The first four episodes of AMC’s sixth season of The Walking Dead have all revolved around one incident: the planned redirection of the massive herd of Walkers threatening to overwhelm Alexandria. The premiere saw that plan put into action, the second episode revealed how it all fell apart thanks to an attack on the homefront, and the third explored the costly fallout of the Wolves’ assault. Last week’s 90-minute episode – which frustrated many viewers since it was a departure from the main storyline- delved into the formative years of one of this season’s most mysterious characters. It wasn’t until this week that we got our first true filler episode
Season six was rolling along beautifully, even considering last week’s Morgan-centric episode that pushed pause temporarily, but tonight’s episode felt like a dead stop. You got the sense that things were a little off right from the getgo as Rick sprinted his way past the leading age of the mega-herd and found sanctuary just inside the town’s gates. If you remember back to the end of the third episode, Rick was left stranded inside the shot-up RV, looking terrified as the herd closed in on him. So much for dramatic tension since apparently all he had to do was run away really fast…
I can forgive the occasional slack when certain writing decisions are made to serve the story before shoehorning in a “cool scene”, but “Now” seemed to make all the wrong decisions. Rather than seeing Rick make a daring escape, he just hustled into town. Rather than seeing his reaction to the aftermath of the Wolves’ attack on Alexandria – along with making sure his friends and family were okay… – we see him giving yet another speech about sticking together to survive, presumably after an unseen debriefing from one of his other team members. These were but two of the strange choices made in “Now”, ones which likely frustrated viewers as much as they did this reviewer.
One of those decisions concerns focusing on the meandering Deanna Monroe. When last we saw her, Alexandria’s de facto leader was struggling to come to grips with the attack on her town and the impending horror waiting outside the walls. She has now seen the violence men are capable of inside the walls and the certain death that waits for them all outside. This would be the perfect opportunity for her to either step up and lead her people or just turn control over to Rick & Co. completely. Instead, she just kind of wanders off aimlessly.
Her son isn’t much better. Spencer, who was almost as useless as his mother in the defense of Alexandria against the Wolves, appears to be trying to keep the peace when he defends the town’s food supply from looting by panicked citizens. The problem is that he was just out to loot the place for himself. He continues his spoiled brat act when his mother catches him red-handed, overtly blaming her for their collective weakness. Later, as Deanna attempts to return the stolen goods, she’s forced to defend herself against a Walker for what must be the first time in her life considering that she makes no attempt to destroy the creature’s brain. Lucky for her, Rick runs in to save the day again.
Rick’s only other action in this episode is a brief but passionate kiss he shares with Jessie. She’s got her hands full without worrying about romancing the new leader in town. One son, Sam, is afraid to leave his room because of all the recent violence that occurred downstairs (remember that Jessie brutally stabbed a Wolf to death and her body is still there at the episode’s beginning); her other son, Ron, is picking fights with Carl and snitching to Rick that Enid is outside the walls. Keep in mind that Rick killed their abusive dad, a fact that won’t soon be forgotten. Jessie’s keeping it together though, as evidenced by her execution of a fellow citizen who committed suicide and turned, rather than facing death by other hands.
Exploration of side characters is all well and good, but ultimately this was an hour spent with people we care the least about. Half of the folks on screen didn’t even have names; the other half have barely had any lines of dialogue on their own, so “Now” was their time to shine. Unfortunately, nothing really stood out. The new town’s doctor, Denise, is dealing with her crippling anxiety within the walls of the infirmary while trying to save a patient and ignore the threats outside. When Tara steps in and offers Denise a shot of confidence, she manages to stabilize her charge and even makes a pass at Tara for good measure. Sure, why not!
Perhaps the most frustrating bit of this episode was the team-up of Maggie and Aaron. Once Maggie learns of Glenn’s death (and to a lesser degree, Nicholas’), she gears up to go out in search of him; Aaron tags along and shows her a way out of town through a tunnel that runs under the gates. So while the rest of the townsfolk are crying and moaning and stealing from each other, it looked like we were at least going to get some sort of closure on Glenn’s status. Nope. When Maggie and Aaron are attacked by two rotten Walkers in the tunnel and then cut off from their exit by more Walkers outside, they just give up. Maggie has a good reason at least: she’s pregnant. The revelation just fell kind of flat in this episode and likely frustrated viewers even more. The only ray of hope came towards the episode’s end when Maggie and Aaron begin to wipe Glenn and Nicholas’ names off the memorial wall, at least until they’re sure the men won’t be returning.
Then, as if to erase any last shred of that hope, we see Deanna walking along the wall at night. As she does, a rivulet of what appears to be blood drips down one of the metal sections. Who’s was it? What’s happened to them? (Does anybody care?) Last we saw, Ron had replaced Rick on watch, just as Spencer relieved Rosita. Whether something has happened to one of them or someone else remains to be seen.
What’s clear from this episode is that the threat of suicide looms large inside the walls as the siege by Walkers outside creates a desperate panic. It’s a theme that’s used well in the comic books and has been referenced from time to time on the show, but now that we have a captive group of survivors, cabin fever may set in in earnest. Let’s hope the A-Team shows up next week to save the citizens (and the audiences) from another filler episode.
Rating: ★★ Fair
Maggie’s disco lights seemed like a better idea than Aaron’s Tunnel of Death. Too bad we never got to see them in action.
It’s clear that Deanna Monroe is good for planning, but not necessarily leading. If only they would all work together to find each other’s strengths, this place might actually be functional.
Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim. (Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.) – Ovid
Has Carl not learned how to fight from watching his dad/Glenn/Daryl/anyone? That wrist-slapping “fight” with Ron was pretty pathetic.
Denise: “I just want him to live, for the Roamers to go away, and for a doctor to show up at the gates so I can go back to my apartment and keep reading ‘War and Peace.'”
Jessie: “This is what life looks like now. We have to see it. We have to fight it. If we don’t fight, we die.”
Aaron’s trying really hard to make up for his mistakes … a noble trait which will probably get him killed. (Sewer/tunnel/Walker water in a head wound can’t be good for the constitution.)
Deanna: “I wanna live. I want this place to stay standing.” Rick: “You need to lead them.” Deanna: “They don’t need me, Rick. What they need … is you.”
Aaron (to Maggie): “When he gets back, it’s worth mentioning that Aaron/Erin works well for a boy or a girl, depending on the spelling. Just saying.”