So naked Rick and Michonne don’t turn Jesus into swiss cheese.
Matter of fact, once the cavalry arrives to restrain Jesus again, they somehow end up listening to what he has to say. They’re totally onboard with sending the town’s ruling council and the majority of their top-tier fighters with this stranger, as well, even after hearing he’d taken full stock of their supplies and people before essentially turning himself in to Rick. They were more suspicious of Morgan, the man who may be the sole reason Rick saw more than a week outside the hospital after his coma. Yes, Morgan snapped his Slim Jim after his son passed, but he is fully not crazy now and Carol still watches the man like he’s about the club them all to death and make sachets from their skin.
With no real concern whatsoever, Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Daryl, Abe, and Jesus climb into an RV—there’s always one which just happens to be nearby—and take off toward an undisclosed location with only their vague threats to keep Jesus from driving them into a trap.
Which exactly what it looks like not long after we rejoin the gang on the road. A car, one Jesus swears belongs to his people, crashed on the roadside moments before they drove past. Now, not only are the fighters separated from the group, they’re being put directly in harm’s way for people who may still turn around and put bullets in their brain pans. There’s an urgent rescue. One of the guys, Dr. Carson, thanks Maggie and Glenn by being probably the only OB left alive in the state and offering to care for their baby. How’s that for luck?
During the entire episode, Jesus is essentially Google—feeding Rick and Maggie exactly what they need to manipulate Gregory, Hilltop’s chicken-livered and misogynistic leader. It’s all too easy, this plot. Somehow we end up at the right place at the right time for these unfortunate people to demonstrate the kind of antics keeping Negan top dog in the county. But with all the bad Negan has done—namely, his men murdering a sixteen year old boy upon The Saviors’ first meeting with Hilltop—Jesus seems not concerned at all about being in the room with two men confessing to blowing up quite a few of the boogeyman’s goons. If that were me, I’d wash my hands of Alexandria, not matter how badly we needed another trading post.
Hilltop itself is designed to resemble a walled medieval estate during wartime, with all the folk from the farms and homes under care of the lord encamped within the walls. It’s so blatant, Gregory turning out to be a world class jerk doesn’t surprise me in the least. It’s even less surprising that one of his own men would then stab him, hoping Gregory’s death would secure the release of a man Negan took captive. Why did he take this guy and kill another Hilltop citizen? Gregory sent his people to deliver their usual payoff knowing it wouldn’t be enough. It’s never enough. Negan will demand more and more. Though Gregory survives, this hasn’t done a thing to teach him to grow a pair and take on the man running their lives from afar.
In comes Rick and his band of killers.
Seriously? This is where the story goes? They veer from attempting to set up a functioning ecosystem in Alexandria to hired mercenaries who’ll just kill and take what they want. These are the people Rick wants to kill, usually. But when it suits them, murder is on the table. They wouldn’t need to kill Negan so soon if they’d stopped to do the boring things like clear fields. But they need food now. Hilltop has a functioning system in place which produces enough food to send half to Negan without forcing strict rationing in Hilltop. If Negan doesn’t need that food being dead and all, Alexandria will take it. Now. Half of whatever is on-hand is cheaper than the cumulative price to keep Negan at bay via bribes.
But again, this is all too easy to follow to the conclusions the writers want. They’re trying to make fans guess who’s going to die. Is it Glenn? Negan and Glenn’s comic book story is well known, spread by every reviewer trying to make the show into something it’ll never be—an accurate reflection of the comics. They drive more nails into Glenn’s coffin during this episode, finally giving us a glimpse at his and Maggie’s child in an ultrasound. Every happy character dies on this show. It’s no surprise. Abraham seems a tad happy himself after some soul searching and a near-death experience, but he’s mostly in the story now to fire large weapons and make us question Glenn’s fate going into the season’s end. Some say golden boy Dixon will bite the big one. It makes sense, seeing as he did blow up Negan’s people.
It’s all so boring, this weird dead pool going on in the fandom. I never watched the show to see who would die. I kept watching because the characters made rational decisions in an interesting setting and the story pace never lagged so much, I wanted to wander off for a snack ten minutes into an episode. They’ve killed the Negan story line before it begins.
We finally, finally get the time jump we’ve waited at least six episodes for and the events following are so dull, I bet half the audience couldn’t tell me how many vehicles Rick and Daryl drove throughout the episode—hint, it’s more than two. Two things of note happen in this episode. One is such a bone-headed move by the writing and production crew, I cannot believe they think it’s going to work. Or that fans want this thing to happen in the first place. The second is a ham-handed attempt to make this show feel like it was once a comic book.
And now, the spoiler-filled portion of the review. You’ve been warned.
Let’s just get it over with: They killed Jessie and her children to put Michonne in Rick’s bed. At last. They’ve been dancing around this doomed ‘ship for a while, usually pushing back the inevitable hookup with Rick making questionable decisions, irritating Michonne, and putting them back in their friendship box. We were happy with them in that box. At what point did fans honestly ask them to change Rick’s relationship status to, “Grieving, but banging my number one fighter,” because that makes sense? Yes, it’s been a few weeks their time, but it’s been one week for us. Fans are still reeling from losing Jessie, Sam, and Ron. Wait. Who am I kidding? The writers never gave those characters a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming three-dimensional, relatable characters. Seeing how easily they wrote them off, Jessie and Rick was a red herring for the possible relationship established at the end of this episode. Which sucks. Rick and Michonne had a nice, normal moment together. They’re laughing. Relaxed, despite their hectic days. The kids are safe. No one from town was injured, killed, or has the sniffles. It’s a side of these two we rarely see honestly portrayed on screen. Then the moment is ruined by an awkward make-out session and the producers making it perfectly clear they slept together. Like having two leads in bed together is a vital part of this show. There hasn’t been a serious romance-driven story line since Lori and Shane scrambled to figure out their future with Rick awake. We saw how well that story line ended. It was meant to end that way, though. Shane’s mental illness and inability to let Rick “win” carried the relationship drama with the plot. Michonne and Rick hooking up makes no sense, unless you look at it from the POV of a producer scrounging for viral gossip on social media. They wanted this moment to wag jaws online. Instead, people are rolling their eyes.
The second issue I had actually involves the episode plot—which is essentially just Rick and Daryl attempting to go on a supply run and failing spectacularly, but they have help failing from a new guy. What, another new guy? Yeah. He’s an odd duck, and has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. After Rick and Daryl follow Eugene’s advice and hit up a barn on a sorghum farm, they find a truck with supplies. Taking the truck, they move down the road, stopping at a gas station so Daryl can find a can of pop for Denise to give to Tara. The new guy—Paul, but friends call him Jesus—manages to steal the truck, blow a tire on it down the road, gets the truck taken back, and hitches a ride on top of said coveted vehicle. Rick brakes suddenly, flinging Jesus onto the ground. The guy still has enough left in his system to run around the truck, dodging Daryl’s attempts to snag him. The fight only ends after Jesus puts down a stray walker that’s sneaking up on Daryl and Daryl thanks him by tackling him in the truck’s cab. They hit the gear shift and the supplies, plus their new wheels, sink into a pond. The whole thing is downright cartoony. I half expected Jesus to pull a large carrot from his coat and call Daryl, “Doc.” While a “day in the life” episode can be fun, this took a comic character’s introduction and gave it no real thought in how to ground this guy in the reality they’ve established. Daryl and Rick aren’t this moronic. They wouldn’t have their keys pick-pocketed. They would be on-guard, still. Daryl knows there’s more guys like the bikers he blew up out there. Rick is too gung-ho to add a thieving stranger to their ranks—an action simply brushed off by Rick telling Daryl he was right to recruit after Pete killed Reg, back when Rick wanted to close ranks and keep out strangers. But there’s never a real reason given as to why Rick changes his mind after Jesus cost them easily a week’s worth of household odds and ends for Alexandria. It’s convenient for him to change his mind because the story needs Jesus down the road. Just to be safe, after Denise tends to the head wound which knocks Jesus out after the truck fight, they lock him in the prison room. Jesus escapes in time to catch Michonne and Rick nude in bed together.
Another tidbit they added which doesn’t make much sense is Deanna’s walker in the woods. Carl and Enid see her first in the episode. Though Deanna’s face is hidden until later, they give the game away by showing her bandaged leg wound. Later, Spencer and Michonne end up wandering aimlessly until Spencer finally opens up a little about feeling like an outsider with his family dead. Right on cue, Carl leads Deanna’s walker past the adults. Spencer finally tells Michonne that killing his mother again is why he keeps sneaking off. Luckily he found her that time, otherwise the scenes would’ve been completely useless. Oh, wait, they already are. The writers are trying to salvage a character they’ve repeatedly made too cowardly or too stupid to live. It’s too late for character development. Spencer has been on the show for too long to make us care now. It just means they plan to kill him horrifically down the road. If this show is anything, it’s predictable when it comes to secondary character deaths.
This episode could’ve been fun. It did have its moments, especially the friendly moments where Rick wasn’t the Rick they’ve written for the last three seasons. There were some cute jokes, and few laughs, but for the most part it’s a skippable episode. All the momentum they built with the townsfolk banding together for that epic fight scene is lost one episode later. They’re going to drag this plot down to snoozeville, then catch us off guard with Negan’s brutality. Only, it’s not a surprise if we see it coming episodes away.
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
Here’s your spoiler warning. Proceed at your own risk.
…They make a run on the food pantry, ignoring Olivia when she reminds them they have to ration until the walkers clear and they can make a supply run. Spencer, Deanna’s son, steps in to lend a voice of reason. Then he turns around after everyone is gone to pillage what he wants. My opinion of the guy was already pretty low, but after he left the gate open for the Wolves and stole much needed food? I hope his drunk self falls off the wall while he’s on guard duty. Spencer isn’t the worst off emotionally, either. Betsy, wife to David who died in the last episode, and a few others paint the names of the dead lost in the attack and partially failed mission on the wall—including Nicholas and Glenn.
After creating the tribute, Betsy returns home and slashes her wrists. Jessie finds her after, zombified and banging on her front door. This leads to Jessie making one of several drawn out speeches during this episode. Not every speech comes from her, though she has to say something after Betsy dies in order to keep the others from seeing suicide as a viable option. It just feels like anytime there’s a sliver of tension, Rick or someone yanks out the soapbox and lets it rip. For heaven’s sake, Rick makes a loud speech about being quiet to avoid riling the walkers while standing next to the compromised wall section with about a thousand zombies leaning against it trying to get to the booming voice on the other side. There’s a point where the writers need to give up this trope and move on to other ways to motivate a crowd. Start a conga line or something. I don’t care so long as I don’t have to listen to another sermon from the Ricktatorship pulpit.
Healthy ways to cope with the stress do not involve attacking each other about a girl. A lesson Carl and Ron desperately need to learn. Enid is still presumably on the outside. Carl asks Ron to help and is rejected, with a threat to tattle to Rick if Carl hops the fence. He ends up going to Rick anyway in order to cash in the rain check on those shooting lessons Rick promised back at the quarry. Another unhealthy coping mechanism is attempting to tenderize a walker with a broken bottle. Deanna, I’m looking at you. Your cool flew out the window the minute the Wolves attacked. Get your act together. Tara seems to be the best adjusted to the stress. She manages successfully to talk Denise off the metaphorical ledge when the new doctor cannot find a way to clear the infection in Scott’s bullet wound. And, hey, she gets kissed for her efforts. It’s a win-win.
Desperate for answers, Maggie prepares to drop over the wall and search for Glenn. Aaron, heavy with guilt because the backpack he lost when the Wolves tricked him and Daryl with the tucks led the attackers to their door, insists she let him help. He even knows a way out which won’t break her leg if she falls wrong. They take to the tunnels running under Alexandria. Down there, they face walkers so soggy and muddy, Maggie’s hand goes right through one’s chest. She’s nearly bitten, yet still tells Aaron to go back and tend to his wounds. Yeah, not happening. Then again, neither is the mission. The tunnel exit is too close to the herd.
Despite everything in her demanding she find Glenn, Maggie won’t risk losing the baby. It’s the last piece of her husband left; she doesn’t even have a picture. That night when Maggie and Aaron search the area for a signal from Glenn, they take a moment to erase his and Nicholas’ names from the memorial wall.
There’s a change in the guard coming to Alexandria. After Deanna snaps and attacks a stray walker—Carol lost track of only one Wolf she killed and he turned in the walls—Rick swoops in and makes the actual kill. Crouched on the pavement, covered in walker blood, Deanna tells Rick, “I wanna live. I want this place to stay standing.” She realizes her mental capacity cannot handle the stress from all the losses, but Rick seems to be doing just fine. Obviously he’s the better choice for leader, right? NO. WRONG. But the decision is made. Rick celebrates his new position by kissing Jessie. Okay, that wasn’t the real purpose to their conversation, but it might as well have been for all the sense it made. Somewhere along the line, the writers forgot how to have Rick talk in coherent thoughts.
The future is not so bright for Alexandria. The fence, though reinforced, is failing where the truck hit. Four of their best fighters are still in the field. Morale is in the tank. There’s a crazier leader taking the throne. Oh and let’s not forget the crazy guy waiting in a jail cell. Yes, they survived to see another day, but how long will their luck hold out?
For the first time in nearly five years, I’m throwing the B.S. flag on TWD. This episode is beyond ridiculous. It jumps from Rick shooting Pete to the Alexandria survivors staring at a walker horde numbering in the thousands. Yeah, that’s cool and all, but what are they doing there? Why are they futzing with this many walkers? Who is this guy arguing with Rick so much about a “dry run?” Dry run of what? Turning Daryl into walker bait, apparently. Just about everything before the opening credits makes little to no sense. It doesn’t get any better.
The episode bounces constantly from the present to the past. It’s confusing. Frustrating. Made me homicidal about twenty minutes into the episode when I finally just wanted to watch the plot in chronological order instead of the convoluted and drawn out method utilized in the episode. There are several moments when it cuts from a flashback—presented in black and white to lessen viewer confusion—to Rick and crew walking through the forest for ten seconds, then back to the Same Exact Scene in the flashback it cut from. Are you confused yet? Just typing it hurts my head. What were the writers, director, and editor smoking when they cobbled this idea together? Did they shoot up Krokodil in order to feel like a walker before locking themselves in the editing room? It’s the only way to make sense from the mess they made of the plot.
Sad thing is, the plot itself is pretty straight-forward. Let me try to sort it out and spare you the brain cramp I’m dealing with.
Deanna, kneeling in Reg’s blood, bonds with Father Gabriel for a brief moment after she realizes he was right to warn her about Rick. Abe takes Reg’s body to the cemetery to await burial. Pete’s family mourns their loss. Tara is awake and well in the clinic. Glenn and Nick stumble in fresh from their near-fatal fight. Maggie and Eugene fuss over their respective people. Tara is just happy the mullet survived. Carl is seen once in the episode, sitting on a roof with his kinda-girlfriend. Rick tells Morgan that he doesn’t taken chances. Morgan is locked in the prison room until morning after Rick collects his thoughts. They discuss the Wolves and what happened at the trucks. Daryl and Rick don’t see eye-to-eye on Daryl’s recruitment missions. Heath and his supply-fetching crew return to Alexandria. Eugene, in typical Eugene fashion, awkwardly allows them to drive through the gate. Morgan gets the penny tour of Alexandria. Father Gabriel sets to digging graves for Reg and Pete. Rick and Deanna agree—Pete will not be buried in town. Rick and Morgan take the killer’s body away to bury in a location none of the townsfolk will ever see. Ron, Pete’s eldest son, follows the men to the burial site. He ends up drawing a few walkers to their location. Rick saves the boy from falling off a cliff. He gives him a stern talk about how Ron can’t defend himself; Rick will teach him, but not right that second.
All of that was simply lead-up to discovering the thousands of walkers trapped in a quarry not too far from the town. This is how the people survived without learning how to defend themselves; most of the walkers are crammed in the quarry. A few escape, but not enough to pose a real threat. However, the semi-trucks the quarry’s former tenants put in place to defend themselves—that plan obviously didn’t work—aren’t so stable anymore. Rick sees the problem and brings it back to Deanna and the town. Heath fills in the information gaps since he already knew about the horde but didn’t consider it an issue. They must act now before one of the trucks barring the walkers falls. Carter, the new guy seen arguing with Rick in the opening scene, continues to argue with Rick. Big surprise.
They concoct a plan to move the walkers west, away from Alexandria. More arguing from Carter. Then Deanna and Rick corner him—he’s built a wall once, why can’t he build another barricade to keep the walkers off the road leading to their front gate? Obviously Carter agrees. The nexk set of flashbacks take place as they’re building the barricade. Daryl puts his foot down; he will be going to find new townspeople after they move the walkers. Carol continues to play “scared little lady” to fit in, however Morgan sees through it. He notices the way Carol is always watching, assessing the situation and confuses her with a cop. Maggie tells Tara about Nick’s part in Noah’s death and the murder attempt on Glenn. She gives Tara the power to spread the stories, let the town decide if Nick should be banished. For now Tara will follow Maggie’s lead when it comes to Nick. Rick corners Deanna on the premise of giving condolences about Reg. She sees through it and tells him to speak his mind. He tells her he will be training everyone how to defend themselves and use guns. Right on cue, walkers discover the build site. Rick holds back his crew, telling Carter and his friends to take care of the walkers with their shovels. That lasts about five seconds until they realize there’s too many walkers. The A Team steps in and clears the undead in a blink.
Later that night Eugene overhears Carter telling other Alexandria survivors he will kill Rick and take back the town. Eugene freaks, drops a jam jar, and is nearly shot in the head by Carter. His bacon is saved when Rick walks in and disarms Carter. The man is given another chance to work with Rick and his crew. The act of mercy doesn’t fool Morgan. He saw the real Rick in the armory with a gun pressed against Carter’s head. Grudgingly Rick admits he wanted to kill Carter just so he doesn’t screw up and get anyone killed. But he doesn’t have to pull the trigger himself; he realizes men like Carter will always end up dead. It’s just the way things happen.
In the armory again. Rick finally talks to Jessie, Pete’s widow. She tells him off for the way he man-handled and berated Ron. Understanding the need to learn self-defense, Jessie has been taking shooting lessons from Rosita and will teach her boys herself. Without Rick. Guess there’s no booty calls in his future.
The next day, the day before they play out Rick’s scheme, the townsfolk who volunteered to help with the plan meet to map out the route Daryl, Abe, and Sasha will drive in order to lure the walkers westward. Abe stops Sasha and asks her if she’s on the mission to die. She says, “No.” The crew stop by a tractor supply store with a dozen or so walkers trapped inside banging on the glass. The noise will draw the horde away from the planned route. Rick says they’ll come back before dark to clear the walkers. Glenn stops Nick to tell him he will sit out the following day; Nick isn’t ready to take on walkers again.
They arrive at the quarry. Rick gives a rousing speech about getting the walkers before they attack the town. Then things go wrong. One truck blocking the eastern path falls from the narrow road, giving walkers a direct route to their backyard. Instead of simply planning their attack, they must now act on it. Carter, of course, argues that they aren’t prepared.
This is actually where the episode begins, if you’ve lost track.
From here on out, it’s all walker action. Daryl plays pied piper, leading the initial rush from the quarry. Abe and Sasha meet him at the hill’s base. Together they lead the horde from the quarry east. While they’re driving, Glenn, Nick, and Heath double back to the tractor store to deal with the noisy walkers. After a false start on the killing, they eventually just blow out a window and open fire. Nick saves Heath’s bacon. It redeems him in Glenn’s eyes a little. Michonne, Rick, and Morgan wait on the far side of the barricade with flare guns. When the horde reaches them, they shoot westward, drawing the walkers’ attention toward where they need to shamble. At one point, a few walkers wander off. Abe jumps from the lead car and lures them back onto the road. When Sasha asks him why he’s acting like a nutjob—talking about pieces of Pete’s brain still in his ear—Abe says he’s just living large, much like Sasha when she snapped and slaughtered numerous walkers for fun.
Everything is going smoothly. Until Carter is grabbed and bitten by a walker. He squeals like a stuck pig, drawing walkers off the road. Luckily, or unluckily, Rick is nearby. He kills Carter. Michonne and Morgan lament the death, but both understand that’s just how it is nowadays. The others alongside the road fire their guns to draw the walkers back. It works. Well, for a moment. Not long after a horn sounds, distracting the walkers again. The horn is coming from Alexandria and now a few thousand walkers are out to find it.
Instead of presenting this version of the story, the showrunners decided to start with the zombie horde and edit the episode to flow inside out, starting in the middle for the present action and the beginning for the flashbacks. If they’d edited it better, I wouldn’t be so livid. Instead of large story chunks to lay groundwork, they cut it into tidbits, dropping ten seconds of storyline here and there amongst personal dramas and too-long clips featuring walkers, well, walking down a road. The undead action stopped being cool the second they hit the road. Then it became a rainy-day parade with no bathroom in sight, but you’ve down an entire pot of coffee just to be awake enough to watch the soggy festivities. It’s not fun. It makes no sense why you would put yourself through such torture for maybe a few enjoyable seconds as your favorite float passes. But it’s not the same. It’s not as entertaining. You begin to wonder if the parade will even be worth attending the following year if there’s a chance of rain.
I’ll tell you right now, if the show pulls this flashback stunt again, I’m not only done with the parade, I’ll forget there’s even a holiday to hold a parade for, rain or not. This episode was a waste of time. Whoever edited it and the people who then looked at this cut and said it was good to go need to relearn a few story-telling basics. The episode is a joke. My ability to take anyone in TWD’s post-production staff seriously is fractured. Just like my sanity after piecing the plot together for you guys. Here’s hoping the next episode makes more sense.
As promised, Fear the Walking Dead starts with a little undead action. We find Nick Bennett in a church which has been turned into a shooting gallery for heroin addicts where they partake in “Junkie Communion.” He wakes, looking for Gloria, the girl he shot up with the night before. Unbeknownst to him, she’s already up and eating breakfast. Not too sure how much nutrition is in a guy’s face, but it doesn’t stop her from chowing down on a poor sap’s cheek and lips. Nick freaks, as one does when facing an aggressive cannibal with freaky eyes, and bolts from the flophouse. He’s hit by a car when he stupidly stops in the middle of the street to catch his breath.
In the first five minutes, they establish Nick as an unreliable narrator. This position is reinforced after he’s checked into the hospital. A cop asks Nick all the usual questions—what happened, why was he running, where’d he get the smack from? Despite being freaked out, Nick responds with sarcasm and lies, calling his delusional ramblings about blood and gore a, “Runner’s high.” The lies continue when he mother, Madison Bennett, arrives at the hospital. It isn’t until much later that Nick opens up to Madison’s boyfriend, Travis Manawa, about what he saw. He admits he’s terrified to think what he saw isn’t real, but cooked up by his drug-addled mind. “If that came out of me, then I’m insane, Travis. Yeah, insane. I really don’t want to be insane.”
The episode’s tempo drops drastically once Madison and her daughter Alicia leave the hospital and head to school. Alicia is a student at the school where Madison is the guidance counselor. Travis also works at the school as an English teacher. At this point in the show, Alicia is only present to show just how screwed up her brother is compared to a “normal” child raised under the same circumstances. She has a steady boyfriend, a place at Berkeley after she graduates, and a serious chip on her shoulder when it comes to trusting her druggie brother. The last, I’ll give them a pass. It’s gut-wrenching to see a sibling fall into drug dependency and unable to help them in any way that sticks. But couldn’t they do more with Alicia? Anytime she’s given decent screen time, she’s latched onto her boyfriend, repeating, “One more year,” referring to her great escape to college. And then the oh-so-essential personality point, her boyfriend, goes missing. At least she gets more screen time than Chris, Travis’s son, and his mother Liza. There is more zombie footage than their bit part in the episode.
The mid-episode doldrums grabbed hard and fast. In an eye-rolling attempt to break it up, the show kept zooming in on people facing away from the camera and playing, “OMG, this guy’s a zombie,” music. Or they latched onto Madison’s near-belligerent refusal to listen to Nick and Travis when they told her about Gloria and the murders in the church. For heaven’s sake, Travis put his hand in a gore puddle, yet it’s not enough to convince Madison there’s something going on. Instead, she accuses Travis of using her son as a Band-Aid on his broken relationship with Chris. It’s not until Nick breaks out of the hospital that Madison will consider going to the church to see what happened with her own eyes. Even then, she has a minimal reaction to the blood on the floor, yet completely breaks down over a needle in one of Nick’s books.
After Travis and Madison leave the church, they hit traffic—not unheard of on L.A.’s notoriously awful freeway system. They hear police warning people to stay in their cars and gunshots. Travis pulls onto the clearer road and they head home. The next day, however, we find out what happened on the freeway via a viral video the school’s staff watches together. After a car crash, EMT’s treat the victims. One man, lying on a backboard, attacks an EMT. Police beat him with batons, to no avail. Eventually they shoot him about eight times in the chest and, surprise, he stands again. Finally, an officer shoots the man in the head. This isn’t the first documented case of this nature. Tobias, a student Madison has taken under her wing because he’s prime bully bait, brings a knife to school the morning of Nick’s accident. He says, “We’re safer in numbers.” Madison asks why, but he doesn’t really answer. She voices her concern about his future if he continues acting out, bringing weapons to school. Tobias goes on to tell her, “No one’s going to college. No one’s doing anything they think they are.” The kids online are hip to what’s going down. All the adults have their head in the sand, apparently. Well, the adults and Alicia. She assumes the footage from the freeway incident is fake. When the police order the school to cut classes short, her belief wavers a little.
Nick’s a free man. So what’s the first thing he does? Call his drug dealer, Calvin. Madison and Travis think Cal is just Nick’s friend. Yeah, the only friend a junkie needs. Cal and Nick meet at a diner, then drive down to the Los Angeles River. Nick assumes he’s about to score dope. Cal assumes Nick is an idiot and plans to shoot him. They fight. Cal gets a bullet to the gut. Nick bolts like his stolen pants are on fire. Unsure what to do with the corpse, he calls Travis. Yes, because your mom’s boyfriend is always the first logical choice when dealing with murder. Being a good boyfriend, Travis brings Madison along and they all drive back down to the river. Only, there’s no body. Now Madison and Travis think Nick’s completely bonkers. That is until Cal shuffles up behind them when they go to leave. Madison tried to help. Cal mistakes her for a hamburger. Taking matters into his own hands, Nick runs over Cal twice to save his mother. It doesn’t kill the undead, just disables him enough he can’t attack anymore.
All Madison can say is, “What the hell’s happening?” Travis replies, “I have no idea.”
Which is pretty much how I feel after watching a ninety-minute episode for maybe twenty minutes of actual plot. This isn’t TWD, with its non-stop walker action, that’s for sure. But it’s also got a long ways to go in order to become a solid genre show which will keep fans in their seats instead of wandering off for snacks every time Alicia is on screen or Madison waves off Travis’ well-founded concerns for the thousandth time. They could have done so much more with the extra time for the pilot episode, and I don’t mean just cramming in more walkers or slow pans to show downtown Los Angeles.
Of Wolves and Men Review of “The Walking Dead” 516 – “Conquer”
Let’s get the messy part out of the way—this episode didn’t warrant an extra twenty minutes of screen time. All it did was give producers a chance to dump all the plot threads into a pool and pray it all untangles in the end. They should’ve refined the story into something a little more cohesive that fits the normal forty-two minutes per episode. Every plot element was unnecessarily drawn out. It’d be different if the time was spent on much-needed character development or laying down a solid base for next season. It wasn’t. They flung everything off the table and fans are supposed to be happy with how the story lands until October. As far as finales go, this is The Walking Dead‘s weakest. So what did happen in the finale? Let’s discuss.
You know the drill, there’s spoilers from here on out in this review.
After weeks wondering why Morgan was brought back during a couple quick scenes, we finally get an answer. Kinda. It’s entirely possible, given the state of things in Alexandria by the end of the episode, that Morgan will fill the long-empty “morality of the group” position. A role desperately needed since Hershel’s murder. We were led to believe Gabriel would fill the need, but he’s loonier than a monkey in rubber pants. Morgan isn’t a pushover. When he’s confronted by the men who’ve been mutilating the walkers around Alexandria, he attempts a passive resolution. It doesn’t work, so he thunks them over the head and locks them in the car he’d used as a hotel room the night before. Later, Morgan bails Daryl and Aaron out of a tight spot—they unwittingly walk into a trap set by the same men who attacked Morgan. These men, wolves they consider themselves, could be the big bad for next season. Honestly, they don’t feel too threatening now that Daryl, Aaron, and Morgan know where they are hiding their zombie collection. What kind of weirdo keeps a zombie collection, anyway? (Zombie bunnies don’t count, guys.)
The entire time Rick and company have been in Alexandria, it’s felt like he and Michonne are growing apart. She wanted to find home so bad and he’s fought it tooth-and-nail since meeting the townsfolk. It’s not until Rick wakes in a makeshift holding cell with Michonne watching over him that they finally understand—they want the same thing and are going about it completely different ways. She doesn’t care if he conspired with Daryl and Carol to secure emergency weapons. She’s willing to look the other way while Carol coaches Rick on how to Play The Part—tell Deanna and her followers exactly what they want to hear, just like Carol has done since they arrived. Michonne has overlooked and forgiven a lot in the name of keeping their newfound home. Being a pushover won’t work, she knows it. However, she also understands in order to get what they all want, someone and something’s got to give. Michonne is the law alongside Rick. She can’t run off like Carol, threatening to murder anyone in the way—a message Pete got loud and clear in this episode. Michonne tells Rick, “We don’t need (guns) here. I don’t need my sword. I think you can find a way—we—can find a way. And if we don’t, I’m still with you.” So even though he’s been a paranoid nutjob for weeks, one of his most capable allies is still at his side. How much is Michonne willing to overlook and forgive in her quest for normalcy, though?
Tensions are riding high between everyone, not just the town’s peacekeepers. Toward the end of the episode, there’s a huge clash between Sasha and Gabriel—the crew’s most unhinged members. Sasha spent her afternoon laying in a mass walker grave, wondering what’s wrong with her. Gabriel spent his strolling around, looking for a walker to do what he can’t—end his life. At the moment of truth, he kills the walker. It’s actually one of the best kills in an episode filled with walker deaths. But when Gabriel and his inability to commit to death and Sasha with her equally large death wish are in the same room, the claws come out. “I think I want to die,” Sasha tells Gabriel. He replies, “Why wouldn’t you want to die? You don’t deserve to be here. What you did can never be undone. The dead don’t chose, but the choices you made, how you sacrificed your own . . . .” He goes on, blaming Sasha for Bob’s death, saying Tyreese deserved his death because of what she’d done. Most of what he says is directed at himself, not her. It doesn’t stop Gabriel from attacking Sasha. In the end, Maggie pulls them apart and sits them down to pray.
Another tense duo come to blows in the midst of the big, “What do we do with Rick” problem. Nicholas lures Glenn over Alexandria’s walls and shoots him in the shoulder. The wound isn’t fatal. Throughout the middle and end of the episode, Glenn and Nicholas take turns beating the snot out of each other and the walkers drawn their way by the noise. It ends with Glenn pinning Nicholas to the ground, a gun pointed at his head. Nicholas begs, crying. Glenn visibly wants to kill him. Is psyching himself out for the kill, telling Nicholas repeatedly to shut up. He doesn’t do it. Should he have? Not in this instance. Nicholas is a coward. He made his attempt to rid himself of the one man who knows just how much of a coward he is. Now that the plan has failed, I’m sure he’ll back down. He may even become Glenn’s new sidekick.
The town meeting to discuss Rick’s attack on Pete, the gun he’d hidden, and the threats made after the fight is doomed from the get-go. Deanna’s motivations aren’t without bias. It’s obvious she wants Rick gone. He’s a thorn in her side and constantly questions how she’s run things since the settlement was created. She doesn’t even wait to see if Rick will show up to the meeting that’ll decide his fate—which he won’t, seeing as Gabriel let a zombie into Alexandria after failing to secure the gate and he’s tracking it while his crew stands up for him. All those kind words from Michonne, Carol, Maggie—and let’s not forget Abraham’s eloquent offering—they’re for naught. Once Rick walks in with a dead zombie over his shoulder, it’s pretty much sealed. Instead of rushing to save his own hide, Rick hunted a walker on his own to ensure their safety. Not even Deanna’s admission of Gabriel’s concerns, which we heard last week, matter after Rick’s little speech.
“The ones out there, they’ll hunt us. They’ll find us. They’ll try to use us. They’ll try to kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how. You know, I was thinking . . . I was thinking, how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I’m not gonna do that. You’re gonna change.”
Rick’s place in Alexandria is cemented when Pete comes into the meeting fully prepared to kill Rick—with Michonne’s katana. Reg steps in the way to calm Pete and is killed instead. Without hesitation, Deanna gives Rick the order to put Pete down.
This is the chaos greeting Morgan after he reluctantly agrees to come back to Alexandria with Daryl and Aaron. How will the old friends get along after such a brutal reunion? Who knows? We’ve got quite some time to ponder how things will land in an evolving Alexandria.
Shh . . . . Was that rustle a walker or a spoiler? Tread carefully.
Death rituals in the zombie apocalypse are odd. More often than not, there’s no corpse to bury or they’ve been forced to cremate their pals because there just wasn’t time to dig a grave. Deanna and family memorialize Aiden by listening to one of his mix CDs. Music has been a vital part of this season, keeping the tone just a little off balance. Aiden’s death does the same to Deanna. She isn’t thinking as rationally as usual when it comes to confrontations and playing the intrigue games they’ve already established between the factions. Typically it’d be an ideal time to pounce, but her opponent isn’t playing with a full deck, either.
At least this means Deanna won’t have time to yell at Sasha for going Lone Ranger in the forest around Alexandria. The second Michonne discovers that Sasha is gone again, she takes off after her. Rosita tags along to be the voice of reason. “You seem screwed up that we found something,” Rosita says to Michonne while they’re on Sasha’s trail. She holds a mirror up to Michonne’s guilt about Noah’s death—if she hadn’t pushed, they wouldn’t have been there for him to die. Irrational, yes. Just like Sasha’s quest to single-handedly decimate the walker population. She’s not a human nuke, but does make an impressive dent in the walker numbers near Alexandria—with assistance when the dung hits the fan at one point. Not that Sasha wants or needs Michonne’s help, of course. She’s beyond saving.
Someone else blows off steam by taking out a few walkers. Carl follows Enid out into the woods on one of her numerous outings to simple run free, away from the nightmares. She’s got a few tricks up her sleeve to deal with walkers—including using a kitchen timer to draw them away. At one point they end up cornered by a horde and hide inside a dead tree. Enid tells Carl, “It’s their world. We’re just living in it.” Which them? The walkers who outnumber the living? The adults making all the wrong decisions, costing the children their homes and loved ones repeatedly?
Things in Doc’s house aren’t getting any better. Carol is fed up. She wants to see an end to it and prods Rick toward making a decision. She’s been digging into the problem. Discovered that Jessie tells Sam to lock himself in his closet during Pete’s outbursts, and once Sam came out of the closet to find her unconscious, bleeding on the floor. Rick decides to try negotiating before following Carol’s suggestion to kill Pete. Rick’s idea of good negotiating techniques may need some work. Like, say, not cornering your opponent in a graveyard. Deanna has all the right answers to Rick’s suggestion—separate them—but she’s thrown for a loop at the suggestion that they kill Pete if he doesn’t comply. The answers aren’t enough. Rick pokes at the hornet’s nest, goes to Jessie and tries to make her see that she can’t fix what’s wrong with Pete.
“You’re only going to make things worse.”
“If things get worse, it means he’s killed you and I’m not going to let that happen.”
Why is Rick fixated on solving Jessie’s problems? Is this an attempt to save one woman, therefore saving the countless others he’s failed since waking in the hospital so, so many moons ago? Certainly it can’t be love. How wrong it is that we question his motives so much simply because he wants to do the right thing. But he’s going about it all wrong. His motives may not be transparent, but the window Rick and Pete break through during their fight is crystal clear—and shattered like Rick’s hope for a future in the walls of Alexandria.
Grab your Kleenex and let’s go. Just watch out for the spoilers below.
Let’s get the worst part out of the way. The supply run had potential at first. For once, Aiden didn’t have his head wedged so firmly he couldn’t hear Glenn’s advice. They followed procedure. Well, except Eugene who just didn’t want to be there. Cowards don’t do brave things and helping find replacement parts for the power grid borders too close to heroism for his taste. But the coward wasn’t the problem. Once inside, things start to unravel. Nicholas and Aiden lose their calm once the walkers close in on their location. That’s the only way to explain how Aiden failed to see the grenade pinned to the chest of an armored walker before he took another shot. Unbelievably, that’s still not the worst thing to happen on this run. After both Nicholas and a dying Aiden admit they were the reason four of their previous supply runners’ deaths, everyone jumps from frying pan into the fire. Eugene single-handedly carries Tara through the walkers to the van outside. Nicholas runs the wrong way—ending up cornered in the building’s lobby which they knew was overrun. Glenn and Noah try to save him and each other, but Nicholas’ panic eats his last two brain cells.
Noah’s death is by far one of the hardest to sit through. Steven Yeun’s performance during the scene breaks my heart. It says so much about Glenn and his morals—he let go of Noah, the least he can do is be there for him until he’s gone.
There’s an unspoken code amongst native Alexandrians when it comes to walker interactions. From the examples given during the supply run and at the construction site with Abraham, it’s safe to assume the code is, “Every man for himself.” Abraham is the only man to step up and save Francine after walkers invade their trip to grab supplies for the wall expansion. Slowly some of the others turn back to help, but it takes a while and they’re still not totally convinced they did the right thing providing backup for Abraham. Tobin, their overseer, knows they reacted wrong. He almost got one of his crewmembers killed. After he returns to camp—leaving the others behind—Tobin resigns from his position and tells Deanna to give it to Abraham. Is it wise to put yet another “outsider” in charge? Maggie convinces Deanna that it certainly won’t be the end of the world, plus her people are competent and she has faith in their ability to help Alexandria.
“They’re not good people. They’ve done things. They’ve done unspeakable things.”
Gabriel could undo all the good press Maggie has been putting forward for the group. Usually it’s Rick to put his foot in the crazy mess and drag it all over the carpet. Not this time. The guilt-crippled priest is everyone’s worst enemy. He can’t accept what he sees in himself and instead of dealing with it, finds an external source to blame. Rick, unfortunately, makes a great scape goat—possible more so after Deanna learns of her son’s death. Despite all their mistakes, do they deserve paradise? Is Alexandria the best they will find or is there a better paradise for them to take over?
The takeover may have a hiccup if Rick wants to do this thing covertly and without killing innocents. Over the course of the episode, it becomes alarmingly clear that something isn’t right in the Doc’s house. Sam spends more effort trying to stay at Carol’s house than it’d take for him to walk home. This is after she terrified him into keeping mum about the guns she stole. Even after all her effort, she’s still not the most frightening thing in the boy’s life. Once she realizes something is wrong, she sees the patterns emerge. Rick sees them too when Pete drunkenly accosts him about bringing Carl and Judith in for checkups. When Carol asks Rick to kill Pete, it’s inevitable. She’s been there, done that, and knows it’s going to take something drastic to shut down an abuser his size. Can Rick do it? Can he kill for Carol, for Jessie and her children—whom he hardly knows yet seems to care about her? What happens if Rick does kill Pete? They need a doctor more than a law man. Deanna may reconsider her stance on his place in Alexandria if he costs them the town’s doctor.
Head’s up! There’s spoilers in the rest of this review.
One of the last hold-outs to fit into life in Alexandria is Sasha. She’s not sleeping. Wakes with the sun to use someone else’s family photos for target practice. At no point does she attempt to get along with the locals—not even effervescent Olivia. How can anyone resist home-cured meats and pickles? Her erratic behavior puts everyone at risk. Deanna won’t put up with her for long. Neither will Michonne.
Sasha isn’t the last round peg refusing to fit in a square hole. Carol, Rick and Daryl are very much on the fence—do they start taking over now or wait to see what their new neighbors can really do? More importantly, how quickly can they establish their own weapons cache? Never mind what’s actually coming out of Deanna’s mouth—making Rick and Michonne the town’s law, reestablishing civilization, a future for their children. Matter of fact, Rick looks terrified at the prospect of Judith remaining in Alexandria past next week, let alone when she’s Carl’s age or an adult. He has to see the potential in her as a leader, but too long scraping by to see tomorrow makes him jumpy, unable to trust in anyone. Which leads to one of the best-acted scenes on this show this season—Carol and Sam in the armory. Melissa McBride does an amazing job showing just how good Carol is at lying to everyone around her. The two sides we see—the soccer mom and the ruthless killer—are drastically different. Carol loves kids, but in that moment she needs Sam more afraid of her than anything else in the world. It works. But is Carol’s remaining humanity really the price Rick should pay to obtain a security blanket?
“…longer they’re out there, the more they become what they really are.”
If Daryl finds out how far down the rabbit hole Carol goes to get the guns, his tune will change pretty quick. As it is, he’s slowly warming up to Aaron. Or at least I assume that’s what it means when he grunts more than five words at a person. The guys had an unfortunate bonding experience with the doomed horse, Buttons. They tried to help and in the end, that help cost Buttons his life. How many times has this happened with humans on the show? So many deaths in the name what’s supposed to be kindness. Except, kindness is as foreign as flying to Disneyworld for vacation in their reality. Losing Buttons doesn’t put a damper on the kinship of sorts brewing between Aaron and Daryl. While everyone else is dragged to the welcoming party at Deanna’s, the guys join Eric for a spaghetti dinner. Over dinner, they pop the question—will Daryl take Eric’s spot as recruiter for Alexandria. There’s a signing bonus, too. Plenty of parts to build a custom motorcycle. Something changes for Daryl during that day. He went from covert meeting in the woods to agreeing to recruit for the town. If he can be won over, who will follow next?