EDITOR’S NOTE: This review was delayed by life and other things. Complaints can be transmitted by Morse code only to .. . .. … . . .. . . .. .. . All current technologies are prohibited. Solicitors will be summarily executed.
The second half of The Walking Dead‘s sixth season is working in all the ways the first half didn’t. The herky-jerky pace is gone, conceivable time is given to building (the Carol/Tobin kiss was a welcome surprise) and severing (Abraham is insane to leave Rosita even if she does have no discernible personality) romantic relationships and characters struggle with weakness without being complete fucking morons.
The midseason premiere succinctly wrapped the zombie herd/Wolves arc a bit too neatly but at least established a clean break for the show to have a “first time again,” as it has multiple times in the past. The group, scattered in the first half and trapped within a timeline of two days stretched over eight episodes, is back together and they stay together. After a trip to Hilltop last week, Rick led another mission of his A-Team to assault one of the Saviors’ compound.
It’s a pulse-pounding action sequence that notably involves zero zombies and utterly successful. Rick’s group has been transformed by his leadership and the zombie apocalypse into a black ops team. Jesus (Tom Payne) continues to be a great addition who adds flavors of mystery and mischief and I can’t get enough of the Badass Gay that is Aaron (Ross Marquand). More of both, please.
The show doesn’t shy away from the moral ambiguity of Rick’s plan – to preemptively murder all the Saviors for both protection and trade with Hilltop. Since this is The Walking Dead, where there’s a moral question, there will be a black guy to question it (ask T-Dog, Oscar, Tyreese, Bob etc.). Morgan, the latest in the line, is thankfully back after two weeks. His bond with Carol – who told the others to keep the Wolf incident secret – is delightfully complex, as is his no-killing philosophy. The show absolutely needs Morgan’s perspective but given that he died during the zombie invasion in the comics, I fear he’s living on borrowed time.
Speaking of moral quandaries, appropriate gravitas is given to Glenn and Heath taking their first human lives during the attack, Steven Yeun and Corey Hawkins are highly-capable actors coupled with some potent material and direction, specifically the scene where Glenn’s face crumbles as he stabs the head of a sleeping Savior off-screen and then takes Heath’s place to kill another. It’s heartwarming in a Glenn way and then brilliantly followed by the sight of Polaroids, all depicting numerous victims with crushed skulls and brains from what looks like a baseball bat . . .
And how badass has the redemption of Fr. Gabriel been? You couldn’t sink much lower than where that character’s been. He’s been the very definition of a Butt Monkey and Hate Sink, seemingly written specifically to piss people off. This was of course strategic to make the transformation much more satisfying but I doubted it would work. Turns out, both Seth Gilliam and the writing staff paid this character arc off, to the point that the cowardly priest delivered a postmortem one-liner and it worked.