Hands across Alexandria.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Yes, Happy Valentine’s Day from The Walking Dead! Indeed!
You know, it’s funny. When winter starts to fade and shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones (a few weeks later) return to our lives, it’s almost a foregone conclusion – with the way these shows dole out carnage and tragedy – that something big and awful is going to happen on a Valentine’s Day. Or a Mother’s Day. And so on. Honestly, sometimes by design. But then also sometimes just because of brutal happenstance.
“No Way Out” – The Walking Dead’s midseason premiere – was defiantly hostile. In a great way. And while I do have some issues with it overall – mostly concerning the pacing of the action and the use of the ensemble – I’ll save those nits for the end. Because let’s talk about some of this BIG moments. Firstly, the chain reaction mauling/stabbing/shooting of Sam, Jessie, Ron, and freakin’ Carl! A moment that almost felt dream-like due to a combination of everything being slowed down and the sheer amount of tragedy that was happening in such a short span of time. As if Rick took a brief time out to imagine a worst case scenario situation happening.
But it was no delusion. The chain crumbled (dammit, Sam!) and Rick not only lost his new family (he’ll tell you he had no designs on the Andersons, but he totally did) but he came magnificently close to losing Carl as well. I mean, we still don’t know Carl’s ultimate state, but it’s not good. He’s alive, but not thriving. He got shot in the freakin’ face! So if there was any irony to behold on this Valentine’s Day it’s that Rick’s pretty much watched everyone he cared about get evicerated in one form or another. And the double cherry on top was that it all came from his own plan. I mean, NO ONE’s plan in a zompocalypse is perfect. But Rick had been getting the side-eye from the Alexandrians for a long time because his team were the only ones capable of surviving his risky ventures. Now, tragically, the chickens came home to roost, if you’ll allow me to misuse an idiom.
The bummer part of this too is that covering yourself with guts is a GOOD idea. It works. So much so that characters should have been doing it more often on the show. And now, sadly, they’ll probably never try it again.
Thinking about that scene more… while Ron has kind of been the worst – ever since he was introduced, in fact – you kind of really understood him at the end there when he held up that gun and wanted to shoot Rick. A lot of his Rick-blaming got tiresome over the course of the show, but it felt easy to understand him, in that moment, seeing Rick as the architect of all of his pain and loss.
Side note: As a Walking Dead comic reader, I watched this episode a little differently – obviously. As I’m sure other readers did too. And while I thought that things might violently play out like they did in the pages of Kirkman’s comic, I wasn’t one hundred percent on it. EP Scott Gimple has straight-up adapted more things from the comics than any previous Walking Dead showrunner, but there was still a lot of room to play with here. Needless to say, the crumbling of the chain played out as hauntingly and chaotically as suspected.
This was an effectively violent and notable episode. Filled with victories and losses. A nice push and pull dynamic. Rick’s “plan” failed hard, but then his psychotic spur-of-the-moment attack on the walkers (almost a Tyreese/hammer moment) rallied all the citizens into the streets and allowed the townsfolk to gel like never before. And eventually – with Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha’s help – allowed them to pull out the win in the end. And so through Rick’s own personal tragedy, and madness, he inadvertently caused everyone to toughen up (Gabriel, Ol’ Whatshisface, That Other Lady, etc) and prove him wrong about the muster of Alexandria. I liked that dynamic a lot.
Let’s now skip back to the beginning of “No Way Out” – the moment with Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha and the Negan riders. A very fun, tense scene. One that worked simply because we knew our heroes would get the drop on these a***holes somehow. We maybe didn’t know how they’d win, but the whole “don’t f*** with us” mentality from Terminus kicked in. We knew our guys and gal were tougher and smarter than these goons. And then – BOOM! – the rocket launcher came into play big time. Blasting Mr. “Bite Chew Swallow Repeat” into bits. A great way to kick off the episode and one that – I think? – left one Negan thug alive. To possibly tell the tale. Word’s gotta get back to Negan somehow.
Now, I’m scoring this episode high, though under the very specific mindset that the goodness here far outweighed the bad. Because there were some weak spots. And I don’t want to drone on and on (for a change) so I’ll just bullet point ’em.
- Was not a fan of the “killing zombies” Walker POV hack-n-slash montage during the town’s big redemption moment. Stylistically, it just came off as silly
- Pacing. When we left the midseason finale, Sam was freaking out. When we picked things up, he was fine. And then didn’t freak out until later. It’s possible that Sam’s voice in the midseason finale was more of an “audio tease/bridge,” but it still didn’t quite work overall.
- The jump from day to night after the commercial break was really jarring. And it just made a lot of the other scenes feel weird. Like how we didn’t see Maggie until the very end, though she’d been stuck up on that rafter for a whole day. Or how it made it seem like the Wolf and Denise were hiding down in that townhouse well for hours and hours.
- I enjoyed how Denise medically came through in a clutch for Carl in the end, though her story with that Wolf dude, where he all of a sudden began to care for her and helped her survive, pretty much fizzled. His change of heart didn’t track. And, ultimately, this particular cliffhanger – along with Carol and Morgan’s fight – went nowhere.
- We did NOT need another Glenn fake out death. However brief it was, there was still time for a quick facepalm
- The idea that Rick’s plan WAS working up until he changed the plan and made everyone take the ol’ guts chain to a new location was very frustrating. It felt like the show was trying to almost extend the time Jessie, Sam, and Ron had on the show by fifteen minutes (if it had gone strictly by the comics, they’d have all been dead somewhat immediately).
- Glenn having to take the time to actually explain his line to Enid (from the midseason finale) about how running away is a disservice to those you’ve loved and lost was…yeah. That was bad.