This review contains spoilers.
6.6 Always Accountable
One of The Walking Dead‘s biggest strengths is the show’s ability to find a character and somehow make that person into a break-out star who becomes popular with the fans beyond all the others. Daryl was pretty much that character, and he has been since the show’s second season. Carol was another one, breaking out of her suburban routine and becoming a full-fledged, beloved action hero. Beth went from a suicidal nobody who barely got screen time to someone that fans are still asking about to this very day.
And now, we’ve got Abraham. He’s got a way with words—colourful rather than classy—and a very distinctive flat-top and moustache combination that makes him instantly recognisable. The way he kills zombies is another great thing in his corner, because everyone loves a skull-smashing dude with ridiculous facial hair. It seems that with every episode, Abraham seems to grow more and more appealing and popular, thanks in no small part to the way the character is written.
Abraham has a way with words, a particular rough charm brought to life this week by the script of Heather Bellson. He uses lots of fun phrases, but coming out of the mouth of Michael Cudlitz, they sound natural, not like a writer attempting to be clever. That’s one of the actor’s great strengths; Cudlitz is a funny, charming man who is great on Talking Dead and who won a lot of fans during his days on Southland, so it’s not surprising to see that he’s able to cross over so well into the Walking Dead universe. Cudlitz is a big, imposing-looking actor, but his performances have significant amounts of charm and subtlety that help him really fit Abraham into that slot of someone who laughs to keep from crying. In short, he seems tailor-made for Abraham Ford, and the character seems to fit all his strengths as well, meaning he never fails to make an impact. All Abraham needs is a funny line to bellow and some asses to kick, and he’s an episode MVP candidate. Give him something to do and the results speak for themselves.
One of the best things about The Walking Dead‘s large cast is that when you have a strong character, he or she can easily carry an entire episode without much input from the others. After all, Carol’s done it, Morgan’s done it, and now Abraham and Daryl are splitting an episode down the middle. The two, along with Sasha, are still leading the zombie wagon train, but twenty miles outside of Alexandria they’re ready to disappear off the zed radar and work their way back home via a bypass route. However, there’s one problem with that: the three drive right through an ambush. Daryl gets injured but flees from his attackers, while Abraham and Sasha ruin their car, then ruin the day of the people chasing them via automatic weapons fire. Abraham and Sasha go one way, Daryl goes another and runs into another group of stragglers who think he’s with… well, someone, they’re not really specific on who.
With Daryl on one side and Abraham (and to a lesser extent Sasha) serving as the A and B story lines, the episode has a lot going for it. Daryl’s interactions with the strangers, and the strangers terrorizing the people who attempt to take Daryl hostage, are surprisingly reasonable until the inevitable dumb person zombie kill. Sasha and Abraham’s journey is much more personal, and much less fraught with danger, and it’s nice to see those two characters bond with each other and express their attraction honestly; I’d guess there’s not a lot of room for subterfuge and playing hard-to-get in a world where anyone not named Rick Grimes can die in a heartbeat. It helps that it seems like a natural outgrowth of the time the two have spent locked in a car together, slowly guiding zombies a safe distance away.
While it’s nice to see some different characters become the show’s focus, Always Accountable seems more set up to introduce a new villain threat (actual villains, not Alexandrians) that must be unrelated to the wolves because Daryl is mistaken for one despite not having the W mark on his forehead that generally marks their members. We don’t know anything about them quite yet, except they appear to be a group that’s taken the hospital system from Season 5 to extreme lengths in an effort to keep the population, as the man says while talking to Daryl, on their knees.
Daryl’s promise of safety ends up falling on deaf ears, as they rob him (for the second time in the episode) and take off, leaving him unarmed and unable to find any way to get home. Of course Daryl being Daryl, he falls backwards into a truck full of fuel and reunites with his friends with little problem, but he made a mistake. He told them he comes from a community where it’s safe and where there are easy pickings, just like Aaron did. They also have everything he was carrying with him, which might be another Alexandria welcome packet. Having one set of antagonists has been bad enough for Alexandria, but adding another new set of troublemakers is bad news.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Now, here.