“You don’t have to kill people”
“Of course I do”
Wow. That was one hell of an episode. This is continued assured proof that The Walking Dead is better than it’s ever been. After the poor season 3, increased quality in Season 4, a mostly excellent Season 5, Season 6 now seems to be just as good, or better than its previous seasons. The show has had these episodes of sudden action and blood before, but here we get it interwoven with a number of fantastic character moments and there’s still a place for the show to go.
So, I’m gonna go into spoiler territory here. Look away if you don’t want to know what happens before you see it.
When that member of The Wolves came in and sliced the smoker woman right in the gut, it was a proper damned jump scare. I threw my hands into the air and stared agape at the screen, uttering words beginning with F. It feels great to still be so invested in this show that I experienced a range of emotions as The Wolves brutally killed the residents of Alexandria, and the lives of characters I’d come to love, hung in the balance.
This wouldn’t be possible, of course, if the show’s writing hadn’t improved greatly. We’re no longer in the dregs of season 3, but in the middle (hopefully) of a renewed period of greatness. The writing is tighter, the characters deeper and the conflicts are stronger, and reveal greater results. Whilst there are some iffy points in certain areas, overall we have a great diverse range of people, many interesting characters and no signs of a flagging plot.
This week’s episode spent it’s time with the characters who didn’t go along to the great zombie shuffle of last week, and things go perhaps worse than they did then. We find out where the sound of that horn came from, and we don’t see a single hide nor hair of Rick, Abraham, Michonne, Daryl, Glenn or Sasha for the whole episode
Apart from focusing on Carol and Morgan for most of the episode, we also got a number of great character stuff for the likes of Tara, Eugene, Jessie, Denise and Enid, which fleshes out these smaller characters, making them more engaging and watchable. This is something the show has become much better in, as long as it doesn’t gratuitously kill them off, it’s exciting to have a vast cast of great characters.
That’s why Alexandria has been an awesome storyline. It allows the characters to play house in the apocalypse and in doing say creates interesting ethical points and dilemmas about what survival is. So setting this within the compound, except the prologue, gives it a good sense of excitement and real stakes as the established world falls apart around them.
The prologue, which shows Enid surviving before Alexandria was very interesting. It was smartly edited and done with minimal dialogue. Also, RIP Tortoise.
Carol clearly had the best role in this episode, she has been one of the best developed characters on TV for the last couple of seasons, and there is no sign of let up yet. Here she is smart, resourceful, brave, ruthless and engaging, acting like the smiley timid housewife in the company of the residents of Alexandria, but she’s powerful and sharp behind that exterior, a catalyst to Morgan, the pacifist.
Isn’t it amazing how she starts the timer to cook her casserole just before the first kill and it goes off, just after the last. The episode is set within a brief 45 minute time frame, and the zombies haven’t even shown up yet. It’s a great way to contrast the way Carol presents herself, and the way she acts when no one is looking. If Rick ever dies, there’s no doubt that she should be the new leader.
Then you have Morgan, like Tyreese, he doesn’t want to kill, but is constantly forced to make hard choices, and by letting The Wolves escape, it may lead to major repercussions. He’s just bad ass isn’t he. The way he uses that stick to beat down maniacs with machetes and axes, without killing, that’s impressive. We know that sooner or later he’s gonna break, he’ll have to kill, or he’ll try to get revenge, but at the moment it is great to have a character who still tries to remain human.
Elsewhere, the scene with Tara, Eugene and new Doctor Denise, gives them interesting dynamics, making Eugene an interesting and likeable guy, Tara a well rounded, friendly but tough woman and giving Denise the ability to test her stuff, but also becoming flappable because she can’t do everything.
Jessie gets to fight it out by herself, getting one over on a Wolf, using a pair of scissors to really take her down. Connor and Enid bond over Judith protection duty, leading to her departure. Gabriel gets guns, Rosita and Aaron get little to do and Maggie and Deanna end up on the sidelines, sadly for Maggie as I want her to really get something to do.
I can’t wait for next week, to see if the zombie horde arrives, to see what happens with The Wolves, and to genuinely spend time with these characters, because I really like them. If The Walking Dead is going to keep up this blend of engaging, and might I add mostly non zombie, action and smart character development, then this show is going to become one of my absolute favourite shows, because so far, I’m really liking this.
Rating: A- 9/10
“Just Survive Somehow”