Well, that was underwhelming. We’ve been waiting for the walker megaherd attack all season long, but not all that much happened in this episode, and the story isn’t really pushed any further than it was last week.
So what actually did happen?
The episode picks up right where we left off last week: the tower collapses over the wall, bringing it down in a cloud of dust. And one by one, the walkers emerge and launch their attack on Alexandria, as Rick et al look at them petrified.
They don’t stay petrified for long, of course; Rick springs into action, directing the others into their homes – or any house that happens to be close by, anyway. Deanna stays behind to fight alongside Rick, because he’s one of her people, after all. However, her battle skills are ineffective, to put it mildly: she’s a lousy shot, doesn’t manage to kill any walkers, and then trips and falls. As it turns out, she not only fell, she also got bitten. Uh-oh.
Rick, Michonne, Carl, Jessie and Ron haul her into Jessie’s house and lock themselves up inside. When they take her upstairs to give her first aid, they discover the walker bite. Deanna says what we’re all thinking:
Meanwhile, Rosita, Tara and Eugene manage to find cover in another home, while Morgan, Denise and Carol were already heading towards the house where Morgan is keeping the Wolf, so that’s where they end up. We also see Eugene with the walkie-talkie, which I guess is the answer to last week’s question about the identity of the person on the other end of the line asking for help.
Maggie goes from elation to terror in the span of a few seconds, as the walkers invade the town moments after she has spotted the green balloons and recognized them as a sign that Glenn is alive. She frantically climbs the ladder to the platform where she kept watch, narrowly escaping the hungry walkers. Glenn and Enid are stuck outside the wall helplessly watching the attack, with some obligatory gloomy teen angst on Enid’s part, and a bit of understandable exasperation on Glenn’s side. Ron might be the most obnoxious teenager in this show, but lately Enid isn’t far behind. And to think we all used to hate Carl!
Things get busy over at Jessie’s: Deanna’s wounds need attention, baby Judith needs to be stashed somewhere safe, the doors and windows need to be reinforced, and Sam just continues to do what he does: nothing. No one pays much attention to psycho Ron, who’s had it in for Carl for a while now, and no walker attack is going to thwart his plan: as soon as Carl goes looking for him in the garage, he locks them inside and pulls out his gun. A fight ensues, which results in a broken window and suddenly their temporary shelter is breached. Carl doesn’t rat him out, although he probably should have, but he does tell him his dad was an asshole (and, might I add, a porch dick) and that’s the end of that, for the time being. They have bigger fish to fry: the walkers are barging into Jessie’s home.
While we get plenty of action at Jessie’s, things are pretty quiet with Rosita, Tara and Eugene, who uses this downtime to brush up on his world history, because what else are you going to do during a walker attack? Content though he may be to cower in a safe place, the girls want to get moving, but the door is locked. Luckily, he does have one useful talent in the apocalypse: lock picking. He grabs a paper clip and goes to work on the door.
And from Rick & Co.’s camaraderie, we switch over to Morgan’s. Carol hit her head while they were getting away from the herd, and puts her acting skills to good use while she’s cooped up in there with Morgan. Believing her to be weak and vulnerable, Morgan approaches to help her only to get attacked by Carol – and none of us is surprised. At the Wolf’s cell, poor Denise is torn between being scared of the herd and the Dave-Grohl-lookalike Wolf, and wanting to act like a doctor and look after his infection.
And outside, Maggie knows she’s temporarily safe up there on the wall; as long as she doesn’t attract more walkers who could potentially bring the flimsy structure down, they’ll be distracted and wander off elsewhere sooner or later. Glenn, on the other hand, can’t just stay outside and do nothing. With or without Enid, he hatches a quick plan to help his people: if the walkers are entering Alexandria through the ruins of the east wall, then the west side is going to be clear, therefore a safe entry point into town.
Deanna knows she has very little time left, and tries to make good use of it. Although Maggie had been her protegée since our group first arrived in Alexandria, she now looks to Michonne to keep her dream alive and help this place live to its full potential. Michonne is the one Deanna passed the expansion plans along to, after all. This town gave her hope, and Deanna’s latin quote in the margins of the plans resonates with her:
“Dolor hic tibi proderit olim”. This pain will be useful to you.
As the walkers start flooding the house, Rick and Michonne do what they do best: think on their feet. They pull the couch towards the staircase to block the walkers’ ascent, and we finally get another episode where the disgusting walker guts provide them a way out: they kill a couple of walkers, drag their bodies upstairs and proceed to slice them up and smear the foul entrails all over Jessie’s sheets. I’ve wondered before – and I’m sure we all have – why this tactic isn’t used more often when our group needs to blend in and walk through the herd unnoticed, and Robert Kirkman finally answered the question on Talking Dead Sunday night, although not very satisfactorily: it’s “not practical”, messy, and the guts would dry out and stop giving off the walker smell so they would have to be replenished often. I don’t see the problem with gutting a few more walkers when an extra dose of gut-smearing is required, but it’s his universe, he gets to call the shots.
Before they can proceed with their escape plan, they have three problems to deal with: Deanna is going to turn any minute now, and she’s not strong enough to walk out with them; Judith is still a baby, and her crying would give them away in an instant; and Sam still won’t leave the confines of his room. I’m actually surprised that the ants swarming all over his half-eaten cookie aren’t enough to scare this wimpy kid out of his bedroom.
Back at Morgan’s, things get real pretty quickly: Carol momentarily knocks him out and runs to the cell to find Denise about to do her doctor thing and administer some much needed antibiotics. Morgan follows suit, and Carol is pretty blunt about the way she sees this going down: I don’t want to kill you, but I will if I have to because I have to kill the Wolf so no one else dies. Only in The Walking Dead would this make actual sense, but this convoluted piece of logic is precisely what needs to be done. If only Carol had been sneakier about it, she might have pulled it off; as things stand, Morgan (stupidly) won’t go down without a fight. Even if he thought his plan to convert the Wolf might have worked under normal circumstances, and given time – a rationale that Denise seems to share, by the way, when she tells the Wolf he wasn’t born like this, so he could change into a decent human being again – Morgan must surely see that this isn’t the way to go with Walkers outside their doors, right? Wrong. The two ninja warriors get into it, and of course this poses a golden opportunity for the Wolf to take advantage of the situation, knock Morgan out and grab hold of Denise.
Just at that moment, Eugene, Tara and Rosita show up to realize they have a hostage situation on their hands. His knife ready to slice into Denise’s throat, the Wolf makes them drop their weapons, picks them up and slowly makes his way to the door. Does he plan to pull a Shane and throw Denise into the walkers to make his escape, or will he simply keep her alive for the time being so she can treat his infection? Remains to be seen, I guess, but for now all Eugene, Rosita and Tara can do is watch helplessly as he leaves the house.
At Jessie’s, they group is ready to make their own escape: Carl pulls the bloody sheet over his head and Judith (and I imagine keeps his fingers crossed she won’t cry), Jessie convinces Sam to pretend to be brave and just go along, and poor Deanna refuses the mercy killing and is left behind, ready to put a bullet in her own head when she feels ready to go.
In the last few moments of the finale, our group holds hands and slowly (and inconspicuously) walks out of the house and blend into the herd. Upstairs, Deanna hears the walkers creeping up the hallway. Instead of just pulling the trigger, she does one last heroic act before she dies: she opens the door, kills a few walkers and screams bloody murder as her friends venture outside covered in guts and gore. This might actually help our group: the more commotion in the house, the more walkers will gather towards the noise, and the fewer will be left outside to pose a threat to our disguised heroes. Rick, Michonne and Carl are no strangers to this tactic, but the look of both horror and amazement on Jessie and Ron’s faces, as they walk among the herd unnoticed, is priceless.
And then Sam decides to ask his mother something. Right before the screen fades to black, a very frustrating Sam keeps saying, ‘Mom?…. Mom?….. Mom?‘
- Okay, I’m sorry, but the wimpy kid with the awful bowl haircut needs to go. Is Jessie really the only one with half a brain in that family? It looks like both of Pete’s sons inherited his worst traits: the young one is an even bigger coward than Eugene. All he’s done so far since we met him is lock himself up in his room and demand cookies. And could his timing be any worse? What on earth does he just have to ask his mother right at this moment? And why does no one just knock him out ? His big brother should have been the first one to get annoyed and shut him up, but he’s not only a coward, he’s a sneaky son of a bitch (again, just like his dad). I know Carl’s covering for him back at the house was meant to show us how far Carl has come and how much he has grown, echoing Glenn’s handling of Nicholas in the beginning of the season, but when did giving these people second chances ever work out for the best? Why trust this angsty brat in any life-and-death situation? Get rid of both of them and let’s be done with it.
- And while we’re on the subject of Sam, why the hell did no one tell him to be quiet before they even walked out there? Surely he’s already proven he’s incapable of dealing with this situation, so a little heads up would have been prudent, wouldn’t it?
- Also with regard to keeping quiet: the Alexandrians seem to be well stocked up in baby items, so you’d think they’d keep dummies handy to keep Judith quiet in situations such as these.
- We’re used to The Walking Dead sacrificing characters, especially in finale episodes, so Deanna’s demise doesn’t come as much of a shock to anyone, but after having already saved Glenn, I expected a more substantial death this week. I never would have guessed that the Carol/Morgan/Wolf stand-off wouldn’t end in bloodshed, and I’m not entirely happy it didn’t. Even Deanna’s heroic last act as the town leader didn’t do her character justice, and is it just me or did she seem a little miffed on Talking Dead? Also, how the hell do you go from randomly shooting walkers anywhere but their heads a few minutes ago to turning into a sharpshooter while burning up with fever right before you die? We were asked to suspend our disbelief when Glenn miraculously survived his dumpster dive; asking us to believe Deanna finally learned how to expertly kill walkers in her dying moments is a bit of a stretch, even for The Walking Dead.
- Actually, everything about the way our characters reacted this week felt a bit off. Take Carol, for instance: she keeps up the ‘hurt and disoriented’ charade long enough to pick her moment to attack Morgan; why not keep it up a little longer and make him take her to the Wolf, pretend she’s helping Denise and stab him? Why would she think that she could physically overpower Morgan? She’s usually much more calculating than this; acting so impulsively is unlike her – it’s what Rick would have done. I would much rather have watched Carol try and sneak Denise out of there, leaving the door open for the walkers to take care of the Wolf – and ultimately leaving Morgan to decide whether he’d rather save his own life than risk it in order to save the Dave Grohl lookalike, thereby teaching him an overdue lesson.
- Speaking of standoffs, since when do any of our people simply surrender to someone like the Wolf? Both Tara and Rosita are excellent shots, and they were standing close enough to put a bullet in his head before he got the chance to hurt Denise, but instead they just slide their weapons right over to him and do nothing. And what about Eugene? If there’s one skill he can boast, it’s thinking on his feet and talking out of his ass about any given subject. Yet instead of distracting the Wolf that way and providing the girls an opening to shoot him, he picks this moment to remain uncharacteristically silent? Not cool, Eugene.
- This is a bit of unfair criticism under the circumstances, but I just have to put it out there: when a doctor, even someone as scared and inexperienced as Denise, is summoned to treat someone, wouldn’t she bring along some kind of anesthetic for her patient? It would have definitely come in handy in this case, incapacitating The Wolf or at least making him more docile.
- By the way, where is Aaron?
Sigh. As far as the show goes, this wasn’t a bad episode; it just wasn’t finale material, either.
Possibly realizing that this mid-season finale was underwhelming, Scott Gimple & Co decided to throw us a bone, and we got a bonus scene from the second half of the season: as Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are headed towards Alexandria in their fuel truck, they are stopped by what looks like a motorcycle gang.
They obey the group leader’s orders to step outside the truck and then we get a bit of very stilted and pointless dialogue, which is by way of introducing Negan as next season’s villain.
Since when do the three of them just do as they’re told, by menacing strangers, no less? Why not just floor it, run them over and not even look back? I bet that’s what Rick would have done! Instead, they ask inane questions.
‘Hand over your weapons‘
Daryl: ‘Why should we?’
‘Well, they’re not yours‘
As far as Abe’s lines go, this was by far the weakest and stupidest. As is the fact that they’re standing there, listening to Negan’s follower list all the things inside that truck that don’t belong to our guys.
This truck and everything inside it, none of it are yours, the bad guy says. Whose are they? asks Sasha. It’s like this entire scene was written by a 3rd grader.
Whichever way this goes – whether our group manages to out-fight or outsmart the bad guys and get away with the truck, or whether Negan’s followers capture them and bring them back to (the newly cast) Jeffrey Dean Morgan character, or they just steal all their stuff and leave them out there on their own, I’m more annoyed by the way this played out to actually wonder what will happen next.
Gimple and Kirkman, you’d better pull a couple of aces out your sleeve come February, because as far as finales go, this one pretty much blew.