I think I belong in the minority that actually loved this episode, despite its shortcomings. Although decidedly slower than we’ve been used to lately, it lacked neither action nor character development, and had a couple of interesting twists to boot.

I think I appreciate it even more because comic book fans were left in the dark this week as much as we were, both in terms of this new Carol development and Denise being the one receiving the fateful arrow to the head.

So much to talk about so let’s get to it:

The cold open was a weird one. I guess its purpose was to illustrate one day melting into the next in a rare respite from fighting enemies and walkers, but for a second there I thought there was a glitch in the video.

Was I the only one who thought Daryl not knowing how to drive a stick was hilarious?

Let’s add “spill the pintos” to the long list of Abrahamisms that crack us up. Although too much of a good thing (i.e. funny one liners) runs the risk of turning the character cartoonish, his exchanges with Eugene are always enjoyable and a much needed comic relief to otherwise grim episodes.

Speaking of our favorite Asperger-esque nerd, first off; the ponytail: NO. The mullet was one thing, but a mullet-tail is too much. Second, however much he has evolved since we first met him – starting with his heroic rescue of Tara last season but especially in season 6 – he’s nowhere near ready to take on hordes of walkers or disavow Abraham, for that matter.

Of course the one walker he had dibs on turns out to be the zombie equivalent of Viserys (i.e. impossible to kill with a machete to the head).

The parallels between Denise and Eugene’s journeys were interesting from a storytelling viewpoint: both started out either meek and helpless or just unequiped to deal with the new world, and both underwent significant changes during their story arcs. Such evolution usually raises red flags on this show; as we’ve seen plenty of times before (Noah and Deanna being the most prominent examples that come to mind lately), the minute someone begins to adapt to the circumstances and make plans for the future, that’s when the ax falls. In effect, even though comic fans obviously expected Abraham to get hit by the arrow, both Denise and Eugene became frontrunners as soon as they expressed any kind of hope.

Although impassioned and very well acted, Denise’s speech and the events that led up to it seemed like a bit of a stretch. Daryl and Rosita should never have allowed her to go in the first place – and why wasn’t Rick (or Maggie, even) involved in the decision? Allowing the only living doctor in Alexandria to risk her life for no reason seems like a matter their leader should weigh in on.

Likewise, Daryl and Rosita shouldn’t have split up just because they disagreed on the optimum route to the apothecary. Seriously, if Daryl says don’t follow the train tracks, you don’t follow the train tracks. End of story.

At least Daryl seems to have learned his lesson after his and Rick’s adventure with Jesus and the lost sorghum truck: you get all the supplies and you make a beeline to Alexandria. No stopping for stupid coolers. Especially not on the train tracks.

I get that Denise’s little act of rebellion was necessary to showcase her growth and resolution to step up and be more self-suffiecient, but the entire sequence felt forced. The baby photos in the pharmacy, the ‘hush hush’ walker, the blood and baby shoe were pretty much as horrible as an apocalypse tableau gets, but she manages to keep her breakfast down nonetheless. Mere minutes later, she spots the cooler and somehow Daryl and Rosita just casually tell her not to try anything but don’t even look back to see if she’s coming until it’s too late? When she finally does kill the cooler walker, Denise barfs up her oatmeal all over her her glasses, gets scolded for acting stupid and this somehow triggers her monologue… I dunno.

The parallels between Eugene and Denise’s speeches are obvious, but I’m somewhat confused by Denise’s explanation as to why she chose Daryl and Rosita. Daryl reminds her of her twin brother; Rosita is ‘alone’. Although not with Abraham any more, I’ve always thought of Rosita and Eugene’s relationship as a brother-sister bond; he might not be the best person to talk to about personal stuff but he definitely has her back. It might not have been the show’s intention but I definitely took his exaggerated reaction to Abraham’s condescending comments as a sort of ‘F you’ to Abe for his behaviour not just to Eugene, but to Rosita as well. Plus, she’s boning Spencer (who acts like an insecure school boy, but I actually think that’s endearing), so she definitely has someone to keep her bed warm. Also, wasn’t that a bit of a snotty thing to say? It’s like when a friend starts a new relationship and suddenly feels superior, pointing out that you’re single. I’m probably reading too much into this but I just wasn’t satisfied by Denise’s explanation. And, in the end, I wouldn’t consider any of our group ‘alone’. They all have each other, whether on the road or in Alexandria.

Did the arrow have to be through the eye? Didn’t we get enough of that with Carl already? Poor Denise. And poor Tara, too. Not only did she never get to hear her girlfriend say ‘I love you’, but loses yet another significant other on the show. One would assume that cute girls are hard to come by in the apocalypse, and cute girls who also happen to like girls are even more so. Things don’t look too good for Tara’s love life, I’m afraid. Maybe there are a few gay women over at Hilltop?

As much as I loved seeing Daryl reunited with his crossbow, I can’t say I’m too happy to see that Dwight douchebag. Apparently he’s a full-on savior now, and he’s had half his face melted off. Maybe TV Negan doesn’t punish rapists by ironing the side of their face, but would-be defectors or otherwise less-than-loyal members of his crew? Who knows? In any case, Daryl was right: he should have killed him back when he first met him.

Although it didn’t click at the time, the conversation between Daryl and Carol in the beginning was a little too on the nose for my taste. If we’re meant to believe it’s been at least a few days since the events at Negan’s compound, it seems odd that they would talk about an event from the first part of the season, especially since so much has happened in the meantime. Obviously the only purpose to this reference’s was to foreshadow the events of Twice As Far, and I think there could have been a more subtle way to do that. Actually, I think it was completely unnecessary. It’s not like we needed the reminder, and Dwight’s appearance would be been much more surprising without the earlier mention.

Then again, nothing about this episode was subtle: whatever the main characters chose to convey, they said rather than did. Whether it was Denise’s speech, Eugene’s quips or even Abraham’s words to Sasha, there was a hell of a lot of talking this episode. Even Carol’s letter to Toben (poor Toben!) and the voice over was way too explicit, when a single shot of the empy porch swing and maybe Carol walking away from Alexandria would have accomplished the same thing. She’d been struggling with her character’s duality for the last two episodes, and it would make more sense to leave her departure quasi-open-ended: maybe she’s leaving because she can’t kill any more, or maybe she’s back to her old badass self and going off to take care of business. I prefer it when the show keeps me guessing, dammit!

Just as needless was Eugene’s explanation that he wasn’t ratting Abraham out when he was held captive by the Dwight & co, but merely giving his group time to make a move. Even if he’s not the most noble person in Alexandria, I doubt any of us thought he was going to hang Abraham out to dry, especially after his whole “stage 2” speech. Having said that, I don’t think any of us could have seen the dick-biting coming.

Seriously, how awesome was that scene, albeit not terribly realistic? For one thing, if a guy’s chomping down hard (har har) on your privates, wouldn’t your first instict be to shoot him in the head? And how was the one guy still standing, while all his compadres were scrambling to take cover, able to not get hit and ultimately get away?

By the way: exactly how many people does Negan have, for fuck’s sake? I asked the same question last week, and although definitely a weaker team, here comes another group of saviors out to get our guys.

If we still had doubts about Rick’s controversial decision to attack Negan and his people, I guess they have all dissipated by now. Not only are these people ruthless and heavily armed, they actually know where Alexadria is. It would be interesting to find out exactly how they discovered A-town since the events of last week’s episode, but whatever led them to it, it seems they’re smart enough not to launch an attack.

Seriously though, how did Negan’s people find out about Alexandria? Is it just by chance or did someone spill the pintos? Maybe the nice people of Hilltop aren’t as nice after all? I hope that’s not the case – but I’ll gladly take some Hilltop drama if it means Jesus will make an appearance soon!

Back to our own group: Rick has been mostly absent this past couple of weeks, and the writers’d better give him plenty of screen time to make up for this. I did, however, enjoy his brief interaction with Morgan, who seems to have finished building his jail cell. When he asked what the cell is for and Morgan replied that it gives them options for next time, Rick’s look was priceless. What options? It’s kill or be killed, Morgan. Plain and simple.

As bad as I feel for Toben and Tara, I’m a bit annoyed by all the coupling this season. It’s as if the writers finally realized that, should a zombie apocalypse happen, chances are people will be screwing their brains out a hell of a lot more than we’ve seen on this show, and decided to make up for it in the second half of season 6. I could have done without the Carol/Toben romance, which turned out to be just a device to drive Carol’s point home even more, and I could have done without the Spencita hook-up. Even Abraham’s much anticipated move on Sasha had no place in this episode. He’s had at least a few days to make a move and yet he picks his moment right after they buried Denise?

Which brings me to Carol. To say that I’m annoyed would be an understatement. Although I’ve enjoyed her bad-assery, I was never a huge Carol fan to begin with, but it seems like they’re taking a multi-faceted character that showed significant development since season 1 and completely wasting all that potential. Completely underused in the first half of season 6, Carol returned last week only to be taken away from us in Twice As Far, and her explanation leaves much to be desired. Why does it all have to be all or nothing with this woman? Either be a badass warrior and killing machine or a meek den mother to the rest of the Alexandrians? She managed to achieve some balance in past seasons between her nurturing and murdering self; she had no qualms killing sick, innocent people or a child, but now she draws the line at a few nasty saviors who would have killed her in the blink of an eye? It’s like the girl who went from virgin to slut and, instead of starting to date like a normal person and even having a few relationships, decides to join a convent. It doesn’t make sense.

I also can’t help but draw parallels between Carol’s sudden attitude shift and the Guilty Remnans from The Leftovers. It’s not just the chain-smoking, it’s the entire philosphy triggering their decision: I can’t take what the world is like any more so I’m isolating myself from the people I care about. Slightly less crazy than the GR, but still frustrating as hell.

It makes even less sense when she says she can’t love anyone because she’d have to kill for them eventually. She could just stay in Alexandria and continue to bake acorn and beet cookies, instead of joining in the killing expeditions – it’s been working out for Morgan so far! How will fending for herself in the wild keep her from killing someone? Unless she has a death wish and will simply allow the first hostile person she meets to take her life. Does she plan to just injure potential attackers enough to get away? Would leaving them bleeding/unable to run be as much of a death sentence as delivering a fatal blow?

Maybe I’ve become too jaded, much like our group, when thinking in terms of TWD universe, or maybe this is just flawed logic on Carol’s part, which is somehow even more frustrating: she’s always been quite rational and pragmatic. She’s been ruminating this decision for a while now, judging by the pile of cigarette butts in the ashtray. And yet this seems to make sense to her. Gaaah.

Did Morgan’s code really get to her? Is the fact that her kill list went over 20 people that pushed her over the line? Maybe it’s a combination of the two? Or could this simply be a diversion? Carol has been known to go off on her own without consulting the rest of the group. She slipped into meek housewife mode as soon as she stepped foot in Alexandria, much to everyone’s surprise, and effortlessly slipped into that role again when she and Maggie were captured last week, so the possibility isn’t completely out of the question, although it does seem far-fetched.

So what’s in store for Carol now? Is she going to find a remote location to set up camp – maybe a cabin much like Eastman’s, and live out the rest of her days in isolation? I don’t think the writers would deprive us of Melissa McBride’s presence on the show, unless she is actually leaving TWD, in which case Carol, of all people, deserves a spectacular send-off, instead of disappearing into the night.

Is Carol bound to run into some trouble on her way out of Alexandria? She did prety well for herself the last time she had to leave the group, so such a run-in would seem forced, although definitely possible. The saviors apparently know about the location, so it stands to reason that they’re surveiling or at least scouting the place. If she’s captured by Negan’s group a second time, will that be enough to convince her that killing (bad) people is the only way to stay alive in this world? It seemed to be second nature to her for a few seasons, so I can only imagine that a single event would be enough to help her revert back into badass Carol.

And if she does cross paths with the saviors, is Carol going to save the day for the Alexandrians like she did back in Terminus? As exciting as the prospect sounds, I think a repeat of that scenario would be a cop-out, especially now.

I’m inclined to think that this new development will have to somehow tie in with the next big death on the show. Things are getting switched up compared to the comics so I think the possibility of Glenn dying is not as high as most people initially thought – if only just to shake things up and keep us on our toes. So what if Carol does get taken by the saviors? Will that be the end of Carol? Or will Daryl be the one to rush to her rescue and ultimately meet his own end? I hate to think of either character dying this season, but I guess someone will have to die in the end. Daryl’s odds don’t look too good, and I guess even though a lot of fans have been theorizing about a possible Daryl death, we’re all secretly hoping that the fan favorite will be spared; for that reason alone, I think TWD will try and shock us in the finale by doing the ‘unthinkable’ and deprive fangirls of their sleeveless, crossbow-weilding fantasy material.

Or is maybe Morgan the one to follow Carol this time, now that she’s finally adhering to his own morality? Are these two designed to team up?

I’ve rambled on enough this week… two more episodes to go, so much to look forward to. Let’s hope TWD doesn’t disappoint – this season has been amazing so far, so fingers crossed it stays this way until the finale!

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