This review contains spoilers.
6.14 Twice As Far
The curse of The Walking Dead returns. Throughout the show’s run, it’s seemed that the moment a character came to some sort of realization about life in the post-apocalypse, they spent a lot of time making speeches about it and then immediately died. That seemed to be changing a little bit, with more characters appearing to be allowed to grow without immediate death, and then Denise happened. Two steps forward, one step back, all in the name of shock.
Denise, like all the Alexandrians, has been trying to adapt to a world in which they haven’t been forced to participate until Rick and the gang arrived and shattered their illusion of safety via misadventure. The Wolves came, Walkers came, and everyone in Alexandria banded together, coming to the aid of Rick and the rest of them as they slaughtered thousands of zombies in the streets of their cute little walled town. The walls are rebuilt, guards are posted, and life continues on, but with every assault on the Saviors, or every counter-assault from the Saviors, it seems like normal will never return to Alexandria, and the more characters attempt to adapt, to change, to become their better selves, the more it seems like they’re just asking to die.
Twice As Far focuses on two or three survivors, all of whom are facing some kind of crisis of identity. Carol’s possibly-feigned issues from last episode appear to be real. Eugene’s tying back his mullet and taking guard duty. Denise is strapping on a machete and going on a hunt for supplies with Daryl and Rosita (who are also having some issues figuring out who they are in this new environment). That’s put into focus with the opening of the episode courtesy of director Alrick Riley. The food is counted. Gabriel walks through town with a rifle on his shoulder. Eugene joins Sasha on guard duty. Carol has a smoke and counts her rosary beads. Repeat. Repeat again. Rosita kicking Spencer out of her bed. Carol smoking cigarette after cigarette while watching Daryl work on his bike.
There’s a real drudgery to Alexandria, some sort of prison mentality. Sure there’s plenty of work to do, but it’s all the same work day after day. You guard, you pickle things, you tinker with engines or clean guns. Repeat until something bites you and kills you. It’s no wonder that people like Denise and Eugene, who have been ruled by their fear, want to change things, want to go out into the world and show the others that they’re able to fend for themselves. Of course, it doesn’t really work out well, but at the same time, there’s progress for both characters. Surviving the dead is one thing, but surviving other survivors is a whole different animal, and that’s something Carol might be too tired to face, but Eugene and Denise don’t yet know their way around.
Two characters get to have a moment where they announce, quite proudly, that they’re tired of being scared and want to be out in the suck that is the zombie world around them. One of them, Eugene, couches the terms in delightful nerdiness courtesy of writer Matthew Negrete that resonates perfectly with me because I wasted most of my life playing RPGs, tabletop and electronic. The other, Denise, puts her life on the line to recover one soda from a six pack, killing a zombie in the process because, as she says, she’s tired of being afraid, and the only way to get over your fear is face the thing that makes you scared and stab it in the face with a machete. Of course, this goes poorly for both characters, because this is The Walking Dead and nothing goes well for people who try to become survivors. Eugene gets captured by The Saviors—Daryl gets a reunion with Dwight (Austin Amelio)—and Denise gets an arrow through her head in the middle of a triumphant speech courtesy of Dwight (armed with Daryl’s crossbow, lest we forget).
It comes out of nowhere, and as shock kills go, is perfectly deployed. It echoes the Carl shooting, right down to her trying to continue speaking before toppling to the ground, but unlike Carl, Denise doesn’t have plot armour and doesn’t get to survive her radical plastic lobotomy. Both Eugene and Denise are teased multiple times with death, and when it finally happens for Denise, it feels… not satisfactory, but at least surprising. Eugene’s moment in the sun is much more satisfying. He gets to use his brain to get out of his situation, but he also gets physically involved. Of course, since it’s Eugene he has to get involved in a slightly humiliating way, but it sets up a really funny Abraham laugh line later after Abe, Rosita, and Daryl gun down some Saviors and make the others flee while Eugene has his teeth firmly fastened on Dwight’s… ahem… personal area. Alrick Riley doesn’t belabour the point, but he shoots enough of Eugene’s face to let us know that he’s really digging in, but not to the point where it’s exploitative.
That’s both hilarious, with Abraham having fun with it once out of danger, and remarkably gritty. You see a lot of people forced on their knees at gunpoint, and very few people willing to treat their attackers to a little genital trauma in a willingness to escape. Some people are willing to do what it takes to survive, and other people, like Carol, have done all they can do and aren’t willing to go to those dark places anymore. Perhaps Eugene is going to take her place as the show’s out-of-character bad ass; maybe this is just setting up for the Carol spin-off I’ve been wanting this entire time?
Or maybe this is setting up for something horrible that I don’t even want to think about. Since this is The Walking Dead, I’d better steel myself for something horrible. That’s pretty good advice for anyone watching this show.