This review contains spoilers.
6.12 Not Tomorrow Yet
Very few shows on television can match The Walking Dead when it comes to tension. In last week’s episode, where basically nothing of serious danger happened, there was a lot of developing tension. There was nothing to get really tense about, but it worked because this is a universe where letting your guard down, starting a new relationship and giving a monologue about how you’ll never give up or let go of your humanity or whatever, usually leads immediately to certain death. Like the walkers that dot the landscape, trouble pops up at the worst times for the survivors.
That’s why Rick and company, after a town meeting, decide to take the fight to Negan and the Saviors, rather than wait around for them to find them, like The Wolves or the Woodbury folks did before them. It makes sense, particularly for people who have been around the post-apocalyptic block a few times. Get them before they get you, get some delicious food courtesy of the folks at Hilltop, and eliminate a threat. Everyone seems to agree that this is a good idea, except for Morgan, who hasn’t learned anything from his attempted rehabilitation of the captured Wolf who nearly made off with Denise.
This week is split up very effectively between characters preparing for the assault on the Saviors and with the assault on the Saviors themselves. It’s interesting to see how different members of the group prepare themselves mentally for the end. Some, like Tara, confess love in an attempt to hide the truth: she’s done this kind of raiding before and she didn’t like it. Others, like Abraham, decide to take the opposite tack and destroy their girlfriend’s self-esteem in one of the most brutal break-ups I have ever seen on television; it takes a uniquely cold individual to tell someone that they only got together because he thought she was the last girl on Earth right before they all go off to potentially die. As for Carol, well… she finds a little time to pacify herself with a little domestic activity before sneaking in a make-out session with Tobin.
Once again, on this show, any of these things means that someone’s more than likely going to die. Carol finds a love interest and gets a great bit of advice from Tobin (a wonderful scene for both Melissa McBride and Jason Douglas) about how she’s basically been the mother to everyone in Alexandria; Glenn and Heath discuss how they’ve never actually had to kill someone and both are very nervous about it, and Tara/Jesus/Gabriel have a nice moment in the vehicle where Tara confesses to Gabriel and Jesus that she’s been involved in situations like this before, and Gabriel and Jesus both have to talk her down and let her know that now is different, because she has something to fight for.
Full credit to Seth Hoffman, who wrote this week’s script, because it’s really good stuff. Gabriel gets to redeem himself as a Scripture-quoting action hero (kudos to Seth Gilliam for really making that scene work much better than it could have) and for actually having Glenn undertake underhanded behavior while still being the upstanding hero of the show just the same. The interactions between Melissa McBride and Jason Douglas also work great, because we’ve seen how Carol the character has changed. She might be middle-aged Rambo in a blood-splattered poncho, but at heart, there’s part of her that just wants to make cookies for everyone. She’s the uber-mother; she couldn’t save Sophia, she couldn’t save Lizzie and Mika, and she couldn’t save Sam, but… she’s trying, and she’s doing the work that nobody else can do, from killing Wolves to building the town’s morale via beet and acorn cookies.
When the attack is planned and executed, the episode shifts gears from a character-driven episode full of mini-arcs to a full-on action movie. It’s like the assault on the building in The Raid, but on a smaller scale and with a lot more stabbing sleeping Saviors. It’s incredibly tense, because at any moment, any of the rooms they open up could contain killers that aren’t asleep, and when they do find the sleeping Saviors, they could wake up at any point before the stabbing. Gregory Nicotero has put together a brilliant episode, and once the sneaking ends and the assault rifles come into play, the episode gets even better, with multiple “guy shot at the last second by a friend of a protagonist” scenes, all powered by a propulsive John Carpenter-style score from Bear McCreary.
Of course, like most episodes this season, Not Tomorrow Yet has a happy ending, but not for very long. The assault is expertly undertaken by Rick and company, and even the inevitable alarm doesn’t actually get anyone killed. However, it’s a pretty undermanned station, if that’s all of the Saviors… so of course, that’s not all the Saviors, and after shooting a guy off the back of a motorcycle, Rick and company find out the hard way that they’re not alone, and that Carol (gulp) and Maggie (double gulp) are now in the hands of the enemy (in this case, Alicia Witt, if my voice ear isn’t off).
So much for a quick and clean assault on the Saviors. Nothing ever goes right for Rick, even when they get lucky. At least there were two more great musical tracks used this week, with the show opening with Poor Old Shine’s Weeds Or Wild Flowers and closing with Hozier’s Arsonist’s Lullabye. All of a sudden, the apocalypse now comes with a subscription to No Depression magazine or your local adult album alternative public radio station.