This review contains spoilers.
After a bit of a down episode last week, The Walking Dead recovers strongly with a great episode that offers many different potential season finales, none of which I’m really looking forward to because it seems as though someone I like is going to die. The one thing you can say about the show during Scott Gimple’s reign is that they’re not shy about putting anyone and everyone at risk. The end result might not always be satisfying (ahem, Glenn and the dumpster), but it’s effective and horrifying to see people we’ve grown to care about, fan favourites, put in peril.
Carol has escaped the friendly confines of Alexandria, and it appears that she’s run into trouble thanks to the cold opening, which features lots of dripping blood, bloody weapons, broken glass, and sudden eruption of gunfire. The episode then backs up from that point to travel back to Carol making all her escape arrangements, packing up food, writing her goodbye note, gathering weapons, and so forth. While Johnny Cash plays, Carol sneaks out of a heavily-guarded compound, steals one of their security cars, and escapes to the strains of Johnny Cash.
However, Carol isn’t the only person leaving the camp. Daryl is taking off, too, looking for blood and revenge on Dwight and the surviving Saviors. They’re getting closer, and they’re getting more aggressive, and he’s going to finish the thing he started, the thing that, as he says, he should have taken care of a long time ago, and since it’s The Walking Dead, Rosita, Michonne, and Glenn go after him to talk him out of it. Meanwhile, Morgan and Rick are also taking a field trip to try to track down Carol. I guess Sasha and Abraham are going to be the only folks defending Alexandria while everyone else is out hunting, though groups of people mention, multiple times, how precarious their situation is with the encroaching Saviors.
One of the strongest elements of the episode for me this week, aside from Carol’s bloody, teary conflict with the Saviors, was Rick and Morgan. The two of them together, Morgan’s philosophical bent aside, works really well. Rick needs some kind of sounding board, a guiding influence, someone to calm him a bit, or at least make him rethink killing everyone. Morgan needs the opposite; someone needs to tell him that not everyone can be saved, nor should everyone be saved. Rick has given people chances before—including Morgan—and it’s worked out as much as it hasn’t worked out. Two of his strongest allies have come from his second chances, Carol and Morgan, and watching the two together, doing some actual investigation, is a lot of fun. It’s like True Detective season 3, but with zombies, right down to some of the shot choices by director Michael E. Satrazemis. The Carol scenes are particularly effective, with the use of dripping coolant/blood a nice metronome, a tick-tick-ticking clock to ratchet up the tension of Carol’s life-or-death struggle.
There are some nice little touches to behold; watch Carol as she hides behind her car. She takes care to not just kneel down on the other side of the car, but to make sure the tires are between her and her pursuit. That’s attention to detail that you don’t often see in media. Carol’s use of misdirection, the dangling rosary in one hand to distract from the gun hidden inside her coat, is also appreciated. Melissa McBride is just so good at this role and with this character, and she’s really making Carol’s reluctant killer routine work better than it has any right to work.
Everyone running off on some solo mission or another doesn’t make quite as much sense given the threat, but I buy that Daryl would rather take the fight to the Saviors than not, and I buy that Rick and Morgan would go looking for missing Carol, I’m just not sure that Glenn and Michonne would turn back so quickly, or that Rick would allow Morgan to hunt down Carol without assistance, but it’s forgivable stuff, partially because the actions in Scott Gimple and Channing Powell’s script are in character for Daryl—remember when he’d go off by himself to look for Sophia?—and for Morgan—who is consistent in his belief that second chances should always be given. At least the character is consistent, and he gives compelling arguments for his side, sometimes.
Unfortunately for Rick, Negan doesn’t seem like the sort to give second chances. Unfortunately for Rick, Glenn, Daryl, Michonne, and Rosita are now all captured by the Saviors (and Daryl is definitely worse for wear). Morgan’s off looking for Carol, who may or may not be dead; even if she’s alive, I don’t think she’s got it in her emotionally to participate in combat. That leaves Rick, Abraham, and a bunch of relatively untested Alexandrians versus a group of skilled, hardened killers.
Assuming, of course, that there isn’t another miracle escape. Then again, we’ve seen Rick and company outnumbered and outgunned before, and they’ve always come out on top. They’ve just usually lost some companions in the process.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is not a fan of all these potential character deaths. Glenn is one thing, but Carol, Daryl, and Michonne all in peril? No thanks! Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.