C’mon, The Walking Dead, Multiple beginnings? I thought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had the worst opening act of the weekend but the first ten minutes of the sixth season penultimate episode “East” was rough.
A Carol-focus is a good thing but opening flashforward was unnecessary and the montage – touching on the romances of Rick/Michonne, Glenn/Maggie and Abraham/Sasha/Rosita felt out of place after the scene between Carol and Tobin.
Daryl, clearly wracked with guilt over Denise’s death last week, runs off after his nemesis Dwight. Glenn, Michonne and Rosita run after Daryl without consulting Rick, who prompty takes off himself after Carol with Morgan, ordering Abraham, Sasha and Tobin to be prepared. Do as I say, not as I do, eh Rick? God, writing that series of un-events was painful. It feels like way-obvious pawn-moving on the writers’ part.
That said, there is always redemption in The Walking Dead, if not by the story but the characters. For example, Melissa McBride’s performance this week went a long way to clarifying Carol’s journey more, which seemed to go off the rails in recent weeks. At first, her evolution seemed panicked and rushed, but reflection of Morgan’s influence and her experience in episode 13 and suddenly I can see the thread emerge: she has a crisis of conscience and of fear, and she’s running.
Carol’s inner turmoil is endlessly fascinating and McBride’s scene of her breaking down in front of the Saviors, who think she’s weak when actually she just doesn’t want to kill them is heartbreaking. Wish I could say the same of the circumstances the show has put its characters, which feel less tragic and more arbitrary.
Glenn, Michonne and Rosita catch up to Daryl. Glenn’s speech backfires when not only Daryl refuses to let go but Rosita joins him. The duos part ways in probably the most ill-advised “let’s split up gang” since Scooby Doo. This turns sour immediately when Glenn and Michonne are captured by Dwight and his crew of Saviors.*
*Why do the Saviors not blow these people away? I get that they run the zombie apocalypse version of a protection racket and need able bodies but Rick’s group has slaughtered over 40 Saviors by my count. You’d think somebody with an itchy trigger finger and lust for vengeance would’ve killed someone by now. Or maybe it’s just indicative of the absolute hold Negan and his rules have on his minions.
I felt we didn’t get enough Rick and Morgan this season, so it’s nice to have this episode provided some great moments between the two on the search for Carol. After finding the aftermath of Carol’s encounter with the Saviors, they set out on foot on her trail, tailed by a wounded Savior. Rick and Morgan encounter a rando in “armor” supposedly looking for his horse. OK. Morgan forces Rick to let him escape by deflecting his gunfire and finally confesses about his earlier encounters with the Wolf, in and out of Alexandria. Rick is pissed but Morgan informs him the chain of events led to the Wolf saving Denise and she saving Carl. Morgan insists he continue alone and the two men part ways with a sweet callback-to-a-callback of his missing protein bar (SPOILER: Michonne totally took it).
I feel Morgan’s humanity has become essential to this show and would hate to see him go next week, either as an addition or replacement of Glenn’s death. It’s beyond my love of Lennie James; Morgan represents civilization and a pull away from the ruthless, survivalist world Rick inhabits. Way back in the premiere, I was most fascinated by the show seemingly taking a page from another AMC juggernaut Breaking Bad and shading the hero darker and darker. It didn’t become a huge theme of the season but, perhaps like Morgan’s jail cell, it’s a setup for things even further down the line than we imagined.
We end with a fairly pathetic attempt at a cliffhanger. Daryl and Rosita, attempting to rescue Glenn and Michonne (stupidly, I might add), are unsurprisingly ambushed by Dwight and his Saviors. Dwight shoots Daryl, but all the viewer sees is blood splatter on the camera as it fades to black, and Dwight says, “You’ll be alright.” (100% cheapening an already lazy trope).
It sucks and is evocative of last fall’s #IsGlennDead debacle. Why the show keeps cycling these tired conventions is baffling. Does it think it’s a hot feature, like yoga pants? Like addicts, can they not stay away from lazy subterfuge? Is the stubborn refusal to bend to critical analysis a sign of tonal control or “fuck you” money?
Who knows? At this point, we need Negan to shake things this repetition up.