Before we roll into tonight’s recap of AMC’s The Walking Dead, let’s take a brief trip back to the Season 6 opener. While you can read our full recap of the premiere here, I’ll sum it up shortly since the events of that first 90 minutes directly impact what happened in the following 60. (If you’re not caught up on either episode, consider this your spoiler warning. And if you are caught up, be sure to watch the Collider Video team’s episode recap here!)
Upon discovering a quarry full of hundreds of Walkers that could easily overwhelm Alexandria’s defenses were they to be unleashed, Rick and his team devised a plan to lure the herd a safe distance away from town. Since the majority of Rick’s experienced fighters oversaw the operation along with a large contingent of Alexandrians, only a relative few – including Carol, Maggie, Carl, and Eugene – are left to defend the walls back home. That wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that a disturbance in Alexandria disrupted the whole plan and drew the Walkers off the beaten path and towards the town. The cause of that disturbance hadn’t been revealed … until tonight.
But before we get to that, we need to take a moment to address tonight’s cold open. It focuses on the aloof character of Enid (Katelyn Nacon), whom Carl has been seen running off with outside Alexandria’s walls. However, this opener goes back to a time before Enid’s arrival in Alexandria. We watch as her parents are killed by Walkers, leaving her to fend for herself in increasingly dire situations. She gets through it all on her own grit and survival instincts, always leaving her mark by way of the letters “JSS”, a mystery which we’ll get back to. The opening sequence certainly paints Enid in a new light, and I have hope for the future of humanity in this world if she and Carl can get together since they seem like the most capable youths by far. But Enid’s behavior by episode’s end also raises the following question: Has she actually been surviving on her own all this time?
Meanwhile, inside the walls of Alexandria, Carol continues to assume the role of dutiful homemaker. Melissa McBride plays the part exceptionally well, making Carol appear to be only an accomplished baker and cook without giving away the character’s hardened survival skills. However, she does give Shelly, another of the Real Housewives of Alexandria, some attitude when she tells her to give up smoking since it’ll get her killed; Shelly really should have listened. (Carol also gets extra credit for being straight with Sam about his father’s murder and essentially telling him to sack up. What is he, like 10?)
So while the mundane tasks of everyday life are carried out in and around Alexandria – Carol bakes a lasagna, Jessie tries to give Ron a haircut as a pretense for talking to him about his dad, Deanna and Maggie patrol the perimeter to plan for the new expansion, Eugene and Tara meet Denise (Merritt Wever) the town’s new doctor, and Carl takes Judith for a stroll – some very bad folks are lurking just outside the walls. We’ve been told for a while now that the Wolves were not far; tonight, they’re inside the gate.
What follows this realization is a completely crazy and tense battle taking place within the walls of Alexandria. Scenes of brutal savagery on the part of the Wolves are answered by moments of heroism from Carol, Maggie, Carl, and Morgan, once he
teleports arrives from the Walker parade. The most unsettling aspect of this episode’s editing was how certain scenes – like Carl telling Enid not to say goodbye while they’re sitting back to back with weapons drawn, Carol calmly teaching a frightened Olivia how to shoot a gun, or Denise struggling to save Holly’s life with Tara and Eugene’s help – seem almost normal in this new, savage world.
And savage it is. Richard, a wall guard, is taken out early on by Molotov cocktails that burn his body to a crisp; Shelly is brutally hacked to death by a machete, a fate that befalls many of the townspeople since the dirty and primitive-looking Wolves don’t have any guns. The only people who are relatively safe are our long-surviving heroes like Carol, Carl, Maggie, and Morgan, and those they’ve either protected (like the cowardly Deanna Monroe and her poor-excuse-for-a-sniper son Spencer) or convinced that they need to fight to survive. The vigilant Jessie was a great example of the latter as she protected herself and her children, even violently stabbing an intruding Wolf to death (and destroying the brain as a finisher).
While the aforementioned heroes get moments of glory – Carl saves Ron and protects Enid, Maggie gets Deanna and Spencer to safety, Eugene and Tara try to help Denise save lives – the episode really belongs to Carol and Morgan. How Morgan got to town so quickly when everyone else in Rick’s group stayed behind is a question for another day, but I’m glad he did, mostly because he was apparently the only one smart enough to pull the Truck Driving Walker off the airhorn. With that problem solved, it falls mostly to Carol and Morgan to help secure the town, and boy do they have different styles of doing that.
Let’s start with Morgan, who is now walking the Earth like Caine with the belief that all life is precious, even the lives of those who are trying to kill him. So despite being attacked multiples times, either in one-on-one or worse situations, Morgan opts to use his bo staff skills to knock folks unconscious or teach them a lesson rather than eliminating them completely. (He apologizes to one unlucky fool who almost kills him near the episode’s end, but it’s not clear if he actually executes the man or not.) Driving this point home, Morgan faces off against five foes near the town’s gate and beats them senseless while warning that his people have guns and that the Wolves should flee. They do, eventually, with one of them grabbing a fallen pistol while Morgan chases them out. I can’t imagine this optimism will work out well for Morgan at all.
A more practical, yet ruthless outlook possesses Carol. Of the men Morgan spares, she kills a fair number. Carol even executes her fellow townspeople who are either too far gone due to their injuries or will draw other attackers to her location (almost exactly like Rick’s mercy killing of Carter in the premiere to prevent his screams drawing Walkers to him). Perhaps Carol’s most badass display of all was when she dressed herself in the clothes of a dead Wolf and drew the bandits’ “W” on her forehead in blood, all the better to blend in with the group. Doing so allowed her to infiltrate the armory, secure it, and get guns in the hands of her people. Luckily, capable folks like Aaron and Rosita were able to help Carol kill the bandits and finish off the dead, though pacifists like Morgan and Gabriel at least stayed out of her way.
There are two interesting things that happen to Carol toward the end of the episode. One occurs when she’s sitting on her porch, considering the pack of smokes she picked up from Shelley, and looks over to see the letter “A” drawn in what appears to be blood on the banister. Is that a throwback to the train car in Terminus as a reminder that Carol got their asses out of there almost single-handedly? Or does it suggest something more sinister, like someone marked her house? (Or am I just a dumdum who missed the significance of the “A”?) The other interesting bit was Carol and Morgan walking in opposite directions past each other down Main Street. To me, this is just further confirmation that, although they don’t see eye to eye, each will go about their business in the way that they see fit. But since neither of them are on the same path, only one of them is likely to survive…
This episode was mostly about driving home the difference between Rick’s crew of survivors and the soft citizens of Alexandria, a theme that was established quite well in the premiere. In a very clever scene, the creative team reveals that this entire invasion, slaughter, and defense of the town took place in just the amount of time it takes for Carol to bake a lasagna (~40 minutes, so essentially in real time); the fact that Carl still takes the dinner out of the oven when the timer goes off further makes the point that this level of violence is now just part of their everyday lives. Wake up, do some chores, repel invading Wolves, sit down for dinner. All in a day’s work!
There were a few pacing issues and some stilted dialogue in tonight’s hour, but hey, at least we’re back to full-color episodes. What’s important to keep in mind is that now, after all this, the Alexandrians should be more willing to follow Rick’s lead. Even more importantly, there’s a huge wave of Walkers headed directly for the town to test their mettle. Let’s hope they’re ready.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Carol: “I can teach you to make noodles by hand, but you’d have to promise not to smoke in the house. It’s a disgusting habit and it kills you. If you ask me, there are too many things trying to do that already. Right?” I love Carol.
Eugene: “It hams my biscuits, is all.”
Eugene: “You’re a doctor?” Denise: “Are you? I’m sorry. I heard that story.” Eugene: “Fair play.”
Carl’s looking all growed up!
Enid: “This place is too big to protect, there are too many blind spots. That’s how we were able to…” Carl: “They got in the walls. They’re going to die, all of them. Don’t tell me goodbye.”
Eugene: “I also believe my services would be best rendered right very here.” Aaron: “What?” Eugene: “I also believe my services would be…” Rosita: “Shut up!”
Wolf: “Quick or slow?” Morgan: “Leave, please.” Wolf: “Gonna be slow.”
One of the captured Wolves says something about freeing them, about them being trapped. Another mentioned that this raid of the town was not by their design. So do we think some bigger bad guy is in charge or them? Or at least making this life of theirs a necessity?
Gabriel: “I’m not good with guns.” Morgan: “Me neither.”
Tara: “All I was gonna say is, make sure you get her brain.”
Aaron finishes off the corpses so they don’t rise up, and in doing so, he finds a backpack with an envelope inside that has photos of the town. Are we to believe that the bag and the pictures belonged to Eric as part of his recruitment effort? Does that mean that Eric is in the hands of the Wolves, or worse? [As Talking Dead and some of our commenters pointed out, the backpack was actually Aaron’s, which he left behind. Bad form, Aaron!]
So … Enid took off pretty quickly. Do we think she’s just afraid of what will happen if Alexandria falls and she’s caught? Or is this something more nefarious at work here, as in … did Enid know this was coming?
“Just Survive Somehow”
Well, we didn’t lose any major cast members this evening, so you still have a chance to vote in our deadpool poll for “Who Will Die in Season 6?”