Well, it’s definitely not the first time TWD makes us go “FUCK YEAH” and “OH SHIT” over the course of a single episode, and I’m willing to bet it’s not the last.
First off, the good news:
GLENN IS ALIVE!
That was one big sigh of relief heard around the world, wasn’t it? Turns out the fan theories were correct and Glenn lives to fight another day: the guts and gore the walkers were feasting on back in ‘Thank You‘ were indeed Nicholas’, who conveniently landed on top of Glenn when they fell off the Dumpster, and our favorite pizza delivery boy managed to crawl under the filthy receptacle and eventually free himself once the walkers wandered off.
By the way, I find it quite amusing that even with thousands of walkers and very few people around in this post-apocalyptic world, running into people you know is bound to happen sooner, rather than later. In Glenn’s case, it’s Enid, tossing him a bottle of water. Both the final scene in Thank You and the fact that Enid helps out a virtual stranger is a wonderful callback to the very beginning of the show: just like the camera pulled away from Rick surrounded by walkers in the tank, in a truly hopeless situation until he heard Glenn’s famous ‘hey, dumbass’ line, we were sure Glenn had met his demise as we watched the overhead shot of the walkers munching away at what we assumed at the time was Glenn’s own body, but in the end an unlikely ally was there to help him out.
I must say, as far as tricky storytelling goes, this twist was done masterfully by Gimple & Co. Even though we’ve been mourning Glenn for weeks, it has only been about a day since the whole zombie parade debacle occurred; rather than the instant gratification of seeing Glenn alive right away, we were given time to process it and see Maggie’s reaction, we caught up with the rest of the group, and when this plotline was finally resolved this week, it didn’t use the cheap device of the cliffhanger at the end of the episode, but rather pushed the story further, building up to the episode’s final scene. Glenn’s death fake-out served the story well, but it’s time to move on.
Speaking of cliffhangers, we sure got a big one at the end of the episode, and having us viewers in on it from the beginning was a great device to build up the tension: we get to foresee the tower crumbling thanks to a few shots and sound effects; we also get to wonder why it never occurs to the Alexandrians that a tall, unstable structure right next to the wall, damaged by the recent attack, is a liability. Surely someone should have noticed that it was a disaster waiting to happen? It was one thing to put faith in their fence back at Hershel’s and even the prison wall, but they should know better this time, especially since they actually did spend time reinforcing the structure.
There were plenty of other hints that foreshadowed this turn of events: from Deanna’s expansion plans, to the red herring of the blood seeping through the wall, to Rick’s comment to Michonne that they had time to formulate a plan to divert the walkers away from Alexandria (which sounded like a ridiculous statement for a second, but remember, all the events of this season happen over the course of a day); still, the main reason why we should really have expected something like this is the plain fact that no glimmer of hope on this show is ever not followed by immediate disaster.
Things did look okay for a while there, and our group has bigger fish to fry: Carol had seen Morgan save the Wolves’ lives during the attack, and Rick, Michonne and Carol invite him for a sit-down. Morgan defends his code once again, trying to make them understand, but the conversation revolves around the Wolves he actually set free (who later attacked Rick in the RV), as Carol only finds out about the imprisoned Wolf later on in the episode, when she follows Morgan and Denise to the cell. Michonne says it best: things aren’t as simple as four words any more. All life is precious my ass, I say. I don’t know where Morgan has been this entire time, but our group has encountered countless situations where it was literally kill or be killed.
Meanwhile, Deanna is working on her plans to expand Alexandria and plant crops to make the town self-sufficient, while Maggie is up on that wall watching for signs of Glenn’s return and Rosita is giving the Alexandrians machete-fighting lessons. Eugene is the most reluctant of the bunch, earning him a nice lecture about how it’s easy to die; it’s hard to live and lose the people around you. Rick and Carl are giving Ron a lesson in Gun Shooting 101, and we all suspect how well that will turn out. I can’t tell if Carl’s constant remarks are regarded as handy tips or condescension on Ron’s part at this point, but one thing is clear (and has been for a while now): he’s out to get Carl. He is Rick’s attentive student long enough to figure out how to aim, then makes a beeline to the pantry, sneaks into the gun room and steals some bullets.
And while the Alexandrians are keeping busy, one in particular wants to play hero. Spencer grabs a gun and grappling hook and almost gets himself killed in a misguided attempt to climb over the wall and dangle above the walkers in order to land safely behind them and lead them away from Alexandria. As far as brave acts go, this one was pretty damn impressive, but reckless none the less. In a synchronized effort to save Spencer when the grappling hook starts to give, Tara mounts the fence and starts shooting at the walkers trying to get to Spencer (and stealing his shoe!) as Rick, Tobin and Morgan grab the rope and finally pull Spencer back over the wall.
Rick could have easily just let him die out there and seized the opportunity to jump over the wall himself and run straight for one of the cars to lead a one-man-show diversion, as he later points out to Deanna; he’s also quick to be a bit of a dick and admonish Tara for risking her life to save one of theirs, earning him a (somewhat deserved) middle finger. The fact that he didn’t run off on his own or let Spencer die confirms what everyone in Alexandria – and every single viewer – has known for a while now: when he actually stops to think before he acts, it usually saves lives. In hindsight, however, maybe a stunt like that could have averted the disaster at the end of the episode, leading the walkers away from the wall. I guess we’ll never know.
Meanwhile, Glenn not only has to somehow find his way home, but deal with the angsty teenager who doesn’t seem to accept him as a traveling companion or even a friend, let alone a father figure. Enid is scared, and rightly so. All she knows is that a group of savages attacked the town, and she took off. JSS. She has no idea that the herd broke off and surrounded Alexandria, nor has she any intention of following Glenn, who channels his future paternal instincts to make her see that she has no choice but to go with him. He may have told her he’s doing this for Maggie, but he’s always been the guy who doesn’t leave people behind. It was only a matter of time before he admitted that he’s saving Enid for himself.
Things start looking up for the group towards the end of the episode: we already know that Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are on their way home. Glenn and Enid are also close by, sending up the green balloons to signal they’re okay, to Maggie’s immense relief. Rick and Tobin are nailing boards up to reinforce the wall, and it’s safe to assume that Carol’s got the Morgan/Wolf situation handled. Deanna is focusing on Alexandria’s future, the formerly untrained inhabitants are getting fighting lessons from badass Rosita, and Rick and Michonne have already started planning the next zombie parade. Our group and the Alexandrians are finally working together, starting to build trust in each other, and it’s happening just in time:
The old church tower structure, creaking and swaying throughout the episode, damaged by the truck crashing into it in the season premiere, finally collapses on top of the wall, bringing a pretty big section of it down straight into Alexandria. A couple of seconds pass, the dust settles, and the walkers come flooding in. Heads up is the understatement of the century.
Is this the end of Alexandria? Is this the prison situation all over again? Will the walkers, already inside the walls and hungry for Alexandrians, destroy the sheltered little community? The herd might not be as massive as the one that started out in the quarry, but there’s a hell of a lot of walkers rushing into town and not very many fighters left inside the walls. If our group can quickly formulate a plan to temporarily lead their fellow Alexandrians to safety, they might be able to control the herd long enough for reinforcements to arrive: Glenn and Enid are just around the corner, as are Glenn, Sasha and Abraham, and those last three are on their way in a freaking fuel truck. Are we in for a massive walker-barbecue in the mid-season finale?
If that is indeed the way this is heading, I have to admit I’m not 100% excited at the prospect. Sure, it will make for yet another epic showdown but it is too reminiscent of the prison: we’ve been there before. Just when the group feels secure enough inside the walls, an unforeseen event forces them back out into the wild, where no one is safe from neither the walkers nor the people.
As things stand right now, there’s two obvious ways this could go: either they manage to kill as many walkers as they can to put the wall back into place and divert the rest of them away from Alexandria, making it secure for just a while longer, or they’ll be forced to flee in every direction, which most likely will end up in many deaths, as none of the Alexandrians know how to fight yet, let alone survive in the wild. In either case, we know there’s at least two groups of people out there who will stop at nothing to get what they want: the Wolves and whoever Wade and his followers are. Will Alexandria be saved from the walkers only to suffer (but bossibly fend off) yet another human attack in the second half of the season, or will the Alexandrians be scattered in all directions to be killed or captured by the other groups?
I can’t help but get a sense of dejà vu with either of these scenarios: we’ve seen our group surrounded by herds of walkers before, we’ve seen their safe housing arrangements go up in flames, we’ve seen them captured by hostile groups, we’ve seen them under attack plenty of times in past seasons. I’m hoping that Gimple & Co have come up with a third option this time.
As a final note: who the hell was on the other end of the walking talkie in last week’s episode? We know it’s not Glenn, and now we know it’s not Rick, either. If it’s the blond dick who made off with Daryl’s equipment, they’d better not waste precious time to go back to save him; seeing as how things played out last week, it’s probably a trap anyway.