This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 15
Honestly, if it weren’t for the episode’s opening and how that scene plays out at the end of Melissa McBride’s smoking gun, I would’ve given “East” a lower score. This is the cookie-cutter penultimate episode of a Walking Dead season, right? Not too much going on, lots of talking about stuff that won’t even begin to get resolved until the season finale (if we’re lucky), and moving the pieces accordingly so that the bad guys can swoop in and murder someone we like (at least the writer’s hope so). All this is front and center in tonight’s episode, BUT the wonderful imagery of the opening shots, blood dripping down into a growing pool on the asphalt, and Carol’s voice in the wake of the violence is really enough for me to love this episode.
I was actually kinda surprised by how quickly the episode revisited that opening scene and lifted the veil of mystery. The whole thing is resolved in the first twenty minutes, leaving us to ponder Carol’s ultimate fate. Was she stabbed by that dude? I really, really like the shot of the walker, who is conveniently dressed in Carol’s exact same outfit, hobbling towards a barn not too different to the one Sophia came creeping out of in season 2. It’s spooky and reminded me of a shot Cary Fukunaga might have filmed with relish in True Detective season 1.
Actually, now that we’re on the subject of direction, Michael E. Satrazemis, who also helmed the kinda boring “Knots Untie” and the bombastic “Start to Finish,” does a really good job of making this episode as eerie and creepy as possible. The shots of the open road, the tension building as cars approach from the other lane, it’s spine-tingling stuff. I liked watching Rick and Morgan pacing through that open field, following Carol’s tracks, and the scenes in the claustrophobic woods. Even the soundtrack doesn’t rise above a very low and sinister hum for most of the episode. Satrazemis subtly builds to scaring the shit out of you, or at least getting the ticker pumping. I really enjoyed the tone of the entire episode, like a calm before the bat-swinging storm.
There are a lot of things that frustrate me about this episode, though, specifically how the characters seem to be playing chess against the writers and not the Saviors. I mean, for all the build up and whispering in the audience and noise on Twitter, the Saviors haven’t really been that much of an immediate threat at all. Really, the Saviors have only struck once in the entire season. Everything else has been happenstance. Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha run into the Saviors on the road, and so does Carol. And it’s the Alexandrians that attack the Savior base, not the other way around. These guys have pretty much been non-existent as a threat otherwise.
Which is why the writers’ machinations are so obvious in “East.” They’re the real enemies, giving most of the A-team a reason to leave Alexandria unprotected. They go off distracted into the wilderness to get captured or murdered. Even Maggie’s horrifying situation at the end of the episode is only another excuse to drag the remaining people, like Abraham, Sasha, Rosita, Carl, etc., out on the road so that the Saviors can kidnap them, too. It all lines up way too conveniently. Expect all of these folks to run into Negan next week, or I’m the last OB-GYN on the planet.
“East” still manages to surprise in the end, as Daryl’s blood splatters on our screens. But I was immediately flabbergasted by the decision to have Dwight say, “He’ll be fine,” as the screen faded to black. What’s that about? Wouldn’t the writers want people to think that Dwight had just killed Daryl? Or is it blatantly obvious that Scott Gimple wouldn’t have one of the most beloved main characters killed at the very end of an episode? I don’t know, but it defused the tension of the shocking final shot. I wonder if this was done in response to that annoying Glenn fake-out…Were other fans as angry about that as I was? I still mourn how good “Thank You” would have been if Glenn’s fate had stuck.
Anyway, it’s become clear to me at this point, and maybe this is to “East”‘s credit, that Carol is the emotional center of the season. Her crisis of faith, her exile, her search for some sort of redemption that she won’t find in the new world, as she travels through the Nine Circles of Hell—let’s hope she makes it that far—like Virgil leading Dante, who I guess is Morgan in this instance, it’s the most compelling character arc season 6 has produced. I just hope the writers have a way to give it the proper ending it deserves. Hopefully, not at the hands of Negan next week…
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– Rick and Michonne eating that apple, naked, while discussing building the new world, is so painfully heavy-handed that I cringe just thinking about it.
– Sad Maggie at the gates doesn’t bode well for Glenn. Also, so so so cliché.
– Enid is still on this show. She’s doing stuff. And thangs, too.
– Negan is definitely showing up next week. I just want it to be done with already. Candidates for death are Daryl, Carol, and Glenn. To me, Daryl seems the most likely, especially since HE HAS NOTHING TO DO ON THIS SHOW ANYMORE.
– Maybe this is leading into a Morgan and Carol team-up next year? Out on their own, surviving the way survivors do? Doing what they gotta do to survive. SURVIVAL.
– I hope the orange soda storyline doesn’t end on a cliffhanger this season. Tara can’t lose both Denise and her chance at the last can of pop…
– Have Tara and Heath basically been written off this show at this point? I don’t care either way.