This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 9
As I said in my spoiler-free review of the season 6 midseason premiere, “No Way Out” is largely a success. It showcases many of the things that make this show great, while some of its bad habits still manage to poke their little ugly heads out. Most importantly, the episode feels like a proper conclusion to the very grim business that started all the way back in season 5 (if not earlier), as Rick finally decides that the future is worth fighting for, that there is strength in community, and that he is the person who will have to lead the survivors to the new world.
In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the characters end the episode with something at least resembling hope. Which is pretty refreshing, considering these characters were referring to themselves as “the walking dead” just a year ago. Things haven’t really looked up since then. Until now.
The highlight of the episode really is that battle scene between the Alexandrians and the walkers in the final minutes. It might actually be the biggest action setpiece the show has ever produced…Greg Nicotero, who directed “No Way Out,” said they had more than 1,300 walkers in the episode, and it shows, as danger seems to come for these characters from all sides. It’s uplifting to watch these survivors band together, form a line like the greatest army of axe-and-katana-weilding Spartans, and push the walker threat back. The quick cuts that show each survivor doing his/her part, hacking at the walkers—and symbolically, his/her own demons—provided the most affecting images of the entire hour. If you don’t feel anything when cowardly Eugene declares that “no one gets a pass today” right before the battle, you have a charred chunk of coal where your heart used to be.
The scenes filmed outside—and at night!—always feel claustrophobic and genuinely scary. This is actually an important aspect of the episode, which goes very out of its way to make the zombies scary again, instead of just background noise as is so often their use nowadays. I loved that I felt like I was watching a horror show all of a sudden, as the camera quickly spit close-ups of rotten faces munching down on warm flesh throughout the episode. It was deliciously gruesome.
Speaking of delicious, I never complain when The Walking Dead gets to thinning down the ranks a bit via human buffet, and this will be no different. This was the proper time for Jessie, Sam, and Ron to go, as they were the final remnants of that dumb Douchebag Pete vs. Rick storyline from last season. The show gets its merciless mojo back pretty early on by making us believe Sam could go a second without absolutely being the worst, only to then completely botch his family’s escape by metaphorically wetting the bed. Maybe I’m being too hard on the kid—he was just a boy—but he was always just kind of annoying, especially when it came to his scenes with Carol last season. The show sort of teased that Carol might end up being the strong mother figure Sam needed, that MAYBE Sam would grow up to be a badass under her tutelage, but that was quickly abandoned once Carol had actual things to do besides bake cookies and threaten children. So it was best to let the kid and his family exit stage om nom nom. And it’s pretty brilliant that Carol, as she is known to do, indirectly gets the kid killed. His final moments are tense, as he focuses on each grotesque face ready to eat him. The minute Jessie and Ron spend trying to get Sam to keep moving is heart attack-inducing.
All I have to say about Carl getting his eye shot off is that I called it earlier in the season, not only because it’s what happens in the comics, but because Ron’s entire bit in the past few months continued to tease a confrontation with the Grimes. When it finally does happen, the show pretty much sticks to the comics (except Deanna/Douglas pulls the trigger in the book), as Ron fires a stray shot right before he dies. The shot of Carl’s brand new eye hole is pretty gross. It gets the job done. I envy anyone who got to watch this scene without ever reading a panel of the comics, and actually thought the kid was a goner. This is surely a top 3 most shocking moment in the show’s history?
That brings me to how shockingly hilarious the opening of the episode was. For all the teasing AMC did during the hiatus, superhuman Daryl sure does away with those bikers pretty quickly, doesn’t he? The show sort of fooled me into thinking someone was gonna pull the short straw in this scene, and I kind of wish someone had. Imagine how shocking it would have been to watch one of the main characters mowed down in the first five minutes of the episode…All bets would have been off, teleporting us to “holy shit” territory for the rest of the hour. (The comics did something similar with one of these characters, actually.) Instead, we get to watch Daryl blow these guys up with a rocket launcher in true action hero fashion. “What a bunch of douchebags,” Daryl says, rocket launcher still in hand. If you didn’t laugh, then I just have a very sick sense of humor.
Come to think of it, the opening scene is a pretty tongue-in-cheek intro for The Walking Dead action movie that unfolds. It’s maybe even poking a little fun at itself…And when’s the last time this show ever had any fun? That really was the takeaway for me tonight. “No Way Out” feels like the show is leaving the dark void of nothingness these characters have been falling into for the past two years and finally arriving to a new place. By the end, it seems like they might even build something out of it.
Don’t forget to listen to the new episode of our weekly Walking Dead podcast, Den of Geek Presents No Room in Hell:
– Carol, Morgan, Rosita, Tara, and Eugene don’t get much to do until the end of the episode except look out their windows. I would feel like this was wasted screentime if it weren’t for the nice build up to the climactic battle. It was nice to watch all of these characters band together and save their community.
– Actually, Carol and Morgan do get to talk more about their differences. I do hope the writers find a way to do something more with these characters than tiptoe on the edge of something. After their “big” fight in the midseason finale, I sort of feel like this beef either needs to be dropped or one has to change the other’s mind about killing. My guess is that Morgan’s going to try to save Carol, and it’s going to end badly for one of them. (My guess is Morgan.)
– Merritt Wever’s Denise Cloyd has really grown on me this season. At first, she kind of just felt like an extra character, but she’s actually a secret badass. Not in the sense that she’s going to take down a million walkers with her bare hands (or a rocket launcher), but in that she doesn’t step down from a challenge. In nine episodes, Denise has become one of the most important characters on the show, in no small part for saving Carl’s life. I really like that we get to see the doctor angle of the apocalypse, thanks to her storyline. I hope to see way more of her in the coming weeks.
– Did Wolfie (the nameless Wolves Leader) redeem himself tonight by saving Denise not once, but TWICE? It’s never really written in stone whether he took a bite for her because he needed a doctor for his wounds or if he felt some compassion towards her. Does Morgan therapy work? I guess we’ll never truly know. Even Wolfie asks himself why he saved Denise…I love the cruel punchline of Carol shooting “good” Wolfie, though. This is solid Walking Dead.
– Speaking of redemption, Father Gabriel sort of shines in this episode, doesn’t he? Gabriel decides to take things into his own hands, machete in hand, and tells his congregants that God has given them all the power to save Alexandria themselves. If that’s not a beacon of hope, I don’t know what is.
– Blah blah blah, Enid and Glenn. Why is Enid even on this show? Their conversation in the church only serves to spell out what we’re about to watch unfold on screen, as everyone bands together as a community to defeat the walkers. This scene seems to serve as nothing more than a breather between all the action. I’d argue that something else might have served this role more effectively. I don’t see a reason why Enid needs to be a part of this show at all, in fact. It’s a reminder that The Walking Dead can drag when it decides to focus on obscure subplots concerning very minor characters.
– The only thing I really outright hated about “No Way Out” was the big Glenn scene towards the end of episode. It’s pretty ballsy to go for the fakeout so soon after Glenn fake died in the third episode of the season in the show’s laziest plot development to date. No, calling it plot development is probably too nice. The word is probably “gimmick.” These guys shouldn’t be allowed to threaten Glenn’s life for at least another season, especially when they’ve been beating us over the head (hehe) with his impending death since at least the season 5 premiere. ENOUGH ALREADY.