I’m not going to bother with a spoiler warning anymore. You know what you’re getting into.
“Faith without works is dead.”
So reads the Scripture passage on the wall of the church Glenn and Enid search for weapons to help their friends defeat the walker herd. It becomes the theme of “No Way Out,” our mid-season premiere, which finally puts an end to the Longest Week Ever (and a batch of episodes laden with poorly written dialogue and shark-jumping gimmickry — the Glenn fiasco — that was less interesting to me than any of the oft-criticized season at Hershel’s farm). The premiere also sees the surviving Alexandrians rise above their weaknesses and show signs of becoming characters we can actually root for. Even Dr. Panic Attack falls into a zen-like action mode while patching up the hole in Carl’s head where his right eye used to be (I’ll get to that); it’s noteworthy that she’s the one talking sense into the usually clear-headed Michonne, who wants to leave Carl’s side to help Rick on his rage-induced rampage. “This is his son,” Denise says, calm and firm. “Give me a second.” By the end of the episode, the characters come together like a walker-killing machine to take on the herd in a Power Rangers-style supercut of sword slashes and skull smashes.
But let’s backtrack a bit. The episode picks up with Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham facing off against Negan’s biker gang on the road. (Hey! It’s actually in the episode this time!) It proves to be one of the show’s better cold opens in a while. The back-and-forth of whether or not the unnamed leader (wonderfully played by Christopher Berry) was going to shoot actually got my heart rate up.
After all, Sasha and Abraham
are not Glenn are secondary enough that it’s plausible they’d be killed off. This guy is clearly unpredictable, switching from calm and almost charming to sinister on a moment’s notice and giving feeling that he chooses his kills basically on a whim. I was sad to see him go (although it was inevitable that Daryl would come to the rescue) because in five minutes he was already a more interesting character than anybody back at Alexandria.
Speaking of the town that can’t catch a break, we caught up with the rest of the characters still surrounded by the walker herd. Carol and Morgan, unconscious in the cell that previously held the Wolf, awake to learn of the Wolf’s escape with Dr. Denise as his captive. Carol is furious at Morgan, telling him that protecting the Wolf was selfish; he did it for him, not for the good of the group. “I should’ve killed you,” she says coldly. Then things get a little interesting. “You had a child, right?” Morgan asks, broaching a subject that isn’t often discussed. “A husband?” Well done on the writing here, as it’s all the dialogue necessary to call to mind what Carol used to be and what she’s fought to overcome. Perhaps she’s still fighting it; these interactions with Morgan over the Wolf’s fate have not exactly shown her to be fully calm and in control. On the contrary, the image of Carol brandishing her knife at Morgan in the mid-season finale, tears in her eyes, hand shaking, read more as desperation than strength.
We’ve seen hints of this before. Back in season four, during the flu outbreak at the prison, she tries to justify her killing their sick comrades. “I was trying to save lives,” she tells Rick. “I had to try.” A similar conversation plays out with Daryl in season five, when they return to Atlanta to search for Beth in “Consumed.” After Daryl catches Carol trying to sneak away from the group, they follow the car with the white cross back into the city. Daryl stops her from shooting Noah as he flees with their weapons. “I don’t want you to die,” she argues in defense. “I don’t want Beth to die. I don’t want anybody at the church to die, but I can’t stand around and watch it happen, either. I can’t. That’s why I left; I just had to be somewhere else.” Telling choice of words: I cant; I had to. Carol’s actions in the present are still, understandably, influenced by the trauma of her past and her lack of action to combat it. In many ways, this is a good thing, as she’s realized her capacity for strength and resilience. But sometimes, it seems, she pushes too far — her insistence on trying to kill the captive Wolf while in the midst of the largest walker invasion yet, for instance.
Carol always has the greater good in mind, and she’s willing to kill people, even innocent people, if she thinks it might save those closest to her. She’s also willing to psychologically traumatize a child — Sam — in an attempt to protect her friends. Her brutality makes her valuable, often necessary, to the group’s survival in the midst of life-and-death situations. But when things are a little more morally gray and danger is less imminent, the show explores the notion that such brutality is not always justifiable, notably through conflicts with Rick and Daryl. Even in the apocalypse, there are still moral lines that can be crossed, but the question is where those lines are drawn. Our heroes are not always united, and that’s interesting to watch. Perhaps Carol’s methods are not sustainable; after all, she’s been banished from the community before. Perhaps she crosses the line and does more harm than good. Sam’s breakdown in the midst of the walker herd with Carol’s threatening words replaying in his mind link Sam’s death, and the death of the rest of his family (and, arguably, Carl’s injury) directly back to Carol.
That gory sequence, straight from the graphic novel, makes quick work of the Anderson family, but more importantly it makes Carl’s character potentially interesting again. Here’s hoping that losing an eye propels him out of his annoying teenager phase.
Elsewhere, Enid climbs up onto the lookout post to help Maggie while ever-selfless Glenn draws the walkers away with a single handgun. For a few seconds I almost thought my prediction was going to come true and that Glenn had come back only to die as Maggie watched helplessly, but of course he is saved at the last second by Sasha and Abraham. How they manage to gun down all of those walkers (in the dark) without hitting Glenn is beyond me, but that’s not the point.
The point is that Glenn has now impossibly survived two near-death scenarios, and after last week’s close call it’s clear that the writers have no intention of actually killing Glenn any time soon. Glenn’s death once had the potential to be powerful and surprising, but now the smallest hint of it is tiring. Any time he’s is in danger I just feel like the writers are toying with me — there’s no realistic threat anymore. Of course, that leaves us all wondering: with Negan on the horizon, a major character death is likely on the way. So who will it be? (Please not Daryl.)
- The jump from broad daylight to complete night was a bit jarring. It gave the impression that Rick and the rest were wandering around among the walkers for hours.
- I get that they needed the Andersons outside together so Sam could melt down and get them all killed, but it wasn’t totally believable to me for Jessie to let her emotionally fragile son come with them instead of going with Father Gabriel to the church. He was clearly a liability.
- Pretty weird that Glenn left Beth off of his “People I’ve lost” list. I mean, he’s going to include Andrea and not his own sister-in-law?