face, what do we do?”
“Kill him, duh.”
“But they’re in a clearing in the woods with seven able-bodied fighters.”
“There’s four-inch wide trees for cover.”
“We’ll use a quick cut in post to catch them by surprise.”
And it happens twice. Are we expected to believe Glenn and Michonne are so comfortable now with their lush digs in Alexandria that they’ve forgotten everything they learned in five previous seasons? It’s rubbish. Then they try to show what happens when the Alexandria natives are set upon by a small herd. Common sense and logic fly out the window. I kinda understand the one guy freaking and pulling his gun. I’ll buy the friendly fire injury. What I cannot comprehend is that this happened after the first surprise attack. If this guy were going to fail his gut-check, he should’ve bolted when the walkers killed Rick’s bad-mouthing opponent. It almost feels like this scene was written in another order and cut together haphazardly out of order in post-production. Matter of fact, most of this season comes across the same way.
Onto plot things. This episode, as with the last, is set in the same timeframe with the episode ending about the time Carol and Morgan secure Alexandria. Rick and company are still in the woods, rushing to get ahead of the herd heading toward Alexandria. Rick, realizing they need to divide and conquer—or he’s tired of being snapped at by soon-to-be walker meals—tells Glenn and Michonne to push the others forward. He’s going to double back for the RV. The plan is to join Daryl, Abe, and Sasha in the RV then help them lure the larger horde twenty miles from their home. There are a few walker encounters in the forest. One man dies, Barnes—the man who confronts Rick early in the episode. Scott is shot in the leg by friendly fire from Sturgess. David is bitten on the shoulder. The only other woman in the small crew, Annie, twists her ankle sprinting uphill. Glenn and Heath end up becoming crutches for Scott and Annie, making their reaction times slow, along with their progress across the five mile stretch from the road to Alexandra.
At the halfway mark, they reach the nearby town. The half-hour lead they have on the herd diminishes, and they’re trapped in town.
Glenn and Nicholas leave the others, searching for the feed store to set it ablaze and hopefully stop the herd from shambling to their home. The others remain in the tiny pet store to hide and tend to the wounded. David knows he won’t make it and asks Michonne to pass on a message to his wife. Like a fool, she promises him he’ll at least make it home to tell her himself. Scott and Annie, realizing their limits, ask to be left behind. Their surrender to the inevitable makes Heath confront Michonne about Rick’s earlier warning: Not all of them will make it home during this mission. He feels Rick’s assessment of their skills is harsh and uncalled for. It takes approximately thirty seconds for Michonne to put him in his place; until he’s reached the moment when he’s covered in so much blood, he can’t tell what’s his, what’s walker blood, and what blood belongs to his friends, he has no clue how to survive in the outside world.
There’s a catch in the plan; the feed store has already been burnt to the ground. Nicholas, addled because of his PTSD, struggles to find an alternative building to torch. He leads Glenn away from the encroaching herd . . . right into a fenced off alley. In moments they’re surrounded by at least a hundred walkers. The men run out of ammunition. They can only stab so many before the walkers push them back against a dumpster.
Up they go like a 1950’s housewife who spots a rat in the kitchen. The struggle is too much for Nicholas. He turns to Glenn and says, “Thank you,” before shooting himself in the head. The last we see of Glenn and Nicholas, they’re both on the ground under the hungry horde.
Michonne, Heath, and the injured trio fight their way through the town. Annie, unable to keep up with her makeshift crutch, falls and is eaten. The remaining crew end up in yet another fenced-off alley. Cue eye roll. Couldn’t they think of two different ways to torment the characters? Luckily for the gang, there’s no walkers on the other side of this gate. Up and over they go. Well, not all of them. The herd finds them, claiming David’s life. Not one of them stops to put the man out of his misery. Michonne, Heath, and Scott make it back to Alexandria.
While they’re in the midst of the herd, Rick runs a half-marathon, kills a walker, hurts his hand, and retrieves the RV, which was back at the curve in their zombie parade route. He arrives at the spot where he thinks he can cut off a portion of the wayward horde. His arrival coincides with the Wolves escaping Alexandria. There’s no contest. Rick kills them all. And in the process shoots up the RV so bad, the thing won’t start. Whoops. Did I mention the walkers are about twenty feet away, too? Bravo, Rick.
Daryl’s bit in this episode is simply to give fans Reedus face time. He hems and haws about going back to help Rick, leaves the parade route, then turns around and goes right back to driving with Abe and Sasha. There’s literally no point to his scenes other than to show that Abe and Sasha will see their mission through to the end. Which we knew. Once Sasha cleaned her nose, she’s a reliable team member again.
The big OMG moment is Glenn’s fate. You guys know how I feel anytime they try to kill him. I have been and will always be Team Glenn. Though I have a feeling he will indeed be the next big loss for the crew. It’s been coming for a while. Out of all of them, he has the best prospects for making an actual life in Alexandria. Following show logic, he has to die. There’s no happiness in TWD. It makes the show utterly predictable when it comes time to off another character fans actually like.
What do we know about the upcoming season? There’s a metric ton of walkers in the premiere. Greg Nicotero, who directed the episode, says there were over 300 walkers on set to shoot just one scene. In total, there’s rumored to be over 600 walkers in the episode. This we don’t doubt; the walker count in the four-minute SDCC trailer is staggering.
A few new faces will join Rick and company, along with a face from Rick’s past. Lennie James, as Morgan Jones, comes into season 6 as a full cast member. It’s unclear just how much of an opposing force Morgan will be when Rick puts his plans in action. Scott Gimple, TWD showrunner, won’t confirm or deny a conflict outright, admitting they did indeed make it appear so in the trailer. “We sometimes play with the truth in trailers. Rick is faced with challenges to the way he does things and including his people in the way he does things.” Lennie James sees only one outcome, there will be fallout between Rick and Morgan.
New cast members include Ethan Embry (Once Upon a Time) as Carter, Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) as Dr. Denise Cloyd, and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) as Heath. Carter appears a few times in the trailer, set opposite Rick and his plans. Denise is Alexandria’s new primary doctor now that the other’s brain splattered all over the sidewalk. All we know about Heath is he’s a runner for the town. Denise and Heath are characters from the comics. Carter is described as a composite of many comic characters they couldn’t figure out how to introduce in other ways.
There’s not much else to share about season six yet. Gimple did a nice jig to get around questions about the Wolves and their part in the season—they’re still a threat, but not in a way fans can predict, and not as immediate a threat as others.
Everything else we could add is in the trailer. Let it speak for itself.