The Walking Dead: JSS Review

The latest episode of The Walking Dead season 6, "JSS," brings even more blood and guts. Here's our review!

This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.

The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 2

Last week, I talked about how excited I was that zombies were at the center of the show’s conflict once again. Well, this week’s episode pulled the rug right from under us (though not for long—zombies are still coming to Alexandria!), as the Wolves raided the Safe-Zone. It was teased last season that the strange, cult-like Wolves would become big antagonists when the show returned, but I didn’t expect that we’d see this bloodbath so soon. I have to say that The Walking Dead has been a bit unpredictable thus far with the way it’s handled comic book material—both big setpieces in season 6 so far have derived from Mr. Kirkman’s book. 

The non-stop action of season 6 is delightful, a much needed explosion of blood and guts after the very slow second half of season 5. Getting to the zombies right away, drawing clear objectives (for the first time in a long time, this group isn’t wandering around), and introducing new threats have quickly helped shed the illusion of safety in Alexandria and renewed the show’s energy. And within these moments of high intensity action, The Walking Dead is back to doing what it does best: answering questions about morality and developing its characters in quick moments of reflection. Morality in the new world isn’t discussed in a town hall meeting, but on the battlefield, thanks to excellent scenes between Carol and Morgan. 

We spend a lot of time following these two throughout the battle to great effect. Carol, hardened by years of surviving on the edge of death, both physically and spiritually, is pretty much the reason Alexandria doesn’t just fall right away. She knows how to sneak her way through a fight and destabilize the enemy force. We saw her demolish the Terminans in last year’s opener, and she’s even more impressive this time around, as she dons a disguise for the slaughter. Carol is quick to kill, justified in her violent actions after watching a fellow Alexandrian chopped to bits by the Wolves.

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The short confrontation between Carol and the naive, smoking Alexandrian at the pantry in the early part of the episode is interesting. Carol tells her she shouldn’t smoke, especially since there’s so much out to kill her already beyond the walls. Of course, the lady doesn’t listen and she gets super murdered. It solidifies the theme of the episode: survival is for those who want to survive. The smoker has a death wish, so she gets just that. But it’s more complicated than that, as Morgan shows up to beat people up with sticks. 

To be a little light for a moment: how badass is Morgan? He shows up like Superman to help the Alexandrians and says the best line of the night: “Hide.” Jesus, they’ve turned Morgan into zen protector of Alexandria, and I couldn’t be more happy to have this version of Lennie James on the show. Always more Lennie James. 

Anyway, the episode isn’t just about physical survival. Survival of one’s soul is at the forefront of Morgan’s conflict. He knows that what benefits the body doesn’t necessarily benefit the soul. Morgan believes killing will doom him in the end. Already, we’ve seen him lose both his wife and son, and he’s probably treading a very thin line on his life at this point, too. Morgan knows that he’s marked for death, whether it’s next week or two seasons down the road, so he wants to save his soul while he still can. Morgan takes down as many Wolves as he can non-lethally, and even lets some of them go (WHAT A MISTAKE), until the very end of the episode, when he’s forced to kill one of the men, the same Wolves guy he encountered in the woods in the season 5 finale. 

The end of the episode gives us some fantastic shots, especially the one where Carol and Morgan are walking down a street in opposite directions. Both have realized that the way they’ve been doing things hasn’t been enough. Morgan has to kill a man in order to save others and Carol smokes a well-earned cigarette on her porch. They understand that nothing is so black and white, that they have to walk on both sides of survival in order to keep on. I think these characters struggle to accept the fact that they won’t be able to exit this world as a whole. Men like Hershel and Dale were dismembered at their ends, but they left the world with their souls intact. The same probably won’t go for Carol and Morgan. 

Elsewhere, we have a story with Carl and Enid, who at one point seemed to be getting a bit chummy, but the show hadn’t really revisited them since last season. Somehow, after all he’s gone through, Carl still manages to come out looking like this world’s version of a “wholesome” young man. He’s very duty first, as he arms himself, prepared to protect Judith at all costs. Enid wants to skip town ASAP, which she eventually does, but Carl makes her stay until the fight is over. 

Enid is made to be the center of the episode early on, until the surprise attack, as we watch her first lose her family in the opening pre-credits scene in an excellent flashback that doesn’t end up bearing much weight at all except to introduce the acronym “JSS” and the theme of the episode. I must say that abstaining from showing the violent ends of her parents was really well done. Instead, we just get a shot of Enid watching walkers eat her loved ones. And then we cut to the scene where she’s eating that turtle, which is truly one of the most gruesome and upsetting scenes ever on this show. It’s a bit of raw turtle meat that ultimately is, for me, the most horrifying thing I think I’ve seen on this show. All while Enid fishes for little turtle bones to write out “JSS” to herself. 

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It’s a powerful opening, but the rest of the moments we spend with Enid are a bit distracting, more to establish a refrain than to continue any kind of storyline with her. Another throwaway character this week, but at least a more affecting one. 

Next week, we’ll see what Rick and friends are up to with all those walkers headed straight for Alexandria. It doesn’t look like the Safe-Zone will get much of a respite this season, but I think they’ll figure out a way to just survive somehow. 

Stay tuned for our weekly reviews of The Walking Dead season 6! And don’t forget to listen to the new episode of our weekly Walking Dead podcast, Den of Geek Presents No Room in Hell:

John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek US. Find more of his work on his website. Or just follow him on Twitter.


4.5 out of 5