Guts and grime are the groups only saving grace as Rick and the others attempt to save themselves from the incoming horde of walkers now fully engulfed in Alexandria. Carol and Morgan reach in impasse over Morgan’s prisoner. Ron forces Carl to a violent showdown and Deanna succumbs to an unexpected injury. Meanwhile, Glenn continues to persuade Enid to reenter town while Maggie is left alone on a platform to fend for herself.
The mid-season finale doesn’t yield much of an outcome, but rather ties the loose ends of most of the quarrels that plague this show. The rambunctious plot tethers it’s tension and release almost too much within a short hour, trying to balance the soft moments with the violent ones. It’s as though the episode condenses two styles into one leaving the cliffhanger nothing more than a 3 month long commercial break in-between. The tragedy of Deanna is guided with the theme that notable bitten victims no longer get an on-screen death, but an assumed end. Moments that could have been accentuated better such as Morgan and Carol’s difference of opinion are reduced to a few choice ideologies and a roughly paced struggle that sees neither the victor. In the end, we’re forced to watch a rehash of clothes stinking with zombie guts to allow safe passage for our wary crew, only this time, no hoods are necessary. Did too many characters survive? Perhaps, but surely with a child calling to his mother in the chaos, there’s bound to be repercussions within minutes of episode nine.
After the tower collapses, walkers immediately swarm through, scattering the living into different areas of town. Maggie narrowly makes it to a platform alone while Rick and Michonne rush to gather who they can. Deanna falls on a circular saw and is helped by Rick while Rosita, Tara, and Eugene escape into the garage where Morgan’s prisoner is being held. Carol suffers a minor head injury but is helped by Morgan back to the empty house as Denise remains in the room with the prisoner. Rick, Michonne, Gabriel, Ron, Carl, and Deanna make it to Jessie’s house where Sam is unprepared at the chaos reentering his isolated environment. Michonne cleans Deanna and finds a bite mark, sealing Deanna’s fate. Carl attempts to talk down Ron who locks them in a room and attacks Carl. Walkers begin to break through as Rick helps them escape. Carl covers for Ron by explaining they were only fighting off the walkers and later takes Ron’s gun. Carol admits not trusting Morgan and later distracts him to reach the prisoner where Denise has been aiding his infection. Morgan intervenes and the two square off with Morgan knocking Carol out. The prisoner then knocks Morgan out and holds Denise hostage as Tara, Rosita, and Eugene arrive. The prisoner leaves the house with Denise while Rick devises a plan to use walker guts to spread on sheets and use to maneuver outside toward the armory. Outside, Glenn further compels Enid to go back and join the others and later sees Maggie isolated on the platform. Rick and the others finish spreading guts on the sheets and as a unit leave the house. Deanna wants to be left alone with a gun to kill herself, but instead she faces against the walker horde, expelling her rounds and screaming in defiance. The group is last seen shuffling through to the streets with Sam calling to his mother repeatedly.
The sudden rush of walkers surrounding everyone’s homes is a dose of reality that needed to happen. Rosita and Tara accentuated this with their questions about earning their solace and choosing to believe or not that this neighborhood is their end and needs to be fought for. That coupled with Deanna’s lasting conversation with Michonne about doing what you want to do helps refocus our main crew with sticking to their survival instincts and fighting for their territory. Michonne doesn’t really need the pep talk but sometimes it’s good to hear things from another perspective about the future and have those sentiments live on in others. Plus, it’s normal for some characters to question their own survival and be reinforced by those still embedded on living. It can get circular but everyone dips now and again and needs colleagues to stay resolute.
The quintessential build up of leaving the house paired with the slow-motion and intense music was probably the best kind of ending they could create without giving making it too grim or unknown as to their survival. It was the kind of ending that promised that Rick would get them through as a unit. Rather then shake that concept and make it a horrendous cliffhanger where someone’s about to get bitten or as a group they are about to overrun was avoided to alleviate our stress levels until March. I particularly liked that segment because anything different might have been too subtle or tragic, which is why we saw Deanna screaming in defiance rather than her body get overtaken by the horde. This was the highest end note they could do without suffering more death.
There was entirely too many jumps between character segments. Because of this, Morgan and Carol had to handle their issues in three small scenes while Rick and the others at Jessie’s house dealt with the bulk of the episode. It was almost as if Carol was just going through the motions and following through with her distrust because that’s who she is and we couldn’t wait for the horde debacle to end before she ran downstairs and faced off against Morgan. That really didn’t need to happen now but they forced it.
There was just something completely off with Ron’s choice to once again pull a gun on Carl just to get their little showdown underway. This episode showcased how Jessie’s children can’t handle the stress of their situation and while Sam internalizes, Ron externalizes with violence and considering the daftness of it all, he really doesn’t have a good reason. Carol assumes it’s about Ron’s father and once more reminds him that the guy was an @$$hole, which somehow quells Ron’s killing attitude for now. I didn’t want Ron to survive but then again, losing either child would probably have pushed Jessie over the edge and cause more problems which inherently are Ron’s fault for unintentionally allowing the horde into the house.
Deanna’s choice to shoot the walkers and scream at them rather than end her life. That is one of the staples of a zombie story is the one character who instead of succumbing to their injuries fights on in defiance because it’s just in their blood. We’ve seen examples like this in Resident Evil, Dawn of the Dead, and it goes to show that these kinds of scenes are more enjoyable to witness than the bloody demise of their spirits and bodies as they’re either forced to blow their brains out or get eaten in the onslaught of the dead. As a character who wanted to see her community survive and grow, she reached within and pulled out that unyielding spirit of hope that even when she’s guaranteed to be one of the dead, she’ll fight on.
It’s a tie between Carl and Morgan. I liked that Carl stuck up for Ron even though he didn’t deserve it and really shows that he’s able to see past the era of kill or be killed. He’s turning into a man who can make practical decisions and not succumb to retaliation just to save his own hide. Meanwhile, Morgan is resolute in his defending a prisoner who doesn’t intend to change. This clash between him and Carol was perfect and should have had more time to develop because those two are so strong in their beliefs yet you just knew that when Morgan said she wouldn’t get past him, he meant it. I appreciate how these two characters handled themselves in this episode.
Now we know that it was Eugene who Daryl heard on the walkie-talkie which makes sense in hindsight. This means Daryl and the others won’t be sidetracked into another mini-adventure and will likely be gunning right through Alexandria when we come back in March to help save the day.
I’m really liking how Denise is dealing with her situations, especially talking back to the prisoner while holding her throat. I can’t imagine they’ll do away with her character, but it’s too early to tell if she’ll escape the prisoner or if she’ll in fact be the first one of Alexandria to meet with Negan or the Wolves group, assuming they’re aligned.
The guts on the sheets were unfortunately necessary to handle their escape although it seems off that they don’t cover their faces or wearing anything on their heads but if the smell is everywhere I suppose they don’t have to go all out. Seems a bit rushed not to mention Sam’s calling out to his mother at the end. Was that meant as an “Oh no” moment because he’s going to lure the walkers to him, or that because his world is breaking down he’s finally realizing what’s happening and needs his mother to hold him regardless of the fact that there are dozens of walkers within arm’s reach.
I almost felt bad for Enid after what Glenn said to her, mainly because I was expecting some moment where it turns out she was right to leave because by going back she’ll be caught in some horrid scenario where she gets bitten or devoured and Glenn said all this to get her to go back which could inevitably get her killed. But more so her returning will quash Ron’s sense of fatalism and return him to some sense of normality and this awkward love triangle with Carl too will live on.
7 out of 10. Intense as it was, some moments felt very rushed and divided. It was too quick of an hour to handle the kinds of story elements they were putting on us when I’m certain all we wanted to see was Glenn and Maggie once more reunite. There were many moments at Jessie’s house where the tension just went away to allow for a tender moment between Deanna and Rick or Deanna and Michonne when a couch on the stairs barely blocks the living from the dead. There were bits of payoffs most notably Carl and Ron fighting as well as Morgan and Carol having their struggle end with the prisoner escaping anyway. Spencer’s survival is unknown but likely a definite along with other no-name survivors but we won’t know until March. The tales of Alexandria are far from over and we’ll be sure to start the next half with a flurry of bullets and mayhem as Daryl and crew will return with rockets galore. As always, thanks for reading and we’ll catch you in a few months when TWD returns.
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