|Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page|
Was there a better way to spend Valentine's Day? Ummmm, I. Think. Not. Coming off the first half of season six which struggled to prove its ambition - five episodes taking place over the course of one day didn't feel consistent, characters were hard to be invested in, and the show struggled to give direction with Alexandria's walls. Watching the first eight episodes of season six in one day felt much more cohesive than watching them week-to-week. The premiere itself didn't feel haphazard, which was a concern. Surprisingly, the return gave us probably one of the best episodes of the series - action-packed, emotional, and a great transformation for the community members that irked us all so much.
Before the series winter break, we lost Deanna. That wasn't fun for me because she was one of the few Alexandrians I cared about. Camouflaging themselves into the undead with gut-covered ponchos, Rick with Carl and Judith, Jesse, Ron, Sam, Father Gabriel and Michonne made their way across the lawn undetected. Sam was calling out for his mother, unable to handle the next leg of their trip among the walkers. We were left with a comic book-esque cliffhanger of massive proportions.
I honestly thought the episode was primarly going to focus on that one big comic book moment we were waiting for. And, the episode does. But Seth Huffman (writer of No Way Out) and Greg Nicotero (director) accomplished much more. They finally took us back to some of the show's original roots - the core connection of father and son, and Rick as a leader when he just lets the group come together.
In watching bits of the marathon before the season premiere, I missed the camaraderie of the first two seasons. There's an unspoken energy among the cast and story. It feels fresh. The group feels united with Rick as a newbie leader trying to navigate everyone to safety. Between then and now, it's all about making homes where homes can't be made, safety doesn't exist in this world anymore, and there are worse things out there than the walkers - people. We go through Ricktatorships, and Rickocracies, the group separating and uniting but not feeling whole as it did in the beginning. While I still love those seasons (three through five), I think we finally got back a little bit of that fresh energy. It feels like the start of something bigger down the road. How can it not - with Negan on the way?
Talk about one of the best openers to the series so far. Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl are blocked on the road by Negan's cronies. Asked to hand over their weapons, the head honcho toys with whether or not to shoot them because they are asking question about who Negan is and trying to reason with them. While Daryl is taken to the back of their truck to hand over more equipment, because everything belongs to Negan, it looks like the end for Sasha and Abraham.
UNTIL NEGAN'S ENTIRE GROUP EXPLODES IN A BLAZE OF GLORY OUT OF NOWHERE.
It was insane! Even though AMC released the first four minutes to the episode online, I didn't watch it. I like to stay away from spoilers unless I really think a group member is peril (like Glenn's "death").
What a way to kick off the episode. I loved that we were left in suspense if they were going to make it back to Alexandria. With the way season six has been so far, we could've easily been forced to spend another episode with Sasha, Abraham, and Daryl being stopped on the road again by another group of by Negan's guys. Like a continuous set of forks in the road that would prevent them going home.
The opening and ending of No Way Out had a great set of bookends too. It opened with Daryl eliminating Negan's guys with a bazooka. And, then at the end, he distracted the walkers overruning Alexandria It was a great nod to Caryl too and Carol setting Terminus on fire in season five.
Comic book fans or those who've read the spoilers know what's going to happen with our group facing off against Negan. I haven't read either, but his presence is already talked about so highly, Daryl's rescue is probably going to be mute into the future. My only guess is that surely Negan and his people watched the incident from afar and might track them to Alexandria. Or maybe the community just can't be fixed and the group is forced back into the wilderness. There's going to be a whole lot of biting, chewing, swallowing, and repeating for the rest of the season.
What was going down at Alexandria? For a decent portion of the episode, groups were broken up and trying to remain alive or get in contact with other groups. Enid and Glenn made it into the community and headed for the church. Glenn planned on ditching Enid to go and save Maggie; he just wanted her to see that everything can be salvageable and Alexandria is still worth it.
"People you love, they made you who you are. They're still apart of you. That last bit of them that's still around inside who you are, is gone!"
Taking a breather for a heart-to-heart moment, Surrogate Daddy Glenn explained to Enid what he meant about losing people after they're gone - the parts they had influences on you are gone when you abandon the beliefs they had on you. Glenn's people were his parents, Dale, Andrea, Herschel, and Tyrese.
I don't want to be a negative nancy, but I was a little peeved that he/the writers didn't include Beth. Honestly any character's list would be a scroll's length if they included everyone who taught them something. Glenn, perhaps the most obvious of all the characters, absorb what's to learn from everyone else. When they die he's not as likely to turn his grief inward. He's always pushing onwards to keep his family alive, but probably moreso, give hope to those who don't have a family. That's been a huge turning point for Glenn - his family used to be just people at the prison, people who have traveled with him from Atlanta. Over the past few seasons he's been way more inclusive and the first to extend a hand to someone or to give a second chance.
I was just a little peeved that other characters like T-Dogg or Beth were left off his list. No offense to Tyrese but they hardly any scenes together, except for his death scene. Glenn's gonna include his father-in-law but not his sister-in-law? His sister-in-law who shot a gun to break up his pissing contest against Merle? His sister-in-law's death who along with Tyrese's death broke the group into shambles? And, T-Dogg who fought alongside him and the rest of the original Atlanta members for nearly three seasons?
The sentiment of the scene was very nice, but it just irked me a little. He's not probably going to include Shane, or Lori, or Merle. Herschels' a given. It was nice at least that Dale and Andrea weren't forgotten.
Enid was also less annoying, to my surprise. Immediately after realizing what Glenn meant and how she can take her motto "Just Survive Somehow" and use it to save Maggie, that's exactly what she did. As nighttime approached, they ran to the weakening watchtower Maggie was barely standing on. Glenn distracted the walkers by shooting at them, creating more noise for him to be followed and nearly eaten to death. And, Enid climbed up the walls and helped Maggie down. There was a lot of understated girl power in No Way Out, and she was definitely an example of it. She pushed forward to not let Glenn exclude her from saving Maggie. We finally saw Maggie and Glenn reunited, even if it was from afar. I want to see their real union next week!
Carry On, Alexandria
Around the block with Alexandria, there was still more to deal with. Let's talk about how the fall of Alexandria finally brought forward a revolution.
Around the block with Alexandria, there was still more to deal with. Let's talk about how the fall of Alexandria finally brought forward a revolution.
I've been highly critical towards most of the Alexandrians. Denise, Aaron, Heath, Deanna, Spencer, and Jessies' family (though they seemed to be hated by a majority of the fans), were a few exceptions. Alexandria was more of a community with nameless faces than people we were really invested in. If the whole community went up in smoke, it didn't really matter for a season and a half. Seeing some of the Alexandrians hiding in their houses as some of our core group slaughtered the zombie masses, I thought it was going to be more of the same.
A majority of the episode was our guys taking out the walkers. It served as an amazing call to action. Alexandrians and Team Grimes finally woke up and went to war.
Father Gabriel was on our ****shit-list for a long time. While walking with Rick and his family through the hoard, they paused for a moment to make up a new plan. The original was to go to the armory and get guns, but then they decided it would be best to get to the quarry with cars and draw the walkers away. But Judith was probably not going to survive. Gabriel offered his services to take Judith to his church and keep her safe. It was a heartbreaking decision.
Would anyone have done the same thing - with a guy who had tried to exile Rick and his group from Alexandria after they saved him a dozen of times? It was a tough call. But going into the mid-season premiere, I really wanted Gabriel to prove himself. He promised Rick he would not leave them; he would do whatever he could to help. Finally he was stepping up to the plate. He led Judith back to one of the other houses. Once there with other community members, he handed over Judith to one of his flock and grabbed a machete to help out the others. He stood by his promise. It was great!
Before stepping out, he told his flock: God will save Alexandria. Because God has given us the courage to save it ourselves. Hot damn, I got a little emotional. Seth Gilliam is such a tricky actor to believe - he had a lot of conviction in promising Rick that he will not abandon him. But his poker face is dead on. Even as he was rallying his church members, he was talking with a smile. We could gauge that he was just passionate, but still a part of me was thinking he was on the edge again.
As the walkers covered nearly every damn inch of the streets, people went to bat for each other - literally. While Deanna was alive she struggled to keep faith in her community; that her ideals for Alexandria weren't high hopes and useless dreams of a world that didn't exist anymore, that couldn't be brought into fruition. One of the smartest things for this season was for everything to come to a head with No Way Out. There was no for anybody to turn - you either die or fight. All of Deanna's people, now Rick's people, finally shook off their cowardice, that intuition they've had to hide from all of their troubles, and fight.
What an transformation for Denise! If there is anyone who I am more proud of, it's this gal. Just look at that gif set. Would we have ever guessed she would've had the gaul to say this to a Wolf? I'm not so sure.
The last time we saw her, she did show a bit of bite. The Wolf made it seem like he was going to kill her outright, and she told him he was full of shit. With Carol and Morgan knocked unconscious, Tara, Rosita, and Eugene walked in as the Wolf took Denise hostage outside with the walkers.
To be honest, for like an hour (in realistic time), Denise and the Wolf both just hung out on the terrace. I was a bit confused. The front terrace was "blocked" by a steel fence and five stairs. They were hidden behind a wall but they were still talking. The Wolf showed creepy interest into turning Denise into a Wolf too. Even peeking up from the wall waiting for the area to clear, I thought at least one walker followed by a few others would've gotten to them. But, guess not. Even then, Rosita, Eugene, Tara, Carol and Morgan were still inside the house. They had a gun on them and some knives (surely hidden somewhere). I would've thought at least they would've caught the Wolf off-guard and saved Denise, but they basically waited like everyone else.
A little bit of Morgan's perspective attached itself to Denise - could the Wolf change? It was obviously successful for some like Gabriel, Eugene and other Alexandrians. But for the Wolf? He was a damn good chameleon that was stuck in his twisted ways. But when trying to get to the infirmary, Carol finally shot him down as he was ganged up on by more walkers and he told Denise to run. It's hard to tell. His demise, and truly last minute decision to save Denise, all happened by luck. What would've happened once they got across the walls - we'll never know.
It's disgusting that people summarize Denise's brief ally with the Wolf as Stockholm Syndrome. Denise suffering SS means she blindly climbed over the wall with him, took his philosophy to heart, and came back with a W on her forehead? completely giving herself up to his ideology? Ummm, but no. She didn't.
Instead she tried to help him for as long as possible, however long that was going to be. All she wanted was to get back to her patients; the one thing that terrified her the most is what was calling to her. We don't know how long the Wolf would've been a patient. She started a tourniquet to axe off his arm, which in itself is pretty impressive. With how pissed Carol was with Morgan keeping the Wolf around, I take it that not many other people would've been on board for this experiment.
She didn't suffer any mourning towards the Wolf. There wasn't time, and I don't think she will. Once she made it to the infirmary, where Aaron, Spencer and Heath were, they saw Rick and Michonne with Carl running through the streets. She took one deep breath and began calling out orders to get to work; a major insecurity she thought the whole town held against her because she wasn't Pete. She overcame her anxiety that paralyzed her to take care of others. No cheat sheets this time either.
The final moments of Start To Finish made us think we'd be start the premiere where we left off. Rick and the others covered in walker guts and making their way outside. That wasn't quite the case.
Instead of Sam calling out to his mother, and it immediately drawing walkers, the group made it to the end of the street and then some. Rick decided to change tactics with them going to the quarry instead of the armory and drawing the walkers outside. Jessie thought they could do it but without Judith - which is where Gabriel came into play.
Their fates were decided when Jessie allowed Sam to go with them, instead of going with Father Gabriel and Judith to his church. This was the first domino to fall. No matter what Rick's plan was, something epic was going down.
The only question was how it was going to happen. To be honest - it was hard to tell. There was a ton of build up, so a lot of the episode was anticipation more than anything. Earlier on, I swore I saw raindrops and some of the streets slick with rain. I thought perhaps that would be the undoing. Ron is also such a hothead but seemed dazed in his own space, I thought he would be the weakest link.
Major Dodson gave such conviction that Sam could make it, I honestly thought something else was going to start the domino effect. Technically, it wasn't Sam's fault for what happened. Surely, the writers would have devised something for Sam to freak out. As they crossed down the street, and the flashes of zombies teeth and blood etched across the screen, Carol's threat from season five echoed in his head. This was the next domino. Sam wasn't necessarily freaking out as much fans made it out to be; he was whimpering and scared, especially after witnessing a kid in his PJs (perhaps imagining himself one with the dead), walking among the other walkers. This isn't the only thing that set up his unraveling.
I don't condemn Carol in any way but what if she hadn't given that threat to Sam? Even if it was a story to tell Sam to cure his ignorance of monsters, it did the complete opposite. She's not responsible for everything, but it can't be denied her story had a horrific affect. Just as Jessie's lack of mothering in her sons had an affect too. Surely, the writers would have devised something else for Sam to freak out to. But that threat in particular, I was never a big fan of it.
Obviously, Carol's grown and developed. I love her more than anything. From Sophia's death she learned not to let her guard down. With her abusive marriage to Ed ending, she succeeded in learning, accepting, and pushing forward with her continuous newly found strength. Her training Lizzie and Mika, even trying to convince Tyrese, that they had to be tougher transformed the way she doesn't handle kids or others with kid gloves. She reads people like a book; like the Alexandrians were children and they needed to be told stories. But still with Sam, it was like throwing him off of the deep end onto a concrete slab. Her words tormented Sam, combined with the community's complete lack of preparation against the walkers, came back around onto him. It was so sad that it was the demise of his own family.
Carol is not to blame for this family's death. Neither is Jessies. I really can't believe fans are blaming an abused wife and mother for this. This family had survived an alcoholic husband and father who beat the shit out of them. While a whole town, or at least Deanna as a leader, stood by and let it happen for the good of everyone else. After Rick killed her husband and their father, Jessie handled it the best she could. She wasn't perfect. No one was. She killed a Wolf in her kitchen, she protected her family. She didn't have a counselor or a family to turn to; neither did Carol. They both made drastic transformations. It's a shame that whatever people find dislike towards these days turn everything into an unhealthy blame game.
How this entire scene played out was genius. It all happened so quickly because we expected it to happen, but artistically, it was played out slowly and well. Sam slowly breaking away. After Gabriel had left with Judith, Rick was the first to take Sam by the hand and he was sandwiched in-between himself and Jessie. I thought it was a beautiful moment because Rick was trying to show Sam everything was okay, almost treating him like if he was Carl, if it was just him and Carl attempting the same thing.
Then, there was Jessie freaking out. And once Jessie was screaming and the walkers attacked her, the focus between Carl trying to get his hand free and Rick thinking of Jessie. I loved the flashbacks that they used. It prolonged the horror but also raised the emotions Rick truly had for Jessie.
Rick warned Carl back in season five, you are never safe - no matter how many people are around. You let your guard down, and that's it. Rick let his guard down for a few seconds. He chopped off Jessie's hand, letting Carl get free - but then his gun fell to the ground.
While I loved Sam and Jessie, I was not big fan of Ron. I just couldn't connect the dots with him, and combined with Enid's angst, it was just too much teenage emo. But, OMG, that moment when Ron was pointing the gun at them saying "You.....you...." that was so good. Austin Abrams did a great job.
I did not see Michonne stabbing him from behind with her sword coming - just like she did with the Governor in season four. She did the best she could to prevent Carl being shot, but he was shot anyways. Right in the eye. The turn of his head was picturesque to the camera. Three characters, a whole family gone in a few minutes, in such a highly anticipating and exciting, yet sad scene.
One way that I've stepped away from this fandom is getting involved with other fans' likes or dislikes towards characters. Shipping scares me - especially when people root for a character's death just so it clears the way for their otp. Or if characters don't prove themselves to be cool in a few seconds, they are stupid or unnecessary. I've been critical of Alexandrians but never rooted for anyone's death - just for the writers do something creatively for them. It scares me how much this fandom roots for people's deaths but will complain and cry outrage when their favorites are killed off.
Religion and The Walking Dead
Churches played a huge role in the series as of late - from season two where the group thinks Sophia is hiding in, to Father Gabriel's church where Rick slaughters the Termites, and Alexandria's church.
I don't think that the show is trying to make any religious overtones but there are subtle signs of faith and humanity's connection with it. There are plenty of instances where God or religion was brought up in correlation to characters killing themselves or others, in search of redemption or forgiveness and then some. Last year I offered some ideas of Morgan's use of verses and his instability from earlier this season. Verses have played an impact on the storylines and characters - if we look deeply enough.
Going back to season two, Rick was praying in the church asking for a sign or relief. He admitted to Herschel the show's biggest religious influence, the last time he asked God for a favor and stopped to admire a view, his son got shot. So he stopped mixing things up with the almighty anymore and it was best to stay out of each others' way.
Later in season five when the group took harbor in Father Gabriel's church, it was used more or less as a slaughterhouse. They were hardly in good company and spirits before the Termites came along and threatened to kill everyone. The group retaliated and murdered them all. When Father Gabriel responded that this was the Lord's house, Maggie said it was just four walls and a roof. That was a major turning point for a character who had a strong Christian faith.
In one way or another, Rick's mentality has been that it's his way or the highway - even if it's not a Ricktatorship, even if everyone looks to him for direction and leadership. But this only gets them so far. In a way, that's how the group's been operating for a long time to some of the places they've been to - at least to Alexandria. The pain of the prison falling and anywhere else they lie their hat inevitably is overrun by people or walkers. After everything they've been through, it's hard to put your stock that any place you make can be a safe haven.
The church in the second season is home to what will be a devastating realization about Sophia. Father Gabriel's church in the fifth season is not only used by Grimes' group to lure Termites into their killing, but also the site of Gabriel not giving his followers safe passage when the apocalypse started. Acts of cannibalism were responsible for Bob's death, which reflects the blood of Christ being a gate towards eternal life. It's also a jumping off point for the group to try to save Beth, one of the most faithful characters of the series. Now, a church or religious figure Father Gabriel was used to keep Judith safe, and inspired his own transition.
The words in Alexandria's church were Faith without works is dead. Rick has been going about his leadership of working to the bone but not having faith. I'm not saying any character or person has to have one or the other in order to have a balanced life, especially in the apocalypse. Herschel is certainly a good example of this - he had both. He still ended up getting murdered by the Governor. He struggled with his faith but it also gave him peace and purpose up until the end. I think Rick has reached a middle ground of sorts- faith and work into making a world for Carl and Judith.
This pain will someday be useful to you
Can I just sit and sob in a corner about the last few minutes of the series? *sigh* Okay, it was like one of the most horrifying and beautiful things to come out of this freaking series.
Let's start with Rick running through the streets with Carl in his arms as Michonne is ahead of them slicing and dicing walkers. They make their way through the streets to the infirmary, where Denis is ready to kick ass and stitch Carl the hell up.
The shock is too much to bear - not only for fans, but for Rick and Michonne too.
There were so many meaningful parallels to the earlier seasons. My brain can't wrap around them all. The most significant is when Carl was shot by Otis in season two. Lori and Rick sat by his side deciding what to do with them, and wait for Shane to come back with supplies. Rick wanted to go out and get Shane back quicker, but Lori refused to let him; she couldn't do this on her own. So he stayed, and gave blood until he could barely function anymore.
Now, in our four years later, Carl is shot again. Denise is working on Carl but all Rick can see his red. His son's eye shot out. The pain he has is suddenly useful to him. And, he tears out of the infirmary, axe in hand, begins taking out walkers. Even Rick using an axe echoes to Lori's death, and him charging through the prison hallways chopping up walkers.
This is where the revolution started. Spencer, Heath, and Aaron go out to help Rick, and they immediately unite in a circle with their backs to each other, killing walkers all around them. Michonne is terrified, but stays by Carl's side until Denise is done stitching him up. With a kiss to his forehead and grabbing her sword, she ducks outside too. Carol and her group join Rick to take a stand. Eventually they become a sphere of slayers slowly inching around Alexandria just killing anything that comes near them. Alexandrians who were sitting in their houses to join them.
Deanna's words came true: they are all his people. And, in contrast to what Rick has believed this whole time - this community are his equals. They are no longer weak links in a fence but a united front.
The walker hoard was really too much to handle on their own. It's a good thing our good ol' trusting Sasha, Daryl, and Abraham show up in the nick of time. They set the lake on fire, which distracts the walkers. Once they start heading in a singular direction, the group manages to take out all the walkers. It's one hell of a climatic finish. By dawn every street is filled with corpses.
The family, all of our original guys and the Alexandrians, are waiting outside the infirmary.
Inside is like one of the most beautiful scenes with Rick. Again, that parallel back to season two. Lori and Rick fought about whether or not they should let Carl die, and not do a surgery to remove the bullets because they didn't have the right equipment. Lori thought about those they had lost and didn't want the world to turn Carl into a monster. But when Carl woke up, he talked about the deer and how beautiful it was. This is what convinced Rick to tell Lori that Carl would be okay - he didn't talk about getting shot, or the zombies, he talked about the beauty of that deer.
As Michonne stood outside Carl's room holding Judith, Rick was at his son's bedside. Rick was just begging Carl to stay alive. What he had seen was beautiful - Alexandria came together and it made him feel alive in a way he hadn't felt since before he woke up in the coma. He saw what these people can do. He wants to rebuild the walls, continue on with Deanna's expansion, and show Carl the world that he sees. What Deanna is talking about is possible.
Andrew F'in Lincoln. This man is incredible. This was the type of scene that made me feel like the series had rejuvenated itself. We got back a little bit of first-season Rick. Not that as a hardcore Grimes, Lincoln, and Walking Dead fan I haven't enjoyed most of all the previous episodes - but it wasn't the action or losing more characters that really touched a nerve. It was just Lincoln, as Grimes, talking about moving forward and keeping his son alive. It was such a great and quiet scene compared to the first forty-five minutes. As he said in season two to Shane, he will do anything to keep his son, his family alive. But finally instead of accepting how torturous and bloody the world has become, he wants to show Carl the new world, he wants to make it for him. There is a way out, after all.
- Look at that butt!
- I really want Morgan to do something other than be a nuisance.
- I want a spin-off of Sasha, Abraham, Daryl, Glenn and Maggie on a road-trip setting lakes on fire. Or even just one with Abraham.
- It's sad that we won't get anymore of Mama Bear Jessie Anderson. I really liked her character development.
- How will Carl's injury form him? I don't care, as long as people don't start calling him the Governor 2.0 just because of the eyepatch.
- Happy that there was so much girl power - Rosita telling Tara what they needed to do in order to get Denise back, Enid charging ahead with Glenn, Denise calling all the shots.
- All this time running from walkers. You forget what people are like. - Maggie said this in season four. I have a feeling season six and seven is going to echo this a lot because of Negan.